Mayor’s 2019 Post CDT Gear Reviews

End of CDT Thru Hike

Gear Synopsis

Pack

* Custom 40L Pack (Packs by Tesla)

Instagram – @packs_by_tesla

Facebook – Packs by Tesla

Email – collincrd513@gmail.com

This was the best pack I’ve ever used on a thru hike. It was completely custom down to the materials, print patterns, size, volume, features, and stitching. It held up incredibly well throughout the entire hike, even better than packs I’ve used from major companies, or well established cottage industry companies. There were no loose threads or torn materials (besides a few small tears in the robic mesh from me snagging it on rocks, branches, and blow downs) – but no structural or integrity issues. I plan to use this pack until it fails me or I have to send it back for repairs. If you’re interested in having your own custom pack built, you can contact Tesla through any of the avenues posted above. I would recommend reaching out to him via email. If you wouldn’t even know what to ask for on a custom pack, I would suggest requesting what I got (Mayor’s Pack) – he’ll know what to make. It’s a simple pack that I can’t imagine too many people not liking: 40 liter interior volume (you could adjust the volume); large back robic mesh pocket; robic mesh side pockets; bottom robic mesh pocket; shoulder strap robic mesh pockets (they can hold 1 liter water bottles, cell phones, or whatever); elastic bungees to hold closed cell foam pad as back panel cushion; hip belt without pockets (I just use a fanny pack, which he can also make); triple stitched seams for extra durability; X-pack material; Roll top closure. Get one while the gettin is good!

Shelter

* Clark Tropical Ultra (discontinued model- Link is to larger model Nx-270 (An awesome hammock I also own).

I have no gripes about this hammock or any other hammock from Clark. They are the most durable, most functional hammocks being made today (in my opinion). You can hang from it or set it up as a ground bivy – if there are no trees and you’re worried about bugs or not comfortable cowboy camping. They are on the heavier side as far as hammocks go, but you will notice where that extra weight went… comfort, functionality, ease of use, and durability!

* Clark Vertex Tarp

I have no gripes about the Clark Vertex Tarp. It eventually became my only shelter after I sent my hammock home. It’s a bit on the heavy side (18oz), but for rain and wind protection it served its purpose perfectly. Each end has strips of Velcro on it so that you can close the openings for added wind protection and insulation. I don’t know of many (if any) other tarps with this feature – and believe me, I utilized the Velcro closures. In all honesty, I have nothing bad to say about this tarp, but I will be switching to a large Cubin fiber/Dyneema tarp to shave off half a pound and a little extra space in the pack. The only reason I didn’t use one on this hike was because I already had the Clark Tarp (from another hammock I bought) and didn’t want to drop another $400 on one of the lighter tarps I have my eye on.

* Custom Muletape Suspension

These are my go to hammock straps I make myself. I have no complaints about them. They’re heavier than other options out there, but they’re more versatile than any other option I’ve found and I’ll continue to use them until I find something lighter and equally versatile. You can easily make them yourself. Simply buy a roll of Mule Tape (1200 lb strength), cut whatever length you want, and tie a bowline knot loop on one end and melt the tag ends. Voila! You’ll use a Becket hitch knot to attach and detach the straps from the continuous loop on either end of your hammock. Doesn’t get any easier or quicker to put up, take down, or adjust the tension on your hammock.

* Mini Groundhog Stakes x 6

No gripes. I’ve used these ground stakes on every hike. They’re light, durable, and affordable. However, there are lighter and more expensive options… but that’s up to you.

* Polycro Groundsheet

No gripes here. The Polycro Groundsheet is super light and misleadingly durable. I literally wad it up and throw in my pack after use. They are very tear and puncture resistant. But having said that, once they do get a tear… you better fix it with duct tape or gorilla tape because it will continue to tear even with the force of a light breeze. However, I prefer the Polycro over Tyvek or anything else.

Sleeping

*Enlightened Equipment 30* Quilt

I have gripes about the quilt. I used this for my entire hike, but the loft was terrible and I had to shift the down around to keep from getting cold spots all night. If I did ever buy from this company again, I wouldn’t get anything 30 degrees or above. I’d keep it to 20 degrees or lower and ask for extra down stuffing.

