My 2018 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Gear List
Below is the list of gear I am currently planning to take on my AT thru-hike beginning in March 2018. This is a living post and will be updated if I make any changes. At this point I don’t suspect I will be making too many changes, but you never know.
My goal, as is the case with most hikers, is to go as light as I can afford. Instead of working from a strictly monetary budget, I challenged myself to source top-notch gear for the best possible price by using discounts, sponsors, or buying used gear. The result was that I was able to achieve a base weight of approximately 13 pounds with nearly no comfort sacrifices. In fact, I even added in some additional comforts that most hikers do without, including a spare outfit to save myself from having to hike in wet clothes.
Related reading: Clothing for an Appalachian Trail thru-hike
So without further ado, here is my current gear list from LighterPack. Photos and explanations to follow.
Big Three: Plus Pad, Z Seat, Multipack, Massage Ball
I’m very happy about my Big Three setup and how lightweight it is. The EE Revelation quilt is one of the best on the market, and although the 10-degree rating is a bit overkill (20 degrees would be sufficient), I got this one used for over 30 percent off and couldn’t pass up the deal. Besides, it’s only a couple of ounces heavier than the 20-degree quilt and it will almost guarantee that I won’t sleep cold.
The Zpacks Solplex tent is about as light as you can get without switching to a tarp and bivvy setup. I was also able to snag this for about 30 percent off by buying used (the seller spent only one night in it) and have found it to be spacious enough for me plus gear and a real cinch to set up.
Unfortunately, I still do not have my custom pack from Superior Wilderness Designs just yet, as their lead times are ten to 12 weeks, but I’m hoping it comes soon so that I can use it, otherwise I’ll have to use the pack above, a Sierra Designs Flex Capacitor, which is fine but quite a bit heavier.
I went with the Big Agnes Q-Core SLX sleeping pad after doing lots of research, taking the advice of an experienced friend, and finding a great deal. I’ve tested it out and I think it will be perfect for the trip. The Z seat is something that lots of past thru-hikers have recommended and everyone says it’s one of their favorite pieces of gear. Whether you’re stopping for lunch or using it as a mat outside your tent, this little guy is fantastic.
The Zpacks multipack is another item that I can’t wait to use the hell out of. It can be mounted on your chest, worn as a fanny pack, or even carried as a satchel. Ideal for keeping snacks and camera handy without having to take your pack off. This will be great for reducing wasted time during long days.
Choosing my worn clothing for the AT was one of the easier parts of this whole process. With my experience running ultramarathons, I’ve found what items are comfortable to wear for long periods of time. It just so happens that a lot of those items are made by Patagonia (aka Patagucci) and thus I have gravitated toward them. One of my supporters, Manuka Sport, provided me a Windchaser shirt that is perfect for hiking so I’ll be wearing that a lot. I also love the Patagonia Duckbill cap and Baggies shorts, which are super comfortable, quick drying, and durable.
In my post about the ultrarunning skills I’ll bring on the AT, I mention how much I love gaiters. These are the Dirty Girl Carpe Donut pattern gaiters that I’ve had for a couple of years now and which have been fantastic. I never head into the woods without them, as the benefits they provide in keeping rocks and twigs out of your shoes are priceless.
For trekking poles I’m going with the Black Diamond Trail Ergo, which I’ve used for several hikes with great success. These are well-respected, durable, and relatively lightweight aluminum poles that fit the bill perfectly. They will also act as my tent poles for the Zpacks Solplex .
Footwear-wise, I’m sticking with my tried-and-true Drymax socks and Altra shoes. Drymax socks really do keep your feet much more dry and are wonderfully comfortable and quick-drying. Altras have become the go-to thru-hiker shoe as folks move away from conventional boots, and the extra space in their toe box really helps ease the pressure of expanding feet and make for a more comfortable hike. I’ll be starting with a pair of Timps, but likely changing to Lone Peaks after these wear out. I have run multiple ultramarathons in Altras and trust that they will work well for the AT.
I’ll also be wearing my Suunto Ambit3 Peak GPS watch in order to track my progress, time of day, speed, and elevation. There are lots of GPS watches on the market, but one advantage this one has is a setting that allows the battery to last up to 200 hours by reducing the frequency of GPS updates. Renowned backpacker and ultrarunner Andrew Skurka has written about this device on several occasions, and claims that this watch has unmatched performance for the price. I have used it almost daily for over a year now and concur.
For my spare packed clothing, the focus is on warmth. As I am starting my hike in March, I am bound to experience a few nights below freezing and thus need a couple of extra layers. First, I’m packing a spare set of hiking shorts (Icebreaker Strike-Lite) and a Patagonia Capilene lightweight T-shirt. This will be my spare set of hiking clothes so that I don’t have to hike in my wet set from the day before. Lots of ultralight hikers pooh-pooh an extra set of clothes as unnecessary weight, but at less than half a pound for both I’m willing to sacrifice in order to be dry. Who knows, maybe I’ll change my mind and end up sending the extras home at some point.
