Any avid hiker in the northeast knows about the Presidential Traverse. A string of nine (or 10 if you include Jackson) summits threaded through the White Mountains of New Hampshire with water falls, glowing moss, and stunning summits, it’s no wonder this venture is on most hikers’ bucket lists. It was on mine and it only took me three attempts. Like so many others, my first two trips were canceled due to hurricane-like, 110 mph winds on Mount Washington. Little known fact: Mount Washington held the highest recorded wind gust for 62 years at 231 mph.
Traverse Gear Check
I was looking to shed a little weight, so I packed my Deuter ACT Zero with all of the essentials. The Trail consists of 20,000 feet of elevation change over 23 miles, so I ditched the big camera bag and stuffed my point and shoot into my Deuter Zip Pack Lite. I’ve never used it for that purpose but was stoked to find out it fit perfect.
One Day Or Two?
The Prezi can be done as a one-day sprint from dawn to dusk or as an overnighter. Wanting to spend as much time as possible in the mountains, we chose to do it over two days. We hiked it from north to south instead of the reverse. Hiking and rock scrambling 4,000 feet in the first four miles up to Mount Madison is an endeavor all in itself. The boulders we scrambled over were pitted and sharp from the intense weather, and I could only compare them to lava rock found in Hawaii. After you reach elevation, the hardest part is done and you can take in back-to-back summits miles of tremendous views.
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I love researching gear almost as much as I love using it. I truly believe that there is no one perfect piece of equipment, but with that state of mind there is always room for improvement. The best equipment can make your experience that much easier and more comfortable, but at a cost. Top of the line shells, mid layers, and base layers could cost you well over $2000.00. Some people may not have to bat an eye at that but I can’t even afford a Gore-Tex jacket right now. People have been hiking throughout the winter long before $2000.00 outfits were ever an option. Here are some budget tips to keep the money in your pockets and your feet outside.
- Base Layer – skip the name brands. I bought a cold weather merino wool base layer shirt for $20.00 on amazon from Sub sports. I’ll admit it isn’t as silky smooth as the name brands but at less than half the cost you can still be warm without breaking the bank. In my most recent snowshoe backpacking trek, the temps were low but the wind was almost nonexistent. I snowshoed almost the entire trip with only that base layer as my only top. And yes, they sell pants too.
- Sleep Warm – Besides making sure your sleeping bag is the appropriate temperature rating for where you’re sleeping, boil water and slowly pour it into your water bladder (with cold water already in it). Make sure it is good and warm and then take it into your sleeping bag with you. It will keep your warm and your water won’t freeze overnight!
- Keep your socks dry – For an additional $14.00 you can get a cheap pair of gators off amazon. Now admittedly, I have Outdoor Research Gators ($55.00). Gators can keep the lower portion of your pants dry and keep snow out of your boots. Being wet on your winter hike is bad news but there are ways around it. Make a small investment and keep your legs/socks dry and warm.
- Outer shells – As noted above, I can’t afford Gore-Tex shells yet. I already own a hiking rain jacket and I use it all year round. With a proper base layer and mid layer a rain coat can keep you dry and keep the wind from sneaking in. It is not very breathable, but I have never had a problem regulating my temperature by unzipping the jacket or its vents. At a fraction of the cost it will do, until you can afford the best.
- Make warm meals – Oatmeal in the morning and your favorite freeze dried camping meals. Oatmeal/fruit packets like Munkpack are great for hiking and it the winter and they are better warm. Heat them up in hot water and warm up your core. Also, the best hiking freeze dried foods must sit for almost 20 minutes before your can eat them. Tuck them in close to your core and stay warm why you’re waiting. I’ve been enjoying Backpacker’s Bistro. No funny ingredients and it taste like real homemade food. Also, if you’re camping out- eat late. Eating right before bed will also help keep your core warm when you get in your bag and will help you fall asleep more comfortably.