As mentioned in early journal posts, I (Erica) have had recurring problems with my cold weather gear. Initially, the problem was that I had no such gear; Prior to Scissors Crossing, I was carrying a summer sleeping bag (REI’s Women’s Flash, rated to ~40 F) and no rain jacket. That proved to be a mistake during the cold, windy and rainy weather up on Mt. Laguna.
From Scissors Crossing on, I have carried both my North Face rain jacket and my new Big Agnes Juniper sleeping bag (rated to 26 F). The Juniper replaces the Big Agnes Roxy Ann sleeping bag (rated to 15 F) that I used on much of the Appalachian Trail last year.
On moderately cold Pacific Crest Trail nights (low 40s and above), the Juniper has served me pretty well so far, but, unfortunately, it’s left me with frigid feet on the coldest nights we’ve had in the Angeles National Forest, with highs in the mid 20s to mid 30s. According to the temperature rating, I should be comfortable in the Juniper on these nights, but I’m not, even though I also use a Sea to Summit sleeping bag liner for extra warmth.
This ongoing coldness–both while trying to sleep and sporadically throughout the day–was the primary reason I wanted to leave the trail via Hwy 2 at the Three Points Trailhead. The weather wasn’t getting better, so I wanted/needed better gear.
The time we’ve spent in Irvine over Memorial Day weekend has allowed me to make two big gear swaps: Replacing the Big Agnes Juniper with REI’s Joule sleeping bag (rated to 22 F), and ditching my REI Revelcloud jacket in favor of a Patagonia Down Sweater (800-fill). Once we return to the trail, we will have about two more nights of cold weather in the Angeles National Forest before things heat up in the Acton area. Hopefully, that will be a long enough trial period to tell if the upgrades were worthwhile.
Regarding the REI Revelcloud jacket, it served me well enough on the Appalachian Trail last year, especially when paired with my Mountain Hardwear fleece jacket, but it’s wearing kinda thin now–literally. Having never made it to Maine, I also never tested it in truly cold weather. The new Patagonia jacket, on the other hand, is visibly higher quality than the old jacket (it has way more loft), and if the reviews I’ve read of it are accurate, it should keep me much warmer in freezing temperatures with or without a fleece jacket layered underneath.
In addition to those two big changes, I am also temporarily swapping out my desert-friendly hiking attire (white shirt, short pants) in favor of slightly warmer clothes (hiking shirt with a collar, pants with full legs and thicker fabric). Luckily, I already had this change of clothes on-hand in Irvine (no shopping required!), and once we get to Acton, I will resume wearing my desert clothes until we get up to Walker Pass or Kennedy Meadows.
If I am lucky, this is the last time you’ll hear me complain about cold weather gear on this blog. :)