MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 317
edited February 6 in THE GEAR LAB

The Trailhead - @tina , IG - @tinacurrin

Drumroll - THE SHAKEDOWN IS BACK! We're excited to unleash 2.0 after a multi-year hiatus! With some familiar faces and some new contributors, we're going to dive into what some of our favorite backpacking friends are carrying these days and why. There's sure to be some new advice, trail-earned best practices to share, and other tips and tricks to add to your own adventuring! Gear has obviously changed–it's one of the few constants we gearheads can rely on in this day and age–so let's see how it's worked its way into our contributor's packs. Jump into the comments and share some of your own findings!

First up, welcome triple crowner Tina Currin to the mix!


I tried to be a closed-cell foam sleeper; I really did. The efficiency! The durability! The cool space-gray reflective coating that screams, “I’m a real tough mothereffer!” I clung to this belief through years of multi-day backpacking trips, tossing and turning but never suffering, not entirely. This all changed during my first thru hike when I was routinely putting my body through 20+ mile days and repetitive early starts. The pad could no longer support my leaden legs or prevent the dull ache in my hips. The thin material was costing me the one respite I had: Sleep.

Grumbling, I switched to a Thermarest Uberlite, lamenting the whole pool-floatie vibe and the need to fuss with inflating it each night. But one good night’s rest is all it took for me to admit that I was way, way wrong. Inflatable or bust! Ok, hopefully not bust. I pair it with a Stuff Sack Pillow full of my dirty clothes for the best sleep ever.


Picking me up from Katahdin after my Appalachian Trail thru hike, my friend Brad told me that my pack was “the ripest thing he’d ever smelled in his entire life.” The incredible part? I couldn’t smell a thing. It’s amazing how humans adapt to their conditions, and hygiene is no exception. That being said, it’s worth noting that approaches will differ for a weekend trip versus an extended thru. If it’s just a few days, I’m barely bothered to change the clothes closest to my body, much less wash them. But for longer trips, I’ve found that dental floss, biodegradable soap, and hand sanitizer are essential. Yes, I brush my teeth with a tiny toothbrush and dehydrated toothpaste. BUT I BRUSH THEM. Beyond the gross-out factor, dirt and grime can accelerate wear and tear on things like your socks, shoes, gear, and chafe- and blister-prone areas. Out in the backcountry, emotions are reduced to their simplest form, and sometimes, all it takes is a fresh-feeling face to fix a tough day. 


It was right around the time when my husband, a notoriously clumsy hiker who keeps a running tally of his falls for comedic effect, slipped down an icy set of stairs that I gave my hiking poles a silent thanks. His sticks had malfunctioned at the critical moment when he needed them most. A clip spontaneously came undone, causing the lower section of pole to slide halfway up the shaft and send him tumbling.

My Alpine Carbon Corks, meanwhile, have been rock-solid for thousands of miles, playing multiple roles along the way. They can serve as trusty tent stakes when pitching my UltaMid, knee support throughout grueling thru hikes, and constant companions across countless backpacking trips. I use them to push thorny brush aside, to pick things up without bending over, and to momentarily rest without taking off my pack. And they helped me bound down the slick stairs to help my perpetually ponderous partner, whose fall, at least this time, was not entirely his fault. The moral of the story? Crappy poles suck, but Carbon Corks are forever. 


When I first envisioned myself as a hiker at the tender age of 18, I went to a big-box outfitter and bought a bulky synthetic sleeping bag and a tiny stuff sack. I’d practice packing and unpacking it in the living room of my studio apartment, wrestling the bag into the sack with so much effort that I ended up in tears. “I’m not cut out for this,” I remember thinking. “There’s no way I can put up with this for weeks on end.” It took years of adolescent frustration to figure out that I simply had the wrong gear. Now, I’m a total pod convert, with increasingly smaller bags packed inside larger bags like some silvery matryoshka doll. I’ve got three pods for my pack—one for my sleep system, one for my clothes, and one for my hygiene kit— while smaller stuff sacks keep miscellany at bay. Tears of joy, for real.


I’ve had my Toaks Titanium 550 pot for what feels like forever. It’s among the first (and least expensive) pieces of gear I ever bought, and it remains a stalwart companion on cold overnight trips. It perfectly cradles a small gas canister and my little collapsible BRS stove, so everything’s right there when I’m cold and hungry. When it gets warmer outside, I like to cold soak my meals in an empty Talenti gelato jar, which is made of thick plastic and boasts a robust screw-on top. The best part? Eating an entire pint of ice cream is required for this trick! 


  • vincentius
    vincentius Member Posts: 2

    While I've never "thruhiked", I did live out out of my ruck sack for 7 months while deployed overseas. 😂. Being 54, a lot of today's ultralight hiking knowledge and technical gear didn't really exist - case in point, we were issued 100% cotton long johns, and 90/10 cotton/polly t-shirts. Everything was big and bulky.

    Today 27 years later, I'm all kitted up with the coolest gear - love my HMG Southwest 3400, Waypoint 35, pods, etc - and try getting out at least 1 night a month at the bare minimum. Nature is my undeniable happy place.

    Thanks for the share above. Still learning.