Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Snowy Shakedown

In the spirit of Memorial Day weekend, Ben and I headed out yesterday for an overnight trip to test out our gear and work out any kinks in our systems. It was also a chance to just get out and walk and clear our heads, as planning for a long-distance hike has been really overwhelming at times. I will be sitting at my computer, checking snow depths, reading gear reviews, or making an outline of our trip itinerary/resupply schedule and I will think, “I just want to walk!! I don’t want to plan to walk anymore.”

And so we walked. We headed up the Green Lakes Trail in the Three Sisters Wilderness and camped near the still snow-covered lakes. Luckily, we were able to find a dry campsite in an alcove of trees so we didn’t have to camp on the snow. We had optimistic thoughts that we might get a decent weather window to go up Broken Top early this morning, but it rained and snowed for much of our mini-adventure. I’m a Seattle girl, so we expect rain on Memorial Day (and Fourth of July for that matter). Besides, I consider it valuable psychological training for the thru-hike.

We received our ZPacks quilt in the mail a few days ago, and I was anxious to see how it worked in the field. Instead of carrying two sleeping bags, Ben and I will share one quilt. It saves us a significant amount of weight, plus has the added advantage of allowing us to share body heat and snuggle in the backcountry. If you’re used to a mummy style sleeping bag, it’s definitely a different concept. The quilt kind of tucks under your body, but if you move around, it can be a bit drafty. The quilt is also made with a water resistant down that helps the down to maintain its loft (and therefore it’s insulating qualities) even if it becomes wet. We will still do everything in our power to keep our sleeping system from getting wet, but it is nice to have some added security. Overall, the quilt was pretty darn comfortable. We were a little cold on and off, but hopefully with practice we will figure out how to move around without letting cold air in. The sleeping pads, however, are a different story.

We got these Velcro strips that we adhered to each of our sleeping pads, hoping that they would keep our sleeping pads from inevitably sliding apart during the night, which causes one or both of us to be laying on the ground, sandwiched between the pads. Unfortunately, the Velcro seems to pull apart as soon we lay down on our inflated sleeping pads. Pretty immediately after getting home this afternoon, I went to work researching an alternate solution. I just ordered a “Thermarest Couple Kit,” which is a pair of straps that you wrap around both sleeping pads. They have decidedly mixed reviews – from useless to awesome – so we will have to see.

Most importantly, it was invaluable quality time with the other member of my wolf pack. There has been a lot of change lately, and it is important sometimes to take a step back, go to your happy place, and remember what you are doing, why you are doing it and who you are doing it with. 

Warm and dry (the camera lens got a little wet and fogged up)

Looking toward Broken Top

Our mountain home..the Tarptent Double Rainbow

Our double quilt from ZPacks 

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Rachelpel - Stopping blisters in their tracks since 2013!

There is so much planning that goes into getting ready for a trip of this magnitude. Organizing gear, planning mail drops, getting our maps and guidebook information organized by each section of the trail. And making foot salve. When Hydropel, Ben's favorite ointment for blister prevention, was discontinued, we figured we would just try to make it ourselves. We were able to figure out the ingredients and their proportions without too much difficulty, and I went to work in the kitchen. It is actually just three ingredients: petroleum jelly, dimethicone (which is a type of silicone used to prevent friction and create a water resistant barrier), and a hydrophobic starch powder (which is added to prevent the ointment from being too greasy). It is actually a lot of fun to make!

Since we will be wearing light-weight and breathable trail-running shoes during our hike and will be in wet conditions a good amount of the time, having a water resistant ointment is imperative. We've been using our "Rachelpel" on bike rides and day hikes, and it seems to be keeping our feet in good shape. We are also sending a sample to our friend Ryan to field test, he is hiking the PCT northbound as we speak!

Ben's Gear List:

Without further ado, here is Ben's gear list! We will be splitting up the camera equipment, with him carrying the Pentex camera/accessories, and me carrying the smaller camera (Canon and/or GoPRo) and the tripod. We're still looking for a lighter weight tripod, shooting for something that weights a pound to a pound and a half.

Ben's Gear List:
Item: Weight (ounces):
Shared Gear: Sleeping Bag: ZPacks 10 degree Twin Quilt 33
Tent: Tarptent Double Rainbow 41
Snowpeak Titatium Stove  2.5
Stoic cookpot 1.6 L 5.8
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter 2.5
Individual Sleeping system: Prolite Gear EvoPad 3/8 inch (half pad)  5
Neoair Xlite Pad Small 8
Essentials:  Pack: ULA Ohm 2.0  26
Stuff sacks 3
Rain cover/Pack liner 4.4
Clothing worn: Merino wool T-shirt 3
Shorts  3
Socks 2
Shoes - Brooks Adrenaline ASR GTX or Mizuno Wave Rider 22
Simblissity LevaGaiter 2
Hat 3
Casio Pathfinder Watch 2.9
Black Diamond Trekking Poles 17
Clothing packed (not all items to be carried for duration of trail): Patagonia Cap 2 baselayer 4
I/O Bio Contact Merino Hoodie 5
Socks (2 pairs) 4
Stoic Wraith Wind jacket 2.5
Montane Featherlite Wind Pants 4
Rab Momentum Rain Jacket 12
GoLite Tumalo Full-zip Rain Pants 9
Patagonia UL Down Hoody  9
Montbell UL Thermawrap Vest  5
Merino wool Buff 2
North Face Headband 2
Black Diamond Polartech Midweight Gloves  2
Mountain Laurel Design Rain mitts 2
Underwear 2
Additional gear (not all items to be carried for duration of trail): Misc (vitamins, meds, first aid, wallet) 8
McMurdo Fastfind 220 Personal Location Beacon 5.4
Phone 5
Cords/iPod 2
Multitool/Knife 1
Bandanas/Wipe cloth 4
Bleach 1
Spork 0.5
Lighters 0.8 ounces each
Water bottles  1.5 ounces each 
2 L Platypus for additional water storage  1.3
Headlamp Black Diamond Tikka XP II 3.1
Half Mile Maps/Yogi's Guidebook pages  variable
Compass 1
Sunglasses  1.6
Batteries  to be determined 
Battery powered charger  2
Simblissity UnSlack Pack shoulder pouch 1
Dynex Portable Speaker for iPod  4.6
Camera Equipment: GoPro Hero 2  6.7
Pentex K5  24
Pentex 18 to 135 WR Lens 14.3
Misc equipment (LowePro Toploader Pro 65 AW case, lens pen, extra batteries, memory cards, remote control, UV filter, neutral density filter, polarizer, cleaning cloth) 20
Canon Powershot ELPH 300 HS  5
Lowepro Apex 20 AW Camera Case  2.4
Tripod to be determined 
Seasonal Gear/Clothing:  Pack: ULA Circuit  39
Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampons 28.9
Grivel Air Tech Racing Ice Axe (66 cm)  19
Bear Vault BV 500  41
Feathered Friends Down Booties  5
Bear Spray  8
Arm warmers 2
Leg warmers 2.4
Possumdown sleep socks 2
NRS Hydroskin Socks 3
Mosquito Net 1
Bear line  4
Deet Insect Repellant 4
GoLite Trekking Umbrella 6
GPS Garmin Oregon 450 6.7

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Two Man Wolf Pack

Our team name for the 2013 Pacific Crest Trail is "Two Man Wolf Pack" and for Ben's birthday I had shirts designed for us! A great company out of Bend called Vinyl Thoughts helped me put them together, and they were even brave enough to print on merino wool so we can wear our shirts on the trail and still be comfortable. 

Here we are sporting our shirts on a gorgeous bike ride up to McKenzie Pass in the Oregon Cascades! 

Rachel's Gear List:

It seems like I have been working on my gear list for MONTHS and I think I finally have it together enough to put it on the blog. I am still waiting for a few last minute pieces of gear to arrive, most importantly our twin quilt that we will be using in lieu of sleeping bags. I am also attempting to become savvy with new pieces of equipment that my parents generously gave me for my birthday, a Casio Pathfinder watch from Dad/Karen and a SPOT Connect from Mom. I had a mini-meltdown trying to set the magnetic declination on the compass function of the watch this morning, and I still need to familiarize myself with the functions of the SPOT. The SPOT is a rescue device that has several additional features: you are able to send and receive text messages, send an "Okay" message that notifies friends and family where you are, and even post updates to Facebook. I don't plan to be posting an abundance of "status updates" from the trail, but I can see a situation where the ability to send/receive messages would be useful, especially on future trips that may be more remote that the PCT.

