First, I decided to get a water reservoir. I didn't really need one, as I'm pretty used to just filling up water bottles and carrying those in my pack. But once we got going on a lot of the longer hikes, stopping and starting to get bottles out of my pack because there aren;t any outside water pockets was getting annoying and slowing me down. Also, peer pressure, since everyone else on the CureSearch St. Louis team had some sort of hydration pack they used. The daypack I was already using had water reservoir capabilities already, so instead of spending a lot of money on a new fancy Camelback (which I would like one day, admittedly), I got a $10 Clyclone Hydro Reservoir from Walmart that cost $10. I really wanted a 3 liter, but they didn't have one in the store and I didn't have the time to risk ordering something online. The differences in price between the Walmart 2 liter and the REI 3 liters were so huge, that I figured if the Clyclone Hydro Reservoir fell apart and died on me, and least it had made it through the 30 mile hike and I would only be out $10. It worked out great, though. It was simple enough to attach the hose to and fit well into my daypack. The nozzle and pack didn't leak or break on me, held up well in the refrigerator, and kept me nice and hyrdated on the 30 mile hike (and a few of the previous practice hikes, like the Berryman). The only issue was that it wasn't super easy to fill on my own (maybe none of them are) and I felt like the tube was just a TAD too long and cumbersome... I wish it had been a bit shorter. Other than that though, I was really glad I got it.
I also got a headlamp I found clearance at REI, the Black Diamond Moxie headlamp. I needed a headlamp because my group left the trailhead for the 30 mile hike at 4:15am, so the first 7 or 8 miles maybe were in darkness. I'd never done a night-hike before, and was really nervous. This headlamp which worked great expect that it is SUPER hard to open to get batteries in... seriously, I jacked up my thumb trying to open it and for awhile was afraid I wouldn't get it open before I left for Indiana. Luckily a hiking buddy managed to open it easily, so maybe it is just me. The light was bright enough for me to find the trail markers in the pitch darkness of the woods, was comfortable, and light. I didn't use any of the other features (the dimmer or strobe), but it was nice to know they were there. I even LED the group for awhile in the dark, and felt sercure knowing that my headlamp was the one finding the path and trail markers for those behind me!
I also made sure to make use of the trick of changing socks as often as possible. I started out with a thinner pair of hiking socks, then changed socks at mile 10 and mile 20, ending with the thickest pair of socks I have. It worked WONDERS. I know taking off your boots is not always recommended because your feet are swollen and hurting and it takes a lot to get them back on, but starting back on the trail with a fresh pair of socks feels AMAZING. I'm not sure exactly what brand of socks all of them are, but one of them is probably Wigwam and another is the REI brand of merino wool socks (the third I bought elsewhere and don't remember, and nobody wants pictures of my dirty socks so I'll leave them out).
I also used one Leki hiking pole that was given to me by a friend (the second pole was having trouble locking, so I left it at home). Because I couldn't figure out how to make it collapse all the way (I'm not sure it did), I left the hiking pole for myself at the last aid station to help me through the last 7 miles to the finish line. It was great.
On a slightly unrelated note, I've been reading too. I don't know if it was to gear myself up for the 30 mile hike, or to tell myself I could do it, or just because I'm still obsessed with the idea of doing the Appalachian Trail and other long-distance hikes one day in the future.
The Cactus Eaters: How I Lost My Mind -- and Almost Found Myself -- on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Dan White
Becoming Odyssa: Adventures on the Appalachian Trail
by Jennifer Pharr Davis
Zero Days: The Real Life Adventure of Captain Bligh, Nellie Bly, and 10-Year Old Scrambler on the Pacific Crest Trail
by Barbara Egbert