11 AT and PCT Thru-Hikers Share Their Favorite Gear

As the 2023 thru-hiking season draws to a close, we’ve asked our Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail finishers to share which gear items became their favorites during their journeys. Read on to find out what they had to say. Spoiler: there was a lot of love for backpacks this year…

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Appalachian Trail

Andy Mac “VANGO” McMillin

My favorite piece of equipment was my Platypus Quickdraw water filter and separately, but still as important, my CNOC bag. Why? I saw everyone on trail struggle with their Sawyer Squeeze, replacing them, injecting them, and so on. I have other equipment I loved as well (and some not so much), but feel I have to wave the flag for ole Platy(pus) as I rarely saw them on trail. I rinsed my trusty Platy out a couple of times, but used the same filter for all 2,198 miles! The CNOC bag is also so robust and can take a lot of punishment; it made getting water quite a breeze!

READ NEXT — Platypus Quickdraw Water Filter Review

George “Captain Fantastic” Preiss

Hyperlite Junction backpack. I got it at Trail Days and it was so much easier to load than my previous pack. It has huge and easy-to-access hip belt pockets that are better than carrying additional fanny packs. Also, it was much more compact with the weight distribution, and I felt like it stayed in one place and didn’t swing around on my back.

Eileen “Bagel” McHugh

Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 pack. I started with a pack from Walmart but told myself I could upgrade when I got to Damascus. The Mariposa was such a game-changer.

Jon “The Incident” Fuller

My Osprey 70 pack. So comfortable and roomy. Plus having it really irked the ultra-lighters. Runner up: Black Diamond trekking poles. Saved my hike many times.

Joanne “Lucky Penny” Gigliotti | @joanne_gigliotti

My sleep system: I chose to compromise a few additional ounces and backpack space with a long and wide sleeping pad. I switched out my Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite for the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Apex. I am a thrashing side sleeper. The NeoAir was a little too noisy for me and did not allow for tossing and turning. The Prolite was quiet, kept me warm, and gave me plenty of room to sprawl out. I used my 20-degree Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt for four of my six months on trail. The regular/wide quilt fit perfectly over my sleeping pad and stayed in place all night with the extender straps. I loved the drawcord at the neck and footbox to adjust for draft control. It was a cozy end to every day: perfect for the wide range of different temperatures and climates on the AT.

Pacific Crest Trail

Josh “Chute” Barrett

I was super happy with all my gear, but my favorite piece was my Mountain Hardware Sun Hoody. It was one of the few pieces that stayed with me for the entire journey and that I wore all day every day — even on town days. (By the end it was pretty worn in the shoulders and needed a couple stitches to complete the journey…) It kept the sun off of me, so I never needed to mess with sunscreen, and it actually kept me cooler when the hood was up. Highly recommend!

Björn “Refill” Dziambor | @django hikes

Hyperlite Backpack Southwest 55. Yes, it is really good, and the customer service is awesome!

Leonie “Desert Moon” Lazarus

I carried a Sierra Designs High Route 1-person trekking pole tent and I loved it. I found it a bit awkward to set up at first, but after some practice, it became second nature to me. I loved getting into my tent at the end of the day, huddled, warm, and comfy. It kept me safe and protected from wind, rain, and bugs. It became my sanctuary and I treasured my alone time there.

READ NEXT — Sierra Designs High Route One-Person Tent

Tom “Honey Buckets” Frenchu

My favorite piece of gear was my Warbonnet Blackbird hammock because it allowed me to sleep comfortably eight hours each night, suspend my gear from the ground to avoid mice, snow, or rain puddles, and because I could see the stars at night, as well as any wildlife sniffing around camp.

Rosemary “Stretch” Adrat

My favorite gear is no doubt my spork. I originally had a UCO 3-1 Spork that was gifted to me on the AT after I left my old one behind. The gift felt special because of the constant reminder of how generous people are and a fellow thru-hiker told me I should name it. The only piece of gear that I spent three personal special nourishing moments with each day deserved a name: Bluensil. On the PCT, I sadly managed to throw out Bluensil. With a lame attempt to replace it, I hiked weeks with a weak, tiny spork. At McKenzie Pass in Oregon, I found a Sea to Summit long, strong, silver spork. I named it Macke in honor of the pass and my hiking buddy, whose last name is Macke. Happy to remember that the trail provides! The week prior was the hardest mentally for me, so having a reliable piece of gear was just what I needed.

Netteburg Family | @danae.netteburg

Olen “Spreadsheet” Netteburg
Danae “Queen Bee” Netteburg
Lyol “Blaze” Netteburg
Zane “Boomerang” Netteburg
Addison “Angel Wings” Netteburg
Juniper “The Beast” Netteburg
Piper “Deadweight” Netteburg
Maybe the team favorite would be our new Enlightened Equipment puffies. I suspect that’s because everybody was able to choose their own colors, outside, and liner.
I remember from the CDT, I referred to many items as my favorite, like my Chicken Tramper fanny pack and our Enlightened Equipment two-person quilt. I think I also called our Zpacks Triplex my favorite thing too. I had lots of favorites.
Congratulations and thanks to everyone who contributed to this list!

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