Post PCT Gear Review, or: how I learned what stays and what gets chucked

There is an expression among even the most advanced runners that getting your shoes on is the hardest part of the workout. – Kathrine Switzer

Merino tees are a backpackers' dream, but they're spendy and wear out quickly.
Merino tees are a backpackers’ dream, but they’re spendy and wear out quickly.

Updated gear list now available. You can access it on google docs and take it with you!

Walking the Pacific Crest Trail was one of the best things I have done in my life – second only to walking the Te Araroa, and both of those hikes were accomplished in one calendar year!

btw, I just turned 55, and that’s a pretty cool feat…feet?…for a middle aged gal, wouldn’t you say? I’m feeling mildly bad ass.

Oddly enough, Richard pointed out that it took me two years to plan for my walk in New Zealand, while under the meltdown circumstances upon my return to Minnesota last spring, it took me less than two weeks to plan the PCT! I guess a girl’s gotta do what a girl’s gotta do.

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TA Day 69, Wellington

Vogueing with my new shoes above Wellington.
Vogueing with my new shoes above Wellington.

I’m now dreaming constantly of walking, this time pushing through scree, trapped and not getting very far. I’m either a full-time pedestrian even while sleeping or I need a psychological break – or maybe more accurately, a revamping of my psychological approach.

All was fine yesterday until I did what I’ve often done – believe the hardest part was completed only to discover the trail wasn’t quite finished with me. After Kuakua, I nearly bonked needing to climb higher in the hot sunshine. I’m going to have to find a way to ensure I’m pacing myself or I’ll bonk while supine in bed.

Perhaps it’s because something momentous is happening in finishing the first island, but the magnitude of what I’ve completed coupled with the magnitude of what’s ahead is hard to comprehend and there’s a part of me that’s skeptical of my success, certain I was just lucky in making it all come together.

Maybe I need to remind myself that trail is walked one step at a time – and starting Monday, it will be in brand new La Sportivas and fresh pairs of socks.

Olive Oyl, my Granite Gear pack that carried my home, my life, everything I needed on the Te Araroa.

gear list for the Te Araroa

Backpacking: An extended form of hiking in which people carry double the amount of gear they need for half the distance they planned to go in twice the time it should take.


The Blissful Hiker does it: packed weight under 15 pounds!

Her packed weight (weight minus water, food and fuel which is called variable weight) for five months on the Te Araroa is under 15 pounds and she’s still taking professional audio gear. Praise the ultralight gods, and all my engineering pals at Minnesota Public Radio.

I want to give a big thank you to Granite Gear, La Sportiva, Tarptent, Leki, Balega, SawyerWestern Mountaineering and Midwest Mountaineering for supporting me. I’m grateful to advocate for these fabulous companies while I give their gear a major league workout on the trail.

And also a huge thank you to John Reamer and Associates for supporting the making of my audio narratives.

La Sportiva Akyra blend the best of a trail runner with that of a hiking boot.
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La Sportiva Akyra Trail Runners review

La Sportiva Akyra blend the best of a trail runner with that of a hiking boot.
La Sportiva Akyra blend the best of a trail runner with that of a hiking boot.

What do you get when you cross the speed, flexibility, the ability to stop on a dime and the wicking properties of the your favorite mountain running shoe with the ruggedness, stability and protection of those leather hiking boots you haven’t wanted to give up just yet? You’d get shoes that rock the long trails and my first choice for thru-hiking, La Sportiva’s Akyra Trail Runners.

I have only just begun wearing trail runners exclusively while backpacking. I made the switch from boots because my feet began to feel too hot and confined and once they got wet, they stayed wet. I had great success with trail runners on the Coast-to-Coast and ali-loop-of-the-Lakes and have never looked back.

The Akyra uses a complex “origami” design to keep the foot stable, while also allowing the foot to feel flexible and supple. The shoe is like a solid box with a bomber heel cup keeping me from over-pronating. Torsional strength is especially key when I contour overland on steep terrain.

The top layer is in three parts including a skeleton, mesh and a wrap that provides lateral stability when negotiating roots, rocks and sand.

The cushioned tongue holds easily adjusted laces and place no pressure on the top of the foot, which is crucial as my toes are slightly deformed from arthritis. And this may seem like a small point, but these laces have never needed to be retied mid-hike.

La Sportiva uses a patented rubber sole to make the Akyra responsive in uneven and wet terrain.
La Sportiva uses a patented rubber sole to make the Akyra responsive in uneven and wet terrain.

The Akyra is ideal for backpacking especially in mountain environments because the soles are made of a sticky rubber – much like approach shoes – that adhere to rock, even if wet. Using a tight pattern, the lugs provides superb traction at the same time they shed mud and clagg. My friend Stephanie took these photos and said the soles looked like mini-shovels displacing the sand as I cracked up and downhill.

La Sportiva uses a patented brake system that not only gives me confidence on slopes, but decreases impact and that’s a relief for those day-after-days walking on uneven terrain.

Sizing was a bit of a concern and the shoe feels a bit long and narrow, though I was able to find a good fit playing with the laces. I always wear men’s trail runners these days to allow room for my feet to swell. I did not keep the included foam insole but rather replaced them with Superfeet.

Akyras handle uneven downhill slopes awesomely.
Akyras handle uneven downhill slopes awesomely.

Specs at a Glance

  • Drop: 9mm
  • Stack: Heel – 25mm / Toe – 16mm
  • Weight: 11.35 oz.
  • Upper: AirMesh / TPU MicroLite Skeleton / Flex-Guard
  • Lining: Airmesh (heel only)
  • Midsole: Injection shock absorbing MEMlex EVA / 2.4 mm LaSpEVA
  • Sole: FriXion Trail Rocker2 with Impact Brake System
  • Cushioning: Midsole – 32A


La Sportiva supplied alison young with this shoe for use on the Te Araroa.