5 Thru-Hike Gear Products that might fail on you!
Updated: Feb 12, 2022
The reason for this thread is based on experience over 30 years, and preparation for upcoming Thru-hike. That said, I do own some of the gear mention below and will use for the upcoming Thru-Hike in the summer month. Thru-Hikers dont often mention this issues / challenges on their videoes or blogs, because they are used to their experience. In my country however, we have seen in the news some getting rescued even though they are experienced Thru-Hikers from before. So, this recomendation are based for those who intend to do a long distance hike or Thru-Hike in northern part of the world. Mountain and or in and out of trails or Winter months.
1. Dyneema Tents.
One of the main problems with a dyneema tent, not only singlewalled. Is the condesation and the gaps they make for this kind of tents. The gaps normally come when you pitch your tent to high. The gaps makes room for cold wind to enter the tent. But if you pitch it to low, when also there will be less gap, letting more condensation cought inside the tent. Dyneema Tents are also in many cases not freestanding, but it some occations it might cost you extra for poles. None freestanding tents require experience to setup and in difficult weather or terrain this could be a demotivating time. Also you have the risk that a waterproof tent or less aerodynamic tents, could be cought by stormy winds, that is if youre not carefull. Its pretty much the same problem with tarp setup, where on freestanding tents its easier to hold while you peg your tent. Camping with a Dyneema Tent on high altitude or mountain terrain in late season is therefor not really recommended, specially for longer days across Sierra, or mountain passes. Sometimes, you dont have an option to go to tree line, so you might need to setup on the high ground. The reason for this is mostly also due due to mist or clouds, penetrating the tent gaps. The gaps with cold wind can also make you colder, as well as condensation. The condesation can also get trapped the tent, allowing down gear, clothing or electronics to get wet. At some point, you might need to open also the gaps in order to boil water and this might be a very unpleasent thing with Dyneema tents. The lack of a proper pitch might also be more complicated to get in the snowy areas, and since the tent is not completly aerodynamic and often too high, the tent might collapse on you.
Dyneema tents are usually good choice for thruhikes, along the US. however if you are planning on doing expedition in the snow or thruhikes northern parts like here in Norway, you shouldent pick a Dyneema tent due to the weather and terrain.
Sil-Nylon Tents breathe more, are more aero dynamically made, there are cheaper to buy on its own, also cheaper to buy additions, and cheaper and easier to repair too. Sil-Nylon Tents often can be found as 4 season tents. The innertent of tent is specially designed for dealing with condesation where in cold or wet terrain will keep the innertent dry for condensation also in high altitude or when a mist/cloud is over you and you need to zero or wait till you can start walking again on such terrain. The storm flaps clothes the gaps where no wind from outside can penetrate. The Sil-Nylon material also stretches wich makes easier to peg the tent right, then adjust with the lines. On Dyneema tents however, you dont have that flexibility so in difficult terrain or with snow, that might be a problem for right pitching your tent if the snow moves, melts or it comes more.
Sil-Nylon are also easier (with experience however), to be used with a stove inside your tent. Mostly because the stove warmth also escape trough the material and also provides with some warmth. Though Sil-Nylon can get burned it ripstop material will reduce the damage of the hole and it can be repaired easly and cheap. In Dyneema however the risk of a burned section and expand due to the plastic and deform the plastic when the area is affected by heat. A repair for Dyneema in this case is more expensicve unless the producer offer to send you a new tent in return or you have enough material for a field repair. Some also point out the risk of the Sil-Nylon getting wet on several days of using. When I was in my last expedition for 16 days, I used a 4 season Sil-Nylon tent that I didnt even seamsealed. It rained in and off almost 12 days in a raw apart from the Packrafting, but everytime I set up my tent, though the material might be wet on the outside, dripping or wet on the inside of the tent was never an issue. Material beeing wet on the outiside from what I have seen, is the same with Dyneema tents. This are things however that depends on the tent you are using, and if the material still waterproff enough. You have to remember that also alot of raingear are made of Sil-Nylon too with 3000mm +- of waterproffness that is pretty much alot, unless you are cought in a exeptional strong storm.
2. Gas Canister, wood or alcohol Stoves.
Gas canisters have mostly a mix between Propane and Iso Butane. The problem with the canister in colder weather or high altitud is that the preasure inside differs from outside a lot. Even some canisters have winter gas options down to -27. Is not always that you come across those either. The canisters made of steel might rust on your cooking pot and the ice, where also snow and wind might affect the stove your working with too. When working with gas inside (specially a Dyneema) tent there is a slightly more chance that you are going to concentrate gas, working with cold hands and make a little "explotion" if you are not doing this on the outside, This is due to the lack of a breathable material. Canvas tents also have some of this issue but not so mutch. This "explotion" might again cause damage to your tent, where you will need to have a knife to cut you out of the tent. Of course this could happend in a Sil-Nylon Tent too, but there is a slightly less chance due to the material that breathe. Winter gas canisters are more expensive than usual too compared to other types of fuel. And there is a possibilty that you dont have a gas canister cover for protecting your canister from wind or cold ground. When you are thru hiking in the US there is a chance youre not going to use a wind shield around your stove.
