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Triple crown of the calendar year: record hikers reveal the equipment they used

The Triple Crown is the trifecta of all touring achievements – complementing the PCT, AT and CDT. This duo shared what it took to complete it in less than a year.

When Sammy Potter and Jackson Parell – who follow the track names Buzz and Woody — reached the northern terminus of the Pacific Crest Trail on October 22, they made history. The two 21-year-olds not only managed to go through the PCT, but also the AT and CDT earlier in the same year, becoming the youngest to do so. (And they even raised money for a cause along the way.)

We sat down with them to find out what kind of gear they used along the way to accomplish this feat.


On October 22, we completed the Triple Crown of the Calendar Year (CYTC) – 295 days. 3 trails. A journey of approximately 7,500 miles. Almost nothing in the trek had gone as planned; the weather slapped us at unexpected times, we were forced to switch trails instead of hiking each one, and it took us an extra month to complete. In the end, we went through 12 pairs of shoes: three pairs of hiking shoes and nine pairs of trail runners.

The CYTC, made up of the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail, is probably the toughest challenge there is in long-distance hiking. It’s not just a physical issue, it’s also the mental and emotional toll that comes with spending 9-10 months on the trails.

We’ve written a bit in other sources about the many challenges we’ve faced throughout the year, but we haven’t specifically touched on gear. And without the right gear, there’s no way we survived this year.

We knew this would be the case from the start, so we asked LLBean and merrel for help – they kindly gave us a ton of valuable gear. But like many other hikers, we didn’t start with all the good thing. We also didn’t perfect our gear “perfectly” – we never reached a final gear list because, well, our needs were constantly changing.

Here are some notes on everything it took to compose and recompose our equipment.

winter unloading

When we started the TA on January 1, our bags weighed about 35 pounds. We quickly replaced our tent with a tarp (the AT has shelters along the way) and got rid of some pants. But the winter packs were still very heavy, with zero degree sleeping bags and extra layers.

When we finally made the transition to the desert on the CDT after reaching the midpoint of the AT, we probably lost 5 pounds each: replacing our packs with duvets, swapping winter boots for trail runners and shedding extra layers. Unloading that weight was a big deal for us—we were able to put on more miles with less physical wear and tear.

Ultralight hiking: the art of losing weight

When we finally got to summer (which for a while had seemed like a myth), we started to wonder, “How can we carry even less? Losing weight is an “addiction” through hiking, so it’s hard to stop asking this question.

But at this point, it felt like we had reached our minimum weight. Until we break a stove… and a sleeping pad. More out of laziness and an aversion to spending money than anything else, we have not replaced these items.

And all of a sudden, we were without a stove. And that was okay, because we definitely felt like we were carrying backpacks every once in a while.

Beginning of summer: less weight, new challenges

Summer has definitely been our saving grace – less gear, lighter packs, warmer temperatures. But there were also new challenges. Above all: the sun. We both had our brushes with heat exhaustion and sun poisoning before we woke up and started wearing sun hats, Solar creamand more layers of sun protection.

Another major challenge for us during the summer months into early fall was water. Through the desert, we have increased our water carrying capacity from 3L to 8L (two 3L CamelBaks and some smart water bottles).

It was rare that we had to fill them all up, but when we did, we added 15 pounds of water to our backs. It is precisely for this reason that some of our heaviest loads were in the desert.

CYTC Equipment

Group Equipment: Sharing the Load

One of the many benefits of hiking with a partner, especially in the winter when gear is heaviest, is the ability to distribute gear as a group. Although we don’t have a lot of it (sometimes not at all during the summer months), the group gear helped us reduce our base weight by a few pounds when we started, and then again when the winter has settled in towards the end.

We carried the Nemo Hornet 2 person tent and divide the fly and the body; we also shared the kitchen equipment and took turns carrying the first aid kit.

Of course, if you choose to share your gear with your hiking partner, you’ll sacrifice some independence. But we were trying to set a record together. It was therefore logical for us to favor the reduction of the weight of our backpack to the autonomy which results from the exclusive transport of personal equipment.

— By Sammy Potter and Jackson Parell

calendar year triple crown through hikers sammy potter and jackson parell
Jackson “Woody” Parell (left) and Sammy “Buzz” Potter (right).

Sammy ‘Buzz’ Potter’s Gear List

Clothes:

Durable goods:

Accessories:

Jackson ‘Woody’ Parell Equipment List

Clothes:

Durable goods:

Accessories:

Shared Equipment List

Our biggest takeaway? Gear is important, but what’s more important is that the gear you have works for you and the adventure at your fingertips. And if the adventure at hand is a trek through the Triple Crown, this could be the gear for the job.

If you found this article helpful, please feel free to connect with the calendar year Triple Crowners to learn more.

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