Gear and Clothing we used on this hike
We’ve been using lightweight gear for a while, and applied that to this hike. Our base pack weights (no food or water) were about 18 pounds for me and 15 pounds for Dragonfly, and total pack weights were less than 30 pounds except for one particularly heavy resupply out of Rutland. Carrying a reasonably light pack makes a big difference for us on the trail, especially one as vertical as the Long Trail.
Packs: We both used the Circuit backpack from ULA. These are internal frame packs that weigh about 2 pounds and can easily handle 30. I’ve been using ULA packs for several years, while Dragonfly just got her Circuit this spring. No complaints about the packs: they were comfortable and carried well.
The packs were lined with Cuben fiber roll-top pack liners from Zpacks, which kept everything inside completely and totally dry.
Tent: We own a terrific lightweight two person tent, the Six Moons Designs Lunar Duo. We love this tent beyond all reason. However, on the Long Trail there are many places with limited tenting options, very tight tent sites, or which require sleeping in shelters. Given that, we opted to purchase a smaller, even lighter tent, the 23 ounce Zpacks Hexamid Twin. The Zpacks tent is made from Cuben Fiber, sets up using two trekking poles and eight stakes, and provides just enough room for two hikers and some gear. It’s crazy expensive, but crazy light for a two-person tent and it’s half the weight of our Lunar Duo. For a long distance hike, it’s a great option, though we missed all the interior room and the two doors of the larger tent. I’ll use the Zpacks tent for solo outings in the future.
Sleeping Bags: The advice we got was to bring bags rated to 40 or 45-F for a July hike, and that was spot on. Dragonfly brought her Montbell #3 Super Stretch UL mummy bag, which is rated to 30F but keeps her warm to around 40 with long johns and socks. I had my Jacks R Better Shenandoah Quilt, rated to 40-45 degrees, and I used it in conjunction with my lightweight down parka. I was very comfortable down into the high 40s at night.
Sleeping pads: I brought my usual Thermarest Prolite 1.5 inch thick self inflating pad, but I purchased a 3/4 length version for this hike to save a few ounces. It worked fine in my tent, but my first night in a shelter was miserable — the pad was too thin, and my feet were very uncomfortable on the hard shelter bunk. At our first town stop in Manchester Center, I purchased a Thermarest Neoair from the excellent Mountain Goat outfitter there. Dragonfly brought her Neoair Xtherm pad for the whole hike. The Neoair pads seemed very popular among long distance hikers on this trail.
Shoes: We both wore Roclite shoes from Inov8. These are very light, very flexible trail runners with grippy soles made of sticky rubber. They performed well under trying conditions, sticking to sheer rock faces and gripping on muddy slick surfaces. I wore Superfeet Green insoles, while Dragonfly added a set of Sole Thin Sport footbeds in Manchester Center. (Many thanks to the folks at Mountain Goat outfitters for helping fix her foot issues.) Note that these shoes are probably too light and flexible for most hikers on this trail and I’m not recommending them unless you’ve been hiking in very light shoes for a while.
We wore wool socks from Darn Tough, and Dragonfly used Dirty Girl Gaiters to keep all the dirt and rocks out of her shoes. I wished I had a pair many times as I stopped and emptied yet another pebble or small twig from my shoe.
Clothing: We wore nylon shorts and short sleeve merino wool tops to hike, and had merino wool long john bottoms and long sleeve tops for camp and sleeping. All the wool was the thin 150-gram weight. We both carried a hooded down jacket as our only insulation, and Dragonfly had her sub-3 ounce wind shirt. We did find a lot of use for our rain shells, and I loved my homemade silnylon rain skirt. Dragonfly hasn’t used rain pants in years, but this was one trip that she wished for a pair on a couple of very cold wet days. We did find our rain mitts useful, mine from Mountain Laurel Designs and hers from Zpacks. With lows around 50 and highs ranging from 70 to the high 80s, we were always comfortable. We purchased OR Sunrunner caps for this trip, with detachable capes for neck and ear protection. These also worked well to keep flies and gnats out of our ears during the hike.
Unusual for long distance hikers, we also had clothing for town and travel. I carried a pair of zip off pants and an old long sleeve nylon fishing shirt, both of which were useful in town and on the train. Dragonfly had a pair of nylon pants and a short sleeve synthetic shirt. All of our clothing was pre-treated with permethrin to repel ticks and mosquitos.
Kitchen: We used a Jetboil Sol Ti canister stove system to heat water for coffee and to cook an evening meal. Coffee was easy, as we needed only 16 ounces of water for two Starbucks Via packets in the morning. The evening meal was more difficult: the 800ml Jetboil pot is only slightly smaller than our previous 900ml pot, but that small difference was enough to make it very difficult to cook a Knorr noodle dish with a bag of chicken or tuna. On future hikes I’ll replace it with the 1-liter Jetboil pot when we’re cooking for two.
The Jetboil is fantastic: it’s super fast at boiling two cups of water, and has excellent fuel efficiency. It was easily the most popular stove choice we saw on the trail.
We used two Blast food bags from Zpacks, along with the OP Sack odor proof liner bags. The OP sacks are essential – the one night we couldn’t fit all the food into an OP sack, a mouse chewed right through the Blast bag and got one of my favorite snacks. After that we made sure that everything was inside an OP sack and never had another issue. I generally hung the food bags from a tree using the PCT method, which is easy, fast, and effective.
Other gear: Dragonfly used her iPhone as a journal (with the Day One app), a camera, a book, a GPS, a bird field guide, and occasionally as a phone. I carried a Canon S100 point and shoot, which made nice photos, but I would probably have been just as happy with my phone. We both used Leki trekking poles, which were essential for getting up and down this trail. We carried tiny first aid kits, mostly just blister pads and some bandaids, and small repair kits including patches for the Neoair pads (which we never needed.) We both had a small piece of 1/4-inch closed cell foam for use as a ground pad, and these were useful multiple times per day.
The Gaia GPS app for iPhone worked well. We pre-downloaded the maps for the entire trail at home, using a couple of gigabytes of memory on our phones. The phones were on airplane mode to conserve battery power, but it took only a few minutes to get a GPS reading by turning off airplane mode and launching Gaia. Being able to confirm our location was helpful on numerous occasions. (Note that the Gaia app does not require data service if you’ve pre-downloaded the maps.) We’ve since started using the Guthook app, which uses the GPS and custom trail data to show exactly where we are on the trail. Wish we’d had it on the Long Trail!
Disclaimer: We pay for all our own gear, and all of these links are just links to gear we use and like. Nothing here is sponsored or paid for in any way.