Monday, January 28, 2013

Gear Review, Part 2: Footwear & Clothing

 * * Upcoming Talks:  March 7, Oregon City Library, 7 PM  //  March 26, Straub Environmental Learning Center, 7 PM  //  April 16, Tryon Creek State Natural Area, 6:30 PM * *

SHOES:  Brooks Cascadia

Bacon Bit, High Life, Maddog:  All in Cascadias!
I went with trail runners.  I didn’t know which to use, so I started with the Montrail Mt. Masochist.  It turns out that these were NOT the shoe for my foot, and they started to mess up my ankles and calves.  An emergency pre-trip to my local running store put me in the Brooks Cascadia.  These were the perfect shoe.  I wore five pairs of Brooks Cascadias on the trail.  It eventually became the single most popular shoe on trail.  We would figure out which way to go at unmarked intersections by tracking the Cascadia print.

PROS:  Light, sturdy, and an overall “neutral” shoe.  Fun colors.

CONS:  Good shoes are expensive.  These ran $110 a pair.

BOTTOM LINE:  These are great shoes.  Yes, you can wear them for 1000 miles.  NO, THIS IS NOT RECOMMENDED.  The structure of the shoe is gone after 500.  Buy new shoes.  And consider a sturdy insole.  Many people were happy with Superfeet.  I did NOT add a sturdy insole, I let my shoes go a little too long initially, and I was not religious about stretching.  I developed a nasty case of plantar fasciitis.  I have not hiked more than five miles since I finished on September 28, 2012.  I cannot run.  I tape my feet every time I go to Jazzercise.  Take care of your feet—they carry you to Canada!

JACKETS:  Patagonia & Patagonia Nano Puff Hoodie

A very COLD Mojave walk! 
I went with a rain jacket I already owned (a lightweight Patagonia) and carried it the entire length of the trail.  I also purchased the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoodie.  I was happy with both.  I won’t say much about the rain jacket, any lightweight will do.  We only were rained on about three times – I used my rain jacket more for warmth and wind than I did for precipitation.  Be forewarned, though, if you wear it often, it’ll become less waterproof at the rub points.  On to the Nano Puff!
The Nano Puff went on and off constantly.
I kept it behind my pad on my pack.

PROS:  This jacket is light, has a hood, has pockets, and is synthetic.  I wanted a hood, I wanted pockets, and I wanted to be able to wash my jacket freely and not lose insulation if it got wet.  This jacket did everything I needed.

CONS:  I’ll admit that I was jealous of everyone else’s down puffy jackets.  They are a smidge lighter and looked like they were warmer.  After I dried my jacket in a way-too-hot drier in northern California, it lost a bit of loft, but, fortunately, wasn’t destroyed.

BOTTOM LINE:  If you want to be able to wash your jacket and not worry about it getting wet, go Nano Puff Hoodie.  It did everything I needed it to do.

PANTS/SHORTS:  Sierra Designs Hurricane Rain Pants, REI Saharas

I went with the Sierra Designs Hurricane Rain Pants and my old REI Sahara zip-off pants. 

Swimming in my Saharas by Warner Springs.
PROS:  The Hurricane pants are light and come in petite sizes!  And they are very reasonably priced.  The Sahara zip-offs have pockets and easily convert to shorts—they also clean up well.

CONS:  The Hurricane pants do NOT breathe.  I did not have to wear them often, mostly in town while I was doing laundry—HOT.  The Sahara’s . . . I shipped them home in Northern California.  I had to sew seams twice.  The REI petites are no longer “petite,” and after losing 10 pounds, I was swimming in them.    These are NOT my favorite pants.

BOTTOM LINE:  If you want reasonably priced rain pants that are very light and will serve you, go Hurricanes.  If you are going with pants, do not go with the REI Saharas.  I DID like having pants on cold Sierra mornings.  Northern California was hot, and I could have ditched the pants at Echo Lake.  I was fine in Washington with leggings, shorts, thigh-high leg warmers, and my rain pants.  People wear pants in the dessert for sun block, but running shorts are so much more breathable!  If I did it again, I would have left the pants at home.
Shorts and a sleeveless top.  Perfect in Oregon!

SHORTS:  I had a pair of thin, lightweight Nike running shorts sent to me.  I cut out the liner.  I LOVED these shorts.  I wish I had had them sooner.  The navy color hid dirt and grime well.

BASE LAYERS:  Patagonia Capilene 3, *local* M.L. Williams

Love the Capilene
I went with Patagonia Cap-3 top and bottom.  I tend to get a little cold, so I wanted the warmer base layer.  I carried both the entire trail – mostly.  I traded out the bottoms at the Oregon/Washington border for fleece pants I typically wear running – read on for how to get these pants!

PROS:  These layers are warm, hold up well with constant wearing and washing, and are pretty good about not holding odors.  They also have a nice cut, so look half-decent in town.

CONS:  None at all with the top.  I had a mock-turtleneck with a zipper.  I loved it.  The bottoms didn’t flex/stretch as much as I needed, so I didn’t get full movement of my legs, and when I bent over, they’d tug down a bit at the backside.  The bottoms are very cute, not very functional.  I might be different with different bottoms—I had boot tops since I really needed a petite that they didn’t offer.  Oh, Patagonia gear is, of course, pricey.  I bought both of these on sale.  Get the weird colors for the sale price.

