For the Vagabond Loop I have the opportunity to be represent 3 gear sponsors: Gossamer Gear, YAMA Mountain Gear, and Vasque. I have refined my gear through these sponsors and Lint, my hiking partner from last year on the CDT, to lower my base weight from about 9lbs to 7lbs. My goal was not to just have the lowest weight possible, rather my goal was to refine my gear with the materials, gear, and product best suited to my hiking style, experience, and comfortability.
Before obtaining the backing of sponsors I spoke countless of hours with Lint on the CDT about ultralite backpacking, gear, and hiking style. We complimented each other with our styles and pace as well as the urge to constantly get better. Some upgrades I made to my gear through conversations with Lint are thus:
*Headlamp to light-weight mini lamp. They both share roughly the same wattage and brightness yet the mini lamp is an ounce lighter and way more compact. One lithium battery will last a long time on trail as per usage I may employ.
*2 Black Diamond Trekking Poles to 1 Gossamer Gear LT4 Trekking Pole. The weight I shave is significant, almost 3/4lbs. I haven’t obtained the GG LT4 yet as I am waiting for inventory to bulk up. Also, Lint was helpful in swaying me to disencumber myself of 2 poles. I finished the CDT not using my poles and the bursitis in my heel subsided considerably. But, since I am not completely confident in how my heel will be once on the AZT I will start with 1 pole. I can either add or rid a pole as the trail goes.
*Larger liquid and powder containers to smaller BPL droppers. I started this trend last year while on trail pre-Lint. For some reason, I still had the mind state of carrying something with extra surplus, like water purification and toothpaste. It was as if I was afraid I was going to run out even though I had way more than enough. Once with Lint, I narrowed my inventory to pure basic needs for a very specific timeframe. If I needed more of something I would ship it via postage. And I will start out with that this year: smaller containers with adequate inventory for a specific timeframe. And I will package extra quantities in my re-supply packages for the VL.
*Synthetic vest to a Montbell UL Down Jacket. One of my favorite upgrades! This eliminates my need for a long-sleeve shirt, which adds more weight in concurrence with the vest, short-sleeve, and rain coat. The UL keeps me warmer when I truly need it, as well as doubles as extra warmth for my sleep system. I now use only a short sleeve, a Montbell Dynamo Wind Park (which doubles as a long-sleeve for warmth and minor rain protection. I forsake a true raincoat based off the type of environs I will trekking through and because of the short, heavy downpours. For those reasons I believe I won‘t be as wet as long and the dry, heat of the areas will help in drying.), and the UL. I save roughly 1/2lbs and I get way better product.
*Lastly, GoLite Jam to GG Kumo Superlight. They are roughly the same pack with similar storage volume but the Kumo saves me about 10oz. I only had minor beef with the Jam as it was a reliable backpack. However, the Kumo has some characteristics that are more advantageous to my style of hiking, in particular an outer mesh pocket (better for soaking my food), more conforming and comfortable straps, and the obvious lighter weight with more durable material. See the GG Buzz here on the Kumo while hiking the Kokpelli Trail.
I decided while hiking the CDT to change my shelter as well. The GoLite Shangri-La 1 is a good product and served me well but I wanted I more minimal and lighter shelter. To achieve that I will need a different material from silnylon, in particular cuben fiber or spinnaker. With that in mind, I had to consider cost. The latter 2 materials are pricey though top of the line. Enter YAMA Mountain Gear. I met Gen, the owner and seamster of YAMA, on the CDT except rather than walking he was riding an unicycle north from Canada towards Mexico. He makes superior product while maintaining a small, U.S.A, hand-stitched business. Of course, I would rep his product. But because YAMA is a start-up, the cuben fiber Cirriform 1 tarp is not available. So, as of now, Gen and I have agreed on the Stratiform 1. I’ve yet to field test it because of my hectic schedule and planning but we will decide which shelter will be most useful and beneficial for me while on the VL. I am really excited to rep an ultralite weight company with a like-minded philosophy and thru-hiking spirit.
The same goes for GG. I stumbled upon their product on the PCT and for the CDT I swooped up the Thinlite Insulation Pad and Polycryo Ground Cloth. Last October, I traveled to Austin. Wouldn’t you know, Austin is where GG is based. Lint enlightened me of this fact and, next thing I knew, I was touring the house/facility. I walked away from there asking myself: ‘Did I just score a sponsor?’
I am a Trail Ambassador for GG.
Lastly, I contacted Vasque this past winter. I thanked them for a product I have been religiously using since the early 2000’s when I started ultra-mountain running. Brian Hall responded and we corresponded back and forth. I told him of the VL and he offered his support. I will be using a new model Vasque will be putting out this Spring. More to come on this.
But, another cool thing from the Vasque opportunity, is the chance to be used in an ad campaign for extreme day hiking. Do you think I fit the mold? I have interviewed with HensTooth Ad Agency and things are underway. More to come on this as well…
Other upgrades on gear:
*I will still be repping Trevor a.k.a. Lightning’s light-weight, hand-sewed beanie. I rocked it last year and it kicked some ass!
*Lastly, for my GoLite Adrenaline 3-season Quilt, it will be its third thru-hike. Because of its endurance it is most likely my favorite piece of gear. I have firm belief I can get 3,500m and 5 months out of the quilt. Less goose feathers than before but I know it can hack it!