The single most important piece of gear for survival on a hike is a tent. On a long hike like the CDT though, I won’t be spending much time in the tent, and I’ll be asleep most of that. I don’t need a palace, just somewhere to lay my head for a bit. The most common types of tents are “domes”, they’re free-standing, and wind/snow/rain tends to roll off them no matter how they’re setup. Unfortunately, a decent solo tent weighs ~3lbs. That doesn’t seem like much, but in the context of a 15lb pack, it’s an awful lot. A lot of lightweight hikers get by with just a tarp, but I really like having the bugs kept away from me, so the tarp-tents from Henry Shires are ideal. They combine a tarp with some netting that goes down to the ground. I get the weight-savings of a tarp and enough tent-like qualities to keep me happy, all in a 1.5lb package.
The price I pay for this lightweight selection is that my tarp-tent flaps in the wind, doesn’t keep the rain out perfectly, and isn’t very private. Fortunately, those disadvantages are pretty minor if you are far from civilization and the world is your campsite. I have enough experience to choose sites that are out of the wind, or under a tree to block out the worst of the rain. Since my tarp-tent doesn’t really have any poles, it gets propped up with my hiking pole, and then relies on stakes in the ground to hold it’s shape. If I screw up the stake placement, chances are good the whole thing falls on my head in the middle of the night. Whoops.
Here is a video to help you visualize how this all looks:
I’ve added a link on the right to what will become the gear locker. As I go over each piece of gear, I’ll add the ability to highlight it in the locker and find out more details.
The specific tarp-tent I have is called a Contrail, tons of details there.