Hope you had a great Thanksgiving weekend! As the past few weeks have flown by, this upcoming trip has only become more real. I placed an immense order through REI for more winter specific backpacking gear than I already owned. Utilizing a "friends & family" discount coupon that a fellow '14 A.T. thru-hiker had (she's an REI employee) I was able to save almost $500 on my order, basically making my new tent a free gift. Huge thank you to Cori for making that possible.
Some of the major new purchases included my Cold Cold World "Chaos" backpack, sewn and assembled by a guy named Randy Rackliff in locally in Jackson, NH. While the highly regarded alpine/mountaineering pack typically is made with blue fabric, he made mine custom with red to match my Marmot jacket... I figured I might as well hike in style. Second up in the big three purchases of new gear was my Mountain Hardwear Lumina Z-Blaze synthetic sleeping bag. Rated for tempatures as low as -15 degrees and outfitted with an additional 15 degree bag liner, this combination should keep me warm well below the zero degree line. The final major piece of gear is my new Mountain Hardwear Direkt2 tent; an amazing and compact 2-man tent, it's the first choice for alpine climbers looking for a small footprint to pitch on the literal side of the mountains they ascend. While our hike won't be that extreme, the 2.5 pound weight of this tent made it the perfect choice for us to share during this trip; it will be close quarters, but ideally it won't be home for more time than necessary on the Long Trail.
I'm doing a lot of work in getting primary and redundant maps and gear for us to hike with, and am reworking my packing methods to get my bag to the smallest size possible, a tough feat given the extra size that each piece of gear is in comparison to 3-season camping gear. My new sleeping bag is fitted in a 30L orange compression sack, shown in the upper left corner of the first photo below, and occupies just under half the total height of my backpack. Fitting everything else around it won't be a huge problem, but it will take a little more effort to nail down the exact order in which things need to be packed in order to get the most out of the bag. Utilizing exterior straps I'm able to secure my Tubbs Alp Flex snowshoes, and a self-draining pouch on the front of the pack will be home to my microspike light boot traction when not in use. The fantastic news, though perhaps hard to imagine given the amount of stuff in the photo below, is that my pack weight comes in at 26.8 lbs (without food or water), but with all of my gear. Removing the clothing and boot traction I'll be wearing while hiking, then adding in a few days of food, I'll cross my fingers for a 30-35 pound pack weight with snowshoes accounting for nearly 4 pounds of that.
I'm planning to go hiking in New Hampshire's White Mountains this weekend to do a real-world shakedown with this gear. A 14-18 mile hike over two days should give me exposure to cold weather, snow of different depths, and at least one night in the mountains with this new tent set-up. I'm hoping to find weak points in my system early on so that I can replace them in the 2 remaining weeks before our departure date.
Just wanted to fill you all in on where I'm at. Santa and I talk almost daily and compare notes, triple check redundancy, and exchange thoughts on our approach for this hike. There's been a lot of enthusiastic and some hesitant web feedback about my hike, and I encourage you to reach out with your own thoughts. In all honesty, I'd love to hear from any readers in Vermont who might be willing to sign up and assist us with getting to/from a resupply location, or perhaps even offering a warm place to spend the night as we hike by if need be. The support from readers during the A.T. traverse was immeasurable and so helpful, I'd really appreciate even a fraction of that while we brave the winter weather to make our way to Canada. Having a list of potential aid ahead of time would be an amazing thing, if any of you are in a position to perhaps lend a hand.. I promise we're not high maintenence!
Signing off... I've set the tent up on my back porch tonight (I live on a hill) with 10-15 mph winds coming from the west. The "open this vent to avoid suffocation" warning inside the tent has been followed, and the circulation vent is wide open. I figure it'll be good to test warmth when my own bed and down comforter are a mere 30 feet away before testing it atop a mountain ridge this weekend.
Onward & upward,