It is no secret that J & I are gear heads. We couldn't tell you who is running for the next election, but we could tell you what the latest innovation is when it comes to sleeping bags, tents, clothing etc. Over the years, we have definitely upgraded our gear and lightened our load. We are not as hardcore as some, but we definitely count ounces when we can. When I look at our gear list for the AT, I laugh. We've come so far and while we are still open to trying out anything, we do have our preferences.
Which is why it is so awesome that some of our favorite gear companies have decided to sponsor our NZ adventure!!!
Allow us to share with you some info about these companies and why we love them.
Hi-Tec - Shoes
We will admit that neither of us owned a pair of Hi-Tec shoes until they sponsored our Gear and Go Tour with Backpacker Magazine. But, it was fate that they did and the marketing director, Ian, was our biggest fan (He attended more than half of our presentations!) I was on the hunt for a hiking shoe that would not give me blisters. I felt like I had tried them all. And I can show you some really nasty photos of the terrible results. Until I tried Hi-Tecs. Seriously, the most comfortable boot I've ever worn. Yes, I still wear boots when hiking. Go ahead and laugh, but my feet are happy. J wears low tops or trail runners and loves his too. For this trek, I am wearing Hi-Tec's Ohio Waterproof Boots and J is wearing their Altitude Trek Low Waterproofs. This is after we retired our previous Hi-Tec pairs with more than a 1000 miles on them!!
Sawyer - Water Purification
Water filtration is extremely important to J & I in the backcountry. Everyone has their opinion, but J & I ALWAYS filter our water, even when it comes from the highest altitudes. We have used nearly ever water filter out there. Some were great, some were downright frustrating. When we were introduced to Sawyer, we were blown away. Their filters are unbelievably tiny and lightweight, weighing anywhere from 2 ounces to 3.5 ounces, but can still filter up to 1 million gallons of water. No one will ever drink that much, but it's a good guarantee. Last year through our Backpacker gig, we met and went on a backpacking trip with Amy, Sawyer's marketing rep. That's an easy way to really get to know someone and their company, and luckily, we were fast friends and learned a lot. Sawyer actually has more than just water filters. They will be providing ultimate protection from the sun (we will be in the Southern Hemisphere!) and bugs (have you heard of sand flies??) with travel-friendly, stay-put sunscreen and repellent in the form of permethrin and maxi-deet. And just in case I get bit by an Asian Giant Hornet again, we will be carrying Sawyer's lightweight personal first aid kits.
Therm-a-rest - Sleep System
We cannot sing the praises of Therm-a-rest enough. Their innovation in sleep systems (both sleeping pads--which they've been making forever--and sleeping bags--which they just recently launched) has literally rocked our world. There is nothing like a good night's rest in the backcountry, but you need the right sleep system to achieve that. We found it with Therm-a-rest. What they've done is created sleeping bags that are not insulated on the bottom of the bag, thus cutting weight. You don't need that insulation because the right sleeping pad will provide it. And instead, they have concentrated the insulation in areas where you need it the most. Plus, their bags are roomier, so you can move freely. J usually has a dance party going on in his sleeping bag at night. Fortunately, Therm-a-rest bags have a Synergy Link System that keeps the bags attached to the sleeping pads, therefore keeping movers and shakers, like J, on their pad. As for their pads, they have what's called ThermaCapture technology in them, which traps your body heat and reflects it back to you. And to think, my first backpacking trip in 2001 was done without any sleeping pad. How did I ever survive? Believe us when we say you don't know a good night's sleep in the backcountry until you've used the Therm-a-rest sleep system; it makes all the difference. Therm-a-rest is constantly evolving with the trends and their newest product (not even available to consumers yet) is a sleeping bag made with Nikwax and Hydrophobic Down. You heard us right, the down feathers are "afraid of water." The 750 fill inner reflective lining boosts warmth with less down. I will be taking this bag with me, and our readers can keep an eye out for this bag in the spring of 2015. Justin is opting for the new Auriga 35 degree 750 fill down blanket weighing in at just 1.5 pounds! We will both be taking the Neo Air Xlite pads, weighing in at just 12 ounces.
GSI - Cookware
J has been using GSI products since he started backpacking and still has his first cook pot, even though he has upgraded to lightest options now. GSI has brought cookware to a new level. You don't want to carry heavy pots and bowls made of heavier metals and the feared cast iron. Their cookware is lightweight, compact and heats water at rapid speeds. Now everything we own for our backcountry is made by GSI. You just cannot find the quality and affordability anywhere else. GSI will be providing us a Halulite Microdualist integrated cook system, with a 1.4L alloy cook pot, bowls, cups, foons and carrying case for 18 ounces!! We can't talk about GSI without mentioning the Kung Foon. I believe this is J's favorite piece of gear. It is a foon (fork/spoon) with a handle extended by chopsticks! We will also have some good mugs, spice missile to season up our meals and of course the GSI trowel to … well you know??
Princeton Tec - Lighting
We were introduced to Princeton Tec at Trail Days last summer, when we met one of their marketing reps, Justin, and his wife, Beth, with whom we had lots in common. Having good quality lighting in the backcountry is a must. We spend half of our time in the dark and have been know to night hike once and while. Princeton Tec will be lighting up our adventures with the Vizz headlamp which has 165 lumens and last up to 150 hours on a single set of batteries. And for all our Jersey followers out there, P Tec is based out of the Garden State. Leave it to us to find the outdoor gear companies based out of good 'ol NJ.
Gregory - Backpacks
We used and loved Gregory backpacks (J-Baltoro and P-Deva) on our AT thru hike. And when J's Baltoro pack broke in Massachusetts, Gregory sent a new one without hesitation. Gregory most certainly has hikers' "backs" and are awesome and easy to work with. We will both be taking the Baltoro and Deva packs again, BUT, we are getting the updated versions that aren't even on the market yet. They are a pound lighter than our AT bags, but still have all the bells and whistles we love. Now here's an even better surprise. If you have read this far and are in the market for a new backpack, the first reader who responds to us will get a Gregory coupon for 50% off any backpack!!!! The catch is you absolutely need to tell us which pack you purchased and what you think. I would say that's quite a deal!
Superfeet - Insoles
A really easy way to upgrade your footwear is with insoles. When we were about 200 miles into our AT trek, we met 2 guys who were hiking Northbound and at the tail end of their journey. We were asking them advice and complaining a bit about our feet. They insisted we pick up a pair of insoles at the next town, promising a difference in our hiking. We followed their advice, had Superfeet insoles mailed to our next town stop and felt like we were actually walking on clouds from that point forward! We are happy to know we will be once again "walking on clouds" on the TA.
We would like to publicly thank all of our sponsors. Gear can make or break a hike and we feel lucky enough to have connected with some awesome supporters.