Hello again, friends.
Today is all about my big three gear items: tent, sleeping bag, and pack. Keep in mind this is just my initial impressions and not really a review since I’ve only used each of them once. But I think it’ll be nice to have this post to look back on once I know what stood the test of time and what didn’t. Plus I want to start communicating about my gear choices.
So without further ado:
Item: For my shelter I chose the Big Agnes UL2 Fly Creek Tent.
Reasoning behind choice: This tent gets good reviews, is touted as an excellent light-weight choice for beginners, and I’ve heard good things about Big Agnes in general. My other reason was that the set-up was very familiar; I’ve pitched tents before, complete with tent poles, stakes, and guy lines. And because I’m entering a world where everything is new and strange I need that extra little bit of familiarity. I got the two person, rather than the one person, because I know I’ll be spending many wet mornings inside, all cooped up, and I’d rather have a little extra space then none at all. Plus the difference in weight was only a few ounces and the price difference was similarly small.
Price: I paid $389.95 for my tent. Which, yeah, is on the more expensive side. But I felt the guarantee of quality that came with this tent was worth it. On the other hand you can get the one person version of this tent for much cheaper on MooseJaw.
Weight: According to REI my tent is 1 lbs, 15 oz.
Pros: I like my tent! I don’t have any real reference point at the moment but it’s roomy, durable, lightweight, packable, and it isn’t so ugly as to be offensive to the eye.
Cons: There’s a lot of staking. In this post I explain how that’s already gotten me into trouble. The only other real con I can think of is the price, but I’ve already mentioned that.
Conclusion: I think this was a good choice for a beginner like me and I’m hopeful it will live up to its reputation during my thru hike.
2. Sleeping Bag
Item: The Women’s Joule Sleeping Bag from REI.
Reasoning Behind Choice: I actually bought a sleeping bag last year from a knock-off brand on Amazon but I realized later that it was way too heavy and bulky to be sustainable. Part of the reason it was so big, I realized, was that it was a men’s sleeping bag and there was about a foot too much material for me. This time I avoided this and got a sleeping bag just long enough for me in the Women’s section. It gets good reviews, the temperature rating is about right, and it was on sale: works for me. As for the quilt v.s. sleeping bag debate, I might try a quilt during the summer but, again, I need something familiar for this first time around and I’ve been using sleeping bags my whole life.
Price: I snagged this sucker for $130, which is a pretty big mark-down from what it usually is. I think I avoided the “more expensive just because it’s marketed to women” trap here. To top things off I got this sleeping bag for only $30 more than the first one I bought.
Weight: REI’s website says it’s 2 lbs, 2 oz. That’s heavier than my tent!
Item Specific Specs: The temperature rating for this bag is 23 degrees Fahrenheit.
Pros: I like the color. This sleeping bag is a nice subdued shade of gray on the outside and a vivid pink on the inside. It’s also made of treated down, so it won’t lose as much of its insulating power when wet as, say, a regular down sleeping bag would.
Cons: It is more snug than my last sleeping bag, as I’ve mentioned. I’ve noticed that my toes often come right up against the foot of the sleeping bag, which might get uncomfortable over many nights all in a row. But that also means less weight and less air that my body needs to heat up so I’ve decided it’s a risk worth taking.
Conclusion: I got a great deal, it’s snug, warm enough, light enough, compact enough… overall I’m very pleased. Because it is a 23 degree bag I’ll likely send it home around May and use something lighter and more compact (perhaps a quilt?) for the summer months. Or maybe I’ll just unzip it during the summer. That all remains to be seen.
Item: Women’s Osprey Aura 50 AG Pack
Reasoning Behind Choice: Basically I went to REI and they fitted me for this pack and I liked it. It’s from a reputable brand, gets great reviews, and isn’t so large that I’ll be tempted to pack fifty pounds into it. Plus it has a year-long warranty.
Price: I got this pack on sale for $180 but it’s normally $230.
Weight: According to REI this pack is 3 lbs, 12 oz, so it’s my heaviest piece of gear by a long shot.
Item specific Specs: The size I got is a 47 liter, which should help me keep total pack weight down. And it’s an internal frame pack.
Pros: At the risk of being redundant I’ll repeat that I have no real frame of reference here: this is the first pack I’ve ever carried around fully loaded. However, I had absolutely no back pain with this pack and I even felt like it was helping my posture and strengthening my spine, rather than hurting it. All the weight sat on my hips, precisely where it should, and I felt like the pack was molding itself around me and working with my body, rather than against it. Then again I only had 20 lbs. in it, so maybe my tune will be different after a week-long trip. But for the moment I’m completely satisfied.
Cons: It would be nice if it was a little lighter. And it was more pricey than it necessarily needed to be. But I get the feeling that if I tried to cut corners and buy something cheaper (as I did with my first sleeping bag) I would end up with a poor product and no way to return it. So I would have wasted more money than I’m spending now, on a quality product.
Conclusion: I’ll be honest, I wasn’t intending to keep this pack after I brought it home. I originally got it a size too small and it seemed really expensive and without enough capacity to accommodate my stuff. But I kept it long enough to try it out and I’m sold. As far as I can tell this is an excellent pack and I hope to keep it for many, many years to come.
All in all, I’m pleased with my choices. I have reasonable confidence that all three will stand up to the rigors of a thru hike but, then again, what do I know? We’ll see how it goes.
On a side note I’m going to another backpacking meeting tonight. Not to hike, just an indoor, hour-long discussion. I hope to get to know some of my future backpacking companions tonight, so things won’t be super awkward later when I’m camping with them. I’ll make sure to report on how all that goes next week.
Until next time,