Tales from the Vermont Long Trail Part Two: Gear & Supplies

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Our blog post this month is a guest post from Elliott Diamond, a former store associate and one of our first employees at 3 Rivers Outdoor Company. Elliott and his partner, Morgan, decided to hike the Vermont Long Trail at the end of September before embarking on a cross-country adventure to Oregon. After 273 miles in 23 days, Elliott and Morgan completed their Long Trail hike, and he was generous enough to write about his experience. This is the second part of his two-part series in this part he covers gear—including what worked and didn’t quite work as planned—and their resupplying process and go-tos. If you missed the first 1/2 of this report you can read it here.

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This fall, my partner and I hiked the entirety of the Vermont Long Trail in a transitional period between jobs and moving. This was her first and my second long-distance hike. We were both really excited to take on this adventure and even more excited when we crossed the finish line!

Resupplies

We resupplied our food every 3-5 days, depending on the stretch of trail  between resupply locations. To get into town, we hitchhiked from road crossings and trailheads. In the process, we met a bunch of really friendly people that frequently assist Long Trail hikers in getting to town. Whether they hiked the trail in the past or they just live in the area and cross the trail on a daily basis, they expressed their joy in helping out hikers.

Once in a town, we immediately hit up a coffee shop or restaurant to satiate our appetites with something violently greasy. When I’m hiking, I begin to crave pizza, burgers, and orange soda. I don’t drink soda when I’m not hiking, so I have no explanation for why I crave it on trail. After eating, we plan mileage for the coming days, decide how many meals to pack out, then head to a grocery store to stock up.

My typical four-day resupply looked like this:

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Breakfast - Cereal

  • 16oz box of granola cereal

  • 8 packs of Nestle carnation breakfast powder

Lunch - Pepperoni & Cheese Sandwiches

  • Sleeve of 6 bagels/rolls/english muffins (depends on price/calories)

  • Package of pre-sliced pepperoni

  • 8oz block of sharp cheddar cheese

Dinner - PB Granola Wraps

  • 10 whole wheat wraps

  • 12oz box of granola cereal

  • 8oz jar of peanut butter

Snack/Energy --Bars and Candy

  • 8 bars (Clif/Luna/Quest/etc)

  • Bag of M&Ms

  • 10oz box of Cheez Its

  • 2 packs of sour gummy worms/Swedish Fish

Continuously carried

  • Parmesan cheese (in Ziploc bag or smaller plastic container)

  • Sriracha (travel size)

  • Mayonnaise packets

In backpacking columns, advice articles, and forums, people usually tell you that 1.5 to 2 pounds of food per day is sufficient. However, my appetite and cravings prevent me from packing less than 2.5 to 3 pounds of food per day. I have tried to live on Snickers, Pop Tarts, fruit pies and Knorr sides, but I can’t do it. So my 4-day resupply bag weighs anywhere from 19-12 pounds, which sucks.

In some ways, it’s a curse. A heavy food bag, with fresh water, could double the weight of my pack. On the other hand, I love food and having plenty of decent nourishment helps make long-distance hiking enjoyable. Overall, I was pleased with my food supplies and would do the same thing again. Personally, I don’t have a choice and will never change my inefficient habits at the expense of meal options.

Gear

One of my goals for 2018 was to try something new for every backpacking trip, whether it was trying out a new piece gear, a new method of packing/using gear, or leaving usual gear behind.

On the Long Trail, wind layers were my “something new.” I have never used wind layers before, and this was a perfect setting to try them out, as the Long Trail was wet, cold, and windy. I’ll expand on them in the ‘Gear that Worked’ section.

I replaced down insulation with synthetic insulation, testing a Patagonia Micro Puff jacket. It was a good move, also outlined in the ‘Gear that Worked’ section.

I also tried a no-cook menu for several resupplies, avoiding use of my stove or pot for any meal. For my PCT thru-hike attempt in 2019, I’m looking to leave the stove behind and wanted to know if I could do it. What I liked:

  • If I don’t need an extra 4 cups of water for dinner and breakfast, that’s 2 pounds of water I don’t need to carry.

  • Not measuring and rationing fuel canisters and worrying where to buy them in town

  • Not having to carry a stove/fuel/lighter combo, saving 10.77 ounces with my current setup (considering a full fuel canister)

  • The time required to prepare dinner can be reduced by 10 minutes without the need to filter, boil, and steep water. More conducive to just sitting down and eating right away without waiting.

