Since my last few trips I've been refining my gear such that I can hike 15-20 hours per day for 3-5 days with little or no gear fussing/frustration, especially when extremely tired at the end of the day.
Here are some of the gear choices and philosophies that contributed to my goal of hiking 15-20 hrs. per day for 3-5 days without the gear fiddling or headaches that plagued me on previous trips.
NB: This is highly personal and highly subjective. Most of the stress in long days is mental FOR ME. Whatever I can do to mitigate the mental stress pays out more than achieving the lightest pack or choosing conventional SUL gear. This list is designed to fit my personal hiking style and taste. Which is...
On the trips this list is designed for it goes as follows:
1. I enjoy hiking until my body begs for sleep. This makes a good trip for me. I see the wildlife and scenery and experience nature WHILE hiking. I don't care about pictures or journals. I do enjoy an occasional chat with fellow hikers, but don't need to know the details of their mortgage. Generally I keep moving, this is important as certain gear is not needed if you keep moving until night-night or through the night as the case may be.
2. I appreciate the simplicity of food viewed as fuel and not entertainment or comfort. So I fuel my body with the simplest raw materials like endurance fuels. At the end of the day I will have some solid food in the form of jerky, pringles, dried fruit etc. The mental gain from cooked food is less than the mental stress toll cooking entails, again, this is just FOR ME. Also, during the hike, the endurance fuels can be taken on the go. Generally, I mix a half days worth to a gooey consistency and chase it with pure water from my platy. I don't like to mix it in my platy and drink the mix over time. I pound an hour two's ration chase with water and I'm good. Oh yeah, no utensil either, I eat right out of the ziplock for things like cold instant mashed potatoes or pringles!
3. When it is time to stop moving, for me it works best if I can just plop down in a skillfully chosen spot and bed down. This translates into a waterproof bivy rather than a tarp FOR ME. Stakes, guylines and wonderful poncho tarps annoy the heck out of me after 15-20 hours on the trail. At that point I am extremely short on mental energy. Again, it's my personal leaning. I have used tarps, poncho tarps, capes and tents for years, and I still use them on other kinds of trips, like with my wife.
4. Less is less fiddle. Trailside gear yard sales are frustrating especially when windy. Less gear means less fiddle factor FOR ME. As such, I'm willing to use my dri-ducks rainsuit for other things, like wind gear, sun block in VERY HOT weather and insect protection in hot or cold weather. I think these things breath BETTER than my windshirts and are more comfortable in a wider range of conditions.
5. Small simple, watch with 24 hr timer. Some watches only have 1 hr timers. I like to start the timer at the beginning of hiking and keep track the duration on the timer, rather than remembering what time I started and stop. With 15-20 hour days, a 1 hour timer is useless.
6. Comfort. This may change, maybe I can condition myself by sleeping on the floor for a while, but for now...a little more comfort at the end of 15-20 hours of hiking pays off in better recovery for the next day. With possibly only 4 hours of sleep between me and the next 15-20 hour day, it is critical to sleep well. As such I may switch out the foam torso pad for an inflatable torso pad (+7 ounces to list). Some nights I don't sleep well on the foam pad. One advantage the inflatable has is that it packs smaller, which enables me to put it inside my small pack rather than between my back and pack GG style with the foam pad.
7. Packing. With so few items one can use a smaller pack than normal. On my last trip I placed my food bag vertically down the center of my G6 Whisper and loved it for running and fast walking. This led to my new packing method of putting my quilt and insulation in one vertical tube next to the food and my rain gear and other gear on the opposite side of the food. There is no tube for the food bag as it is its own container, so it just lashes to the pack. I'll post pictures of it when I get back from my trip (India and Romania for seven weeks). I really like this packing method.
8. Decent light. With long days, some of it will be in the dark. I love the Fenix cree. I have a photon and would use it in place of the fenix if it had a regulated circuit, but as it is now, the usable light is gone after 30 minutes and that sucks. The Fenix lasts plenty long in low mode and is even a little too bright at that.
Well there are other things I could talk about in regards to this list, but it will have to wait until I return. For now I really just wanted to post it. I'll be checking in at Internet cafes along the way, so post your comments! Here's the list: