March 2, 2016
In the fast and light backpacking world, Liz Thomas is synonymous with speed. Fastpacking, ultralight, trail running and solo, Liz does it all, ranking among the most experienced hikers in the US. In 2011 she crushed the Women’s unsupported record on the 2000+ mile Appalachian Trail by almost a week and she has completed the dauntingly long Pacific Crest and Continental Divide trails. Liz is reverentially known as the “Queen of Urban Hiking” for completing hiking routes through 5 cities across the U.S., proving you can get out and move even if your your daily reality features more skyscrapers than trees. In addition to her numerous hiking achievements, Liz earned her Masters in Environmental Science from the Yale School of Forestry and Environmental Studies and received the prestigious Doris Duke Conservation Fellowship for research conducted while on trail. While Liz is a backpacker by trade, Altra running shoes give her the support and grip she needs for covering massive amounts of terrain in a day while keeping her toes comfortable. Altra’s focus on lightweight offerings makes them a favorite for thru-hikers and trail runners the world over–learn about their hiking options and the rest of her gear here.
The Altra Lone Peak is the best shoe out there for long distance hiking. Covering more than an ultramarathon every day with no rest periods magnifies the importance of which shoe I lace up. The FootShape toe box on the Lone Peak shoes gives my tired toes plenty of room to sprawl. Long hikes always result in swelling feet but the Altras never feel cramped—saving me from blisters and foot pain. The LP doesn’t compromise performance for weight and the aggressive sole sticks to gnarly terrain—from glaciers to straight up rock climbing it’s super solid.
Staying in shape during the off season isn’t just about working my hamstrings and The Altra Superior 2.0s help me stay in top form thanks to the wide toe box and zero drop sole that helps improve my posture and trains and strengthen my feet. The Superiors perform great on trail runs, day hikes, snow, ice, and rock. The soft, bouncy cushioning makes wearing these shoes like walking on clouds while the superlight mesh means that they dry faster than any trail running shoe I’ve used.
When it’s cold up in the mountains, I get my backpacking fix by urban thru-hiking through cities like Los Angeles and San Francisco. Public stairways function as my elevation gain and turn downtown hikes in calf burning training exercises. Ultramarathon miles everyday on pavement can be harsh on the body, which is why I use the Altra Superiors. These cushy zero drop shoes keep my posture and form in line while also shielding my body asphalt impact. At the end of the day on an urban hike with the Superiors, I still feel as fresh as if I were walking on cushy dirt up in the mountains.
Liz Thomas on the Timberline Trail in 2015. Photo taken by Kate Hoch.
I always go with Darn Tough socks for hiking because their weave is a lot tighter than other outdoor socks, keeping out grime and micro dust that can lead to blisters. The Ultralights breathe and wick exceptionally well, keeping my feet dry and preventing blisters. Thanks to their light weight, I can carry an extra pair of fresh socks.
Montbell Ex-Light Jacket
The Montbell Ex-Light jacket weighs about as much as a bar, yet gives a HUGE amount of warmth. Versatility is key and the Montbell Ex-Light is perfect for three season backpacking—from the Pacific Crest Trail to the Continental Divide Trail from Mexico to Canada. I need something that performs in all climates that a long trail will throw at me. This is a piece of gear I use everyday on trail.
Whenever I know I’ve got icy terrain I need to cover, I’m sure to carry my Kahtoola microspikes. They’re super easy to slip on and off over my trail running shoes, yet make it possible for me to literally walk on frozen creeks and icy slopes. The Kahtoolas weigh significantly less than crampons (12 ounces/pair) and work perfectly for long distance hikers.
When I’m hiking a few thousand miles at a time, I inevitably have to cross a few glaciers or icy snow fields. The Camp Corsica balances super lightweight with performance and still meets all the UIAA requirements for strength and durability. Sleek, streamlined performance makes it the perfect ice ax for thru-hikers or ultralight backpackers.
Gossamer Gear Kumo
I’ve tried a lot of packs on trail so know the importance of having a pack that not only fits right, but moves with me. The Kumo makes me feel as nimble as an elf since it weighs less than 1 pound and hardly feels like wearing anything at all. This is my go-to pack, with the features I need to perform my best.
I love using my Sawyer Mini as an inline filter with my MSR Platypus Hoser and Platypus hydration bag. With the Sawyer Mini/Platypus Hoser system I can put dirty water into my Platypus, suck on my Hoser, and get clean water out my bite valve. With this system, getting clean water is as fast as not treating water at all.