GEAR:30 Podcast - Episode 3: Gearing up for the PCT, Part 1
Welcome to the GEAR:30 Podcast!
This Episode is part 1 of an interview with GEAR:30 staff member and accomplished thru-hiker Bryden "Simba" Bowley. We discuss Bryden's experiences hiking the PCT, including an extensive discussion on tents and sleeping bags that he liked and disliked (Big Agnes and Nemo Tents, Western Mountaineering and Rab sleeping bags).
Greg [00:00:00] You're listening to Episode 3 of the Gear 30 podcast. On today's show, we interview Bryden Bowley, who's an employee at Gear 30 and who is about to head out on the Continental Divide trail.
Greg [00:00:24] You're listening to the Gear 30 podcast. A community, you could even call it a support group, for people addicted to outdoor adventuring and all the gear that goes with it. There is no shame here. In spite of what your spouse or partner may say, we believe it's OK to own 5 tents, 7 backpacks and 18 jackets. Our slogan, inspired by the great Explorer, Sir Ranulph Fiennes, is "there is no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate gear." So if you're an aspiring outdoor adventure, a mountain guide, or anyone in between, you're in the right place.
[00:01:26] So welcome to the Gear 30 podcast. We are here in Ogden, Utah, at the Gear 30 store. At our store.
Chase [00:01:32] GEAR:30 lounge.
Bryden [00:01:33] Best store in Ogden. Ogden's Mountain Shop.
Greg [00:01:36] Ogden's Mountain Shop.
Greg [00:01:37] So we're joined today by Chase and Bryden Bowley. That's how you say your last name?
Bryden [00:01:42] Yeah. Bryden Bowley.
Greg [00:01:43] Yeah. Okay. Because I've always said Bowley and I didn't think that was right.
Bryden [00:01:46] A lot of people say bowley, but it's OK.
Greg [00:01:49] Bryden Bowley. And Bryden Bowley's trail name is Simba.
Chase [00:01:54] So cool story about that one too. I heard it one day. It's pretty swee. It's not surface deep, it's got some meaning behind it.
[00:02:00] Yeah . . .
Greg [00:02:01] What's the story?
Bryden [00:02:01] Should I tell . . .
Greg [00:02:01] Yeah.
Bryden [00:02:03] Yeah. So my Trail name is Simba. A little backstory on trail names in the long distance hiking community. A lot of people don't go by their real name. Nothing to be like mysterious or anything like that. It's just kind of this fun thing that people do on the trail. So I have the trail name Simba. And it's because when I was in the desert on the Pacific Crest Trail, I got this really bloody nose due to the dry air and it was bleeding all over the place, all over my face, all this all this stuff. And then I was with some other hikers and I couldn't stop the bleeding. And this girl said to me, hey, you know, the best thing for that would actually just be a tampon. And I was like, oh, yeah, that actually makes sense. So she gave me a tampon and I put it in my nostril and it stopped the bleeding. So I'm cleaning up all this blood on my face with this tampon in my nose and people are snapping pictures of my face. This is funny. And in the midst of that, I got this blood streak across my forehead and I was cleaning my face off and everyone said, Oh, Simba. Just like the Lion King. There's a scene where they take Simba, go Simba and grab the fruit juice on his forehead. So that's how I got the name.
Greg [00:03:20] Wow. That was deep, wasn't it, Chase? Wow.
Bryden [00:03:25] So since then, I've been Simba.
Greg [00:03:27] So blood streak on your forehead, tampon in your nose. Yes. Simba, nice. Do you have that picture?
Bryden [00:03:33] No. And I've been meaning to ask that girl if she could send me those pictures if she has them.. But no, unfortunately, I don't. And I wish I did. Hmm.
Greg [00:03:43] So you did the Pacific Crest Trail. Not last summer, but the summer before.
Bryden [00:03:48] Yeah. Class of 2017.
[00:03:51] Okay. Yeah. And how was that? Was that your first long distance thru-hike?
[00:03:57] It was actually my first ever backpacking trip.
Bryden [00:04:00] Was the first time ever backpacking.
Greg [00:04:02] Glad you, uh, started easy.
