Link to the Gear List

Light Load Towels

Don't forget to bring a towel. 

Specs

  • .5oz for 2 12x12 towels
  • Viscose fiber (wood cellulose)
  • Super light and absorbent
  • $3

http://www.rei.com/product/802206/lightload-towels-mini-towel-12-x-12-package-of-2


Initial Impressions

I own an ultra light MSR camp towel and love it. I didn’t want to carry the big thing on the JMT with me so I paid the $3 for the small light load towels. I always wanted to try them, anyway.

They come compressed in to little pucks. When you unpackaged them, they do not spring to life. So they stayed in my pack until first use on the trail

With the addition of water, they fluff out to regular size. The hold a ton of water, the wring out very easily. One was orange, one was grey.


Performance

I took hobo showers with them, I used them to remove moisture from the tent, I used them as a cushoning layer when I packed the solar panel. They were amazing for what seemed like a novelty item.

Limitations

You won't get years and years of use out of these. After much heavy use and 2 times through a washing machine, they start to lose their structure. They still work, but they don't have amazing longevity. Having said that, I was surprised the little guy held up after going through the machine wash.

They come in some different sizes. The 12x12 worked perfectly for me.

Last Words

Pleased with these. They exceeded my expectations.

Overall Arbitrary Trail Score (OATS)

8.5 for their usefulness, weight, and cost. 

Link to the Gear List

SteriPEN Ultra

Let there be light. 

Specs

  • 6oz
  • UV water purifier
  • Kills it all; Bacteria and Virii in 90 seconds
  • $99.00

http://www.rei.com/product/847549/steripen-ultra-water-purifier

Initial Impressions

I've never been a believer in the black magic ways of UV filtration. I need my water to go through something, a ceramic filter, hollowcore fibers, a sock, a pleated filter…something. 
For the JMT, I had two options- Replace the filter element on my MSR HyperFlow or take a chance on a SteriPEN.

SteriPEN was on sale. It was a sign.

It was simple out of the box. The Ultra as an internal Lithium Ion battery that is rechargeable. Other models use AAs or CR123s or A combo of removable rechargeable batteries.

We were taking cameras, phones, and a solar panel so Internal rechargeable was the best fit.

The Ultra has a screen interface that other models don't. The screen helped me bridge the gap and ease my skepticism. It has a countdown timer, battery life indicator, and lamp life indicator.


Performance

Since water is never far and refills are frequent, SteriPEN was the perfect candidate for the JMT. It purifies your 1 liter nalgene in 90 seconds without a lot of ceremony (pull out filter, sink prefilter in the water, screw on to bottle, pump for a while, shake filter dry, put back in pack)

Listed lamp life is 8,000 treatments, battery life on a full charge is 50 treatments.

It held a charge very well and charged quickly from the solar panel battery pack. The SteriPEN includes a cover for the lamp element. This is an essential piece. Somewhere along the trip, through some small impact, the cover got a small crack in it. If the purifier didn’t have that, or if it was in a more exposed spot- broken lamp.

The lamp is tough, though. It's encased in polycarbonate and by no means fragile like a fluorescent tube light.

It never failed, it was quick and easy, and we never got sick. I'm a full convert.

Limitations

All water isnt equal. Thicker silt or tannin laced water is going to be hard for the SteriPEN. There is no prefilter (you can buy or make one; a clean bandana or pantyhose will get the big particulates out) but otherwise, what you pull form the stream is what you drink.

One of the best things is you are able to taste the water for what it is. All but one stop at garnet lake was amazingly delicious.

You have to have a nalgene or bottle shaped bottle. Bladders, bags, and similar containers don't lend themselves well to the SteriPEN.

1 liter at a time is the SteriPEN's max capacity. It will do half a liter in half the time (there's a function for that)


Last Words

They aren't for everyone or for every hike, but for the majority of what I do and places I go, SteriPEN fits the bill and performs exceptionally well. At no point did I wish for my other filter, and at no point did I need to break out the back-up tablets I had. Check the different models. Some are lighter, simpler. Big difference is going to be the battery situation. Get what works.  

Overall Arbitrary Trail Score (OATS)

9.8 Gots to have water. Keeping it from the solid 10- sometimes the lamp wouldn't turn on immediately when the timer started. After a moment or a light tap it would fire up. 

Link to the Gear List

REI Revel Cloud Vest (2011 edition)

I have vested interests in this. 

Specs

  • 11oz (xl)
  • DWR coated nylon shell, Primaloft Eco insulation
  • Packable beast of a garment.
  • $70-120

http://www.rei.com/product/844349/rei-revelcloud-vest-mens


Initial Impressions

I had my eye on these for a long time. Having just come back from Guadalupe Mountains and desperately wanting something light, cheap, and warm I came across the Revel Cloud on sale (and it's often on sale) Enjoyed it. Came with a tiny stuff sack. Fit well. Has hand pockets on the front. Headphone compatible. Good length.


Performance

This was my go to layer. The down sweater is warmer, but for hiking, sweating, and general harshness, I went to the Revel Cloud. The Revel Cloud has been around a good while. Through the years, it looks like the only change has been the color options. Basically you're looking at a synthetic insulated layer that comes in a range of options. Vest, Jacket, Hooded jacket.

Insulation is Primaloft Eco which is partly recycled. It does all the good things synthetics do (fairly light, warm, insulates when wet) and it packs down very small. I had no qualms about sweating all the way through the vest. Over Mather pass and a few other spots it performed admirably when saturated.

I opted for the vest so that I could have an in-between layer. I knew I wouldn't want to wear a full length fleece or pussy jacket. I'd get to hot.


Last Words

The lightweight fabric held up well to the weight of pack straps and general thuggery I put it through. Sizes may run a bit large in REI Brand stuff so check that out. There are some fancier synthetic pieces out there- nanopuff, thermoball to name a couple. For price, function, and toughness, I like the revel cloud. And at about $70, hard to turn it down.  

Overall Arbitrary Trail Score (OATS)

9 for its versatility, durability, reliability, usability, and use-as-a-pillowability

Link to the Gear List

Bear Vault BV400

It's not a vault to put bears in... 

http://www.rei.com/product/768902/bearvault-bv500-food-container

Specs

  • 2lbs 9oz
  • Polycarbonate
  • 700 cubic inches
  • $80


Initial Impressions

We first bought these in 2008 when we planned on doing the trail. It's a large nalgene made for food pretty much. They're solid, sturdy, and simple. It's a plastic can.


Performance

Bear can did what it was made to do. There are lighter options out there. There are bigger options out there. For all of our needs and plans of a 3 week, 10 mile per day thru hike of the JMT, the BV400 was the answer.  I wrapped mine with a few bits of reflective tape thinking a bear might come and roll it down a hill and I'd have to find it. Never happened.

They aren't smell proof, they aren't shatter proof, and in Vermont with at least one bear, they aren't bear proof. But for the shattering and bear opening, these are extreme and rare cases.

It's a solid container that Sierra bears can't open, and it's approved by park agencies. Worked awesome as a stool/camp chair as well.

If rodents, animals, and creatures are a problem in other camping trips, the bear can is very helpful. I'd not hesitate to use it on some Texas trips where creatures have a habit of getting my food.


Last Words

Bears are smart. They'll try to get your food. Don't let them. Don't make the bear die. At the end of the day they're an inconvenience to carry because of all the room they take up and how much they weigh, but they're a must. There are lighter, larger options out there. And you can also rent them if you don't want to buy for life. Or there's craigslist...

Overall Arbitrary Trail Score (OATS)

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7.5- Heavy, cumbersome, but mandatory. 

Link to the Gear List

Patagonia Down Sweater

I had my eye on these for a while. I'd never owned a proper down insulating layer but for the weight, packability, and warmth, I knew I'd have to get one.

On a whim at the Round Rock REI, I found last year's model on sale ($120) and walked out with a size Large.

http://www.rei.com/product/770806/patagonia-down-sweater-mens

Specs:

  • 11 ounces (avg)
  • 800 Fill power
  • Polyester shell, down fill
  • $220 retail. $100-200 on sales. 

Initial Impressions

Loved the lightweight and loft. Color was eh (sky blue) but it got the job done.

Performance

800 fill goose down provides great warmth in a small package. It's not hydrophobic, probably because the down treating process is killer on the environment and this is a Patagonia piece. Outer shell is light weight and treated with water repellant coating. Baffles are sewn well and stuffed full of down. Hand pockets are in a perfect spot and are large enough to be comfortable.

Size seemed pretty true, if a touch big. I'm hard to size, though.

This was my go-to piece on the trail for hanging out in camp, setting up on cold nights or cold mornings, and breaks. Blocks the wind well. Shed light rain well. I did rip a tiny hole in the shell on a bolt sticking out of Muir Trail Ranch's gate. Put a tiny patch of Duck tape on it and haven't messed with is since. Still wear it weekly.

Love the performance, features, and capabilities.

Last words

 Down with the Down Sweater

Down with the Down Sweater

For light weight, pack abilit\, and loft- it's gotta be down. There's lighter weight pieces out there but for all around versatility I've been a fan of the Down Sweater. 

Overall Arbitrary Trail Score (OATS)

8.9

Link to the Gear List

REI Flash 45

This is a test post. I'll write useful stuff here. 

 

 

Ps the Flash 45 by REI is a bad pack. Crap foam sheet, bad hoop stay. Uncomfortable, doesnt carry loads well unless full, outer mesh pocket is also the water bottle holder. Horrible design idea. 

Do not like it.

 

That said, i'll sell you mine...$1 per liter. 

Link to the Gear List

Best since Day 1.