* Nemo Switchback Pad

No gripes on the Nemo switchback pad. I used this pad for almost 4,000 miles this year. It’s a closed cell foam pad (very similar to the Thermarest Z-lite), but I like this one better. As far as cushion and warmth, I can tell no difference from the Z-lite. However, I like the egg crate pattern on the Switchback more than the Z-lite. I also like the fact that the Switchback is orange and silver, instead of silver and yellow, which is neither here nor there – but orange is my favorite color, sooo…

Footwear

* Altra Lonepeak 3.5 (*discontinued* 4.0 is latest model)

No gripes on the Altra Lonepeak… except for the fact that they are completely different from the 4.0’s and I can’t wear the 4.0’s. There are some of the 3.5’s to be found online still, and whatever size you normally wear, go one size up in the Lonepeak 3.5’s. If you have really wide feet or flat feet… these are for you. I suggest you pair them with elastic speed laces. There’s always the chance that the 4.0’s will work just fine for you too. These shoes will usually last me around 800 miles, but I’ve pushed them to 1,100 miles before.

* Injinji Toe Socks

No gripes. I prefer toe socks over regular socks due to the wideness of my feet. To be honest, I don’t even wear socks 90% of the time, but when I do… I wear toe socks. They will prevent toe blisters, and if you have really wide feet like me, it’ll keep your toes from being squeezed together like they would by normal socks, which causes them to rub and create blisters.

* Speed Lock Laces

No gripes. I’ve used elastic Speed Lock Laces for over a decade. I entered the long distance hiking world already using these and am very proud to have started the trend of them being used throughout the community now. If you haven’t tried these, do it. I use them on every pair of shoes I own, hiking or not. Again, if you have wide feet or your feet are prone to swelling… these are life savers. They’ll turn your shoe into a slip on that you’ll never have to tie again while expanding and compressing with your feet. I’ve written an entire article on these that you can also find on the blog if you want more information.

Warm Weather Clothing

* BOA Flag Running Shorts

I have gripes. They look good, but they’re not very durable. I ended up losing this pair of flag shorts, but they were already wearing out when I did. I’ve had pairs in the past that have worn out as well. If you’re simply wearing these for recreational running, then I would say go for it. I switched to a pair of American Flag print Soffe shorts and I’ll tell you right now… I’ll never wear anything else. I’ve worn Soffe for over a decade, but only recently discovered their American Flag print shorts. I’ll be ordering a small wardrobe worth of them and other colors.

* GoRuck Simple Shorts

I have gripes. While these shorts are comfortable as hell, super functional, and also fashionable – I can’t recommend them for long distance hiking. I’ve used two pairs of these on thru hikes and they both wore holes in the crotch before even 500 miles. As far as day hiking, recreation, or simply wearing around town casually… there’s not much better. They are pricey, but they come with a lifetime warranty that covers normal wear and tear. I will still buy these again for daily use and casual wear.

* Outdoor Research LongSleeve Astroman Shirt

No gripes. Hands down my favorite long sleeve hiking shirt I’ve ever worn, and I’ve worn A LOT! They’re extremely light, cool, durable, and the fabric stretches. The buttons are snapons, so they won’t break or tear off like other ones through normal wear and tear. They are pricey, but worth every penny in my opinion. I wear these for hiking and for formal and casual outings.

* Ex-Officio 9″ inseam underwear

No gripes. Ex-Officio is a tried and trusted brand within the community – very comfortable and durable. I personally go for the 9” inseam for one reason and one reason only. I don’t like to wear underwear with my running shorts, but when I first start a hike I am prone to thigh chafe. The 9” inseam will stretch almost down to my knees and provide a buffer against chaffing, or pain relief if I begin to chaff while not wearing them. Word to the wise: make sure you don’t buy a pair that’s too tight or it will squeeze your butt cheeks together and give you butt chaff. Fact of life.

* Ex-Officio Baja Cape Hat

No gripes. I loved this hat and was heartbroken when I lost it somewhere in southern Colorado. It was durable, comfortable, and had a sun shield that unfolded out of the back to cover your neck and ears. It also had an extra long brim to help with sun protection. I don’t believe they are making this exactly model anymore, but I’m sure they have something similar. If not, there are other companies making caps with sun shields.

* Bug Head Net

No gripes. A bug head net is a bug head net. In all honesty, I didn’t use mine even once, but I always carry one just in case! The weight is almost negligible.

Cold Weather Clothing

* Marmot Thermoflare Fleece Top Mid-layer (*Discontinued*Limited)

No gripes. This was the second thru hike I’ve used this mid-layer on (Florida Trail first), and it was a great fleece. I believe it might be discontinued now, but I’ve been gravitating more towards fleece mid-layers rather than down lately. It’s wonderful how incredibly light down is, but I don’t find it very comfortable to sleep in and if it gets wet it’s useless. With as much as I hike now, I prefer my warmest garment to be a little more versatile than down – so fleece it is! Not saying I won’t ever use a down mid-layer ever again, but it’ll always have its time and place in my arsenal of hiking clothing.

