19 Must-Have Gear Items According to 2021 Thru-Hikers

Outfitting yourself for a thru-hike is hard: no amount of research will let you know for sure which items will work for you when it comes time to actually hit the trail. All you can do is research, shop outfitters with decent return policies, and hope for the best—but learning from hikers who have already been there and done that isn’t a bad way to shorten your odds of success.

These 10 2021 thru-hikers are all hundreds or thousands of miles into their respective hikes. By now, they’ve learned what items they can live without, shed any and all excess weight, and honed their setups to near-perfection. From big-ticket items to little luxuries, here are our bloggers’ favorite pieces of gear for thru-hiking.

Hannah “Spring” Goodman | @duck.goes.hiking
Appalachian Trail
Miles Hiked So Far: 1,400

Oboz Sawtooth 2 Hiking Boots
$135 | 28 oz (pair)

“I love my Oboz boots because they have allowed me to hike big miles even when my ankles are struggling. I bought them three days into my thru-hike because I twisted my ankle really bad and wanted some ankle support. I had been set on wearing trail runners, but I soon realized that, although heavy, boots are the right choice for me. My first pair lasted me over 1,300 miles, and I bought the exact same pair again, which will hopefully get me to Katahdin!”


Patagonia Baggies Shorts (Melon Pattern)
$55 | 5.1 oz (size medium)

“I love my Patagonia baggies because they are comfortable and allow me to express my goofy side. They are long enough that my thighs don’t rub together, they dry really quickly, and have fun patterns! I bought the melon pattern which are bright and fun so even on a hard day I am able to look down and laugh at the fact that I have melons on my shorts.”

More From Spring’s Blog

Austin “Goblin” Hays | @morninhays
Appalachian Trail
Miles Hiked So Far: 450

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Skort
$75 | 6.8 oz (size 8)

“The best hiking bottom regardless of gender. Inside shorts mean you dont need underwear, its lightweight, has pockets, and looks cool.”

Hangtightshop Heatseeker Quilt
$98-$129 | 24 oz

“I found Hangtight on Etsy while looking up quilts. They make DIY quilts for hammocks at a fraction of the price of other brands. It may not be as high quality or light as those, but I have been very impressed with how well it has functioned at camp.”

Read next – The Best Backpacking Quilts of 2021.

More From Goblin’s Blog

AnneMarie “Zipsss” Athey | @annemariesphere
Appalachian Trail
Miles Hiked So Far: 422

Kula Cloth
$20 | 0.4 oz

“The way it folds and clips to my pack is discreet and convenient. The ladies behind the brand are fun and have created a great company. And…not packing out any TP is the best!”

Read next – How to Manage Hygiene on the Appalachian Trail. 

ULA Circuit
$255 | 36.6 oz

“It’s just a great pack. Fits me like a glove. Nice and light. Another great company with awesome customer service.”

More From Zipsss’ Blog

Read next – Best Backpacking Packs of 2021. 

Steph “Sparky” Strickland | @stephsaidit_
Appalachian Trail
Miles Hiked So Far: 800

Dollar General Dresses

“I have two dresses (one hiking, one for camp) that I purchased along my hike and used to replace other clothes. Not only do I get to express myself and my femininity, I am simultaneously trimming down the number of garments I need. Clothes are a great place to overpack and overspend, focus instead on what makes you comfortable and confident, even if it only has a $3 price tag, it may become a staple.”

Therm-a-Rest ZLite Sol Sleeping Pad
$46 | 14 oz

“When I’m not in my hammock (or if I need a bit more insulation) I am utilizing my Therm-a-Rest pad. Even better, I use it for yoga, stretching, sitting by the fire, organizing my pack and more. It’s a lightweight million-use kind of gear that never loses its value.”

Read next – Therm-a-Rest ZLite Sol vs. NEMO Switchback: The Ultimate Comparison. 

More From Sparky’s Blog

“Lil Ghost” | @ghost_on_foot
Pacific Crest Trail
Miles Hiked So Far: 780

Black Diamond Carbon Cork Trekking Poles
$180 | 17.1 oz

“They’re super durable, hold up my tent, and give my hands something to do during my hikes! They feel like extensions of my arms at this point.”

More From Lil Ghost’s Blog

Heidi “Picasso” Nisbett | @sketchingsummits
Continental Divide Trail
Miles Hiked So Far: 620

Gossamer Gear Gorilla Pack
$240 | 29.8 oz (size medium)

“This is the second time I’ve purchased this pack after wearing out my last one. It carries comfortably with convenient access points and pockets. The removable padding on the back doubles as a sit pad, and the hit belt pockets can carry a whole day’s worth of snacks! What more do you need?”

Smartwool Merino Wool Base Layers

“I have gone through a few different brands searching for a good base layer for camp. Smartwool makes layers that are lightweight but thick enough that you can’t see your underwear underneath them. The tighter weave also protects better against wind and cold when hanging out at camp. The flashy patterns are a plus as well!”

Read next – Best Backpacking Baselayers of 2021.

More From Picasso’s Blog

Homestyle | @seenoeljane
Appalachian Trail
Miles Hiked So Far: 750

Gossamer Gear LT5 Trekking Poles
$195 | 4.9 oz (pair)

“First of all, these bad boys have saved me from many falls! I’m a clumsy person and I’m quite sure I would have fallen off a cliff at some point without these. Secondly, they’re super light and sturdy!”

Read next – Gossamer Gear LT5 Carbon Trekking Poles Review.

Cnoc Water Bladder
$21 | 2.6 oz

“So much easier and more versatile than most water vessels; this thing is handy no matter how sketchy the water flow may be.”

More From Homestyle’s Blog

Max “Yard Sale Kiel | @max_kiel_appalachian_trail
Appalachian Trail
Miles Hiked So Far: 1,220

Chicken Tramper Chest Pocket | $25 | 1.4 oz

“The Chest Strap Pocket by Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear is perfect for quick and easy access to items such as snacks, phones, and other miscellaneous items. It practically weighs nothing, and I never even notice that it is attached to my pack.”

Salomon XA Pro 3D | $180 | 24 oz (pair)

“I always hiked in boots before my thru-hike, but I knew I wanted a durable but comfortable pair of trail-runners for doing daily bigger miles throughout an extended period of time. The Salomon XA Pro 3D are personally the perfect fit for me; I hardly get blisters and feet pain has been kept to a minimum. They’ve proven to be very durable, as I’m only on my second pair of shoes and anticipating only needing one more pair for the remainder of my hike.”

Read next – Best Trail Runners for Thru-Hiking of 2021.

More From Yard Sale’s Blog

Becca “Snow on the Trail” Mickley | @snowytrail
Pacific Crest Trail
Miles Hiked So Far: 790

Leki Legacy Lite Cor-Tec Trekking Poles | $100 | 17.2 oz

“They are simple and bullet proof. I had another brand with more features but they gave out in Wrightwood so I went to these. They are simple, reliable, and hard-use.”

Aftershokz Air Headphones | $90

“They last all day and are designed to let me hear the world all the while I’m jamming out to my music.”

More From Snow on the Trail

Caitlin “Irwin” Stevens | @wanderthewild93
Pacific Crest Trail
Miles Hiked So Far: 903

GSI Outdoors Essential Travel Spoon
$5.50 | 1 oz

“I hate doing back country dishes, and the spoonula helps me scrape that pot clean!”

Nemo Tensor Wide Sleeping Pad
$155 | 16 oz

“I have never slept better in the backcountry! My arms and legs don’t fall off the sides when I sleep in what I call ‘crime scene chalk outline’ position.”

Read next – Best Backpacking Sleeping Pads of 2021. 

More From Irwin’s Blog

Featured image: Graphic design by Stephanie Ausfresser.

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Comments 4

  • Laci : Jun 18th

    Right now I’m just a day hiker but these are great suggestions for when I start overnight backpacking!

  • Albert Finney : Jun 19th

    I keep wanting to like this site, but the pattern of beginners and quitters giving advice is constant. Getting advice from someone that has only hiked a few hundred miles is pointless. Dialing in gear for thru hiking takes many thousands of miles. Ask these hikers after they’ve done 3 or 4 long thru hikes and they’ll have totally different opinions.

    • Oddball : Jun 20th

      Always with the negative waves Moriarty, always with the negative waves.

      • Crapgame : Jul 17th

        Spot on!


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