CDT Gear Changes…….Already

Hamster-Wheel-Skull-X-Ray-T-Shirt-TeeThe hamster wheel in my brain has been turning and turning. And turning. Did I mention the turning?

The cold. What about the cold? How cold will it be in the New Mexico desert? Should I start with my desert gear or my mountain gear? Hmmm……what about that cold? Cold? COLD?

You get my drift.

I read a comment from a guy that said he was cold with his 20F bag on the Continental Divide Trail. As you might have guessed, this really got my brain going. I will start at the New Mexico/Mexico border at Crazy Cook. The elevation is 4,305 ft. and I’ll never go below it until the end of the trail in Montana. During the first 200 miles, I will be over 8,000 feet numerous times. The highest point in New Mexico is over 11,000 ft. just before the Colorado border. Does this sound like the desert to you? So from now on, I’ll definitely be thinking of New Mexico as the high desert. The high desert is cold right? And probably hot too. I’ll be ready for both.

Being a thyroid cancer survivor and living with no thyroid, leaves me with innumerable body temperature challenges. These challenges are drawn into the spotlight out on the trail. Sure, the heat of the desert is tough where my body struggles to cool itself. But the real beast? Cold. The cold is what body slams me to the ground and then kicks me one more time just because it can. My body temp runs nearly two degrees cooler than normal with my feet being the hardest to keep warm after the hiking day is over. Because of this, I have to make significant changes to my setup when I get into higher elevations and inclement weather.

So now you know why I’m so damn scared of the cold. Is it going to stop me? No way! I’m throwing out my notions of desert gear. I’m just going to start with the gear I’d planned for the mountains. It may be overkill at times but I’d rather have the warmth than be lying there counting sheep with cold feet.


11 thoughts on “CDT Gear Changes…….Already

  1. I wonder if a sleeping bag liner could give you extra flexibility with little additional weight. Plus wearing socks when you sleep. I would think a bivy sack would be better than a tent.

    I spent a windy night in one, after going to the top of Whitney, at
    base camp and it was very snugly. I felt like a fox in his favorite hole!

    1. Hey Phil, I always wear sleep socks and I’m even considering getting some down booties. The bivy is an interesting idea. I remember a few folks with them on the trail that had problems with condensation. In colder conditions down to 20F, I’ve been fine with my Marmot 15F. I’m hoping to maintain that level of warmth with my new and lighter Zpacks 0F bag. My friend Coincidence reminded me about the benefits of a warm cooked meal/warm beverage. I may be adding in a stove in CO.

      1. Reading about Bivy Sacks they mentioned the condensation issue but, with a good breathable fabric, they said it was less of an issue. I would think a stove would be a good idea. They are now so small and light it would be worth the comfort it gives you. I guess you went without one on the PCT !

      2. Waterproof and breathable are two things that have a hard time being successful together but I will do a little bivy research. Yep, I went the whole pct with no stove but carrying one on the cdt seems unavoidable.

  2. I am happy to see you on the trail again. I’ve kept up with your treks as much as i could. As I live on the East Coast, I’m not familiar with the PCT or other trails, but am excited about your plans to hike the AT. I too, am a thyroid cancer survivor of 7 yrs, and have always dreamed of hiking the AT. So maybe I can be along for a portion of it, or at least provide some support. Look forward to your progress on the trail. Stay warm! I also love a good IPA!

    1. Hi Tricia! Thanks for your message of support. It would be wonderful to connect with you when I hike the AT so lets stay in touch! In the meantime, I hope you can get out for a few hikes of your own. Cheers!

  3. Lionheart! I’m so glad I found your blog! Can’t wait to follow along. I will agree with Coincidence that a it is key to have the ability to warm yourself from the inside out with a warm meal or hot drink. I can’t tell you how many times it’s saved my butt having the ability to stop and put down some hot water. Keeping your body metabolizing throughout the night will also help. Try eating something sugary/fatty right before climbing into the bag. On winter camping trips my teacher mixed up butterscotch pudding and cocoa with butter and gave it to students struggling with the cold. W-EMT’s use hot liquid jello to warm hypothermia patients. The moral boost and safety benefits of having what you need to boil when you want to far exceed the pains of carrying the extra bit of weight. A pocket rocket with a small fuel canister will last you a long time if you are only making hot drinks and dinners. Imagine- hot tea in bed– You don’t have to cook every meal, but it’s rockin to know you can.

    Peace, love , and heat sista!

    Hot Tub

    1. Hi Hot Tub! Thanks for the shout out and all the tips. My body metabolizes food very slowly so I’m kinda curious to try out your ideas. Generally, I was fine on the pct until hiking in the freezing cold rain of Washington. I think the keys will be not letting my core temp drop, getting straight into my bag once I stop hiking and having a warm meal. Hugs to you!

  4. Hi, Lionheart–I did the New Mexico section of the CDT last spring. I was glad I had my 15 degree bag, otherwise I would have froze my butt off. The night temp was in the teens. In the Gila it was very cold–I awoke to frozen boots after slogging through the Gila’s multiple river crossings. Water containers froze in my tent for several nights. New Mexico was windy and I often walked in my long underwear. The warm weather that you start with at the border pretty much stopped when I reached Doc Campbell’s. Good Luck to you…..

    1. Hi Fireweed! Thanks so much for your input! You’ve definitely confirmed what I was suspecting. I need to be ready for the cold. Just the other day I started reading your postholer cdt journal. I look forward to reading more. I’m sure I’ll have some questions for you as I do more research. Hope to see you out there this summer! Hugs!

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