The New Gear Starts Off Small
Tuesday, December 5, 2017 9:21 pm

With my Pacific Crest Trail thru-hike less than four months away, I spent a fair amount of Thanksgiving weekend researching new gear. Over the weekend, the first piece of new gear arrived: a dozen tent stakes.

In the grand scheme of things, replacing my tent stakes isn’t that big a deal. The stakes that I used during both my Appalachian Trail and Long Trail thru-hikes were purely functional, and still worked perfectly well.

But functional is all they were. They kept my tent on the ground, sure, but that’s about the only good thing I can say about them.

Although my tent was great (and a highly visible bright orange), the stakes it came with were a dull grey. Without bright sunlight, they didn’t visibly stand out much, and were nigh-impossible to see in the dark. This led me to often trip over them, more than once pulling stakes out of the ground because they weren’t visible enough. (The stakes meant to secure the doors to my tent’s rainfly when I had the rainfly open and not attached to the stakes were the most problematic in that regard.)

Additionally, being fairly slick v-shaped pieces of metal, the stakes were also often difficult to pull out of the ground, particularly if my hands were cold, which was not an uncommon occurrence in the morning.

Leading up to my Long Trail thru-hike this summer, on a whim while I was at REI, I bought a pair of MSR Mini Groundhog tent stakes, so I could try them out before committing to replacing all of my tent’s stakes.

The thing that first caught my eye in the store was that these new stakes were bright red and included a convenient pull loop (with reflective patches). It was easy to see them in the store, and easy to see them in the ground. The pull loop made them almost effortless to pull out of the ground in the morning. And though I only got to use them once on the Long Trail, it was enough to convince me to replace all of my stakes for the PCT.

Since the PCT doesn’t have shelters like the AT and LT do, I actually will be using my tent most nights. Having stakes that are easier to use will be a great boon.

As an added bonus, the MSR stakes are a tiny bit lighter than the stakes that came with my tent. Though the weight savings is fairly minimal (ten stakes amount to only half an ounce savings), I'll still take whatever I can get.

Later on in the week, I expect my replacement Z-seat “chair” to arrive. I picked one up in Hot Springs, NC, on the AT, after growing envious of the one my hiking partner had, and it quickly became one of my favorite pieces of gear. I lost it this year when it got jostled out of my pack’s front pocket while I was hiking through an area with overgrown trees encroaching on the trail.

Sticking with the highly-visible-gear theme, my replacement Z-seat will be bright yellow and silver. My original Z-seat was a drab grey and brown color, which blended into the ground all too well, and contributed to me forgetting to pick it up once on the AT, and nearly forgetting it several other times.

Of course, tent stakes and foam cushions aren’t the only new gear I’m getting. A portion of the PCT requires a bear canister. Bear canisters are heavy (over two and a half pounds), so I’m looking to shed weight: my goal is to have a base weight including bear canister that’s less than my base weight on the AT. With only half an ounce of savings so far, I’ve still got a long way to go…