Pack. Aarn Featherlite Freedom. Simply brilliant. Yes, it takes time to 'dial it in' just right, but once you do, it carries what I want with more comfort and freedom of movement than any other pack I have used, period. A couple of wear areas, ie the hem of a elastic side pocket and the mesh of a balance pocket. It has kept my gear dry despite being submerged in rivers, estuaries and subject to hard driving rain. I now completely trust the fabric and don't use pack liners or stuff sacks. Plus I love how I organise gear in the front balance pockets. I don't need to use pockets in my shorts/trousers!
My sleeping/spare clothes are merino wool leggings and a green hoodie... Perfect if you want to look like one of Robin Hood's merry men!
I can use it over my hammock or on the ground.
Hammock. I have switched from my Warbonnet Blackbird to a lighter Dream Hammocks Darien Ultralight. Nothing wrong with the Blackbird, it does what it is designed to do superbly, I was just looking to shed some bulk. Here is the Darien UL.
Sleeping bag/top quilt/ground insulation. I was using a 40 degree (F) Kifaru poncho liner, which was usually enough to keep me warm especially with my sleeping clothes/layering. But with an eye on the South Island, I purchased a Mountain Laurel Designs Spirit 20 top quilt. This can be configured like a mummy sleeping bag, is toasty warm and packs down small. I use synthetic as one of my rules is my gear must still keep me warm when it gets wet. This is NZ, eventually everything gets wet! It also works well in my hammock, opening up like a traditional quilt.
For ground insulation I was using a Pacific Outdoors product,but it sprung a leak and I couldn't find the hole! I ended up using a good 'old blue thermal mat for a while as a quick and cheap replacement, but an uncomfortable night on the ground changed my tune! I have since bought on sale an Exped Synmat 7 UL (not much syn happening on this mat, I can tell you!), along with an air pillow. Not very hardcore, I know, but a good night's sleep is really important to me. Anyway, I'm happy with the weight, packed volume and comfort. And yes, I prefer them to the bed and pillow these are perched on!
Clothing. If you've been following my blog, you may know already that I have retired my Zpacks WPB jacket as I found mine didn't keep driving rain out. Of course, finding this out was less than fun and I was cold and soaked to the bone for most of the day (still walking, didn't stop to dry out). I've replaced it with an Arc'teryx jacket made with goretex paclite. It's heavier but more storm proof in my opinion. Pit zips help with ventilation, and I like the cut and ability to move freely in it. I've also gone to a slightly warmer Montbell jacket, the Thermawrap Pro. I'm still using my Icebreaker GT zip shirt, which is ripped up by brambles and gorse and wearing out around the shoulders... But despite that I love it (to bits). Unsure if it will handle extreme heat later in Summer, we shall see!
I like hoods... For sleeping they keep me warmer, protect my pillow/hammock, and you can always try to look like a badass gangster. Or not.
I also use merino underwear for warmth and because they don't stink. Well, not as much, anyway. I'll save you and me from the embarrassment of a pic.
Footwear. Ok, this is an evolving thing. I'm still more than happy with ditching my old Miendl boots before this walk... My shoes are supportive enough and I have had no problems with ankles. Blisters, yes... But not tendons or joints. Plus I like how fast they dry, how fast I can walk in shoes. My feet don't feel as tired as they have in boots.
Socks? Let's just say (to paraphrase a Speights beer commercial) it's a hard road finding the perfect sock. I'm back to using sock liners, this time Smartwool merino. I don't like bulky, padded, slow-drying socks, and nor do my feet! I'll let you know how it goes.
Cooking gear. One thing I haven't changed at all! Loving my Trail Designs Ti-tri caldera and 750ml ti pasta pot.
I cook almost always using methylated spirits (similar to/same as HEET?), but I can also use hexi or wood. I'll post later about food if anyone is interested (?).
Navigation etc. I use printed TA trail maps (great stuff, thanks Kim Olivver) and compass, plus my iPhone GPS and a couple of apps: ihikegps NZ, and Topo 50. I was using Mapapp but I was annoyed by the lack of functionality and cost compared to what others offer. I also use my iphone to blog (Blogger), play music, store trail notes, as an ebook reader, as an alarm, to conduct research (Google ;-), first aid advice, as my camera using camera + and VSCOcam, and occasionally as a phone. In an emergency I have my Delorme inreach, which I have used a few times to send texts/update FB as well. Well worth it, in my opinion. I power my iPhone using a solar recharger (PowerTraveller SolarMonkey Adventurer). All have performed to spec, but I occasionally wish I had more charged available, especially for the power-hungry iPhone 5!
Other stuff. Earlier I had gotten rid of my knife in favour of a small blade and scissors... I've since reversed that decision as I find myself wanting a decent size blade as a tool, especially for making fires. I think I will be doing more of this down South (where it is permitted, such as huts), and I've only found blunt axes or saws in the DOC huts. So believe it or not, I will be carting a mini hatchet and bush saw. I can use the hatchet in place of a knife for most tasks, and it battens wood more easily in my opinion. I am still using the same firelighting tools, a mini swissteel, mini bic lighter, and Vaseline-infused cotton balls. My headtorch is going strong- a Petzl e-lite. I still use two cheap 1 litre water bottles, and haven't carried more than 2 litres at a time since 90 Mile Beach. I rarely treat my water, but if I do I just use chlorine dioxide tablets. No issues thus far!
And that, I think, is that. Tell me if you have any specific questions, no doubt I've left something out! Happy trails everyone.