Backpacks and Gear: REI doesn’t know everything about gear
Before I successfully did a Southbound thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, I as most people bought plethora of gear at REI. For many of us hikers, gear is like politics. Gear is controversial.
“What’s your base weight bro?” A quote derived explicitly from cocky North bounders I met early on in my hike.
Gear is controversial. But the most important thing to remember is that you’re the one using the gear, not somebody else. If you are uncomfortable with some of your gear, switch it up, but if you like the gear you use, keep using it and don’t listen to others opinions.
Although others opinions can be very helpful when conversing in a friendly manner. The majority of gear talk I’ve been involved in usually is done in a pernicious dialect (I don’t encourage this, and try to leave any conversation like this) which is the problem, don’t attack others for what they want to carry on their back.
With that notion aside, REI is what I’m here to talk about. Before my first thru hike, like most people I made a 2 hour trip to REI and dropped about 700$ on gear that I would be using for my AT excursion. I bought a Gregory Baltoro 75 liter pack, rated the best backpack of the year- and let me tell you what, it just didn’t work out. Although I used it for all 2189 miles, I would’ve never bought this pack for a thru hike with the knowledge I have now.
After walking into REI, seeking out an employee and mentioning thru hiking the Appalachian Trail, the employee said “you’re going to need a big pack!”
Wrong, the idea that you need to carry a lot of stuff on the AT because its a 6 month journey misses the point, and also shows the flaw in the REI rhetoric.
The less you carry the less you worry, every morning when you pack your bag you have to find every item that goes in there and for some that can be quick and simple, but for those carrying a hoarders garage, it’ll acquire more time.
This is simply my opinion, but you don’t need to carry a lot of shit on the AT or any backpacking trip unless you’re catering for others (group trips etc.)
You have to walk 2000+ miles!!! Every step is at stake, whether it’s the constant rocks and ankle churning of Pennsylvania or the annoying slippery roots of Maine, the difference in carrying 40 pounds on your back vs 20 pounds can determine whether or not you finish your hike. Imagine this- you slip on a rock and go down with 40 pounds of weight in your backpack, this could possibly end your thru hike. Now imagine taking a tumble with only 20 pounds on your back, that’s half of forty pounds, half the weight on that ankle that is getting grinded up and half the risk!
Weight my not seem important at first, especially if you’re a tough, determined person, but after 1500 miles of walking your legs will be a lot more tired if you’re carrying a lot more weight. And at the end of my thru hike, I was dragging- physically drained because my legs were dead. The last day of my hike I weighed my pack and it came in at 34 pounds, I was extremely disappointed too, and have vowed to cut at least 20 pounds off.
You just don’t need a big backpack to get to the point. 75 liters is too much, you’ll regret buying something that big. Because no matter how big it is, you’re going to fill it.
A 75 liter pack weighs over 5 pounds alone. A 75 liter pack is literally not made for thru hikes, it’s made for a weekend stroll thru the woods, as seen in this picture, the wide hip belt destroyed my hips, causing infection, bruising and pain.
Constant grinding of the big hip belt destroys hips. The pain was so intense at times while walking I would cry for periods of time.
REI usually misses the point, which is okay-they tend to weekend hikers and have great knowledge. REI doesn’t cater for thru hikers, the backpacks REI supply generally are made for section hiking shorter distances.
The hip belts tend to be too big and wide, which is a major problem! Don’t make my mistake. For more information I’ll be writing another article soon about backpacks made for thru hiking-stay tuned.
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