For my insulating layers, I have a pair of Icebreaker Anatomica leggings that I can wear under my shorts on cold days or to sleep in. Pairing these with a set of EE Copperfield wind pants (which weigh only 1.4 ounces) will provide lots of warmth and protection from cold and piercing gusts. I decided to go with shorts and wind pants instead of regular pants to save on weight, mostly. If I had pants I would need underwear and a belt as well, but my shorts have built-in mesh underwear and drawstring waistbands, so I was able to cut out all that excess. Besides, I prefer hiking in shorts anyway.
Up top, I’ll use a Patagonia Capilene Thermal Weight Hoody as my main layer when it’s chilly or while at camp. This is a very popular choice among hikers because it’s light (seven ounces) and works incredibly well with another base layer (like the Capilene T-shirt). On top of that, if and when needed (i.e., the White Mountains), I have the Patagonia Ultralight Down Jacket as my main insulating layer. This thing rocks and weighs in at only nine ounces.
Then, I have a spare pair of socks from Darn Tough (seriously, these are the best socks around and there’s no reason to go with anything else), OR Versaliner gloves, and a buff (with the AT map on it).
For rain gear, I decided to go the route of a poncho instead of a rain jacket and rain pants. Rain gear does a great job of trapping in heat, and only a so-so job of keeping it out. With a poncho, I am able to cover my entire upper body and pack while having maximum air ventilation to keep from turning it into a sauna. Combined with my wind pants, I should be able to stay perfectly dry and cool. I also cut the weight of a jacket and pants, which would have been over a pound.
For the purposes of illumination, I went with a Black Diamond Spot headlamp because it is lightweight (2.9 ounces) and has almost twice the output of other similarly sized lamps (including my Black Diamond ReVolt). I don’t plan to do a lot of night hiking, but you never know. Also, I got it for half off so it was a steal.
For a battery backup, I’m bringing the RavPower 16750mAh. They say that you pack your fears, and one of mine is having my devices run out of juice. I already had a 10,000mAh battery (which lots of hikers recommend), but this one was on sale for $22 at the time and weighed only one ounce more for 80 percent more capacity. It should be able to charge all my electronics multiple times during long stretches between towns.
For photography (but not necessarily electronics), I’ve decided to start the trail with my Pedco Ultrapod tripod with Neewer Fish Bone Quick Release because it works well with my setup (not pictured is my Sony A6000 camera and Peak Design Capture clip) . It weighs just four ounces and has the ability to attach to a tree branch or pole with the Velcro strap. I’ve used it on day hikes and runs and found it to be a great piece of gear. If I find I’m not using it much, I might send it home.
Odds and ends include a standard pair of headphones (with inline controls to save from having to turn the phone screen on and off and drain the battery), short USB cables to charge, and two USB adapter bricks. This is a trick I learned from Bigfoot – always take two separate adapters because the battery backup takes forever to recharge and you don’t want to tie up half your outlets for that amount of time. By having one double-outlet adapter and one single, I can plug the battery in separately and let it charge overnight while also powering my other devices at a faster rate.
I’m also taking a spare MicroSD card (with SD card adapter for my camera) and this cool USB adapter (similar to this). This little guy uses a MicroSD card as storage and has both a regular USB and micro USB output. This allows me to transfer photos and video from my camera to either my phone or a computer easily. I love this thing.
Finally, I am bringing a Delorme InReach satellite tracker. This is the older version of the device (Garmin bought them out and now makes a new one), but it has all the functionality I need. It provides a way to track your position and progress while also allowing for two-way communication via text message to any number from anywhere in the world, whether there is cell reception or not. In addition, it has an SOS feature that immediately connects you to search-and-rescue services worldwide in the case of an emergency. It’s an awesome device that will allow me to keep in touch with family and friends anywhere along the trail and provide a safety blanket if the worst were to occur. Adventure Alan wrote a great post about the InReach and why it’s a must-have.
Pretty standard stuff here. A super lightweight trowel for digging catholes, an “oh shit kit” with earplugs, ibuprofen, KT Tape (works better than moleskin for blisters), backup water purification, and a sleep mask. Then there’s a Zpacks compact toothbrush, mini toothpaste with flosser and multivitamins (I’ll have one of these baggies in each resupply box), some deodorant (not that it will help much), and a mini tub of Vaseline for chafing. Lots of people go with Body Glide or something similar, but Vaseline is about 1/10 the cost and, in my opinion, just as effective so I don’t bother with the other stuff.
I also have a bag containing a portion of the AWOL Guide. This is a must-have for planning and navigation purposes, as it lists every water drop, shelter, hostel, and trail town along the entire AT. The book is written and maintained by a past thru-hiker and is used by everyone on the trail. Many folks, myself included, split the guide into four sections to reduce weight, so I will start with a few hundred miles’ worth and dispose of the pages as I hike through them while shipping the other sections in resupply boxes.
To carry my food, I will use the Zpacks Bear Bagging Kit. There are many different options for this, but the Zpacks kit hits all the right marks on weight, volume, and accessories. Most thru-hikers use this kit, and for good reason. In this photo, I have a full five-day resupply inside the bag, and there’s still room to spare.
For cooking, I will use the Snow Peak Soloist Titanium Cookset, a nice and lightweight pot and cup combo in conjunction with a Snow Peak LiteMax titanium stove. These are great pieces of gear that I got for over half off from someone who used them just a handful of times. After cooking my dehydrated meals, I’ll use a cozy from Antigravity Gear to keep it insulated. I’ll also use a Toaks Titanium long-handle spoon and a Bic mini lighter.
To filter my water (and you should definitely filter your water), I’ll be using the Katadyn BeFree 1L. This filter is relatively new to the thru-hiking community, but has really made a great impression. A vast majority of hikers use the Sawyer Squeeze, which is a perfectly good filter (and, in fact, is rated for more capacity than the BeFree). The downsides are that it has a rather slow flow-rate and the bags you fill with dirty water are prone to failure and have small mouths, making it difficult to scoop water when the level is low. The BeFree solves these problems by having a wide-mouthed soft flask with screw-on filter with much faster flow rate. It also shaves a few ounces off the weight of the Sawyer. Although it’s not rated for as many gallons and I’ve read that the flow rate reduces significantly after some use, I think it will work well for my hike. I also have a few tabs of Aquamira treatment in case the filter fails for some reason and I’m a couple days out from town.
Up above, I have a PackTowl Nano – an incredibly lightweight and absorbent towel to be used for just about anything, and a pair of Flopeeze sandals for camp shoes. Camp shoes are highly contested among ultralight hikers because they’re dead weight for a vast majority of the hike. However, in order to keep your feet healthy it’s imperative that they air out at the end of a long day, so I didn’t want to go without completely. Instead, I swapped the regular Crocs (which weigh nearly a pound) for these neoprene slip-ons that weigh just four ounces and pack flat. It’s a worthy compromise, in my opinion.
That’s it. These are all the items I’ll carry on my back for the entirety of the trail – and maybe even less if I find I’m not using things. I’m still amazed that it takes so little to survive in the wilderness for three-plus months and that by doing research and testing out products, I was able to reduce my weight to something as manageable as 13 pounds.
Did I miss anything?
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Here are a few suggestions to lighten your load even further….but by all means HYOY and PYOP (Pack your own pack)…. .
1 Clothes…. instead of carrying spare anything; consider one outfit that will keep you protected under the most unfavorable conditions expected. An outfit containing multiple layers of thin clothing is more versatile than specialty ware. Tip…shorts made of spandex will prevent chaffing….no need for the glide stuff
2 can you eliminate your electronics? Pictures are nice and great for evoking memories, however living in the moment as an alternative lifestyle is to experience a different sort of freedom.
3 I might be a bit of a bad ass, but you might consider reducing your first aid kit to a chunk of soap and a foot of duct tape.
4. The bear bag is a joke. Not necessary on the AT.
5. No need for a watch in the woods when on a 5 month walk. The sun glasses are more of a fashion statement than gear that will facilitate your trip.
6. Camp shoes are overkill. Especially if hiking in sneakers.
7. Do not get me started on the trowel.
8. After a good day of exercise, the pillow may be redundant. Down sweater and any spare clothing in stuff sack should suffice.
I just took about 4 lbs (quick math) out of your pack. These are only suggestions to lighten you load. Please, by all means, decide for yourself how many luxury items you are willing to bear while hiking all day. Overall, a 13 lb base weight is a very good starting point which can easily be adjusted along the way. Please keep these suggestions in mind and along the way if you choose…. eliminate whatever you wish on route by placing stuff in a bounce box and see if it not noticed. You can always put it back in the pack a few days later when arriving at the PO in the next town.
quick caveat and another thing to consider bringing…. Regarding clothing…a spare pair of socks can be a good thing. But consider thinner polyester type over wool and wear them in multiple layers. They are easier to laundry and when doubled up should prevent any blisters.
And bring some sun screen if starting in GA before the leaves come out. It is easy to become sun burned during this period.
I filter water with a pump water filter. My current filter is a MSR with a paper cartridge filter between the sieve sand filter and the ultrafilter. I have an aluminum pot which I can use to collect water from spring drips, creeks, etc. Sand and crap settles to the bottom. The filter will eventually clog and I use the supplied brush to clean the interior cartridge. At the end of the day I camel up with water to ensure I have enough water for Dinner and breakfast and part/most of the following day. My point is my system may be a bit heavy but it is pretty quick to filter and does not easily clog. Those tiny straw filters out there will eventually clog and then you will need to clean them. Finally I have started carrying a cartridge water bottle filter so that I can carry a liter or so of water in my camel back and scoop water from creeks and springs as needed. The filter is primarily used to ensure water for extended dry hikes which you will encounter and eventing / morning meals. I have friends who used aqua mira, chlorox, or nothing and neverr got sick. Finally I don’t recall if you have added some alcohol gel hand cleaner in a small bottle. Good insurance against norovirus. Best of luck.
I’m also from Maine, hiking the PCT this year, AND we have the same gaiters! #carpedonuts
Deodorant? You’re going to need a few pounds’ worth …