Bryden [00:04:06] Startin off with a whammy. I had done some car camping and some, you know, just casual camping for the past year, five years or something like that. But yeah, that was my first ever time backpacking.
Chase [00:04:19] Put us all to shame on his first trip.
Greg [00:04:20] And you finished?
Bryden [00:04:21] Yes, I did. Yeah.
Greg [00:04:22] That's that's impressive.
Bryden [00:04:24] Thanks.
Greg [00:04:25] I don't. I've been backpacking my whole life and I'd like to think that I would finish. But the Pacific Crest Trail, that's no slouch. Like that's a big, difficult trail.
Bryden [00:04:35] I guarantee you could finish for sure. I think it's more it's more of like a mental game. I mean, it just depends on how badly you want to hike the whole trail. And most the time that people who hike the whole thing are people who have wanted to do it in one stretch or something like that really badly. So. Yeah. Yeah. I guarantee you could.
Greg [00:04:55] So take us through . . . we don't need to go through the whole hike or whatever, but. . . what were some of the maybe the most memorable moments of that hike.
Bryden [00:05:04] Wow. So the entire trail is beautiful and there's a lot of a lot of locations that are sentimental like the desert. You know, it's . . . I had just started and it was like, uh. . . I don't know. It's just amazing. You know, I'm figuring out how to actually long distance hike and figuring out how to pack my gear. And so there's something that's really memorable about that. But as far as like scenery goes, or just the most beautiful places, the first ones that come to mind are definitely the Sierra in California. And then and pretty much just all of the state of Washington is just unbelievable. Yeah. I mean, the whole trail is amazing, but those are the two that really come to mind.
Greg [00:05:52] Nice. So when you went into I know as you're prepping for it, you were here in the shop quite a bit.
[00:05:58] Yeah, I was, actually.
Greg [00:05:58] That was actually before you started working here, actually. But, you know, you're asking us about gear and stuff like that. Yeah. We kind of pointed you in different directions and stuff. But what gear did you. . . . Let's maybe talk about some of the gear that you didn't like or you didn't end up using that that you took.
Bryden [00:06:16] OK. Umm, So specifically what I didn't like?
Greg [00:06:23] Yeah, maybe some of the gear that maybe didn't hold up well. Or you just found. . . You thought you'd need it, but you just didn't end up using it or any of those types of things. You wouldn't be taking onvlike the CDT, for example.
Bryden [00:06:35] So one thing comes to mind and it's something that we carry here in the store. It's the big Agnes Fly Creek, one person tent.
[00:06:45] That's what he took, not the copper spur, the Fly Creek.
Bryden [00:06:46] Yeah. Yeah. So I I took I actually had the Fly Creek for my entire PCT hike. I bought it initially because I needed a one person tent and I wanted something as light as I could possibly go. And at that point in time, I wasn't really as knowledged as I am now about other brands, options and what exactly you can do to even go more ultralight when you're long distance hiking. But the one person tents, as far as like durability, I will say that it did last the whole time. It definitely was put to the test. It was really dirty by the end. There was like a couple holes that definitely could have been avoided, like maybe, while I was in the tent, like my foot went a certain way and it got snagged by like a stick or something like that. Or at one point I had some duct tape over the mesh so mosquitoes couldn't get in. But as far as durability goes, definitely held up the entire hike. As far as functionality goes, the one thing that I didn't like and is a huge point to make that is the reason I won't be using the Fly Creek again is the front entry point.
Bryden [00:08:05] A lot of new one person ultralight tents have a side entry like Nemo and that is so crucial to when you're really tired after you just walk 25, 30 miles and one day you want to just get in your tent and just lay there and make your food or whatever you need to do. And a front entry is definitely not easy to do that in because you're laying on your stomach and your arms are out forward trying to mess with your stove. But with a side entry you're laying on your hip or side or whatever and you're just cooking your food right there in your vestibule. So that's that's one big . . . That's definitely the biggest gear that I got from here that I didn't really, I don't think I'll be using again.
Greg [00:08:52] Yeah. So then what tents are you taking on this? Cause you're taking a bunch of different tents and you're testing them out for us and letting us know which ones . . .
