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  1. #1

    Default Gear Longevity: Section vs Thru Perspective

    Opinions on how many miles a piece of gear will last being used by a section hiker vs a thru hiker?

    I would like to use "miles used" as measurement for this. It most accurately compares the 2 options.

    I just replaced my arc blast 55L pack with a Arc Haul 60L.
    I got about 1500 miles out of my arc blast. Bought in 2018.
    I had a non shoulder related strap break on the CDT last year, and I repaired it. This last Pinhoti hike the same mesh backing strap broke but on the other side. Performed same repair to that side.

    But I figured if those strap materials are degraded, it is a possibility that other straps are deteriorating as well and with CDT2 coming up in May, I certainly do not wanna get caught out in the desert with a broken shoulder strap, so I bit the bullet and made the purchase.

    So my opinion is that it is somewhat variable to the person, and for argument sake on the section hiker side of things the down time of gear in the closet could degrade materials over the years but we will put this aside and just consider items that are actively used on a consistent basis. I think that section hikers gear wears out faster than a thru hikers due to travel logistics involved in section hiking. A section hikers gear must travel the trail, as well as all of the in transit to and from trips. Airports are tough on gear.

    So what are your thoughts and possible first hand experiences for those with thru hiker and section hiker applications?
    Trail Miles: 4,980.5
    AT Map 1: Complete 2013-2021
    Sheltowee Trace: Complete 2020-2023
    Pinhoti Trail: Complete 2023-2024
    Foothills Trail: 47.9
    AT Map 2: 279.4
    BMT: 52.7
    CDT: 85.4

  2. #2

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    Pack seems to be the big wear item. I carried the first pack, 2018 Osprey Exos 58 on one section of 950 miles. I had the waist belt separate at the hip and back suspension panel get damaged. This was all due to my mistreating it. Osprey folks repaired it for free at about 700 miles when i visited their both at PCT days. Retired after that section
    Second backpack 2019 Osprey Exos 58 has four section hikes totaling about 1500 miles. Showing some signs of wear, but will be used again this year for a 600 mile section. I think the suspension and straps get soaked with sweat that you can never get out completely. that starts the clock ticking.

    I have a big duffle bag that the backpack goes into when I travel. I send the duffle and my travel clothes in a flat rate box to the the post office near where I get off the trail. Saves some wear and tear on the pack.

    Sleeping pads - Essentially I get one for each section hike. They don't last. Klymit Static V is cheap, relatively light and durable enough.

    My tents, sleeping bag, stove all still in good shape after 2100 miles.

  3. #3
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    I'm not what you call a Thru Hiker, but I do hike since about 5 decades.
    At the beginning of my hiking career in the mid-70ies we didn't have any decent gear at all. The best suitable for real hiking was surplus stuff from the US army shops.
    In the 80ies European companies started to produce decent hardware of really good quality, the best was Salewa from Germany, others were Troll and Lowe from England.
    Each single item I purchased at this time, I still have and is in quite good working condition.
    I have 3 Lowe and two Salewa backpacks that I'm still using at various occasions. They are sturdy, simple built, easy to repair - but they are heavy.

    The more modern and advanced the stuff got developed, longevity got killed by lightweight.
    I have a 60lt pack from Lightwave that broke after 4 or 5 desert trips. While I waited for the free replacement (lifetime warranty) I used my old and trusted Lowe "Appalachian".

    My conclusion is, that the more lightweight an item is, the more fragile and prone to failure it will be.
    You may buy extra good quality by extra high prices, but this will help only little.

  4. #4

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    I tend to agree short term day or section use gear seems to wear faster. But I think a lot of damage to "short-use" gear comes from poor storage practices, especially long term storage. Our gear likes to be used and exercised periodically. I have had far less problems using the same gear day after day on long treks than breaking out gear that has been poorly stashed for periods of time. Sun directly playing across a pack in the same place for days.weeks on end will have poor results, as will storing one on top of or next to heating systems. Dirt and grime also contribute to wear by making gear more stiff and less workable. When I am in the same gear day in and day out, it seems to be far more pliable and less prone to damage from being stiff like hip belts which can really wrestle with you if not used in a few months, or shoulder straps that have a "set" from non use position that are difficult to move past when adjustments are needed.

    I have found when storing gear for any length of time, it prefers to be taken out of the pack, examined for wear and tear, cleaned and addressing minor problems that are easily forgotten until I am well into a good hike and something breaks or fails to work. Storage should be in a cool, dry place away from sunlight and heat sources (and nesting rodents in barns - don't ask). This all adds a few hours time at the end of a walk, but I have noticed over my time doing this I have a lot of gear that normally would have reached the end of its service life still in fairly good condition.

    Wear is wear regardless of cause, some is active, some is passive. Bottom line remains true for us all, we ignore our gear at our peril and eventually pay for that inattention nursing a broken shoulder strap across a few days of desert or worse.

