Long Trail Gear Report: What Broke, What Didn’t

I spent 25 days in August backpacking the 270 mile Long Trail in Vermont.  Here’s the lowdown on  gear that worked well, and what didn’t:

Kitchen Group:
Everything OK here. Nothing to be improved with the Four Dog Bushcooker LT1  kit I have stuffed into the Snowpeak titanium 700 ml pot. I used one box of Coghlan’s hexamine tablets and a single bottle of yellow Heet for the whole hike. Supplementing those with wood allowed me to boil twice per day. The Steripen worked fine, but the relentless humidity cause the unit to act as if it is wet, faulting the red light upon immediate use.  The fix is to dry the electrodes.  Different fabrics produce different results.  You have to find one that works, dry cotton works best. I continue to be impressed with my food bag, the Ursack Minor.  It survived the whole 5 month on the PCT and now the LT with no rodent holes.  The thing works!

Pack Group:
My Arc’teryx Altra 65 continues to be a concern.   I love the pack’s storage features and the comfort of the waist belt and the shoulder straps, but the expandable waist pocket on the right sideended up with puncture holes, just with less than a month of normal use. The sternum strap also was ripping apart at the stitching.

Customer service is still sub par. To clarify,  I did eventually receive a new waist belt and sternum strapunder warrantee, but it took some work to get there.  Initially two customer service representatives dealt with me- neither communicating with the other until I pointed that situation out. Arc’teryx also wanted me to send the whole backpack to them for repair/replacement, which was unnecessary, since both the waist belt and the sternum strap detach.  I had to point that out to them as well.  After I sent a photo of the two problems, they agreed that I didn’t need to send the pack back.  then it took 3 weeks from the time I first contacted them until I received my parts.  Another bummer was that they broke the shipment into 2 parts, with the sternum strap arriving in my mailbox via USPO. A week later a note from FEDEX appeared on my door, informing me that it was their last delivery attempt (It was the only attempt.). Then I learned that Arc’teryx stipulated that an adult  with a valid picture ID would need to be home to personally receive the box from the agent.  Irritating inconvenience.

Shelter Group:
I only used my Tarptent -Moment  two nights on the trip. Those were nights where I hung out with Paddy-O.  The rest of the time, I was content with staying in shelters.

Sleeping Group:
I loved the comfort of my Exped down mat 7.   I put two tears into my 1 Ibex long wool tights, which I use as camp clothing, and I sleep in them, preserving the cleanliness of my Western Mountaineering 40 degree down bag. Love the light, warm tights, but they are prone to tearing, especially if your legs have just been washed, and are not dry and smooth.  Both tears occurred as I was carefully pulling the tights on.

Clothing :
A new item for me was the Western Mountaineering Hooded Flash Down jacket, at 9 oz. I love it, but had to be very careful with all the humidity and rain we encountered.  It is light enough that I was able to toss it in a drier with the rest of my clothes when I needed to dry it out a bit.
I started with a new pair of  New Balance/On The Beach boots.  No blisters, but the stitching around the toe cup started to unravel.  I have written about this issue before, and yet a year later, the same exposed stitching is supplied.

Electronics:
My iPod Touch took a big hit, shattering the screen when I dropped it on a ledge at Mt. Mansfield. It is coming back from repair, at the cost of $114. I will put an Invisible Shield on it to try and do better with protecting the screen.  There was never enough sun to charge the Solio solar charger, but it provided good service as a charging battery using the wall charger.

Navigation:
The $9.95 4th Edition Long Trail map is superb, waterproof, and places the whole Trail on the two sides. My only suggesting is to list elevations on road crossings and shelter sites.
While I snapped the middle section of one of my my aluminum Leki poles, Leki’s  customer service continues to be the best in the business. I have a Leki bandana that lists the customer service phone number on it. I called, got a real human, and she confirmed the model and that I needed the middle section.  There was no need to verify breakage, by going to a dealer, or sending it in.  I didn’t come home to find a note on the door that required me to leave work to be here in a couple of days to get the replacement .  – I came home two just two days later to find a UPS box that put the right part in my hand.

Summary
The 270 mile Long Trail was tough on gear.  Things broke  that didn’t on the ten times longer Pacific Crest Trail. I would suggest that anyone undertaking a long hike on the Long Trail to be ready to improvise, have some extra cash on hand to replace items that break, and budget some extra time to get to a phone, or a gear store to replace things.  Your experience may differ.  I’m tough on things.

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