[00:09:00] So the first tent I'll be taking, I believe it might be the only one that I'm going to use, but maybe I'll try something else along the trail. The one that I have right now is the Nemo Hornet. It's the Nemo Hornet one person. Now, Nemo makes two different versions . . . (cough) excuse me. They make two different versions of the Hornet. It's just the normal one. And then there's one called the elite. As far as differences between those two, from what I've gathered is color, which doesn't really matter about weight.
Chase [00:09:32] Color means everything. Are you kidding?
Bryden [00:09:32] Yeah, it means everything. It looks better in photos.
Chase [00:09:37] Instagram!
Bryden [00:09:38] Yeah, but a color. And then the elite is three ounces lighter due to more mesh and less whatever it might be rip stop nylon or something like that. So there's two versions and I'm taking the normal one. Just the Hornet, which I set it up in my yard yesterday and it's actually pretty nice. I am really excited about it. And that one has a side entry.
[00:10:07] Right. So the Hornet looks very similar to the to the Fly Creek.
[00:10:12] It does, yeah.
[00:10:13] But, it has a door off the side instead of at the end.
[00:10:16] It does. But one difference I noticed from the Hornet to the Fly Creek is in the I guess I'll call it like the toe box. The area where your feet will be. . . . there's these plastic rods of some sort where your your guy lines, the Cordura or whatever will pull out. And that plastic piece creates this box that is has its own like freestanding frame of some sort. And I am really excited about that because something that was a challenge with the Fly Creek was my feet would get wet with the dew and my down sleeping bag would be like really moist every single morning just because I'm creating heat and then it's so close to the shelter of where your feet is and . . .
[00:11:13] Right, rubbing against the mesh and the rain fly.
[00:11:15] Exactly. So. Yeah, I'm pretty excited about it. I'm excited to try it out and we'll see how it goes.
[00:11:21] Nice. So you're taking the Nemo. You also have a tarp tent. Are you?
[00:11:28] Not specifically Tarp, Tarp tent brand. But I have a Z Packd tent.
[00:11:33] Oh, ok, Z-Packs.
[00:11:34] I have used quite a bit. I got it as a hand-me-down from another hiker. But yeah, I also own a Z- packs.
Greg [00:11:42] Are you going to take that? Are you going to leave that home?
[00:11:45] It depends. We'll see what I think of the Hornet right now. As far as weight goes, if I took the Z packs versus the Hornet, the Z-packs is obviously less than half of what the Hornet weighs.
Bryden [00:11:58] For, you know, like a video that I'll be doing and like seeing how they gave it to me for free, like I'm definitely down to try it out and do an honest gear review. And yeah, I'm excited about it. I'd like that it's free-standing. The Z-packs isn't free-standing. So that's, uh. . . If I'm in a storm or something like that, which I definitely will be. I'm . . . I feel a lot more comfortable with a freestanding tent.
Greg [00:12:21] Nice. So you told me that . . . I'm trying to remember it's been a couple of years. You told me when you got back that one of your favorite pieces of gear on the whole trip was your Western mountaineering sleeping bag.
Bryden [00:12:35] That is true. Yes. I was really liked it. Yeah,.
Greg [00:12:38] Yeah. So why was that such a good piece of kit for you?
[00:12:43] So to be more specific about what I had. I had the Western mountaineering Terralite bag. The Terralite is something pretty unique in the Western mountaineering line. And that's because it's a 25 degree bag, but it's not a mommy shape. It's more of a what do you call it?
Chase [00:13:03] Spoon shape?
Greg [00:13:05] It's kind of almost an egg shaped.
Bryden [00:13:08] Yeah, definitely egg-shaped. So when I'm sleeping, I I'm most comfortable kind of in like a fetal position where my knees are at an angle and in a mommy shaped bag that doesn't exactly like . . . you're kind of, I don't know, scrunched together. But with the egg shaped Terralite that, is very easy to do. So that was really nice. And then another big thing about that bag was the foot opening zipper. So you could unzip the entire thing on its side and then there's an additional foot zip that you can unzip that and the bag will totally unfold and act as like a blanket or a quilt of some sort. So you could do that. But if you don't want to do that, you can just have the full side zip zipped up and then the foot zip unzipped and you can have your feet sticking out. Cause my feet get pretty hot at night, especially on warm nights. So yeah, that was a really big thing for me. I really, really liked that. And I would for sure use the Terralite again.