  5. #5
    Registered User gbolt's Avatar
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    I believe that Thru Hiking or Section Hiking doesn’t matter. You are correct to use milage. However, even then, I believe Sunlight and heat are the major cause of deterioration. The backpack straps demonstrate this fact. Mine wore extremely poorly due to salt from perspiration. Clothing wore down due to the friction and salt combination. However, my Shelter and Sleep components are still going strong and no wear has been notice before during or the six years since the thruhike. However, being a Hammocker, my NeoAir pad was only used in shelters and I always placed it on top of a Gossamer Gear Pad covered with Tyvek (My original plan for shelters, Which wasn’t enough) Surprisingly, the items that needed replaced or repaired on the trail and after, were the Dyneema stuff sacs, including the bear bag kit. However, my replacement sacs since then are a thicker improved material since the original Z packs Original. Of course all items fail due to falls, accidents, or abuse. Tent stakes are an example. Once again, most look ugly but have been straightened until a weakness occurs and they snap. The item that suffered the most were my Trekking Poles. Luckily I cried once and then trusted the warranty. True to their word, Leki has repaired or replaced sections without charging. I purchased one set of tips during or after the Thru hike. The only original pieces are the Handle and top section of the Poles, but they are good as new with new quick snap hardware. Like the old adage says, Take care of your gear and it will take care of you. Hoping I don’t sound like a know it all, because I don’t. Personally, I think the Thru Hike was a little easier than the section hikes I have been on since. I truly have the utmost respect for all hikers and the entire community.
    "gbolt" on the Trail

    I am Third

    We are here to help one another along life's journey. Keep the Faith!

    YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCik...NPHW7vu3vhRBGA

  6. #6

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by gbolt View Post
    The item that suffered the most were my Trekking Poles. Luckily I cried once and then trusted the warranty. True to their word, Leki has repaired or replaced sections without charging. I purchased one set of tips during or after the Thru hike. The only original pieces are the Handle and top section of the Poles, but they are good as new with new quick snap hardware.
    Had forgotten about trekking poles. I lost tips and bent poles, but somehow they last a full section. I start with a new pair on each long section. I never invested in an expensive set. started with cheap amazon aluminum poles, now using cheap carbon fiber poles.

  8. #8

  9. #9

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    Number of bag nights determines gear longevity and is generally unrelated to whatever trail you're on or whether you're a thruhiker or a section hiker or just a regular backpacker. If you backpack 200 days a year your gear will wear out however and whatever you call yourself.

    Here are items that need to be replaced often enough---boots, socks, clothing, pole tips, gloves, sleeping pads, tents, stuff sacks and food bags, ditty sack items (Bics etc), water bottles.

    These are items for me which last forever---cooking pot, MSR stove and fuel bottles, pack itself (mainly because I go overkill with Mystery Ranch or McHale packs),

    Even with Hilleberg tents I only get about 500-600 nights on the things before UV degradation eats away the fly silicone.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    Thanks for publishing the link, Walter!
    Christine here provides one of the best real-life experience you can get.

    There is one issue I have again and again, Christine is mentionig: Zips.
    Zippers tend to fail pretty often.
    Last spring, when I switched from winter (down) sleeping bag to the various 3-seasons and summer bags, I had the zipper fail on three of them: The top slider just got stuck in the upper position, and there was no way to move it back down any more, whatever trick or force I applied they would not move any more.

    After long time trying and applying tricks I found out, that those were a kind of modern self-arresting slider that had an internal failure. Design failure or faulty production.
    I solved the issue by sliding of both sliders, and using the non-autoarrest bottom slider as the now top slider (and having no bottom slider at all).
    There might be a huge batch of zippers worldwide that will have the same issue.

    Why am I expanding so much on zippers:
    Yes, they are one of the most common issues on gear.
    May I point out:
    There is an easy trick to solve issues with zippers that would not "close" the zip properly any more.
    Just get a decent pliers (like a Leatherman) and carefully, sensibly squeeze the "tail" of the slider a bit (top part against bottom part).
    This will rejuvenate the zipper for quite some time.

    This video will show you the basic idea (minute 1:40 following):
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PTm88aiAX9Y

  11. #11

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    Leo L---you're right about zippers. I've had them go out on packs and sleeping bags and on my nice expensive down parka. I was on a winter trip when my down bag zipper blew so I had to sew the thing together top to bottom and cocoon in every night. (I always carry dental floss and needle). My parka zip I fixed with FixnZip repair kit.

  12. #12
    Registered User gbolt's Avatar
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    Awesome Link and correct info again! Thanks Tipi.


    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    Leo L---you're right about zippers. I've had them go out on packs and sleeping bags and on my nice expensive down parka. I was on a winter trip when my down bag zipper blew so I had to sew the thing together top to bottom and cocoon in every night. (I always carry dental floss and needle). My parka zip I fixed with FixnZip repair kit.
    "gbolt" on the Trail

    I am Third

    We are here to help one another along life's journey. Keep the Faith!

    YouTube Channel: https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCik...NPHW7vu3vhRBGA

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    ...
    My parka zip I fixed with FixnZip repair kit.
    Thanks for mentioning this, I didn't know such repair kits exists.
    Will get one or two sets, mostly because repairing Zippers is one of the more common chores in family life.

  14. #14

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    I have about 75 nights in my current Big Agnes tent. While I recently had to replace a pole segment and re-shock cord the poles, it seems to have a lot of wear left. My REI Flash 55 pack has 400-500 miles on it, and looks a bit rough. I don't expect to keep using it beyond the last ~250 miles of my AT Section hike.

    As for boots, I wore out a pair in each of my first three years of retirement, but my current Keen Durand EVO boots are entering their third year. Needless to say, I'm hard on footwear.

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    A factor for me as a section hiker that contributes to gear wear is the practice hikes I do to get ready for a section hike. This predominantly adds wear to my pack which I usually carry on training hikes to get by back/shoulders acclimated to carrying the weight. So when considering miles vs gear wear, I would need to almost double the trail miles to account for the practice hikes. My Osprey pack is 10 years old and still going strong with over 1000 total miles on it.

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