CDT gear review…my take

Less is good. Lighter is even better.

Albert Kim created this xtranormal video that was featured on Andrew Skurka’s blog, The Trail Show Podcast, Drop n’ Roll’s CDT blog and probably many others. I think “Alaska” in this clip could easily be substituted for “Continental Divide Trail” in this fun creation. Most long distance hikers have experienced this dialog at least a few times. As for me, more than I can count. Enjoy.

I love to think, buy, and talk about gear.  Especially for long hikes. This summer I made some BIG strides in getting my pack weight even lighter without giving up much comfort and convenience. At the beginning of my hike in June, my base pack weight without food, water, ice axe and micro-spikes was around 12 pounds. By the end of my hike I am sure it weighed much less. Over my 2 month trek, I was willing to just let some things go in the quest for going even lighter.

Thanks to Pinterest, an on-line bulletin board website, my “Continental Divide Trail Gear 2013” Pinterest board is newly updated with thoughts about each gear item and how it worked on the hike for me. Just click on the board below to view all my CDT gear with photos, weight, cost, where to buy, and a short review:

Continental Divide Trail Gear 2013 on Pinterest

Gear I Loved:

Basically I have become a fan of any gear made from Cuben Fiber. I found it ultra-lightweight, durable, and waterproof. Expensive to buy, but worth every penny. My new Pinterest board “Gear Wish List” is filled with Cuben Fiber products. Visit my Pinterest board “Continental Divide Gear List” for photos, weight, cost, and where to buy all my favorite gear listed below:

  • Six Moon Designs Skyscape X
    15 ounces for a full featured Cuben Fiber shelter. Yes it is expensive, but very very light. Got to admit it took me some time to get quick at setting the Skyscape up. But after the initial break in time I LOVED the protection against all elements, size, durability, and most of all it did not get heavier when wet from rain or condensation. Did I mention it is super light? Worth every penny.
  • ZPacks Cuben Fiber Roll Top Pillow Dry Bag
    This is simply genius, a waterproof clothes bag by day, turn it inside out for a comfy, cozy pillow by night. This was one of my biggest finds this season. I loved the soft material.
  • ZPacks Cuben Fiber Bear Bagging Kit
    The bag is waterproof, roll top, plenty of room for 5 to 6 days of food, and super lightweight (3 ounces total weight). Comes with slick cord, rock sack, and carabiner. Easy system to hang food.
  • ZPacks Ultralight 10 degree 900 Fill Power Down Sleeping Bag
    19.8 ounces – The CDT gets cold at night…a lot. I am a cold sleeper and this bag kept me warm and cozy. On super cold nights I did wear my down jacket and beanie in combination with the bag. It is compact, super light, warm, durable, and I didn’t miss having a hood on the bag.
  • Suntactics Charger 5
    This is the only charger I carried. It charges incredibly fast in direct sunlight. I also used it on top my pack on sunny days. As long as there were a few hours of bright sun during the day, this charger was all I needed to recharge 2 iphones and a camera. Caution: For trips in complete tree cover or inclement weather, I would suggest using another option or turn your phone off and use it as little as possible hoping for a little bright sun. Perfect for the CDT.
  • Patagonia Women’s Houdini Full-Zip Jacket
    3 ounce wind jacket, great to hike in for cool or windy days. I had this jacket on at least once every day. It is an important piece of my working layering system.
  • Prana Monarch Convertible Pants
    Love the fit, material, durability, and length of shorts. This season they even come in different pant leg lengths.
  • Brooks Cascadia 8
    I used both the Cascadia 7 and 8 models during the hike. The 8 model is a bit wider and longer in length. I found it was best to replace them every 400 or so miles and they worked great with the my Spenco Earthbound insoles. Comfy, light support, and grippy. Oh they also come in fun colors.
  • Huggies Natural Care Unscented Baby Wipes
    A long distance hiker’s best friend. This brand by far out shines the rest. The cloth is durable and very soft. One cloth cleaned more skin surface and left skin feeling clean and not too dry, than all the others we used on the CDT. The perfect combination.
  • Dermatone Lip Balm Stick – SPF 23
    This lip balm and sunscreen by far out performs most lip protections. It is hard to find in California except online and at REI, but in Colorado and Wyoming it was available at almost every outfitter.
  • Neutrogena Norwegian Formula Hand Cream, Fragrance-Free
    I repackage the concentrated lotion in a small pot from REI. This is the best lotion for face, body, and for preventing painful finger and heel cracks I have found. LOVE IT!
  • Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Pepper Spray with Holster
    Luckily I did not have to use this protector, but I liked the holster it came with. I fastened it to my shoulder strap low by my pack. It was not in the way and was in a place so I could quickly grab it and spray if needed. $40.57

Gear I Want:

  • Gossamer Gear Gorilla Ultralight Backpack
    I am looking forward to trying this smaller capacity pack. I seem to favor simple, no frills backpacks.
  • ZPacks Small Roll Top Dry Bag
    I have become a huge fan of Cuben Fiber. I want this one to hold misc. items and electronics.
  • ZPacks Zip Pouches
    Yep for my important wallet items. This just might replace the trusted zip-lock.
  • ZPacks Zip Pouch
    I would love this Cuben Fiber pouch to house my toiletries.
  • Golite Chrome Dome Trekking Umbrella
    Love Note (CDT hiker) used this cheery piece of equipment in the rain, sun, wind, and even for privacy. On my next thru-hike it will be in my pack.
  • SEA TO SUMMIT AlphaLight Long Spork
    I broke 2 Light My Fire spoons on the CDT. Sweetfish (CDT hiker) had this long spork. It is lightweight, unbreakable, fits well in the hand, and the length is perfect for eating out of freezer bags.
  • Gaia GPS iPhone App
    I have long been a fan of Topo Maps with great success. This summer I hiked with Love Note (CDT hiker) and had the opportunity to watch this app in action. It has updated maps and is easy to use. Ideally I would like both the programs loaded with the maps I need for a trip. they each have unique qualities.
  • Lightest Cathole Trowels On The Planet
    I want the original size (it is the smallest). Confession:I have yet to dig a proper cathole with a rock, stick, or hiking pole. Love Note and Burly Whites on the CDT had a cat hole digging competition. This little .3 ounce wonder outperformed the heavier and bigger U Shovel.
  • Petzl Tikka XP 2 Headlamp
    I want more light (80 lums) for hiking and navigating at night, a red light for in camp use, and a band not a zip cord. I had trouble taking off my Zipka without ripping out some hair and for me it was too dim for night hiking.

After the Hike Update February 25, 2014:

How about sharing your new gear finds, thoughts or questions in the comments below? Gear talk…how fun is this?


  1. Did you re-package the Huggies Natural Care Unscented Baby Wipes in to ziplocs, or buy a travel pack? Thanks : )

    • Great question. It depends on the trip. I count out about 3 clothes for everyday (2 for clean up and 1 or 2 for #2) and put them in a ziplock with another ziplock inside to put the used ones in. If I am going on a longer trip I just buy the travel pack. In resupplies I always send a travel pack, because I don’t want anything leaking on my food.

      If you are hiking with kids or a partner I buy a larger size and distribute among the hikers. You can buy the 40 count. You are going to be so thankful for them in Southern California. On the CDT, where water was not always available, baby wipes were essential.

  2. Pingback: 2013 Continental Divide Trail Gear List | Lady on a Rock

  3. Finally got some time to check this all out. Really like your reviews and the tips you’ve provided. I’d be really interested to hear about the Gossamer Gear Gorilla and how you like it. I am using a 3 lb. GoLite Quest now. It carries like a dream but I’d like to figure out how to do that at a pound and half instead, and that’s about what the Gorilla weighs in a size Medium.

    As always, love your blogs. Hope you are integrating well back at home and in school. Happy Sunday!

  4. Good of you to share your gear list. Got some ideas for myself from your selections. I have been pondering the Zpacks 10 F bag but not sure how I’d like a bag without a hood, being that all my bags have been mummies. Guess one could size up to a longer one and try to enclose the noggin when the temps really dip. Not sure how effective this would be. Did you try this on the coldest nights?

    • Good question and observation. Yes, I did size up and highly recommend it. I am 5’2″ and ordered a regular girth and medium length (up to 5’9″) instead of the short length. Boy howdy I loved the extra length on hard cold nights. I did also wear my hooded down jacket all night in low temps. Without a hood on the bag I was perfectly comfortable. On me the regular girth was snug without a lot of air space. This bag kept me warm, dry, and was SUPER lightweight (19 ounces). Hope this helps.