Many also uses alcohol stoves. The main problem with those are that the area that is burning is going to be defficult to see, creating burn holes or marks. Both alcohol and gas stove requires a flat placement too, for so not to fall. It is much easier to burn yourself or spill alcohol than any other stove apart from perhaps wood stick stoves.
The way to go for specially winter expeditions or thruhikes would be using a multistove. Used by armed forces and expedition advertures over the world. The tipical modern titanium multistove would be a bit more heavier, more expensive but also more realiable and have the ability to both burn kerosene, gasoline, diesel and jetfuel as well as isobutane. It require some training, and can get pretty messy sometimes, but to buy fuel might also be much more affordable in the longer run.
3. Phone and Powerbanks.
The dangers of relying on phone and powerbanks or any GPS smart watch is surely a question mark for me when I see Thruhikers do it. I do understand that following a relativly populated trail might be secure enough, that is till you might run out of juice. Or you are forced to leave the trail. Cold and condensation is the most common challenge for batteries.
Cold or Condensation can also make the device fail. Bringing, loosing or forgeting the wrong cables. Or perhaps just run out of juice. For Camera batteries too, there is a big chance that when you film 4K in the cold, the devices will last shorter than usuall if they work at all. That includes youre headlamp. A simple compass without any map is not always a good idea either, depending if you really know how to use it on its own, and many really dont, since they never practice navigation with a good compass that can be used on a topographical map.
To print, and practice navigation with a good compass and map if it is your first time backpacking might be a very good training for a thru hike. Since Thru-hike is really you living in the outdoors for a long time. Some times people that only go for a day hike also get lost, so sure there is a big chance you can on a thru hike too. Train to get lost, without getting lost! And to avoid getting lost! If you thruhiking some of the big trails and need a map look for a good guide, or use some of the pro paid options for apps to phisical print (Alltrails tips) section of the trail in case you need to deviate or just get lost. In one of my expeditions after day 14 alone i was very low on battery for all my devices. I had to rely on my map to get back, its then you begin to get stressed wich is not a good thing to have outdoors.
Another tip is to storage the electronics in a drysack. And if you have Dyneema Pouches, put a "Not Eat Bag" absorbent inside. Also there is a good idea to recharge the batteries and put it on a warm place, most recommended inside your sleeping quilt or bag some how.
4. Trail Runners, gaiters and trekkinpoles.
Trail running shoes are a fantastic airy fast option for following a trail and not getting blisters or preasure damage. But thats really it. However there might be a bigger chance for twisting your ancle or falling, unless youre using trekking poles. Trekking poles are great for balansing and Trekking poles however might break more easly in the snow or icy conditions. In Norway we know that since Sky Poles are more solid also more durable than normal trekkingpoles. Short gaiters, compared to big solid gaiters, are not going to provide you with protection against shreding ice or prevent the snow to get into your shoes. And more likely your feet are going to be wet all the time.
Trail Runners are also not recommended for wood working for making fire or bushwhacking specially where the terrain is unlevel not followed by maintained trails, there is swamps or alot of mud, slippery stones or deep snow. The most common reason people abort a hike or get injured are twisted ancles.
Trail runners however are a good choice for warm flat terrain, trails, and an investment for your knees if you get used and transition to zero drop. There is less blisters to happend with trailrunners and the shoe also dry faster.
This is why a boot, more solid ski poles, bigger and durable gaiters are simple a be choice for winter use or difficult terrain. Surely boots will last you longer also though it might be difficult to dry them (use newspapers not fire) or might get you also blisters.
5. Preparing for Sleeping
One of the most common thing to do as a thruhiker in the US is to layer up with all the clothing that you have and going to sleep. There is a big chance you will wake up cold and its hard to stay up or you cant even sleep. This is not the right way to do it.
In colder nights, you have to eat something warmth (a con for cold soaking), go to the toilet before you go to bed, have a bonfire or a stove that can give you some warmth (before sleeping!), using a net baselayer that provides you with air stream and regulate
the warmth of your body, with a thin layer of merino wool on top. Then filling a hard cased secured bottle (yes a Nalgene! would be perfect) for boiled water and putting inside your quilt or bag with your electronics stuff sack. This is the way soldiers survive the winter cold down to - 30 degrees. Putting all the layers inside a 4 season tent, will give you warmth for some minutes but really after that you will freeze to death, or get cold trench frost damage. Surely a warmth rated quilt with a good rated sleeping bag helps, but its really mostly the base layer you have, and the sleeping pad rating that will do most of the job.
See also my Winter Sleeping Gear video I have posted here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dwdwknlCALo&t=479s And my Thru-Hike Packing List for this Summer here: