Everything I’ll Admit to Bringing on my AT Thru-Hike

WARNING: Gear post in 3, 2, 1…

Here’s everything I’ll admit to bringing for my 2021 thru-hike of the AT

I’ll start with an apology of sorts. I really meant to post this update weeks ago. It’s long overdue. Quite frankly I’ve been repeatedly messing with the gear I’m intending to bring. The ‘Covid monster’ has me pushing my start date back into mid-April. Which in turn has me choosing somewhat less heavy winter items. And shhhh, a dirty little secret here; that it’s waaaaaaay easier to buy n’ try new gear thanzpac physically train for the grueling nature of the AT.

Somewhere through this process, I may have just missed one of the first lessons of the AT; that flexibility and just rolling with it is a key hiking survival skill (and I blew right past ‘less is more’). My gear will change so frequently thru adjustments for weather, seeing what other fellow hikers brought, gear fails, my conditioning, etc, that at any given point it’s just gonna be my best guess anyway. So I’m embracing my current gear, but being open to its evolvement to the backpack loaded with the gear of my dreams! Or at least good enough.

Note: This isn’t a gear review BUT…I will mention I bought all of this stuff with my own money, and shockingly, I’m not a Brand Ambassador or influencer for anyone.

So without further ado…here’s everything I’ll admit to bringing on my AT thru-hike.

My gear...

My Big three:

Tent: I’ll start here with my tent. Kinda ironic, as that was one of the last big AT gear decisions I made. To say I agonized over this specific choice is a gross understatement. And if you were one of the unfortunate (albeit helpful) folks who answered my seemingly endless gear questions etc, please accept my sincere apologies and heartfelt thanks.

This is starting to have that gender-reveal party vibe. It’s the Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 (2020 version). TBH I wanted a double-wall tent with the weight of a single wall. And um yeah, that’s not gonna happen. So I ‘settled’ for the BA Tiger Wall UL2, where the deciding factor was condensation avoidance (and yup, all tents will have some condensation). The thing that made the tent decision more critical this year is the likelihood I’ll be spending more time on trail in the tent, as opposed to shelters, due to Covid. At least I say that now, but let’s see how I do when that first thunderstorm rolls in. LOL

I did switch out the BA tent stakes with somewhat lighter stakes from Zpacks.  And instead of the ‘official’ groundsheet from BA, I’m going with a Polycro groundsheet.

Backpack: My pack is the Zpacks Arc Blast 55L. Great weight (20.3 oz), fits me well, holds all my stuff, features Dyneema® Composite Fabric, and feels like the right choice. Initially, I was going to go with the Osprey Exos 58L. While the Osprey fit very well, and had several desirable bells and whistles, the overall weight (2 lbs 11 Oz) had me eventually return it. Tks REI… Even though the Arc Blast uses Cuben Fiber, and offers great protection from water, I added a Gossamer Gear UL pack liner (1.35 oz) as a second line of defense and help keep my dry stuff separated inside the pack.

Sleep System: Originally I had a 15f degree mummy bag, but I move around a bit through the night. So I went with an Enlightened Equipment Revelation Custom. The notion of a quilt, and especially that the fabric doesn’t extend under you so it’s lighter due to less material, made sense to me. For a sleeping pad, I chose the Therma-Rest UL NeoAir.

And even though some hikers consider a pillow optional, I don’t sleep as well without one. The last time I slept without a pillow there was a lot of Jameson whiskey involved. Another item I’m considering bringing is the Gossamer Gear Thinlight 1/8” foam pad, to further insulate me at night, reduce the NeoAir crinkle crinkle sounds, and can even be used for sitting on breaks, etc. Also part of my sleep system are earplugs (as an anti-snoring defense). And a UL sleep mask for when I’m tired but that pesky summer sunlight is still shining.  ZZzzzz

Other elements of my base weight:

Clothes: carried vs worn (winter). Here’s a category where I have definitely have more weight than I wanted. But due to swings in temps in April/May, especially in the elevations, I gotta bring them…camp clothes I’m talking about you. It’s down to weight vs utility trade-offs (and cost). I do want dry-ish clothes to sleep in, but don’t want 2-3+ lbs of extra weight. I opted for the bare minimum without going bare (non-cotton t-shirt, UL camp pants, underwear, warm socks, warm mid-layer top)!

With these lists, and associated weights, there does seem like some gamesmanship in what’s worn versus carried. For example, my Patagonia sweater vest (puffy) is likely to be worn initially on trail in mid April, but could be quickly wind up carried later. Rain gear could be worn daily, especially the ZPacks rain jacket, but I listed the rain gear as carried.

I had thought of bringing a UL umbrella but cut that from the final list. I may rethink that after my first snack break in the pouring rain. And I’ll be carrying/wearing gloves (layered), buff, trekking poles, and a baseball hat. And carrying my ‘lucky’ camo hanky. It seems to boil down to expected conditions and what do I need. And yes, I NEED that camo hanky. And face masks.  I’ll be leaving our “George Foreman grill” at home though.

Cooking gear And speaking of cooking gear I’ll be using the MSR Pocket Rocket 2, and Toaks 900 ml UL pot to boil water and prepare various delicacies (or freeze-dried meals…whatever I can find LOL). For water filtering, I have a Sawyer Squeeze, CNOC 2L bag, and two Smartwater 2L bottles. I may not have those filled all the time, but I’ll have that capacity. As a water treatment backup, I’ll have purification tabs (and can also boil water). I got the Lite AF bear bag and will be further testing them all out in the woods next week on an overnight on the AT.

Electronics: The usual suspects here…an iPhone, a 20K power bank, Black Diamond Spot 325 headlamp (with spare batteries), earbuds wired (wires can be a pain but one less thing to charge), along with connecting charging cords for everything.

Misc / safety health; While technically this next item, the Garmin inReach Mini, is indeed electronics and therefore belonged in that previous section (is nothing sacred), it felt more like safety. It’s very light (3oz), and does work fairly well. I also have assembled a ‘roll your own’ meds bag with small amounts of vitamin I and other related bits n band-aids, etc. I’ll have an AWOL AT guide, Guthook app on phone, a compass on phone and an actual compass, and reading glasses. And a knife so small the TSA probably wouldn’t confiscate it. After that, it’s only my cunning and guile to save me.

Base and total pack weight I’m bringing on my thru-hike:

My current base weight is 13ish lbs, and is a good trade-off of needed items and with some optional comfort thrown in.  Total pack weight for my early Spring NOBO (including consumables – 4 days of food and two 2Ls of water) is approx 24.3 lbs. At least with everything I’ll admit to bringing on my AT thru-hike.

Not the super lightest pack in history but seemingly good choices for me for now…! The only dramatic weight reductions still possible will be my body weight as I continue to train. No joke, I’m down 40+ lbs over the past 3 years getting ready (and still need to lose 30 more eventually).

Further details on my gear/pack are on The Trek Blogger page under the gear tab at https://thetrek.co/author/steve-monaco/gear-list/ or even a slightly less updated version @ https://lighterpack.com/r/a0u5yn

Are we having fun yet? Thanks for reading, and please follow along with me at https://thetrek.co/author/steve-monaco for my further misadventures, and also on Instagram @stevemonaco2. Comments and questions are always encouraged.

Next blog: My 2021 AT NOBO target start date. Cheers!



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.

What Do You Think?