2019 Appalachian Trail Hikers Share Their Favorite Gear and Top Advice

We’re a few solid months into thru-hiker season on the Appalachian Trail, and it seemed as good a time as any to check in with our bloggers. We asked for their best gear, worst gear, where they were at as of the survey at the beginning of May, and their best advice for upcoming thru-hikers.

Phoebe “Unicorn” Anderson

Start date: March 24

Location as of this survey: Mile 320, right before Erwin, TN

Find Phoebe’s trail updates here

Favorite piece of gear

Probably my pack. I have a ULA Epic and it’s perfect for me. Pros: 100% waterproof, two pounds, and very durable. Cons: no back suspension system, can be squeaky.

I also love my HOKA marathon recovery shoes for camp. Five ounces for the pair and so comfortable and supportive.

Worst piece of gear

Patagonia Baggies shorts. Really wanted to like these but the big seam on the inner thighs caused terrible chafing 🙁

What shelter are you using?

My boyfriend NAB and I share a Zpacks Triplex, which we love.

What sleeping bag are you using?

I’m using the 5-degree Zpacks Classic bag. In retrospect, 5 degrees is overkill.

What pack are you using?

ULA Epic

What is the biggest surprise of the trail so far?

It’s packed and so social. I wasn’t ready for that.

What’s your one piece of advice for future thru-hikers?

Don’t go into this lightly. It is really, really, REALLY hard.

Juliana “Chaunce” Chauncey

Start date: March 4

Location as of this survey: Waynesboro, mile 863.7

Find Juliana’s trail updates here

Favorite piece of gear

Thrupack Summit Bum. I love my fanny pack because I can put everything I want between breaks in it and go farther without having to take my pack off / stop. Easy snacking makes me happy.

Worst piece of gear

REI GoreTex gloves. My hands are really small and the smallest size was still too big on me, so they always slipped off and were really hard to wear. I ended up not needing them as much as I thought either.

What shelter are you using?

Gossamer Gear The One

What sleeping bag are you using?

Katabatic Flex 15

What pack are you using?

Mountain Laurel Designs Burn (38L)

What is the biggest surprise of the trail so far?

It has views!

What’s your one piece of advice for future thru-hikers?

Don’t take it too seriously and don’t feel guilty for prioritizing fun over miles sometimes.

Will “Indigo” Krakow

Start date: April 4

Location as of this survey: Duncannon PA, 650 (started from Bland, VA)

Find Will’s trail updates here

Favorite piece of gear

Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer because apparently spring in Appalachia means “warmer” weather, not necessarily “warm” weather.

Worst piece of gear

A cotton T-shirt. Didn’t even send it home. Wasn’t worth $1.57 in shipping fees.

What shelter are you using?

Gossamer Gear The One

What sleeping bag are you using?

Enlightened Equipment Revelation 20

What pack are you using?

Gossamer Gear Gorilla 40L

What is the biggest surprise of the trail so far?

There’s no such thing as a “stereotypical thru-hiker.” Thru-hikers are of every age, occupation, background, nationality, and fitness level you can imagine.

What’s your one piece of advice for future thru-hikers?

If you’re a light sleeper, bring earplugs or prepare to tent often. Snorers abound, and they tend to flock to shelters.

Julie “Garden State” Velasquez

Start date: March 1

Location as of this survey: Port Clinton, PA, mile 1,219

Find Julie’s trail updates here

Favorite piece of gear

Zpacks Duplex. It’s held up in 60 mph winds and all weather conditions so far.

Worst piece of gear

Micro Squeeze. It clogs up and I went through two of them already. I’m sticking with the regular Sawyer Squeeze.

What shelter are you using?

Zpacks Duplex, two-person tent

What sleeping bag are you using?

Zpacks 20 degree down regular quilt

What pack are you using?

Mountainsmith Zerk 40.

What is the biggest surprise of the trail so far?

I never knew I was capable of doing a 40-mile day over the Roller Coaster right before Harpers Ferry.

What’s your one piece of advice for future thru-hikers?

Listen to your body and address blisters and injuries before they get worse. Limit zero days because they get expensive and can become a habit. Even one mile is better than a zero and will get you that much closer to reaching Katahdin. Never give up.

