Appalachian Trail Gear Choices – “The Budde System”

Hello Friends! Let’s talk AT gear choices.

In viewing my official gear list you may notice that a lot seems to be missing. One benefit of traveling with a partner is shared responsibility. Paul and I have dubbed our way of doing things “The Budde System.”

Allow me to indulge you with a rundown on some of our current gear, a bit of background, and how we like to operate.

You may recall how Paul and I saved money, in part by removing ourselves from materialist acquisition.

Well, backpacking renewed the consumerist gene expression in us both! Our initial goal was to utilize existing gear from car camping as much as possible, but as you might imagine, things didn’t transfer over very well.

Home away from home.

Paul carried our original 6.5 pound tent on our first backpacking trip and decided immediately that we needed an upgrade. The Zpacks Triplex tent has proved itself well. Along with our Mini Groundhog stakes, the total weight of our home away from home is just under two pounds. Our tent doesn’t absorb water and dries quickly. It proves spacious, allowing us stretch out of the reach of rain and bugs. Not to mention,comfortably perform tick checks before bed.

Super Backpacks!

Shortly after procuring perfectly good packs from REI we switched to Zpacks Arc Haul Ultra 60L. which proved to be more comfortable and quite waterproof. I can safely say that these packs do not get weighed down during persistent rainfall. We still line our packs with contractor bags because it is better to be safe than potentially have soaked bedding.

Paul’s previous pack (Osprey Atmos) had base straps with buckles. These allowed for greater ease when removing and reattaching his sleeping pad. Lightweight packs don’t use buckles in order to save weight and by repeatedly pulling our pads out and returning them we noticed them beginning to fray at the edges. So we grafted base straps with buckles onto our Zpacks and now we have Super Backpacks!

Balancing activity with rest.

We started out solely using Nemo Switchback pads for sleeping, deciding later to add an air pad for potential shelter use and comfort in general. Resting well is important in maintaining high functionality. The Nemo pads work to protect our air pads and we also utilize them for stretching during breaks and at the end of the day.

Breaks are a key element of The Budde System. We like to pack up and start hiking early to allow for unrushed respites throughout the day. No speed records will be broken but intermittent breaks encourage a renewed sense of energy. Practicing tai chi forms, qigong and yoga periodically helps to balance the intensity of hiking. Our bodies and minds respond gratefully to the variation.

Water chore and stovelessness.

Paul carries our Sawyer Squeeze and Cnoc 2L. We take turns gathering and filtering water during breaks and enjoy water chore as one of our respites. Each of us carries a 1L Nalgene bottle for water and Paul carries another one for cold soaking food which we eat with one long UL spoon.

Starting out stoveless was a good choice for us. It has kept meal time and clean up simple so we can focus on other aspects of self-care.

We each carry a bear bag to distribute heavier resupplies. With youth baseball on his resume, Paul is the official hanger of them both.

What did come with us from our car camping days? Not much…

We are each on our second pair of Xero Genesis sandals that have worked out well as as camp shoes over the years. Before backpacking we carried them on our day hikes for stream crossings and breaks. Wearing them at the end of the day gives us the opportunity to wash and air out feet but to still walk around.

Our Energizer headlamps were a gift from my aunt years ago and they haven’t failed us yet. The weight difference compared to some of the more expensive UL head lamps is negligible and the gaudiness is unsurpassed.

I carry a light collapsible wash basin that attaches easily to my pack. It has proven useful when we want to soak/wash our feet or take a bird bath.

Paul attached a mesh bag that formerly held our old, heavy water filter to the side of his pack. He keeps our rock bags/line, extra paracord, toilet paper and toothbrushes in it…I guess that makes his backpack a bit more super than mine.

Some questions for you…

One of our plans is to exchange our 20 degree sleeping bags for a lighter 40 degree two person quilt. Thoughts on a good time to make this switch? We were thinking the end of April. Also, when would you suggest switching back to our warmer bags?

After watching several YouTube videos emphasizing relentless rain on the AT, we purchased an umbrella for each of us to carry. Having a little relief from downpours would be nice both while hiking and while taking one of our now famous breaks. It’s no big deal for Paul as he isn’t using poles. We are trying to find a solution to attaching mine to my pack so I can still use my poles.

Thoughts on umbrellas in action on the trail?

Thank you for reading and for your feedback!

Next time I’ll share my shoe options with you and ask the important question, which shoes would you choose?

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Comments 16

  • Auz : Dec 6th

    Can’t wait to read on. Been a dream of mine since I was 10(36 now)

    • Laura Budde : Dec 7th

      Thanks for your support, Auz! Glad to have you along with us!

  • jhony : Dec 7th

    My umbrella thoughts. I am 100% pro.
    Here you go, hope not too wordy:
    Regarding umbrella:
    • Lawton Ginter, in his book, I HIKE p173in said it best for me:
    “[The umbrella] “Gave me the opportunity to lollygag a bit. You see, most hikers walk very quickly in the pouring rain. Granted, most waterproof jackets keep the rain from seeping in but the cold rain zaps the heat from your body due to convection. It’s just a simple fact of allowing the cold water to land on your chest and shoulders for hours on end. With the umbrella, the rain never hits your chest and shoulders and subsequently allows you to stay warmer. It is like walking with a small tent over your head all day.. The other thing that hikers wearing only rain jackets typically don’t do is they don’t take breaks. Who wants to take a break in the pouring rain on the side of the trail to only get more more soaked and more cold. I took breaks every hour or so with the umbrella. I could squeeze in and get my entire body under the umbrella’s perimeter.
    Also nice to not have the hood of your rain jacket or poncho making that cowling over your head. Umbrella gives you much better field of view instead of blinders.”
    Ray Jardine in his book Beyond backpacking also praises the umbrella. And entire chapter “Umbrella” on the topic. “You ever seen hikers in rain jackets lounging around at rest stops,—out in the open–during a heavy rain? It doesn’t happen. But the umbrella makes those rest stops quite plausible.” p.105

    • Laura Budde : Dec 8th

      Jhony, thank you very much for taking the time to share this information! It is quiet helpful as these authors with experience express the arguments for umbrella use that Paul and I have been mulling over.

