I have just completed the first leg of the Vagabond Loop, the Arizona Trail. Here's a brief synopsis of gear, logistics, etc....
+GG Kumo Superlight. Hands down my favorite piece of gear on trail. I hardly know I am wearing a pack at times. I will be pushing maximum weight capacity for the pack on the Hayduke Trail with all the extra water weight for the dry sections and extra food weight for the longer sections. But I think it will hold firm.
+MontBell Dynamo and UL Down. They have handled wonderfully on trail and have kept me sufficiently warm on a cold trail.
+YAMA Mountain Gear Stratiform. I only set up the tarp 4 times as most nights were crystal clear, though cold. When I did set it up I pitched it low to the ground to keep out the brutally cold wind. I am switching out to the cuben fiber Cirriform model. It saves me some ounces when I may need to carry more water and food. I'll keep you posted on this model.
+YAMA Stuff Sacks. These cuben fiber stuff sacks have held up in rough country. Not a thread loose, nice and light, and useful.
+Vasque Velocity and Larry the Legend's Custom Heel Cups. Both have held up amazingly well. The heel cups have given more room for my heel to be 'free' and it also provides a bit of arch support. My feet have felt great on this trail, except for the 2 days into Tusayan. I believe my arch ached due to overuse in really flat sections which was forcing my arch to over-compress. The Velocitys are bombproof. I am getting about 600m per pair, though I probably could push 700-750m.
+LRI Photon. A lightweight, compactable, and very useful bright light.
-GoLite Adrenaline Sleeping Quilt. This is a negative not due to the product itself but user error in thinking I could squeeze out an extra thru-hike out of a bag with 6,000m on it. I have froze my ass off on this trail. And that caused me sleepless nights and mental stress. I am looking forward to the Marmot Plasma, which I know have for the HT.
Gear Changes for the HT:
+Marmot Plasma Sleeping Bag. I cannot wait to have this. Warm nights.
+Water capacity. I will carry a maximum of 6 liters, 3 more than on the AZT. I average about 10m per liter and could stretch that to 15m.
+Ipod. Yup! You read right! I will be experimenting with music on trail. I doubt I will see any other thru-hiker on the HT. Hopefully, it will keep me company and clear my racing head. Motivation, as well.
+Diet. Going vegan on trail has kept me lean and fit. I have not dropped weight nor have I bonked on trail due to eating unhealthy with hard to digest foods. My Vlop (Veggie slop/glop mix) is flavorful and healthy and full of anti-oxidents. I have not had an ounce of an ache on trail. I feel the Vlop is fueling the machine efficiently and I have recovered quickly enough.
+In-town binges. I have done this less, though in Flagstaff I went crazy on breakfast. I have limited meat in town, except for the occasional chicken. Again, I have not had a bonking day on trail after leaving town. Clean and smooth.
+Boozing. I have had 3 beers on trail, one on 3 different occasions. No hangover, no bad decisions, no problems.
+/-Balance. Because of my extreme temperment and personality I usually hover in the 0% or 100% level. This has only been a burden on the AZT once when my arch inflamed near Tusayan. So, I spoke with Swami about mileage and he eloquently and mechanically put it best for me to understand: (paraphrasing) 'Keep things simple; get up with the sun, rest, and go to bed with the dark. Shoot for 85%-90% of maximum effort capacity and the miles will fly on by.' Things I know but my Terminator, fatalistic drive can be a monster to balance out. I was onto my machinistic plague in Flagstaff. Through the Grand Canyon and towards the AZT northern terminus I did just that: many naps and rest breaks while slowing down pace. The miles flew on by to my amazement as 6pm hit I was at the 30m and I hardly broke a sweat and my arch felt just fine.
From Swami quoting Emerson: "Adopt the pace of nature, her secret is patience."
+Freedom and flexibility. As the VL has progressed I have defined it more. I have just finished walking in the loop for about 447m. The loop officially began where the AZT and GET intersected at Beehive Well. For the first 250-300m of the Hayduke Trail I will not be walking in the loop. With that in mind, I have estimated that when it is all said and done I will have walked an extra 700m due to my goal of completing the 4 trails as thru hikes. Many miles of the 4 trails are actually not in the VL. But because of this I have eliminated some parts that have nothing to do with the loop. I am not concerned about continuity, or pointless highway walking, as I am with connection in the loop and completing the 4 thrus. I think complete VL mileage will be about 2,800 dry, tough, rigorous miles.
-Logistics. This loop is a monster! More details and planning have emerged as I have walked. I have been overwhelmed at times but I will feel more comfortable with logistics once I handle the HT.
+AZT. I have relished my time on the AZT. I sometimes like my time alone way too much but I also realize how important socialization is to me. I will use town stops more on the HT. The AZT is a trail of extremes and I loved absolutely every second of it. I believe the environment on the trail with vascillating extremes suited my bi-polar temperment. I kept cost at a minimum, around $1,000, which is pretty good as I had an unexpected day in Tusayan which escalated trail costs to the grand mark. I also spent cash for the HT while on the AZT in preparation for trail needs at future town stops.
+Favorites on the AZT. Pine and THAT Brewery and Pub were by far the best town stop. Casa Riviera was by far the best food on trail, in Oracle. The Mazatzal section to Pine was my favorite section to trek. The Tonto Basin and the Grand Canyon rivaled each other in startling beauty.
+Support. I am a loner walking in lonely country without easy accessibility. To say the VL doesn't put strains on a relationship is an understatement.
My mom has been helpful, though the new sleeping bag delivery debacle caused me much stress and discomfort. Get this: the friggin' new Plasma was at the house the whole time! So, in Kanab I had 2 new Plasmas. I sent 1 back to Marmot and the other is in my Kumo pack right now ready for the Hayduke!
Andrew Rock has been, well, a rock. Sometimes I don't know where'd I'd be without his insight and focus. Lint has been a valuable wealth of information and an awesome comrade. Swami has been full of sage and beneficial advice. Gossamer Gear has been supportive. Gen at YAMA has been stalwart and reliable. Sweaty-Z, your here with me too, hombre. Oh, my grandparents are the flippin' best! These 2 old fogies drove to the middle-of-nowheres Utah to pick up one smelly, dirty-ass thru-hiker!