Creedence and Clearwater’s Before & After Gear

As aspiring thru hikers, it can be daunting, even intimidating, to think about the gear needed to walk 2,190 miles. We are here to say, stop stressing because you can laugh at our pain and make fun of our mistakes before you make them yourself! In our field of work, our chefs always tell us that mistakes are a good thing; just don’t make the same one twice. You can now venture out on the trails making your own mistakes after reading about the numerous mistakes we made.

To be fair to us, and the seven people that read our blog posts, we openly admit that we had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. This idea was something so drastic and different than anything we had ever experienced in our entire life; but that’s what was so intriguing about it – the challenge.

We fully admit that we were newbies at this whole hiking thing. We had never backpacked before, had not camped in years, and no real knowledge on the Appalachian Trail. At the time, to our knowledge, REI was the only store in the entire universe that sold hiking gear. As you can see by the above picture, we made it a goal to spend as much free time at REI learning about hiking gear. Seriously, the employees at our local store were probably sick of seeing our faces every day. We took advantage of almost every class that REI offered pertaining to hiking in general. That is a seriously embarrassing picture of what I used to look like and am regretting tagging that picture with every letter I type.

    Pro Tip: Go to these classes!

We had a lot of fun going to these classes and going on “mini adventures” in preparation for the “big adventure”. They are a huge help and taught by thru hikers, use this as a resource! If we could make any generalized recommendation to future thru hikers it would be get as much “small gear” at REI (stuff sacks, clothes, maps, books, shoes, poles, sleeping pad, etc) and leave the “big gear” (tents and packs) to the small companies who focus custom gear for thru hiking. ULA, Hyperlite, and Zpacks are a few good places to start.


Our gear picture before Springer on the left and on the right is our final gear that we carried to Katahdin.

Alex and Amanda’s Gear, Approach Trail, February 20

Base Weight: 22 lbs – Alex, 24 lbs – Amanda

Fully Packed Weight: 38 lbs – Alex, 40 lbs – Amanda

Tent: North Face Triarch 3
*See our review on our tent here.

Pack: Zpacks Arc Haul Zip & Osprey Aura AG 65

Sleeping Bag: Enlightened Equipment down quilt, 20 degrees & 10 degrees

Pillow: Therm-a-rest Compressable

Sleeping Pad: REI Air Rail and Amanda had the women’s version

Water Filtration: Katadyn Gravity Filter

Water Reservoir: CamelBak Crux, 3 Liter

Shoes: Hoka One One’s
*The pair I wore was the model from two years ago, the ATR Challenger 2’s.
*Amanda wore Keen hiking shoes

Hiking Poles: Leki Corklite and Black Diamond Pro Shock

Alex’s Clothes:

  • Two (2) pairs of Patagonia Baggies
  • Two (2) Dri-fit t-shirts
  • Three (3) pairs of Darn Tough hiking socks
  • Three (3) pairs of ExOfficio boxer briefs
  • Trek hat
  • Patagonia Nano Puff Vest
  • REI Rhyolite Rain Jacket
  • Patagonia Down Sweater
  • Lightweight wool long sleeve – sleep shirt
  • Smartwool Midweight Bottoms – sleep pants
  • Smartwool Beanie
  • Polar Buff
  • Camp shoes – Crocs
  • Additional gear we carried:

  • Titanium cook pots
  • MSR Pocket Rocket
  • Shower Kit – toothbrush, toothpaste, nail clippers, band aids, contact solution, body wash, wash cloth
  • Ipod, Phone, charging cables
  • Book
  • Therm-a-rest Z-seat*My favorite piece of gear that I carried!
  • Atlas Hammock Straps
  • Eno Doublenest, ATC Version
  • Luci Solar Lamp
  • Petzl Actik Headlamp – Alex
  • Black Diamond Spot Headlamp – Amanda
  • Alex and Amanda’s Gear, Mt. Katahdin, October 7

    Base Weight: 16 lbs – Alex, 15 lbs – Amanda

    Fully Packed Weight: 30 lbs – Alex, 28 lbs – Amanda
    *Pro Tip: Save yourself a lot of weight by not carrying 3L of water at a time. There’s usually enough water on the trail to drink enough and take enough to be covered until the next source. Remember the mantra, kill one, fill one!

    Tent: No Change

    Pack: ULA Circuit
    *Almost every single person that we met that started with a Zpacks pack switched to ULA. These packs were all over the place on the AT for a reason!

    Sleeping Bag: No Change

    Pillow: No Change

    Sleeping Pad: No Change

    Water Filtration: Sawyer Squeeze
    *We each carried a Sawyer. With us both filtering water at the same time, it was about 384 times faster than the gravity filter.