      Also, I’m going to have to read both of these books this winter! Great help!

  • Bermyboy : Dec 7th

    I have been reading all your posts and I think you are both very prepared with gear and enthusiasm!
    Honestly I have giggled a few times about some of your plans but you will figure that all for yourselves soon enough.

    I have a ZPacks backpack also and have used the umbrella attached to my left shoulder strap for hundreds of miles on and off the AT…with great results…shades me from sun and keep the rain of me in most conditions…but hiking along ridge lines in 30 mph winds won’t work with the umbrella I’m afraid!

    Let me pass on my umbrella setup to you…
    So you should purchase two of the umbrella holster kits from Z Packs and also the open top shoulder pouch…not the zipper one, that they sell on their site.
    On days when I don’t need the umbrella I keep my phone in the shoulder pouch.

    I set one bungee cord way up high around my shoulder strap and another one lower just about midway near where the clip is attached to the webbing running down the shoulder strap. I attach the clip with the open side away from my chest, facing to the left. Then I open the umbrella and slide it from the top through the whole setup and having the handle sit inside the shoulder holster/phone pouch which is permanently attached to my shoulder strap. I clip the shaft of the umbrella into the clip and tighten the bungees as required. You will find your sweet spot!

    Additionally I also have another homemade bungee setup which is attached permanently to my right side shoulder strap. I pass this around the top part of the umbrella shaft as well. I add tension to the umbrella shaft to keep it leaning more over my right hand side if and when required. I don’t always put a lot of tension on this…only in the wind when required, or if rain is coming from my right hand side. I always use hiking poles so I must have both hands off the umbrella and this setup works splendidly!
    If you would like I can send you some photos of my setup which has never failed me.
    Sorry for rambling but I can talk all day about hiking gear!

  • Laura Budde : Dec 8th

    Thanks for your support, Bermyboy! I’m sure we will be doing plenty of giggling at ourselves over the course of our great adventure as well.

    Your experienced input is very valuable as fiddling with the attachment of the umbrella to my pack has been a worry for me. This detailed description is fantastic and I would also love to see some photos of your set up if you would be so kind to send them!

  • Kerri Rivera : Dec 10th

    What date are you starting? I say most people usually switch out their bags at the end of April, however, if you’re going to be sharing your quilt you need to consider if you are both warm sleepers or if you (usually the women) sleep colder than your partner. So just be aware. Personally I freeze at night.

    • Laura Budde : Dec 14th

      Thank you for your reply, Kerri! Our start date is April 8th and we were thinking end of April as well. I’m usually a pretty warm sleeper, but I do seek the sensation of coziness that my bag provides at the end of a long hiking day.

  • Timothy Hill : Dec 10th

    Six moons design silver shadow all the way! Used it for the first time this year on the colorado trail and it was awsome! Protected my upper half from both hail and rain. I’m deffinetly an umbrella hiker now ?my new favorite piece of gear.

    • Laura Budde : Dec 14th

      Thank you for sharing your umbrella experience, Timothy!

  • M&M : Dec 12th

    I would say the time to swap out for warm weather gear (and back again) depends more on where you are than the date. Grayson Highlands in the beginning of VA can get cold so typically after that is the swap out point. You could always get it in Damascus if the weather is looking good though. For getting it back, I would suggest just before the Whites in NH. I have hiked in NH in July and had very cold weather with high winds. On my thru hike, we were on Mt Washington August 17th with beautiful weather. The next day was freezing rain pelting our faces with sustained winds of 60 mph and 80 mph gusts. Everyone’s experience is different of course.

    • Laura Budde : Dec 14th

      Thanks for sharing your experience, M&M! We had also considered Damascus as a good switch out point, but I’m glad you mentioned Grayson Highlands as quite cold. It is true that you can’t predict what the weather will be like.

  • Cholula : Dec 12th

    I am 100% anti umbrella! Many places on the trail will be too overgrown to carry it while it’s open. Once the trees put out leaves the rain tends to be tolerable. Focus instead on a fleece that will keep you warm even when wet, as well as synthetic sleeping bag/blanket. Make sure to keep one set of wet clothes and one set of dry clothes so you can quickly warm up when necessary.

    Another anti umbrella point is that you will often pick up water just from walking through overgrown parts of the trail – the water drips and transfers through direct contact with your hiking body, rather than falling from the sky.

    I just finished a thru hike in September 2022, so my experience with it is fresh! I made the whole hike with zero rain gear beyond a pack cover, and I never shied away from hiking in the rain. If you really want to be minimalist, you 100% DO NOT need an umbrella.

    • Laura Budde : Dec 14th

      Thank you for sharing your experience, Cholula! Once the trees have leaves that certainly does make a difference and we have experienced that soaking from the ground up. The most important thing is definitely keeping those dry clothes to change into.

  • Chris Judd : Jan 18th

    I am so looking forward to following your adventure this April. Very proud of you guys. Also love the “Budde System”
    I can’t say I know another couple that could enjoy this more than to you of you.
    AC and UT

    • Laura Budde : Jan 19th

      Thank you so much for your support, Aunt Chris! You know we have a great time no matter what we are up to:)

      Much love,


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