Chase [00:14:15] How did it hold up for the whole entire trail?
[00:14:17] It held up really well given that I wasn't using a liner. So my oil, my like skin oils of hiking all day in my sweat was like, you know, just covering . . .
Chase [00:14:29] You didn't shower every night?
Bryden [00:14:31] Yeah. I had an ultralight shower . . .
Greg [00:14:37] Gross!
Bryden [00:14:38] But, uh. . . So, you know, this is definitely like a very specific activity that I'm doing that really is putting anything that I bring with me to use. So without using liner, my oils were like all over the inside and it definitely was getting stinky. And then I did notice from packing it into my pack and compressing it all day and then opening up every day, so on and so on for like five to six months. It definitely was not as lofty as I would like it. And I noticed that like since my oils were touching down over time, it definitely got clumped up in certain parts. Stuff like that. So overall, it held up pretty well. But I think like with a normal wash, it would have been back to normal. But yeah, that's cool.
Greg [00:15:28] What are you planning on using on the CDT?
Bryden [00:15:31] This time on the CDT I'm using the, also Western and it's the Ultralite. So it's got I think like a half inch or more of down loft, which adds, they say another five degrees worth of warmth and it weighs the exact same way weight. It's like one pound 13 ounces. Yeah. So it's . . . Chase and I know. We know. So I'm using the ultra light. This is a mummy bag, which I'm personally not too thrilled about. But for the extra warmth rating, I guess I'll sacrifice the egg-shaped that the Terralite has.
Greg [00:16:14] Right. Because CVT is quite a bit colder than the PCT, right?
Bryden [00:16:18] Yeah. It's definitely a totally different climate and. As far as like the elements and storms rolling through or whatever, that might be the weather. I think that I'm definitely gonna be challenged with a lot more this time around. So we'll see. Yeah, I'm thinking later down the trail when I get into Colorado, I might try a Versalite Western mountaineering, the 10 degree. See how that goes. But we'll get there when I get there.
Greg [00:16:49] One of my favorite bags that I've backpacked with. . . Well, back in the day, back when I was a teenager, I had the Mountain Hardware Phantom forty five. And it was like a 16 ounce, 45 degree bag. I used that for everything. I even used it in the in the fall and didn't obviously use it in the winter. But I used to really stretch the rating and I would just layer up my clothes if I needed to. And I'd unzip and use it like a blanket over me with down jacket, down pants on and stuff. And anyway, it blew away. I was I was on a climbing trip and the Cirque of the Towers and the wind rivers, we were climbing all day and we got back and my tent, my sleeping bag, my pad and all this other stuff had blown away. We were there. . .
Bryden [00:17:41] Wow.
Greg [00:17:41] We were there in June and the whole circus covered in snow. And I had my tent set up on a rock, a flat rock that I found had rocks there holding it down and apparently didn't have it well enough secured. So anyway, it all blew away. That sleeping bag was gone, nowhere to be seen. And and the tent was gone and the pad was gone. And . . .
[00:18:04] Man, that blows!,.
[00:18:04] Everything was . . . Ha, ha! That's blows!
Greg [00:18:06] I found my backpack . . . Good one! I see what you did there. Umm, so everything was gone except the backpack. I Had my backpack and found like a belt and a couple of other things. But the big things were gone. And anyway, so I was trying to find a replacement for it eventually. This is years down the road. I tried to find a replacement for that phantom forty five. So I just used it on everything. And I got the Western mountaineering summer light, which is a 32 degree bag for about the same weight as the whole 45 degree bag.
Bryden [00:18:40] I've used that bag before.
Greg [00:18:40] It's like one pound, three ounces and anyway, love the bag. Crazy about it. But I almost even get to warm in that bag. So I just kept unzipped and I used it like a quilt top of me. But anyway, I just I know there's some other companies out there that make really good quality sleeping bags that are also on the same level as western mountaineering. Definitely like feathered friends, I would say is one of them.