What I didn't like: A more limited menu and sacrificing the joys and comforts of a hot meal at the end of a long day.

Gear that Worked

Wind Gear (Patagonia Houdini and Southpole windbreakers from Amazon)

These wind layers are great at retaining heat, taking off the chill of the air, and remaining breathable. A significant amount of mileage was spent in both pieces and I never felt uncomfortable. If I wanted to shed them, they are both very packable and could be shoved in the side pockets of my pack. Both pieces are water resistant but quickly soaked through in significant rain. They dried instantly out of the rain and were useful for layering in camp to stay warm. In the future, I might try to find lighter wind pants, as the current pair weighs just over 5 ounces.* For now, I’m very happy with them.
*The wind pants originally weighed a little more than 7 ounces, but after the hike I cut out the mesh underwear lining, waist drawstring, and removed the rubber Southpole logos to save almost 2 ounces.

Stove (MSR PocketRocket)

My stove was perfect as always. Though it’s tempting to upgrade to the PocketRocket2, I can’t justify the money to save less than an ounce when the original works fine.

Fork(from Chipotle)

Instead of the normal Sea to Summit long-handled titanium spork, my Chipotle fork stood the test of time and will become my go-to backpacking utensil. It’s light as a feather (.18 oz), durable enough to be reusable for many nights, and it was free!

Insulating Jacket (Patagonia Micro Puff jacket)

I used this in place of the down jacket that I would normally carry. I loved this jacket and it kept me warm throughout the hike without an issue. It’s very light (claimed weight of 8.3 ounces). It’s stylish enough for everyday use and will become my go-to jacket for trips. I only wish I got the hooded version so my head would stay warmer at nights when using a quilt.

Quilt (Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20°)

This thing continues to impress me. I definitely pushed it to its limits on this trip with some nights dipping into the low-20s and even mid-teens. Due to the design of a quilt, it can get a little drafty. But I should have been using the straps to secure the bag underneath my pad. I was never cold at night, though I did wear all of my clothing in the nights it got below 30.

Gear that Didn’t Work

Food Bag (REI Rolltop Stuff Sack)

I got this 15-liter nylon dry bag to use as a food bag. The cube-shaped design was ideal for food staying square and compact inside my pack, rather than stacked long and high like the narrow, cylinder-shaped stuff sacks from Sea to Summit. It was great at first but began to deteriorate quickly as tiny holes began to wear in the thin nylon. The bag wasn’t placed under unusual circumstances, just going in and out of the pack to the ground or wooden platform in a shelter. I was really hoping this one would work out.

Sleeping Pad (ExPed Synmat HL)

I’ve had this sleeping pad for about a year, and each time I inflate it, I expect my experience to be different. I like that it’s one of the lightest inflatable pads on the market (just 12.1 ounces for regular size) and that it only takes 5-7 breaths to inflate. The thickness is fine, the insulation is fine, but the vertical baffles are not fine. The baffle design does not form well against the body, especially for side sleepers, and I haven’t slept comfortably since I started using it.

Gear to Change

Tent

My current tent is the Six Moon Designs. This tent is a really good tent and was one of my first big purchases as I moved towards ultralight. It weighs 23oz. I can sit up inside of it and I have tons of room. It’s just a little cumbersome to set up. It takes me close to 10 minutes to pitch this tent, then I usually have to go back and adjust each of the six stake points to ensure a taut pitch. I'd like to try a tarp/bug net combo for the PCT.

Sleeping Pad  

 The vertical baffles and super narrow mummy design of the Exped Synmat HL have me searching for a better sleeping option. On my AT thru-hike, I used an older Thermarest NeoAir and slept like a baby. I switched to the Exped in an attempt to save weight (19.7oz → 12.1oz) but definitely sacrificed comfort. For our upcoming PCT hike, I want to try out a torso-length NeoAir paired with a ⅛” foam pad. The foam pad will protect the inflatable pad from the desert ground, keep my legs off the dirt and provide a little more insulation during the colder nights.

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Sunset from the Vermont Long Trail - September 2018

A big thanks to Elliot for sharing his story and feedback on the Vermont Long Trail! Are you interested in sharing your own story about a recent adventure? Give us a shout. We are always looking for Trail Mail contributors and we provide great rewards like gear discounts or in-store credit. 3ROC is also hiring both retail associates, “Adventure Ambassador”, and a Digital Media Coordinator. Opportunities for both part-time and full-time positions are available. Check out the full position details here.