The equipment, making decisions on the big stuff

After two weeks of research and agonizing over what tent to get, finally selected a Tarptent Stratospire 1. This tent is made here in the USA by a small shop in Nevada City, California and its the only place you can get it.

When you look at the tent, its nothing special. But what I learned from my time researching sleeping systems, which can include hammocks or simply a tarp, is - as you would expect - each has advantages and disadvantages. For long distance backpacking the primary considerations include: weight, resistance to weather (rain, snow, wind), size when set up, size when broken down, cost, and speed of setup.

What finally got me to make a decision was frustration at not making a decision. I've come to believe you learn what you really need after using your first purchase (be it skis, tennis rackets, or tents) for a while.

So the Stratospire is a blend of relatively low weight, spacious interior, has good to great weather resistance, spacious vestibule space so my pack or shoes can remain outdoors if need be with good protection, fair price, and it is relatively easy to set up (albeit with practice).

On the not so good side, this is a style of tent that can attract interior condensation, is not as large as other tents I was considering, and its a relatively new design from a small company (and so there are few reviews available).

Should have it in a week's time and then the real fun begins; learning how to set it up, and spending some nights at Camp Levering to test.

Also decided on a sleeping bag, chosing the Hummingbird Nano 20, a really nice down filled bag, which should work well until the summer months when something lighter will be in order. When selecting a sleeping bag there are two major designs: down filled and synthetic filled. Down is warmer, lighter, and compacts well. Its downside is it is more expensive and takes a long time to dry if wet, so having a solidly weather resistant tent is important. Will likely add a liner to help during cold nights, probably a Sea to Summit Reactor Plus Compact Thermolite Mummy Liner.

Trekking poles arrived today, the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles. This particular model is an AT hiker favorite right now, and well reviewed. The blogs have people on both sides of "the poles debate", those saying they're needed and others who complain about the extra weight and expense. What made the decision for me is using the poles and upper body to help reduce the workload on knees and ankles, especially down hill, or when fording streams. Its also purported your overall speed improves as well.


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