* Marmot Harrier Hoodie Baselayer Top

No gripes. I’ve used this same baselayer for three thru hikes now and love it. I have a pet peeve about my cold weather clothing having a hood, thumb holes in the sleeves to keep them from riding up, or both. This baselayer hoodie has both. It has a few small holes melted in it from getting too close to fires, but other than that it has held up remarkably well throughout all the miles. I plan to use it until it falls apart or I find something else I love more.

* Smartwool Long Underwear Baselayer Bottom

I have a gripe. Anything made of wool is super warm, comfortable, odor resistant, and insulates even when wet. However… it’s not very durable, even some of the synthetic/wool blends. Sleeping in wool long underwear poses no issues whatsoever. However, if you hike in long underwear sometimes (like I and many other do)… they can wear out fast – at least for me. There was nothing functionally wrong with these baselayer underwear, but they wore out and ripped beyond repair fairly quickly. I didn’t start wearing them a lot until Colorado, and by the time I reached New Mexico the crotch was worn out and then an entire leg ripped while I was putting them on one night. For me personally, I can’t be spending $60 to $100 on a pair of long underwear that won’t even stay in one piece for one thru hike. I replaced these in New Mexico with a pair of $12 synthetic long underwear from Wal-Mart. They served the exact same purpose, were just as warm, just as comfortable, weighed the same, and didn’t rip at all. The only difference was the material and name brand. I’ll be getting my long underwear form Wal-Mart from now on.

* Possum Down Gloves

No gripes. I’ve been using Possum Down gloves for 4 thru hikes and love them. They’re light, warm, and comfortable. If I ever buy new gloves, they will probably be something neoprene and waterproof, but for now I just pair these Possum Gloves with waterproof rain mittens and all is well.

* Possum Down Socks

No gripes. These are my all time favorite socks to sleep in. You could probably find something even warmer and more comfortable if you went for a very thick wool pair, but for the weight, warmth, and comfort… these have been my go-to for 4 thru hikes as well. I didn’t mention it above, but the individual possum fur hairs are hollow; this means they have incredible insulation properties, are light, and dry unbelievably quickly. I probably won’t ever not own a pair.

* IceBreaker Merino Balaclava

No gripes. I’ve been using/taking a balaclava with me for 3 thru hikes now and I’m not sure I’ll ever be caught without one. I have an obsession with hoods, beanies, and balaclavas – or anything that can keep my head, ears, and face warm. A good balaclava meets all of those needs in one. My entire head and face is extremely sensitive to the cold, and being able to cover my head, ears, mouth, nose, and cheeks while traversing a windswept ridge in a freezing rain is the difference between having a miserable day, or just another day.

– Wind/Rain Gear

* LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket

No gripes. This is one of my favorite pieces of gear (besides my umbrella). I’ve tried a lot of different rain gear, and the LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket is my absolute favorite. I had an Anti Gravity Gear rain jacket for 3 thru hikes previously and I loved that one too. LightHeart Gear made the exact same rain jacket, but with every feature and improvement I would have made to the Anti Gravity one (interior and exterior pockets and better cinch strings). The reason I like these particular rain jackets so much is because they are made of a single piece of silnylon and don’t breathe whatsoever. It’s not the greatest active use rainwear, but when it comes to simply locking in heat no matter what – you can’t find better, especially for how light it is. I don’t wear my rain jacket willy nilly. I wear it when conditions are at their absolute worst and wettest, or when I’m freezing at night and have nothing left to put on. I don’t care if my rain jacket vents moisture when it’s pouring down freezing rain in a driving wind; I only want the most heat possible to be locked in, and that’s what this jacket does.

* Anti Gravity Gear Rain Pants

No gripes. I’ve stuck with the Anti Gravity Rain Pants. It’s the same story as the jacket. It’s a single piece/layer of silnylon that doesn’t breathe. I could be freezing while I’m standing or hiking, but as soon as I put these pants on – the heat is instantly locked in and I feel 100% better. It’s like magic. Of course my legs are always slick with sweat when I take them off, but I don’t take them off until conditions have improved anyway. They are also a life saver if your legs tend to get cold at night. I can’t recommend them enough.