  5. Great list Rockin’. Love my Suntactics. I’m going to add some small item trade-outs that are on your list. You really gotta love recommendations for wet wipes. Always what I wondered and now I have the inside scoop! (seriously). Are your trekking poles a “slam dunk” choice? What makes them stand on their own (figuratively) from the competition? I’m thinking about upgrading from my aluminum standard ones with cam-style locks to something lighter (Hate the twist lock style…learned my lesson the hard way there)


    • No slam dunk. The poles are not for everyone. I love them because they are so lightweight, but the poles also have been known to break, especially for taller folks. They also feature a twist lock. Someday I hope to find a pole that is this lightweight, has a flip lock, and are also super strong.

      For right now, these are my favs and have worked well for me.

  6. I’m the biggest fan of the Patagonia Houdini. It’s the perfect rain jacket for me, too. I love your blog for providing an example of how a woman getting into long distance hiking might want to assemble a kit. 🙂

    • Guess what I discovered? Patagonia makes Houdini pants. I want a pair. I don’t usually carry rain pants in the summer, but a wind/rain pant made out of the Houdini fabric would be fantastic in the colder seasons. Thank you for sharing.

  7. Skyward (Teresa)

    Thanks for the gear review. I appreciate the little details, like the bandaid and cleaning wipes suggestions-always wondering what to get there. I had the RAB short sleev shirt this summer, loved it, and was so happy to find the long sleeve version at my local shop a couple of weeks ago. I think I’m going to love that for sun protection. I am in the market for a lighter backpack. I looked at the Gorilla specs, the Mriposa, Golite Jam-but am also looking at the Mountain Laurel Designs Exodus. It’s got some nice features, and highly rated. Have you looked at that?

    • I do not have experience with the MLD Exodus. I am assuming that you currently are using the ULA pack. If so all the packs here will save you at least a pound or more. I think it depends on what you are using it for. The Gorilla and Jam 50L would be about the same capacity and the Mariposa is the same weight, but holds a ton of gear. I find that if I have a lot of room I carry more. For me, that is a recipe for a heavy pack. All of your choices sound great.

  8. Love your list of gear! You mentioned that you were making your own zip lock meals. Will you be talking about what worked and what didn’t at some point?

    • Gear is always fun to share.

      A big YES! Soon I will be posting thoughts on my food, resupply, transitioning back into daily life, and the little things that made a huge difference on my hike this summer. Thank you for getting me motivated!

  9. This is too cool! Thanks for the great links! This answers so many gear questions I had from reading your journal this trek. I’m still hunting for the perfect hiking shoe…

    • I think that the quest for the right shoe in all conditions is an ongoing process for all athletes. The Cascadias were very popular on the CDT this summer. They are light, durable, and easy on the feet. But what they are NOT is supportive and stiff. They feel a bit like slippers. So that said, they work great for hikers that have strong feet and ankles, like thru-hikers. The Moabs have a stiffer sole with a bit more support. What shoes are working for you?

      Hey, if you have questions I did not address, please ask.

      • Hmm, – I may check the Cascadias out. Two weekends ago, my two sisters and I did the Whitney Mountaineers Route in Merrel Barefoot Pace gloves. Doable and light-weight, which I like, but way not enough grip!
        Thank you for the advice!

        • Wow the Mountaineer’s Route. Very cool and challenging. What is your next goal?

          • Yeah, I got inspired from watching your video of the Route!
            We’re doing White Mountain next weekend, either Friday or Saturday – not sure. 3rd time, and I still love it! Last year we interrupted a large heard of mountain goats grazing on the trail.
            You have some great hike ideas on here!

          • Have a great time this weekend. The Bristlecone pines are so interesting. Glad some of the ideas are working for you. So fun.

  10. Awesome Gear Review.
    Thank you!!

  11. Send an email to, and we will send you Gaia GPS!

  12. What did you do for socks?

    • Injinji Performance Mini-Crew Toe Socks – Love, love these socks. This was my 4th summer hiking blister free in these socks. One warning, they do wear out faster than Smartwool or Darn Tough socks.

      • For too many years while backpacking the Sierras, I’ve been getting blisters where my toes overlap — until this past summer. The difference? Two changes: 1) I finally took a lesson from you thru-hikers, replacing my big, heavy Asolo boots with lightweight trail runners (New Balance) + DirtyGirl gaiters and 2) Injini midweight toe socks. Wow! What heavenly delight! Not only did I finish the trek completely blister free, I found myself celebrating each stream crossing as I plunged through the water, because it gave my tootsies a refreshing cooling off. WAY BIG LOVE those Injini socks!

  13. Thanks for sharing the gear. Looked at and just ordered the Suntactics based on your comments for 6 wk Nepal trekking.

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