Steph “Smiley” Dawson

Start date: April 7

Location as of this survey: Hot Springs, NC

Find Steph’s trail updates here

Favorite piece of gear

My puffy! Patagonia Hooded Down Pullover; good for chilly nights and cold mornings, and I also use it balled up as my pillow at night

Worst piece of gear

I dumped my Altra Lone Peak 3.5 shoes in Franklin, NC. I made a last-minute switch to these shoes about two weeks prior to leaving home. Yes, I already knew not to change shoes so close to the start of my hike but I did it anyway. Within ten days I had developed Achilles tendinitis due to the zero-drop shoes and it made me miserable! After switching to a pair of La Sportiva shoes my feet are now good to go!

What shelter are you using?

MSR Hubba Hubba (two person)

What sleeping bag are you using?

Paria Thermodown 15 degree quilt

What pack are you using?

Granite Gear Blaze 60L

What is the biggest surprise of the trail so far?

It’s a tie:

1. Georgia was WAY harder than I anticipated.

2. Lack of wildlife. Where are the bears, boars, deer, and snakes hiding?

What’s your one piece of advice for future thru-hikers?

Don’t do too many miles too early, even if you’re feeling great. Take it slow the first two weeks and you are much less likely to get injured.

Julia “Rocket” Sheehan

Start date: March 10

Location as of this survey: Dragons Tooth, around mile 700

Find Julia’s trail updates here

Favorite piece of gear

My pack. GG Mariposa 60. It’s compact, has tons of pockets, and is very comfy! It even has a built in sit pad!

Worst piece of gear

Honestly, I have only sent home cold-weather gear. I did my research and love all my gear.

What shelter are you using?

Gossamer Gear The One

What sleeping bag are you using?

EE 30-degree Convert

What pack are you using?

GG Mariposa 60

What is the biggest surprise of the trail so far?

It doesn’t really get easier…. it’s a tough cookie! Luckily, I like cookies!

What’s your one piece of advice for future thru-hikers?

It’s going to hurt, a lot. But eventually you get used to it, and honestly this is the most amazing experience you’ll ever have. It’s eye opening and beautiful. It makes you appreciate everything else you have in life. Trek on!!

Sean “Orange Blaze” Speckin

Start date: April 3

Location as of this survey: Erwin, TN, 345 miles

Find Sean’s trail updates here

Favorite piece of gear

Cnoc bladder, for water filtering and camp showers.

Worst piece of gear

Water shoes, they NEVER dry.

What shelter are you using?

LLBean FS Microlight 2

What sleeping bag are you using?

REI Lumen 20 degree sleeping bag.

What pack are you using?

Osprey Exos 48

What is the biggest surprise of the trail so far?

I love the people. I’ve yet to meet someone who hasn’t been incredibly warm and friendly. The trail community is by far one of the most close-knit and supportive groups I’ve ever been a part of.

What’s your one piece of advice for future thru-hikers?

Start slow. Georgia is tough and you WILL get sidelined by injuries if you get too ahead of yourself

Jessica “Petra” Luty

Start date: April 15

Location as of this survey: Fontana Dam, mile 165

Find Jessica’s trail updates here

Favorite piece of gear

My Patagonia fanny pack. Not only is it hip and trendy in the nerdiest way but it’s also quite practical. I keep my phone, ear buds, vitamin I, pocket knife, etc., in my fanny, which leaves more room in my hip belt for snacks.

Worst piece of gear

I have no complaints about my gear other than my North Face Aphrodite 2.0 pants. Their website uses the term “ultra-durable” but after barely two weeks on trail I am questioning their integrity. Pieces of thread are poking out and it’s got those tiny balls that look like lint forming on the butt already. I have not sent them home but I may return them and request a refund.

What shelter are you using?

Gossamer Gear The One

What sleeping bag are you using?

Enlightened Equipment Enigma 20 degree.

What pack are you using?

Osprey Aura 50L size small

What is the biggest surprise of the trail so far?

I’m actually surprised the weather has been mild thus far. I know the rain will come but I have been pleasantly surprised with more sunny days than not. That said, I also did not originally pack sunscreen and I was surprised to learn I’d needed it for the “tunnel of trees.”

What’s your one piece of advice for future thru-hikers?

Aside from hike your own hike? The only words I can offer are this: don’t overcomplicate it. It’s as simple as putting one foot in front of the other.

Kristen “Sidewinder” Fiedler

Start date: March 20

Location as of this survey: Southern Virginia, around mile 600

Find Kristen’s trail updates here

Favorite piece of gear?

A toss-up between my Osprey Aura pack or my Brooks Cascadia trail runners. I think the two pieces of gear that someone should never compromise on for weight or money reasons are their pack and their shoes. They’re attached to your body and you’re asking so much of your body! Go figure. The things I didn’t compromise on are working for me wonderfully. I’ve heard a lot of people say they didn’t get the Aura pack, despite how comfortable it is, because the pack itself weighs four pounds. But the pain an ill-fitting pack can cause is far worse than the extra weight. As for my Brooks: I’m 600 miles in and still on my first pair. No holes, no tears, no blisters. OK, one blister, but it was tiny.

Worst piece of gear?

My Eddie Bauer Cloud Cap Rain Jacket. I’m usually a huge Eddie Bauer fan but this lightweight rain jacket can’t handle much more than a sprinkle. And the zipper is always getting stuck. I haven’t sent it home yet but I am looking to replace it.

What shelter are you using?

Mountain Hardwear Supermega UL 2 tent (discontinued)

What sleeping bag are you using?

Started with the Mountain Hardwear Laminina Z Flame 20 degree and just switched to the Laminina Z Spark 34 degree.

What pack are you using?

Osprey Aura AG 65 L

What is the biggest surprise of the trail so far?

Hiker hunger. I read about it and knew about it… or rather, I thought I knew about it. But oh man, hiker hunger is so, so real.

What’s your one piece of advice for future thru-hikers?

Don’t forget to blue blaze! It’s so easy to get caught up in how many miles you want to do that day and finishing the trail that it’s easy to get tunnel vision. But there’s so much to see; don’t cut the experience short!

Katharine “Manhattan” Rudzitis

Start date: March 30

Location as of this survey: Damascus, mile 470

Find Katharine’s trail updates here

Favorite piece of gear?

I absolutely love my Tiger Balm! It’s a great camphor/herbs rub that makes sore feet a lot happier in the evening, and my whole crew is using it now.

Worst piece of gear?

I used the physical AWOL book for about two seconds before switching to the pdf. I gave the book away to a fellow hiker. Runner-up is the gray plastic cup that comes with the MSR Pocket Rocket stove setup, since I forgot it was on my pot and melted it day two.

What shelter are you using?

Big Agnes Rattlesnake SL 2

What sleeping bag are you using?

REI Joule (21 degrees)

What pack are you using?

Osprey Aura size small, which runs about 47 liters.

What is the biggest surprise of the trail so far?

Even one month in, I feel so close to the other hikers and have totally adjusted to this lifestyle, which I thought would have taken longer.

What’s your one piece of advice for future thru-hikers?

Always try to find the positives. If it’s raining, no chance of a sunburn. If the shelter’s full, well, I guess my tent needed to dry anyway. If it’s sunny, at least it’s not raining. Repeat, repeat. That helps me stay out of negative mood cycles and stay focused during the day. Also… take care of those feet.

Brian “Fast Lane” Kavanaugh

Start date: March 23

Location as of this survey: Catawaba, VA, mile 709.9

Find Brian’s trail updates here

Favorite piece of gear?

My fanny pack from High Tail Designs. It keeps everything important in one place—phone, wallet, pocket snacks, etc.

Worst piece of gear?

My Snow Peak stove and cook pot. Technically they worked fine. I just sent them home because I wasn’t using them.

What shelter are you using?

Gossamer Gear The One.\

What sleeping bag are you using?

Enlightened Equipment Revelation 10 degree.\

What pack are you using?

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest 45L.\

What is the biggest surprise of the trail so far?

The kindness and generosity shown from people in towns along the trail.

What’s your one piece of advice for future thru-hikers?

Try to let go of any expectations that you have and just accept what the trail gives you one day at a time.

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Comments 2

  • Robert : May 29th

    I live 16 miles from mt Katahdin
    Anyone wanting to stay at my place is welcome

    Reply
  • Seth : May 31st

    I looked into those HOKA Marathon recovery shoes, thought they looked awesome and ordered a pair. The website says they’re “6.6 ounces” turns out that’s PER SHOE and not PER PAIR, and that must be for their smallest size because the pair of 10 MENS I ordered came in at 14 oz.

    Basically the exact weight of my Crocs. Already filed my return and will be sending them back tomorrow!

    Reply

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