According to my gear list, my current "base weight" is about 13 pounds. Base weight is the weight of your pack and everything in it not including food, water, and fuel. Thirteen pounds is not great, and not terrible. There are some thru-hikers that are able to get their base weight below 10 and even 5 pounds! I think the thing that stands out most from looking at my list is how much technology I am bringing and how much it weighs! My Kindle alone weighs nearly a pound, and this is absolutely a luxury item. I still have a few weeks to decide what is coming with me and what can stay at home.

I haven't yet included our camera gear on this list, as this is more Ben's area of expertise. I hope to get his gear list up on the blog shortly.

PCT Gear List:
Item:    Weight (ounces): 
Shared Gear: Sleeping Bag: ZPacks 10 degree Twin Quilt 33
Tent: Tarptent Double Rainbow 41
Snowpeak Titatium Stove  2.5
Stoic cookpot 1.6 L 5.8
Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter 2.5
Individual Sleeping system: Prolite Gear EvoPad 3/8 inch (half pad)  5
Neoair Xlite Pad Small 8
Essentials:  Pack: ULA Ohm 2.0  27
Pack liner Ziplock XXLarge  3.4
Pack cover (garbage bag)  1
Gear/Clothing Worn: Black Diamond Trekking Poles  20
Casio Pathfinder PAW1300-1V Watch 2.2
Brooks Cascadia shoes with Road Runner insoles 20
Simblissity Leva Gaiter 1.8
Darn Tough Light Crew socks  1.6
Ibex Balance Sports Bra  2.5
Brooks 5" Woven Shorts 3.9
Smartwool Merino T-shirt 4
Brooks Baseball Cap 2
Clothing (not all items carried for duration of trail): Baselayer top: Ibex Hooded Indie 6
Baselayer bottom: Patagonia Cap 2  3.7
Baselayer bottom: Patagonia Cap 1 4.9
Underwear: Ibex Balance Brief 1
Leg warmers 2.4
Possumdown Sleep Socks  2
NRS Hydroskin Socks 2.7
Darn Tough Ultra Light Mesh Socks 1.6
Darn Tough Light Crew socks  1.6
Darn Tough Midweight Crew socks  2.5
Patagonia UL Down Hoody  7
Montbell UL Thermawrap Vest  4
Montane Featherlite Wind Pants 3.9
Patagonia Houdini Wind Jacket  3.2
Marmot Precip Rain pants 11
Rab Momentum Rain Jacket 10
Black Diamond Polartech Midweight Gloves  1.5
Mountain Laurel Design Rain mitts 1.2
Ibex Meru Beanie 1.5
Merino Wool Buff  1.7
Mosquito Net                           < 1
Additional Gear: Simblissity UnSlack Pack shoulder pouch 1
Roll Top Blast Dry Bag 1.4
Pillow Dry Bag 1.65
Sea to Summit Spork  0.3
Bleach (for purifying water)  1
Lighter  0.8
Water bottles 1.5 ounces each 
2 L Platypus for additional water storage  1.3
Freshette (for the art of peeing while standing)  1
First Aid Kit to be determined
Toiletries (contacts/case/solution, toilet paper, sunscreen, chapstick, toothbrush/paste, hand sanitizer, Dr. Bronner's Soap) to be determined
Bandanas (2) 1.1 ounces each
GoLite Chrome Dome Trekking Umbrella 8
Headlamp Black Diamond Tikka XP II 3.1
Half Mile Maps/Yogi's Guidebook pages  variable
Suunto MC-2 Pro Compass  2.5
SPOT Connect 4.9
iPhone with Mophie extended battery case  8
Headphones  0.4
iPod (with case) 1.4
Dynex Portable Speaker for iPod  4.6
Kindle 13.9
iPhone/Kindle/iPod charging cords 2.7
Sunglasses with Croakie  1.1
Multitool  1
Batteries (AA and AAA) variable 
Gear specific to the Sierra (and parts of Washington):  Pack: ULA Circuit  35
Black Diamond Contact Strap Crampons 28.9
Black Diamond Raven Pro Ice Axe (55 cm)  16
Bear Vault BV 500  41
Feathered Friends Down Booties  7