Intro by Skurka. After his recent 100-day thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, Garrett contacted me with some gear reviews, some about products I have written about previously. I thought his insights were valuable, due to his extensive use and to his unbiased viewpoint, and asked his permission to share them. If you have questions for Garrett, leave a comment.
Review: The North Face HyperAir jacket with Gore-Tex Active
The new Gore-Tex Active with the “permanent beading surface” is easily the most breathable waterproof/breathable fabric that I have used. It was so breathable that I often left it on after the rain stopped. I actually preferred to use it as a thermal layer instead of my fleece. It is 100 percent waterproof and is incapable of wetting out.
That being said, if it’s already uncomfortably hot and humid, this jacket will not make things better. It’s very breathable, but it’s no miracle.
The North Face HyperAir GTX Rain Jacket uses a terrible zipper and has no pit zips. The fabric is not breathable enough to replace pit zips. The fabric is durable but has a rubbery feeling that makes it more likely to catch and snag. My jacket looks brand new and has no visible wear after the 100 days on the trail. At 5 ounces, it’s a fully functional rain jacket that feels like a wind shirt.
Long-sleeve polo shirt
I started with a $17 dollar polyester long sleeve polo that I found on Amazon. Its price and weight (at 6 oz) made it more attractive than the Sierra Designs Long-Sleeve Pack Polo. The shirt pilled from hip-belt rubbing after 500 miles.
In Damascus I bought another generic polyester polo shirt from a grocery store. It worked very well for the last 1600 miles and shows almost no wear. Cheap alternatives to the SD polo seem well worth it when you have to compare price.
Review: MSR FlyLite Tent
The MSR FlyLite Tent is worth a look:
- 1 lbs 9 oz, including 9 stakes and the rear pole
- 29 square foot footprint
- Intergrated floor and bug protection
- Vertical sidewalls that make it a viable 2-person tent, or a palace for one
The wispy 20-denier floor feels like it’s going to tear right out of the box. But the floor never once got damaged in 100 days of use. The silicone and polyurethane fabric coatings must increase durability dramatically.
The tent has issues in the wind if it’s pitched in the wrong direction. And it needs to be pitched perfectly to prevent water from pooling on the canopy when it rains.
Review: Cascade Mountain Tech trekking poles
My original trekking poles, an inexpensive carbon fiber knockoff pair, broke in just about every way possible by Harpers Ferry, around the halfway point. I bought the Cascade Mountain Tech Quick Lock Trekking Poles and they worked much better, although they did break at the bottom.
I replaced the bottom piece with aluminum shafts from a different pole, and that worked out really well. CMT carbon is not nearly as strong as, say, the carbon shafts on the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Poles.
Review: ZPacks Arc Backpack
If you are mindful about how you use a ZPacks Arc Blast Backpack, it will work very well. Outside of a few minor ascetic issues, my 60L pack looks new.
This backpack was commonly used on the AT. Other owners reported that the carbon fiber frame would break. But if you listened to their explanation of the cause, however, the issue was often user-error.
Review: Nike Terra Kiger 3
I went through three pairs of Nike Terra Kiger 3 trail running shoes. On average, each lasted about 750 miles.
The upper is very breathable — when a rain drop falls on my toe box it feels like I’m barefoot.
The sole is covered in sticky rubber, except for one small dime-sized section on the heel. All three of my pairs ripped where there wasn’t rubber and it caused major deconstruction of the heel.
I do not recommend them for any terrain outside of manicured trails due to durability issues. Beyond this matter, the performance of the shoes is excellent.
Questions for Garrett? Leave a comment?
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