Sunday, February 05, 2017

Appalachian Trail: Special Weather Gear

Over the last few weeks I received some special weather gear for my Appalachian Trail (AT) hike.  Two of these items will be needed near the beginning of the hike, another will probably be needed the entire way.  Both add substantially to the weight of my backpack.

Cold Weather Gear

I will be starting my hike in early April in northern Georgia.  Temperatures during April for the starting point range from 47℉ (8℃) to 69℉ (20℃).  As I head north the temperature will probably drop a bit and it will surely drop as I gain altitude in the mountains.  To counter this I will be carrying the following:
  • A medium weight set of Cabela's base layers (top and bottoms).  I have worn an older pair of these for years during Nebraska winters.  The newer ones I purchased this year are lighter and tighter fitting but just as warm.  This will be under my clothes on the cold days and will probably be my pajamas to enhance the warmth of my sleeping bag on the cold nights.
  • A My Trail Co. Light Down Jacket.  My Trail Co. used to be GoLite.  I bought two Camino backpacks from GoLite and I was eyeing their down jacket for the AT before the company went belly up.  The resurrected My Trail Co. doesn't sell the same critically acclaimed jacket that GoLite did but I figured it would still be a good jacket.  So far, after some initial inspection and use, it seems to be just what I need.  It's light, warm, and easily packs into it's own internal pocket.  I bought it in a nice Lagoon Blue - this is an irrelevant fact.
  • A pair of Seirus Hyperlite Ultra Thin Form Fit Winter Cold Weather Gloves.  I've had similar gloves from Seirus.  The are warm, water and weatherproof, and lightweight.  This pair is lighter than the ones I've worn before.  I also have a pair of Icebreaker Merino Wool glove liners for those times when a little extra warmth is needed or they can be worn when a full blown glove is not required.
  • A balaclava and/or knit cap.  I haven't decided if I need both of these.  My last camp in November was pretty chilly at night and the balaclava/hat combo was quite warm.  My jacket does not have a hood and the balaclava would work well to keep my ears and neck warm.  The knit cap would be more useful (and stylish) when it isn't that cold.  I could see me wearing both in the morning when I leave camp and stripping off the balaclava once I'd warmed up from exercise or sunshine.  Another option would be using my buff as a balaclava though I suspect it wouldn't be as warm.
This winter gear is going to add substantial weight to the pack [2.1 lbs (963 g) all together], especially if it turns out not to be as cold as average.  This winter in Nebraska has been unusually warm so I'm wondering if some of this is overkill.  I will always have the option of boxing some of it up and shipping it home early.

Wet Weather Gear

I have debated both in my head and in Homer's Travels about the proper rain gear.  There are many options like ponchos, rain jackets and pants, and rain coats.  I have decided to keep my rain gear to the minimum:
  • My main piece of rain gear will be a Ferrino Trekker backpacker's raincoat.  The coat is roomy like a poncho but zips up the front for easy access.  The coat has an extra hump on the back so it will go over a backpack.  The coat is well vented though I'm still afraid of it turning into a sauna on warm rainy days.The coat rides to about mid-calf though I suspect that it will ride higher with a pack holding it up.  The coat comes with a small stuff sack to store it when not in use but I have seen people hang the coat off of their backpack so they can just reach around, put you arms in, and pull the coat on the rest of the way when it starts to rain.  This is a trick I hope to learn quickly.
  • My backpack is waterproof and everything that could get wet will be in dry sacks.  I will not be packing a backpack rain cover.  The outer pockets of my backpack are not waterproof so I have to insure anything I carry in them can stand to be wet.  The whole pack will be protected by the raincoat as well.
  • I will not be packing gators.  I have never used gators.  I may change my mind somewhere along the AT but I will not start with them.  My shoes are not waterproof so rain will get in and will run out.  I do not expect to have dry feet on rainy days but I do expect my feet to dry off quickly when the rain stops.  On my second Camino I wore waterproof shoes which promptly filled up with water when it rained because the shoes would not drain.  Gators may have helped in that situation.   I hope that lightweight, water permeable shoes will work better.  The only situation that I dread is cold rain.  I will have three pairs of socks and liner socks so, depending on how much rain I hike through, I should have a dry pair of socks to switch into at the end of the day.  More than three days of rain may be an issue.
That's about it for rain gear.  The Trekker coat weighs in at 1.04 lb (470 g).  I expect to carry the coat all the way since there will probably be rain anytime between April and October.

That's about it for my gear.  I have sleeping gear, cooking gear, shelter gear, and other gear to keep me as safe and comfortable as possible.  Some of this gear will be shed along the way as they become unnecessary or I find them not to be necessary.  The AT, like all things in life, will be a learning experience.

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