Carrying only what you need: My AT 2017 gear list

Warning: This post is for the gear nerds!

March 14th I’m coming for you!  I’m officially jobless and homeless (aren’t you so proud, Dad?) and I couldn’t be happier!  I’m spending my last days pre-trail scribbling notes all over my AWOL guidebook highlighting side trails, shelters, and hostels I want to be sure not to miss.  Before I started out, I wanted to share what’s in my pack, my initial thoughts on my gear, total weight/cost, and what I’m not bringing.  Comments/Critiques/Questions are all appreciated.

If gear isn’t a topic you particularly care to read about, feel free to skip right over the post and tune back in after the 14th! (Follow me on Instagram for the most up to date posts)

If you are an ounce counter or have become one like me, check out all the individual weight of all items here.



Total Base Weight: 16.2 lbs

Base weight is everything you carry excluding food and water.  Water typically weighs 2 lbs per liter and Food weighs roughly 2 lbs per day.  So with 5 days of food and 2L of water, I’ll be starting my hike carrying about 30 lbs total.  As I figure out what I actually use on a daily basis, I’ll adjust my gear accordingly.

Total Gear Cost: $1868 (not including everyday items such as toiletries, medicine, or electronics)

Now that amount might seem staggering, but this cost has been a series of purchases over the past 2 years.  Thanks to REI’s generous 1 year return policy I was able to make an initial investment in gear at a quarter of this cost and I’ve returned and upgraded the majority of the gear I originally purchased.  You can definitely do this for less money up front!! Don’t let my deluxe price tag scare you from going on an adventure or dipping your toes into backpacking! Chances are you already own some of the equipment needed.

What I’m not bringing:

I was actually surprised that one of the most popular questions I was asked after announcing my thru-hike was whether or not I’d be bringing a gun.  Personally, I don’t think it’s worth the weight when I believe I can get my self out of any situation that would warrant one.  (For those who still doubt me, read this article from the National Park Service on dealing with bears)


Watch out bears and homicidal hillbillies?


Camera: I’ll only be using my IPhone to capture the images and videos from my hike for two reasons: 1st, only carrying my phone saves weight, and 2nd, I’m only an amateur photographer.  If I already had a nice camera and knew how to use it, then maybe I’d reconsider.

Gourmet Kitchen Setup: As much as I’d like to bring multiple pans and a fully stocked spice rack, weight and practicality wins out for me.  And no, I won’t be carrying a long knife or living off  the land.

This trip will test my ability to be a minimalist.  Anything I don’t really need/use, I don’t intend to carry.


So without further ado, here’s everything I’ll be taking with me on my thru hike attempt this year:

The Big Three (Pack, Shelter, Sleep System)



Pack: ULA Circuit (2.59 lbs, $235, w/pack cover) This item was the last major piece of gear I acquired.  I originally had an Osprey Aether pack (over 5lbs), but I wanted to choose a lighter pack built for long distance hiking. So far I love the large hip belt pockets, shock cord/mesh pockets on the exterior, and the light weight.  My only gripe would be that the back padding doesn’t allow for too much airflow so I sweat more.

Shelter: Nemo Hornet 2 person Tent (1.9 lbs, $370, w/polycro groundsheet($10))  I love this tent!  While there are lighter tarptent options, the Nemo Hornet is probably the lightest freestanding tent with 2 tent vestibules (which is great for gear storage.)

Bag: REI Igneo, (1.8 lbs, $180) Nothing too special about this bag, but it’s comfortable and warm and rated to 19 degrees.  I do like that the foot box and sides have a waterproof fabric to protect the down fill from getting wet.

Sleeping Pad: Nemo Tensor 20R (13.5 oz, $120 w/Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow($28)) This pad’s best feature is the 3″ of comfort at a low weight penalty.  The rectangular shape allows for some shifting around at night without slipping off the mat.




Columbia Ridgeline Synthetic Shirt ($37) Bottom Line for all clothing is go for synthetic! It dries quickly.

Columbia synthetic zip-off pants (~$40)

Handy dandy Buff ($17) Buffs are super versatile: headband, balaclava, pillowcase, pot warmer, etc

Darn Tough Socks (~$18)

Ex-officio Boxers ($17)

Vasque Breeze 2.0 boots (~$100) planning on switching to trail runners after these wear out. I’ll probably go through 3-4 total pairs of footwear during my trip.

