HikingGearing Up

Gearing Up

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Packing up my car for this trip, I had a hard time restraining myself. For the first time in my hiking career I could pack above and beyond what would normally fit into a medium sized backpack and instead load the trunk of my vehicle with all my favorite pieces of gear, multiple clothing options, and a slew of snacks to get me started on the trail.

I realize this is a luxury! And the truly indulgent part is that I will get to pick and choose every day only necessary supplies to place into a day-pack or runner’s belt and leave the rest only to reconvene with my goods later that evening. Having already hiked from Georgia to Maine with a laden pack on my back, I know I will appreciate the weight differential of a supported attempt.

Now for all you gearheads out there, I thought I would go ahead and let you know what equipment I plan on using during my journey. Diamond Brand Outfitters has been a huge supporter of this endeavor and has provided me with the best outdoor gear possible. I am very lucky to have their support and sponsorship. Not only does it make this trip financially viable, but their belief and encouragement in me is as important as any of the gear they have provided.

Now for the goods . . .

Sleeping Bag:
Western Mountaineering Mightylites. I love Western Mountaineering Sleeping Bags. Yes they are expensive, but they are also the best and they last forever. I just wish I had purchased one when I first started hiking instead of spending a slew of money on bags that didn’t work or didn’t last. The Mightylite is a lightweight full zip bag. It is summer weight so it should keep me warm down to 40′ and below and the full-zip will allow me to ventilate for the warmer climates. One of the best things about a down bag beyond their lightweight efficiency is that they don’t hold in all the nasty stinkiness of a hiker like their synthetic counterparts.
I am totally stoked to be wearing Inov-8 shoes for my hike. They are from Britain and not yet widely distribute in the US, but they are starting to show up at a few specialty outdoor stores. They are also starting to show up on the feet of some very notable ulta-runners and elite hikers – I may not be in their ranks, but I can be in their shoes! To top the tread, Steve at Diamond Brand made me some killer custom Super Feet before I left so it feels like I am walking the trail in a supportive pair of socks! And speaking of socks, I made a huge mistake on my first AT attempt by only have a couple of pairs of Smartwools to last the entire 2,000+ miles. This time I have a pair of socks for every 100 miles. I agree wholeheartedly with whoever it was that said, “the most important piece of equipment you can have is on your feet”.

I won’t need one!!! We’ll that’s not entirely true, but I certainly won’t have to wear it the whole way. In fact, my first choice in carrying daily supplies will be a simple runner’s belt that fits around my waist. My option for longer or more technical days will be an Osprey Talon 11-day pack. And for those nights where I camp away from my support vehicle or if I need to continue my trek at any point without support, then I will take my trusty McHale. McHales are custom made packs out of Seattle. Again, they’re not the cheapest option out there, but it’s the only full size pack that has ever been comfortable on my slender 6’ft frame, and they last a lifetime!

After 6,000+ miles of hiking, some of the few energy bars that I can still stomach during my demanding days are Cliff Bar products. Right now my car is loaded with a variety of approximately 300 bars to get me started and money says they are all gone by the time I reach the South. I also for the first time in my hiking career will experience the tradition of enjoying a warm stove-cooked meal in the evening. I admit that typically I’m not the best cook (even with pre-packaged freeze-dried food) and I’m even worse at cleaning dishes, but for this particular trip, having support means having someone cook my meals in the evening… and I have always, always, been very good at eating. Also note, my dear friend Miles sent me off with 13 dozen of his famous chocolate chip cookies – apropos since Miles’ thoughtfulness will be directly converted into literal trail miles.

Other Odds and Ends:
I have a tarptent to sleep in at night when conditions do not allow for a star-lit sky. When I treat my water, I will use a drop or two of bleach… not really healthy, but I don’t have time or space for a full on filter, I’m not sold on the steripens, and iodine and aquamira contain chemicals no better than chlorine – just better marketed. I will take daily Perque supplements to make-up for whatever nutrition is not found in Cliff Bars. Cell Phone? Yes, I will carry it most of the time. I am a huge advocate and will wage war with anyone who tells me it should be left at home. There will be ample bug spray for New England. And my clothes will all be super light dry-fit synthetics – I have been a huge fan of Patagonia (both the products and the company) even since I discovered the outdoors.

Now for the piece de resistance…My husband!!!!
I literally picked him up on my way to Maine. That is, he was my fiancé leaving Asheville and then on June 8th in Charlottesville, VA, he became my “one and only” FOR LIFE. Brew Davis is more than I could ask for and more than I deserve. I could go on and on, but in an attempt to stay on topic, suffice it to say this summer would not be possible without him. He is an indispensable part of my hike. Obviously to set an overall trail record, support is essential but the job entails more than just going from point A to point B with a car. It is the emotional, logistical, and social foundation to my hike and there could be no better person to fulfill that role than my husband.

We received varying responses when describing our summer plans to friends and family. Some thought it would be too soon to put our marriage to through the trials of the trail and others thought it would be an incredible adventure and bonding experience. I think we tried hard to see the hike from both perspectives, but in the end the hike is something we both want.

That being said, I want to hike the AT to reach for a dream that I have held since college and I want to experience it in a way that might not be available to me later on in life. Whereas my husband wants to help me successfully hike the trail and be there for me day-in and day-out because he loves me. Simple but true, this will be a very unselfish summer for Brew. The entire reason he is giving up his summer vacation is to help me, his wife, obtain a goal. I guess that’s what happens when people love each other, the dream of one suddenly becomes a goal for two.
And of course we both want nothing more from this hike than to honor the life and memory of Meredith Emerson. I often think about Meredith when I am hiking in the woods; looking at a flower, or a stream, or a mountain view and thinking of how it would make Meredith smile. But I also thought of Meredith the morning of my wedding. I thought of how she would never be able to walk down the aisle with her father on her arm. And while her death may have deprived her of hiking in the woods, walking down the aisle, and climbing the corporate ladder, in no way did it slow her pace. Her influence is felt stronger and wider now than it was before. And Brew and I will take her smile, her joy of life, and faith in humanity down the trail with us.

Alright gear-gurus, that’s it for now. But I’ll be sure to let you know how everything is holding up, including my husband, when we start the trek in 5 days.

Places to Go, Things to See: