With a solid training week coming to a close and preparations reaching a lull, I wanted to take a moment to review a piece of gear that is going to be invaluable to me on my upcoming Appalachian Trail self-supported record thru-hike attempt, my Enlightened Equipment 50 degree Enigma quilt.
To give some background, a quilt is similar to a sleeping bag, except sports a simpler, more efficient, and lighter design. While a sleeping bag wraps all the way around you, a quilt maximizes the insulation by only covering above you and letting the sleeping pad take care below. They usually come without a hood or with a detachable one. To most new backpackers they’re daunting for their simplicity in the same way that new hikers flock to tents over tarps. Unfortunately this kind of misunderstanding really halted the quilt’s progression as an innovative piece of backpacking gear. For years quilt companies simply didn’t have access to the top fabrics and were way behind the field in design. The fully enclosed counterparts were often lighter despite being fundamentally inefficient.
When I started checking out the market for new, lighter gear to replace my battered gear from my previous trips, I was elated to find Enlightened Equipment leading the way in lightweight sleep systems. Their 10 denier nylon fabric matched that of the outdoor gear giants and the option for 800+ fill down showed their dedication to using the highest quality materials for their quilts. I continued my search for competitors to make sure EE was truly the best and nothing came close. There was no getting around it, I needed an Enlightened Equipment quilt for my hike and to carry anything else would put me at a disadvantage from the gun. Continue reading Review: Enlightened Equipment Enigma quilt→
Over spring break I had a great adventure down in the Smokies in North Carolina hiking a section of the Benton MacKaye Trail and the Appalachian Trail. It is one that I’ll look back on as a solid foundation for some future trips. I went out into the woods in late winter in Smoky Mountain National Park (which boasts the highest mountains on the east coast and unseasonably cold weather) with a sub 3.5 pound pack. That’s it. Besides shoes, poles, socks, a shirt, and shorts, the 3.5 pounds on my back was all the gear I figured I needed to survive for four days. Loaded with 3 pounds of food and a liter of water, it brought the total up to 7.8 pounds. Continue reading Benton MacKaye Trail spring break hike→
What an epic trip. The goal was to hike the AT/BMT north loop in four days. Unfortunately I had one slow day and had to leave the trail early to get back to studying. But I managed 138 miles in 3 days, 6 hours and can’t be disappointed with what I learned and accomplished. 42 miles on the first day, 32, 44, then 20 out to the road on Wednesday. I wanted to travel further, faster, and more efficiently than I ever have and I think I accomplished that. Going into the woods with only 7.8 pounds (3.5lb base weight), I managed to sleep decently comfortably through the three nights I was out there despite low temps in the high twenties. I learned a lot about my gear and my body, notably that on the second day when I was moving slow, there was absolutely nothing I could do to press my stubborn legs to move faster. And then on Tuesday I learned about my body’s resilience and easily cruised to a 44 mile day. The next morning I woke up again feeling fresh but unfortunately, with a looming immunology exam this upcoming week, had to abandon my adventure and return to the stressed studying I so desperately had needed a break from. Continue reading Appalachian Trail self-supported thru-hike→
I’ve posted several theoretical gear lists over the past few weeks and just wanted to post an update of an actual gear list that I’ll be using on a trip down in the Smokies this upcoming week. I just got done with a string of five exams in the last two weeks and with my first med school spring break having just begun, I am stoked to be getting out in the woods for a short fastpacking trip. I’ve laid everything out and with low temps in the low 40s, think I can get away with a base weight of just below 3.5 pounds, FSO (from skin out) base of 5.74 pounds. The trip is the 170 mile North loop of the Benton MacKaye Trail/Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountain National Park starting from Twentymile Ranger Station near Fontana Dam, heading north on the BMT, resupplying at Davenport Gap, then back south on the AT. The theoretical total was 8.7 lbs. but it ended up coming out to 7.8 with 2 days with food and 1L water.