Rain Gear:

Outdoor Research Helium II Rain jacket ($118)

Marmot Precip Rain Pants ($45 (used from REI Garage Sale)

Layers/Extra Clothing (in an 8L stuff sack):

Patagonia Down Puffy Jacket ($100 (used from REI Garage Sale) I love my down jacket.  I won’t be bringing a fleece, I’ll just have to keep it dry since down doesn’t do very well when wet.

Columbia fleece hat ($4)

North Face E-tip gloves($35)

Two extra pairs of Darn Tough Socks (~$18 each)

Lucky Bandana

Flip Flops (Generic Walmart brand for camp shoes)


Food and Water


BRS Stove ($20, 0.9 oz) This is one of the lightest canister stoves on the market.  And unlike the normal ultralight trend, one of the cheapest.

Snow Peak titanium solo cookset (pot/cup) ($75)

Human gear duo bites spoon/fork ($8)


13L Sea to Summit Bear Bag with 50′ of rope/carabiner (~$20)

Sawyer Squeeze water filter with tornado tube gravity hack ($30) see this video to turn  squeeze filter into a gravity filter – much less of a hassle!

Evernew 1.5L water bladder ($10)

2 SmartWater 1L Bottles



IPhone (I’ll be using this as my camera, journal, and I’ have Guthooks navigation app)

Kindle (I may send this home if I find myself having enough battery on my phone to use it as my reader.  The kindle’s battery last for nearly a month however!)

Dual Usb quick charger ($17)

Ankr 13k Ohm portable battery charger ($35) Should fully charge my phone 3-4 times before needin to be recharged, making sure I always have juice to take pictures/listen to audiobooks)


headphones (generic, lightweight iPhone headphones)

Petzl headlamp (~$20) For night hiking, all the cool kids do it

Ditty Bag (First Aid Kit and Toiletries)


First Aid Kit

Ibuprofen, Benadryl, a few bandages and alcohol wipes (You can never carry enough here, but you can certainly carry too much – my philosophy here was carry only enough of what I think I’ll need to make it to a road crossing or town to get medical supplies/attention)


Repel bug spray

Bodyglide (for chafing)

Tick remover (I’ll be treating my clothes with permethrin a few times throughout my trip – ticks are the only real danger on the AT – Lyme disease is no joke)

Athletic tape for blisters


Trowel ($5) poop shovel!

Hand Sanitizer


Shamwow towel

Dehydrated wet wipes



Black Diamond Distance Carbon z poles (~$100) trekking poles have become a must for me to save my knees!

Therm-a-Rest z seat ($19) Super light and keeps my butt dry and comfy

AWOLs AT Guide

Leatherman CS multitool ($15)

Mosquito Headnet ($3)

Sewing Kit



And that’s it! Let me know what you think!


Disclaimer: All items mentioned in this post were purchased by me and the opinions are my own.  No one paid me or gifted me equipment in exchange for a review (even if that would be really, really cool).

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 11

  • Skybreaker : Mar 8th

    Hey man, I thru-hiked in 2013 and I want to congratulate you on making one of the best decisions of your life. Also, a huge amount of congratulations to the thought and effort you put into your gear. I didn’t have a clue what I was doing when I started, but like all the others I eventually became obsessed with counting ounces and never stopped. I feel we are something of kindred spirits already. Your base weight is already in the same range mine was at the end when I had learned how to shed weight.

    That being said, when you get out there you are still going to start wondering how you can shave even a little more weight off and I have some thoughts you may wish to consider that could save you a few pounds.

    1. Your pack itself. Looks like a fantastic pack but it’s still heavy compared to some of the crazy light packs (cuban fiber, tyvek etc.) that weigh under a pound. I expect it’s too late to switch, so I recommend doing what most of us did by the end and take the internal frame out and put a z-lite inside the main compartment and against your back so it functions what’s called a “virtual frame”.

    2. Your tent. Not a bad choice at all when it’s cold, but you may want to consider the half-pound alternative when it gets warmer: a poncho. It’s your rain-gear, pack cover and your shelter at the expense of occasionally having to wear a bug net to sleep. But that’s often made up for by the fact that you get to fall asleep looking at the stars every night and feeling connected to the environment. I might also recommend a half-pound bivvy to protect your bag since you’d be a little more exposed. In that case you could still be looking at a pound of gear here, but with the bivvy you don’t even have to set up anything when the weather is nice. Could be totally worth it. And Poncho shelters are a lot of fun.

    3. Your shoes. Most people start the trail in boots, and most people finish in something much lighter like trail runners. There are a number of reasons for this, the biggest one being that saving a pound on your feet is roughly equivalent to saving five pounds off your back. The math of this is interesting, and I read a breakdown of it in “The 2 oz Backpacker” once. But basically, you save enormous amount of calories and energy every day by making your feet lighter. This alone didn’t sway me at first when I started in gortex boots. But by the time the boots eventually soaked through and I couldn’t walk for three days because I blisters, I was a convert. I also later saw firsthand how ankle support is a myth when a friend broke his ankle right in front of me while wearing nice boots, just by stwpping off the trail wrong. This eventually led to a lot of research into barefoot running and barefoot shoes (highly recommend anyone read Born to Run) which I am totally sold on today. However, I would caution you to not make the same mistake I did and transition directly from boots to barefoot shoes. My feet became so tortuously swollen I was popping a dozen advil a day and still could only limp. It was a miracle I didn’t quit. In the end though, I chose to wear trail-runners and finished the AT with those.

    One last thing, I recommend reading Appalachian Trials by Zach Davis. It’s designed to mentally prepare you for the psychological battles you will encounter. I believe adapting to lighter gear and being willing to try new systems gave me an edge, but I credit this book with a huge part of why I finished when people with lighter gear and in better shape dropped out when I didn’t. Gear is soooooooo much fun to obsess over and I hope I can make a living out of it in the future. But at the end of the day remember: it’s you. It’s your mind and your body hiking that trail. Not your gear.

    Best wishes to you!


    • A.J. Matthews : Mar 9th

      Skybreaker, thanks for the thoughtful post and words of encouragement! You’re right that I’m sure I’ll be looking to cut weight even after I’ve started. I’ll definitely keep in mind the tip of removing the frame using the seat pad for when Instant thinking that way. I’ve spent many nights in the military with just a bivy and to be honest with you I hadn’t really considered a poncho/bivy setup when I started backpacking. I agree though, it can be a pleasant experience under the stars. I haven’t read “Born to Run” yet but I’ve only heard good things. I’m definitely adding it to my reading list. And Appalachian Trials has been helpful so far, I’m taking my ‘lists’ just like Zach said to do!

  • Jon : Mar 9th

    Great list! I might keep an eye on the stove, though. I’ve read a few reviews that mentioned how the post stands bend. Watch your food! Happy hiking!

    • A.J. Matthews : Mar 9th

      Thanks Jon! I’ll definitely keep an eye on the stove. Having a food spill due to the arms would be a bit of a day ruiner.

  • BJ Clark : Mar 9th

    What are you going to sleep in when your clothes are wet? And they will get wet! Without a fleece type midlayer the shirt will be soaked under your rain gear. Don’t rely on your puffy when moving in the wet. March and April can be very cold. At least a thermal top and bottoms for sleep and as warmth backup on the move.

    • A.J. Matthews : Mar 9th

      Oops, good catch. I forgot to put my base layers in the article… I’ll be doing just as you recommended and bringing a thermal top and bottom as dedicated sleep clothes/extreme cold weather layers. I’ll be using a pair of thermals I still had from my time in the military.

  • Leonidas : Mar 9th

    I would swap the plastic trowel for something metal and lighter, the ground is pretty rocky and the plastic trowels suck to dig in that environment. I started with the orange one myself and swapped to a deuce of spades, .6 oz aircraft aluminum. Not too pricey either.

    • A.J. Matthews : Mar 9th

      For some reason I just haven’t been able to justify to myself spending $20 on a trowel. I know its kind of ridiculous, especially when you see my total cost for gear, but that’s why I haven’t upgraded yet. I’ve been so close to getting the deuce of spades or Qiwiz trowel a few times but never bit the bullet.

  • Buffalo + Mumble : Mar 9th

    Great pie chart and awesome post! Maybe we’ll see you out there!! Happy Trails! @Lifeat2mph

  • Jennifer : Mar 13th

    Great read!!!! Trying to figure out how I can reduce the weight in my sons BSA hiking bag.
    Have a great time and most of all enjoy and be safe!!!!!

    Jennifer from Virginia

    • Jennifer : Mar 13th

      Also…….I too said the same thing. Who in the heck walks from ga to me lol ANSWER A LOT OF PEOPLE ?


What Do You Think?