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.

gear blog

post thru-hike gear wrapup: Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec pole

A perfect "five Anitas!"
A perfect “five Anitas!”
Even with my Lekis bent from a spectacular fall, I continued using them for another 1,000 miles.
Photo credit: Neil Macbeth

Gusts were at “extreme gale” in exposed areas and squally showers blew sideways the day I crossed Nelson Lakes National Park’s Traverse Saddle in New Zealand’s South Island. I made it to the top with enough clear sky to shoot a selfie even if I was barely able to stand.

Going down, per usual, was far more difficult than going up as I picked my way over a slippery stretch next to an avalanche path. The wind lessened as I descended, but the path stayed hidden in tussock, muddy and strewn with loose rocks.

And then, I fell.

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.

My Leki poles keep me upright in 80 mph gusts.
gear blog

Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-tec review

My Lekis go everywhere with me and keep me upright.
My Lekis go everywhere with me and keep me upright.

The Leki Micro Vario Ti Cor-Tec is a foldable bomb-proof aluminum trekking pole with an awesome cork handled grip and outstanding adjustability. That is why these trekking poles are my top choice for thru-hiking and multi-day backpacking.

While on the Coast-to-Coast, I met a woman who turned up her nose at the Alicoop – my Tarptent that requires trekking pole support – because she simply never hiked with poles. I stifled a rude response on the lines of, “Well, you must never have really hiked, then,” and simply shrugged my shoulders, knowing she had no idea what she was missing.

I bought my first pair of Lekis – Makalu – after walking the Superior Hiking Trail. Steep, rocky, and slippery, I vowed to never walk a trail again without the option of becoming a four-legged creature. That was twelve years ago, the beginning of a beautiful friendship with Leki.

The Micro Vario trekking poles fold down to 15.5 inches.
The Micro Vario trekking poles fold down to 15.5 inches.

I purchased the Micro-Vario Ti Core-tec because I wanted something that would fold down small and fit in my pack easily. I am simply amazed by the care Leki used in designing these poles, which break down to just over 15 inches, held together by a snazzy plastic coated wire.

It takes a few moments to get the hang of it, but the single locking mechanism is combined with a “push-pin” adjustment that locks all three pieces in place. There’s a wide range of adjustment and the locking mechanism doesn’t require any hardware to tighten, just an easy-to-use dial.

I have always shied away from carbon when it comes to trekking poles after I watched a hiker snap an ultralight pole in a steep rocky section of a recent hike. While the Micro Varios weigh 20 oz – a bit on the heavy side for an ultra-light backpacker – they have proven incredibly durable when I needed to toss them off small cliffs to await my eventual downclimb, put all my weight on them leaping over streams, or when I’ve needed to boulder-hop, crack up scree or plunge overland down a steep gully.

Leki does not skimp on comfort and that is crucial when you're walking 8-10 hours per day.
Leki does not skimp on comfort and that is crucial when you’re walking 8-10 hours per day.

Meanwhile Leki focuses on making their poles some of the most comfortable I have ever tried. The cork-handled grips fit beautifully in the hand and remain inviting even after seemingly endless days. Leki has also updated the straps since my Makalu days with a softer but tough fabric.

Specs at a glance

  • Weight: 20 oz.
  • Minimum length: 15.5 in.
  • Shaft material: aluminum


alison young purchased her Micro Vario trekking poles from Leki.