Bryden [00:19:09] Enlightened equipment is another one.
[00:19:11] You know, I've even been impressed with Rab. The last couple years Rab has really stepped up their game as far as sleeping bags go. .
Bryden [00:19:17] I might be trying a Rab bag on the CDT as well. Another that's like not really that well known. Is this brand called Catabatic gear.
Greg [00:19:27] Mm hmm.
Bryden [00:19:28] I've, I've got some I know some people on YouTube who have used them and they said that they're really amazing.
Greg [00:19:34] There's a company as well. Nanutuk or something like that.
Bryden [00:19:39] I was just going to say them. Yeah. Down in Moab. Yeah.
Greg [00:19:40] They they make some cool, cool quilts and stuff. Yeah. I was just gonna say though of all of the different really good quality bags out there I have just found that Western mountaineering for me. No I'm not, I don't have as much experience with like feathered friends and a few of the others. But for me their stuff is the most amazing balance of ultra light and durable and really good quality construction.
Bryden [00:20:09] For sure. Yeah.
Greg [00:20:10] And know even just unzipping my bags, even on my ultralight bags, the zippers don't snag. And on every other ultralight bag, the zipper snag like crazy. Yeah. And so it's just crazy to me that Western can do the ultra light, the quality construction and the durability. My Western bags are I mean, I've got one that's eight years old of heavy, heavy use and it's still in almost perfect condition.
Bryden [00:20:35] That's amazing.
Greg [00:20:36] And I just I take care of it. I wash it when it needs to be washed and I take care of it. I don't leave it stuffed in my stuff sack and and stuff like that. But it holds up incredibly well. And I haven't had a sleeping bag. . . I think in my life that's held up as well as the western bag. I'm impressed by their stuff.
Bryden [00:20:56] Yeah. I'm really impressed by their stuff too. It's definitely a personally just a product that I think I could stand by for sure. I would definitely recommend them to anybody, you know, cause a lot of times it's the situation where people aren't really ready to spend that much money on a bag. But when you tell them like this is a bag that you're gonna use for a long time, then you know, then they're more keen to buy something like that.
Greg [00:21:24] Well, there's more I want to talk to you about. So can you stay with us for the next episode?
Bryden [00:21:28] Yeah, absolutely.
Greg [00:21:29] Awesome. So we'll wrap this up for today. This is the Gear 30 podcast. And you know, one of the sayings that we have here. Gear 30, we have it on a big sign just inside our front door is a quote by Sir Ranulphlph Fiennes or something like that. He's a he's a British explorer. He was the first one to cross the Antarctic ice cap from from end to end, (clears throat)excuse me, by foot on him on his own. And anyway. Pretty awesome, dude. He said there's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate clothing. And that's kind of become our motto here at the store. We adjusted it a little bit. We said there's no such thing as bad weather, only inappropriate gear. That's part of the reason why we're doing this podcast, because we want to be a resource to help you find the right gear for your for your situation. The last thing we want is for you to go out in the mountains to have a great time, get stuck in a storm and get in trouble. Right.
Bryden [00:22:24] Definitely.
Greg [00:22:25] So we want to make sure you get in the right gear for the right experience and so you're safe and you're comfortable and all that stuff. That's what this podcast is about.
Greg [00:22:33] So thanks for joining us today and and join us for the next episode where we talk more with Bryden.
Bryden [00:22:41] Yeah. Thanks for having me on.
Chase [00:22:42] Well, you see out there.
[00:22:48] Thanks for joining us today for the Gear 30 podcast. Gear 30 is a specialty outdoor retail store at the foot of the Wasatch Mountains in Ogden, Utah. Like us on Facebook, follow and interact with us on Instagram @gear_30 and visit our Web site www.gearthirty.com For amazing deals on the best outdoor gear around. That's gear 30 spelled out G E A R T H I R T Y dot com. Don't forget to subscribe to this podcast. Leave us a review comment, ask questions and participate.
- Tags: Thru-Hiking
- Brandon Long