* MLD Rain Mitts

No gripes. I’ve been using the same Mountain Laurel Designs Rain Mitts for 4 thru hikes. I put them on over my hands or possum gloves as a wind shell or rain guard. They weigh next to nothing and provide a much appreciated and noticeable layer of warmth. Your dexterity goes to crap when they’re on, but you can do most basic things with them. I’ll only stop using these if I get a pair of nice neoprene or other insulated waterproof gloves.

* Swingtrek SunBrella

No gripes. Some people consider umbrellas a luxury item, but I consider them an essential item. I don’t hike without an umbrella. Some people say they don’t get enough use out of them, but I use them every chance I get; even if it’s simply walking around a trail town on a rainy day. They can cut sunlight and heat, help conserve bodily water, and keep your hands and head warm and dry in rain, snow, hail, sleet, or moderately high but freezing wind. This umbrella in particular is bigger and heavier than most other hiking umbrellas – about 12 oz; but it covers a large area, is tougher, non metal, and the handle telescopes and doubles in length if you need it to. This was the first umbrella to last an entire thru hike, so I’m sold. This is my forever umbrella… for the moment.

– Cooking

* Optimus Crux Lite Gas Stove

No gripes. There are a lot of really light stoves out there. This was the first time I used this particular brand and I have no complaints. I didn’t really use it long enough to really put it to the test, so take this review with a grain of salt. However, I have used the MSR Micro Rocket for a few thru hikes and can attest to its durability and reliability. I’m contemplating switching back to an alcohol stove after this, but we’ll see…

* Toaks Titanium MugPot

No gripes. I’ve had the Toaks Titanium Mugpot for 4 thru hikes now and I love it. Sometimes I send it home, but if I’m using a pot, it’s this one. It’s super light, super affordable, and you don’t feel bad banging it up a bit or putting it in some coals and getting it all sticky and sooty with carbon and sap. It’s a long distance hiking community favorite.

* Toaks Titanium Spoon

No gripes. I’ve been using Toaks Titanium Spoons for 4 thru hikes. I’ve lost a few, but I always replace it with the same one. Again, it’s cheap and light. I prefer a spoon over a spork because if I really need to impale something, I’ll just use my knife. Not to mention, the spoon is invaluable when it comes to scraping a pot clean. A spork… not so efficient. That’s just my two cents.

– Water/Storage/Purification

* SmartWater/Lifewater Bottle 1L x 2

No gripes. Almost everyone uses SmartWater or LifeWater bottles. They’re sleek and streamline shape makes them easy to stow, and a Sawyer filter threads right onto them. Also, you can find them pretty much anywhere, so they’re easy to replace.

* SmartWater/Lifewater Sport Top Bottle 24oz x 2

No gripes. Same story as above, but these are just smaller and come with a sport nozzle and snap on lid to cover it. You can use the nozzle on this water bottle to back flush your Sawyer filter instead of carrying the plunger the filter comes with. You can also unscrew the sport nozzle from the bottle and replace the nozzle on the Sawyer filter if it gets dirty or lost. In fact, I replace all of my Sawyer nozzles with a SmartWater/LifeWater sport nozzle. I just like them better. Also, I’ll usually just put the sport nozzle from the smaller bottles onto the full 1 liter bottles. It makes it quicker and easier to drink without having to unscrew a cap.

* Platypus Water Bladder 2L x 1

No gripes. I always carry one of these on every hike. I don’t use them as an everyday item, but a backup item when I need to do a big water carry. It’s a plastic bladder, so it weighs nothing and compresses down and rolls up into nothing – yet it will hold more than 2 liters of water if you need it too. It’s basically my emergency water storage option. It’ll save you from carrying 6 water bottles in case you need to carry 6 liters of water for whatever reason. The advantage comes from when you don’t have or need those 6 liters anymore; you don’t have to carry around 2 extra or empty water bottles that take up space.

* Sawyer Water Filter(normal size)

Some Gripes. I’ve used these filters for all of my thru hikes. While they are light and very convenient, I have a love hate relationship with them. They clog really fast and easily if you filter from dirty water, and then using them becomes a workout, as well as a game of patience. Still, I prefer them to putting chemicals in my water (even though all of earth’s water probably has chemicals in it to one extent or another). They’re good filters if you take care of them and back flush them after every use (I’m not so diligent). I also don’t filter the majority of the time, so I use these for mostly questionable water sources – and questionable water sources tend to clog filters pretty quick; so you get my gripe.

– Electronics

* Cell Phone – Android Galaxy S-10
* Wall Charger and USB-C Cord
* Extra USBC Cord
* USB Thumb Drive to store pictures
* USB-C Adapter for Thumb Drive

* RAVPower Charger 32,000 Mhz

No gripes.This was a massive battery pack (almost 2 pounds!). Aside from how heavy it was, I have no complaints. It performed flawlessly, and the extra power allowed me to use my phone with reckless abandon even throughout the longest stretches. This meant; more pictures, more videos, more writing, more audiobooks, and more music (should I wish). I never ran it all the way down even once (a first on a thru hike), and I never had to worry about how much I was using my phone for my creative pursuits, which was one less thing I had to worry about while out there.

* Firefly Headlamp (discontinued)

No gripes. I’ve been using this headlamp for 4 thru hikes. It’s no longer available anywhere online, but when it was, it had questionable reviews. Well, I haven’t had anything but a positive experience with it for over 8,000 miles of hiking. It’s not terribly bright, but I’m not one of those people who wants to light up the entire forest. I only need to see what’s just ahead of me, and not much more (but to each their own).

* LR Photon Light w/ Hat Clip

No gripes. This is nothing more than a tiny keychain sized LED light that can attach to a clip that then attaches to your hat. I prefer to use this little light when I’m doing things in camp, rather than hiking, but it works for hiking as well.

* Cr-2032 Batteries

– Hygiene/Medical

* Baby Powder 4oz

You won’t catch me on trail without baby powder. When I first begin a thru hike, I powder up every morning, afternoon, and evening. I’m baking baby powder cakes all day, every day until I get to town and shower. Once my body adapts, I ease up a bit and only use it on particularly grueling or hot days, or whenever I might start feeling the burn.

* Sawed Off Toothbrush

Your choice

* Tooth Powder

I’ve been using tooth powder for 4 thru hikes now. While it’s a little heavier than some travel tooth paste tubes, it’s overall much lighter and can be stretched much further. It’s not the greatest tasting, but damn if my mouth and breath isn’t the freshest it’s ever felt after a round with toothpowder.

* Gorilla Tape Travel size

I usually strip this down to about 10 feet or so of tape. It comes in very handy for gear repair, shoe repair, or wounds. It’s way tougher and tackier than duct tape, so I prefer it.

* Super Glue

I always have a small tube of it in my pack. It’s great for cracks in your feet and small wounds or punctures. I didn’t use any super glue on this hike, but I did give some away to a hiker in need.

* Nail Clippers

I usually end up going through 1 or 2 pairs of these on trail. I end up leaving them in hotel rooms a lot. Sometimes I’ll even buy them for one time use.

* Toilet Paper (insert favorite brand)

– Miscellaneous

* Cold Steel Canadian Belt Knife

I used this knife for 3 thru hikes so far, and I use it in my normal life as well. It’s cheap, extremely durable, easy to sharpen, and has a very unique design and shape that makes it extremely versatile for utility, camp chores, eating, or cleaning fish/small game. I’ve done everything with this knife from rooting up vegetables, making new walking sticks, preparing fire wood, cutting meat and cheese, cleaning fish, cleaning squirrels, rabbits, snakes, birds, you name it. In defense of your life, it’ll work for that too.

* Bic Lighter x 2

I take two in case one gets lost, wet, or whatever.

* Ben’s 100% Deet 3.4oz

This is the strongest, most potent bug spray you can find. I carry it as a last resort when all else fails and I’m about to lose my mind to the mosquitoes or black flies. They come in different sized containers, including one even smaller than this. Don’t get it on your sleeping bag or any plastic products as it will literally deteriorate/melt them before your eyes.

* Fanny Pack (Custom Packs By Tesla)

I’ve been using a fanny pack for 3 thru hikes now, and I don’t see myself not wearing one anytime soon. I prefer the fanny pack to a hip belt, but I suppose you could use both if you wanted. I keep a few essential items in there at all times while rotation items in and out that necessity of circumstance requires (gloves, rain mitts, beanie, sunglasses, town items, headlamp, etc.)

* Hyperlite Wallet

I’ve had this same wallet for 4 years and 4 thru hikes and it isn’t anywhere near wearing out. I use it as my daily wallet and my hiking wallet. It’s extremely simple and streamlined and if you don’t stuff your wallet full of cards, receipts, and your heaping piles of cash… it could be perfect for you too.

* Sunglasses – Offbrand Polarized

* Counter Assault Bear SprayCarried when in Grizzly country – don’t mace yourself.

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