Local spandex fleece to Canada!
BOTTOM LINE:  The Cap-3 top is amazing.  I still wear it.  The bottoms are cute in town, but not reasonable for trail.  I traded my bottoms out for these spandex fleece bottoms I got at Saturday Market in Portland, Oregon.  They are TOASTY warm, very light, and extremely easy to move in—they don’t have the odor resistance of the Capilene, but they’re worth it.  If you live in the Portland area, go to Saturday Market to pick them up OR contact the maker!

HOW TO GET SPANDEX FLEECE BOTTOMS:  Marie Williams makes these in Oregon.  If you want to go local and affordable, go this way!  You can go to Saturday Market, March through Christmas, or contact her directly:  I am 5'3/4" and went with the x-smalls.

SOCKS:  New Balance Expression, Legwarmers

We both (Gumby and I) went through tons of socks.  And we both settled on a favorite, the New Balance Expression.

PROS:  These running socks come in a six-pack, were available at general outdoor stores in Oregon and Minnesota (a friend brought us some from the Midwest), and were very affordable.  They are thin, but well made.  Three pairs could get us through 2 to 3 weeks.  Different colors help you rotate.  Wool socks are thick and hot—causing blisters and more!  They also dry quickly after stream washings.

Gumby sporting our leggings, legwarmers,
and shorts system in Washington.
CONS:  None.  Everyone has a sock that they swear by; this was ours!

BOTTOM LINE:  We decided that thin was best.  We both had thicker, warmer socks for night/camp.  There was also a Columbia short sock that we were happy with.  They were a gift . . . I don’t know the model!  Whatever you do, I recommend going thin.  AND, I recommend asking for socks in care packages!  We got lots, and we were eternally grateful.  The Trail eats socks.

LEGWARMERS:  Both Gumby and I added legwarmers at the CA/OR border when we sent our pants home.  I had thigh-high fleece socks from Fred Meyer.  She bought socks at Crater Lake.  We ripped the toe seams open for legwarmers.  On chilly mornings, we’d start out in running shorts and pull our legwarmers over our knees.  We’d push them down when we got hot.  We’d pull them pack up at breaks when we got chilly.  I HIGHLY recommend legwarmers as part of a pants alternative!

HATS:  Various, the Buff

Love the Buff.
I switched sun hats three times.  Not big enough brim, to floppy of a brim . . . I finally found the hat that I stuck with at K-Mart in Tehachapi.  Light, wide brim, breathable enough, and a sturdy fabric.  I do not have the perfect answer on a sun hat. 

My K-Mart hat.
For a warm hat, I had a Turtle Fur fleece beanie that I’ve had for years.  I love fleece hats.  No windstopper and roomy enough to pull down over my eyes when cowboy camping under the full moon.  I recommend fleece!

I also had a Buff.  I used this as a scarf, as a hat, and as a headband.  Gumby eventually bought one, too.  A buff is multi-functional and can cover your dirty, nasty, greasy hair when you’re trying to catch a hitch into town.  I recommend getting one.  And, yes, plenty of guys wear them, too.

UNDERGARMENTS:  Patagonia & Under Armour
SPORTS BRA:  I switched sports bras three times.  We both started with two and both sent the extra home.  I finally settled on the Patagonia sports bra.  The thin straps didn’t bother my shoulders with a pack on (my Reebok sports bra chaffed like crazy); and it breathed reasonably well.  I’d recommend it.  Gumby was happy with a Nike running sports bra. 
Hot springs!
UNDERWEAR:  I went with the Under Armour Boy Shorts.  I rotated three pairs.  They aren’t the most breathable, but are great for swimming and changing anywhere.  Gumby went with lacy underwear (which breathes GREAT!) and eventually added a pair of Under Armours for swimming.

TOPS:  Various
Mellow Yellow usually sported a silk long-sleeve.
Hawaiian at the Andersons!
I never found the perfect top.  I started with long-sleeve button-down.  This was hot and stained quickly.  I went through two and then ditched them altogether at the beginning of the Sierras.  In the Sierras, I went with a black poly Helly Hansen long-sleeve and a thrift-store poly sleeveless shirt I had had for years.  This was a great combination.  I *did* use more sunscreen.  I melted the Helly Hanson into a plastic ball in northern California.  In Washington, I ditched the sleeveless for a Columbia t-shirt and added a Patagonia “R” fleece jacket that I had found at a thrift store.  Washington got cold.  I was happy to have added the thick fleece.  I kept the Patagonia Cap-3 top throughout.

OTHER CLOTHING GEAR:  Gaiters, Gloves, & Headnet

GAITERS:  I bought the Dirty Girl Gaiters.  Light and fun, the made my socks last longer.  I’d recommend them.

GLOVES:  I ended up going with a Brooks running glove that I found at REI.  These were spandex/fleece with a windproof and spandex flap that doubles over the fingers.  The real bonus was that the thumb had a little flap to pull back so that you could use your Smartphone.  I was happy with these gloves, but did not love them.  If it had gotten really cold, I would not have been warm.

HEADNET:  You need one for the Sierras.  This saved our sanity.  I carried it through the desert, too, but never used it until the Sierras.

I am still wearing my May 25 birthday bracelet.


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