    Water Reservoir – Smart Water Bottles, I personally loved the large bottles only found at Walmart! I could carry 2 liters if I needed to or I could only fill it halfway and be good to go.

    Shoes: Altra Superior 3.0’s and Brooks Cascadia 11 GTX’s
    *I became a trail runner connoisseur. Feel free to reach out with any questions you may have on shoes!

    Hiking Poles: No Change

    Alex’s Clothes:

  • Shorts – No Change
  • T-Shirts – No Change
  • Hiking Socks – No Change
  • Boxers – Instead of three pairs I only carried one
  • Trek hat
  • Vest – No Change
  • Rain Jacket – Switched to Frogg Toggs
  • Down Sweaters were exchanged for Patagonia Fleece Jackets. *Down sweaters have no business on the AT. They will ruin with sweat and moisture. Fleece is heavier but much more practical.
  • Sleep shirt – No Change
  • Sleep pants – I switched my Smartwool bottoms for REI Merino Wool bottoms. I found the Merino wool was slightly more breathable over the Smartwool.
  • Additional gear we carried:

  • Shower kit – tooth brush, tooth paste, nail clippers, contact solution, allergy meds, body wash
  • Phones and charging cables
  • Therm-a-rest Z Seat
  • Headlamps – No Change
  • Sleeping Bag Liners – Amanda used the microfiber type and I went with the CoolMax variety.
  • Gear that did not make it to Katahdin:

  • Our original packs
  • Our original tent – same tent, just replaced due to camping on Max Patch. Those winds were no joke.
  • Down jackets
  • Cook pots and stove
  • Camelbak Reservoirs
  • Katadyn Gravity Filter
  • Sea to Summit X-cup
  • Eno Hammock & Straps
  • Every stuff sack. Don’t fight it, get a trash compactor bag and let that be your bag liner.
  • Sea to Summit Trash Bag
  • Both buffs
  • Books

    *We didn’t include Amanda’s clothes because we made virtually the same decision when it came to what clothes we kept/sent home. For those curious you can find another post on the gear we finished with here. Our official gear list that can be found on this site also has more detailed information! Shorts, t-shirts, and socks were all a priority so we made sure we carried enough to cover two outfits. Boxers and underwear became less important as chafing became less of an issue. We were still sweating a lot, but our legs had slimmed down thus reducing friction and it wasn’t as hot as it was down south when we literally had to air out and stop hiking because we were so soaked. I lost one of my camp shoes and decided not to get another pair. It was a tough adjustment for the first few days, but worth it once I got used to just loosening the laces in my trail runners.

    If anyone has any questions regarding gear, please ask us! Use us as a tool to guide your own trip. There is a ton of information out there but we hope that this post can focus some questions or worries you may have regarding what to carry on your back for six months! Stay true to yourself and the reasons you are in the woods in the first place and you will make it! Happy Trails!

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    Comments 15

    • Mark Henderson : Nov 6th

      Excellent article. Have me rethinking a couple of items of gear: camp shoes, pillow and buffs. Agree on Therma-Rest Z seat–wonderful! Agree on Sawyer Water–wonderful. As I only hike in 4-5 day spurts, I can cheat on weight a wee bit i.e I am a hydration pack fan and I just moved up to 3 ltr, contrary to what you say. Planning on doing 14 days in Apr ’18. Will reread this then. I’d like to see an article on your experiences with meals and trail snacks.

      Reply
    • tj : Nov 7th

      Great comparison. I have some questions for you.

      What size Therm-o-rest pillows did you go with. They look quite full in your photos.
      Why did you ditch the ZPack? I could understand the Osprey, for weight. Was it durability, fit, comfort or what exactly?
      Which of you used the 10deg quilt? I have a 20 and swear it could work to 10 for me with a liner.

      Thanks for the info!

      Reply
      • Alex Wnorowski : Nov 7th

        Great questions, dude! Every one of them will be addressed in the video we will be filming today. If you have any more let us know!

        Reply
        • Buck : Nov 10th

          Well written and researched. I’m packed and ready to go myself and flexible to go on Feb 1, 2018. I’m interested on trail experience this early beyond it’s more quiet, sites more readily available, heavier clothing, and looking for more insights you may have going NOBO. Buck Wild

          Reply
    • Steve Blouin : Nov 7th

      Great article!! I’m 62 and in the same “novice” hiking and camping situation. Really want to take the plunge but must admit, as adventurous as I am, I’m very intimidated. Your article was very real and your guide to proper gear is the best info I’ve read yet!! Great job and congratulations on the effort. Wish I could’ve been with you!! Bless

      Reply
      • Snow White : Nov 10th

        I am 65, without any hiking experience and hiked 750+ miles this year on the AT! Plan on taking it slowly the first several weeks and you’ll learn a lot along the way and meet incredible people who will become trail family. I found by flip/flopping from Harper’s Ferry, going north in April, I met many older hikers. It was/is a fantastic experience and within a few days, you’ll have your routine down and your intimidation will be a thing of the past!
        Go for it!

        Reply
    • Alfred Lutzickii : Nov 7th

      I would love to try the trail soon.But I will be 55yrs. Old this may I don’t know if I have the knowledge to do it.

      Reply
      • Pando : Nov 10th

        Never let age be a limiting factor. If you’re in good health according to your doctor go for it. There’s pre-hike exercises and stretches that can help and, sure, you might not be doing 20 miles every day like the young guns. It’s not a race.

        Much older individuals have embarked and completed a thru-hike.

        Good luck

        Reply
    • retired firefighter, Tim Andrew : Nov 10th

      Excellent, looking towards March 5th, 2018, for charity

      Reply
    • Ina Richards : Nov 11th

      Very helpful advice ! So glad to read about your experience with gear. It’s helping me to make adjustments and consider making better decisions about my gear.

      Reply
    • Noel Nason : Nov 12th

      Why did you ditch the cook system, or what did you replace it with. And when did you decide to get rid of it/replace it?

      Reply
      • Alex Wnorowski : Nov 12th

        Great questions! We started in February so cooking became a huge hassle for us; which is pretty ironic considering we cook for a living! So with cooking, other chores come with it. You need to have water that’s clean to cook with. You need to carry soap and a small scrubby to clean the cook pot and your utensil after eating. (If you cook the Knorr rice packets you will scorch your pot at least once and it will take forever to scrub it clean). This was on top of it being freezing so at night when it’s dark and 30 degrees our hands went numb from cleaning out our cook pots. Then after they’re clean they have to be put away properly.

        This was all too much for us. We literally just wanted to eat and crawl into our tent to watch a movie every night. The chores that came with cooking were annoying for us, so we ditched everything at Hot Springs. We lived off of snickers, uncrustables, bread, peanut butter, and other carbs/fats. It was WAY easier for us and we couldn’t have been happier to go stoveless.

        Reply
    • Jeff A : Nov 13th

      I will be 65 when I embark on the trail in late March, and I want to ask you about footwear. I love Hoka Challengers. I started with the original, went to the ATR2s, and now have ATR3s. I know that they are not as durable as many other brands, but my feet love them. I hiked 220 miles this summer in the White Mountains and never had blister problems. My thought has been that even if I spend extra on footwear, if my feet stay comfortable it’s worth the expense. I saw that you traded Hoka ATR2s for Altras. Why? Was it the durability problem, or other issues? I too do not plan to bring camp shoes. As comfortable as trail runners are, I can’t see the need. It would be very helpful if you can provide more details on what you learned about trail runners, and why you ditched the Hokas. Thanks.

      Reply
    • Alex Wnorowski : Nov 13th

      Great questions!! I would agree with you that if they work, go with them! I originally bought 7 pairs of the ATR Challenger 2 and second guessed myself, so I returned 4 pairs right before we left. I regretted that decision almost every step of the way. I originally traded the Hokas for a minimalist shoe called the New Balance 10v1’s. They were a solid shoe and then I traded those for Altras. The reason I made that switch was because the minimalist shoe was wearing down and the rock plate that is built in was pretty much destroyed, and I did not want to start th Whites without traction or comfort on my feet. So I did some research and the reason I went to Altras instead of back to Hokas was durability. The Hokas are the premier comfort shoe on the trail. The issue, specifically, for me and those shoes was the toe box. It’s so fragile a twig could literally tear it open, and it did for me. Once that happens the shoes break down at an accelerated rate because you have to compensate for a torn open toe box and your step becomes different. It’s a chain reaction of suck, really. The Altras have a very unique toe box that is super sturdy and didn’t tear anywhere in the 500ish miles I wore them. The toe box also benefited me on the Altras before because on my left foot I have a weak ankle that doesn’t have full strength. Long story but a previous back injury took a lot of feeling out of my ankle and lower calf via the sciatic nerve. These shoes kind of make your big toe stay in place and force your other toes to spread out and push off in a supported way across your whole foot. It’s hard to explain but this really helped me out.

      If the Hokas work for you and buying 7-8 pairs of shoes is doable, I say go for it! Peace of mind is a big thing out there. If you’re not worrying about your footwear that leaves energy to focus in other departments! If you don’t want to worry about getting shoes sent to you all the time I say try out the Altras. They have the comfort of the Hokas (almost) and the support of a good rock plate underneath! Both are great shoes and I still love them both!

      Reply
    • Jeff A : Nov 14th

      Excellent advice, thank you. I love your pragmatism: Go with what feels good and hopefully eliminate one more thing to worry about. I may check out a pair of Altas though, just in case.

      Reply

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