A massively important part of your experience of the GT is your equipment. The better it is, the better your experience will be. It’s that simple.
While it is therefore better to have the best equipment possible, budget doesn’t always allow the luxuries you would hope for. Also, weight concerns mean you can’t pack everything. This is what we did pack for each 3 day section, resupplies topped us up with fresh shirts etc.
1) Waterproofs. first Ascent Flashfloods and Mountain Hardwear for us. This quickly became the most worn item for us, mostly because you need something to keep the wind off you. Gloves fall into this category. Get yourself some ski gloves, even with mine I still had the smallest amount of frostbite on my one finger. Should’ve gotten the liner too.
2) Wicking shirts, long pants/shorts. I loved having these FA longs. Also, sun protection for your arms and face is crucial. When choosing a hat, take your beanie with you. The beauty of this hat is that we could buy it big to fit with my beanie on, and the drawstring around the crown allowed me to pull it tight when I wasn’t using my beanie
3) Underwear. Optional.
4) Compression gear. We had incredible recovery times after ending days feeling like we couldn’t walk. Our trick; finishing the day with a stretch, putting on compression tights and a higher-than-normal protein diet. We would both walk only in tights before the end of the hike too
5) Warm gear. For us that meant fleeces, despite the desire for down. When we longed for softness we just touched Josh’s beard. Note: windproof beanie is a must! Thermal underwear at night makes getting up to pee that much more bearable.
6) Sleeping bags. Josh used two K Way bags, both were necessary. I used one first Ascent Adventure Light inside an Ice Hollowfiber. Our traverse was later in the year, but ideally we would’ve each had Ice Breakers, amazing bags.
7) Tent. Josh somehow picked up a cheap campmaster for less than R300. It passed my inspection, and credit to Campmaster, it survived the GT. I have subsequently bought a bivvy bag in anticipation of more extreme hikes, but nothing quite provides the experience and camaraderie a tent provides. I would recommend something like this for a future trip. Multiple openings are a plus, and even better to have a 3 person tent so that you can stow your gear inside. Don’t want to donate your gear to Lesotho.
9) Stove. Oh boy. We used a million year old Campingaz Bluet, and honestly, I felt honoured to be able to add to the story of this stove. It once belonged to Josh’s legendary grandfather before being handed down. What a thing of beauty. It was only when Mountain Man Rob cooked us dinner on his spliffy stove in less than 60 mins that we realised what we had been missing out on, and from there the rest of the GT dinner was a hack. In fact, Josh had already finalized the purchase of a MSR Dragonfly before the end of the hike. I too have bought a Whisperlite since the trek. The facts are plain and simple, liquid fuel is easier to transport, there is no guesswork as to when your fuel will run out, and at altitude/cold cooking time is a third of a stove powered by a gas canister.
10) Boots. I have already mentioned my Jim Greens. I can’t tell you what you’ll like, but I can tell you that you will need boots that are waterproof, have good ankle support, and are WELL worn in. I mean, at least 40 km in those boots before you go. Josh went in his ever-reliable Salomon Megatreks. Great boots. Just as important, gaiters.
11) Packs. I have a 70L Deuter that wasn’t uncomfortable once. The only way I noticed the weight was on longer uphills with fatigue. Josh stoically decided to use a 65 L North Face Terra, strapping most of his gear, and the tent, to the outside. The only downside was the time it took in the mornings to try fit everything back inside the bag. So at the first resupply he switched bags with one he had lent Postman Pat, now back to his trusty Lowe Alpine 85 L beast. Essentially, he didn’t need that much space, but it made packing that much easier.
12) Trekking Poles. Can’t tell you if I would’ve finished without my Black Diamond Trail Backs. Two years ago I would’ve doubted their efficiency, but I am now a believer. Huge help in snow and downhills. Josh spent one tenth of what I did at China Mall, and his only broke on the last day. That was a well spent R50.
13) Hydration. Water is readily available throughout the hike, some of it we were careful to boil though, especially through Lotheni. So transporting water isn’t too much of a problem. I had a 2l Camelbak and 1l Nalgene. The combination worked well, I could mix shakes in the Nalgene, and store plenty water in the Camelbak. But that’s about all it was useful for. The problem with the Camelbak is with refilling. constantly threading the hose through that tiny hole in my pack was just a bit annoying, and it was far easier to just drink from my bottle which was stored on the outside of my pack. Holding 3l of water was undeniably valuable at dinnertime, but I wouldn’t want to carry more than that.
14) Headlamp. I took the Black Diamond Storm. It’s waterproof, and was bright enough for the two of us to navigate at night.
15) GPS. We have incredible friends at Spirit of Adventure who basically plotted our entire route for us. Jurie also lent us his Dakota 20. After using this device, I wouldn’t contemplate using anything else. For the buck, it’s the best unit you will get. It’s easy to use, intuitive, and makes navigation a breeze. If only we’d trusted it a little more…