Everything I’ve Gotten Rid of Since Starting My Thru Hike
At Neel’s Gap, I dropped my pack’s weight from 33 pounds to 22.5. I got rid of my dignity! Just kidding. Kind of.
So far, I’ve had four different shakedowns from friends and strangers alike. After every shakedown, the stranger becomes a friend. Opening up your pack to someone is oddly personal, like feeling naked in front of them. “This is what I use to survive,” you’re saying. “Now judge me for it, and tell me how to live lighter.” I’ve always enjoyed being naked and learning from others, so I enjoy shakedowns. With each one, my pack has gotten a little lighter. I’ve gotten rid of extra shirts, extra underwear, large tubes of sunscreen, extra bandanas. I’ve gained helpful tips, like how to pack my pack more efficiently, or keeping my sleep clothes in the same stuff sack as my sleeping bag. And — my favorite part — I get to know whoever is helping me a little better. Keeping an open mind and learning from others has a great way to better yourself and make friends. Knowledge is the lightest thing you can pack — and the most valuable!
What I Dropped
I lost at least a pound losing this thing. As a journalism major and photographer, I thought I was going to use it. I scoffed at people who used their iPhones to take photos. And then I started thru hiking. I shoved the camera to the bottom of my bag and thought about all the ways I’d love to throw it off a cliff and how I could get rid of it without violating leave no trace. Eventually I shipped it back home at Neels Gap. My phone camera works great — and I’m not carrying an extra pound!
I just didn’t see the point with the gossamer gear tent footprint. It felt like putting a piece of plastic wrap on the ground and stuffing all the moisture and leaves and dirt it brought with it back into my bag. This saved me more room in my pack than anything.
First aid supplies
I dropped some first aid supplies that I had. The only things I have in my first aid kit now are medications, bandaids, aquaphor, moleskin and tape for blisters. It’s essentially a seasonal allergy and blister kit.
Extra pair of glasses
These were really funny to put in the hiker box. They weren’t my prescription anymore either — so they weren’t serving a purpose. I just really liked the idea that someone would see them in the hiker box and think the trail had gotten to somebody so bad that they just didn’t want to see anymore. I only have the one pair now, knowing I’m only three to five days from a town (or from seeing again if my glasses break.)
I got rid of the sacks that hold my sleep pad and my pillow. Although these don’t seem like much, ounces matter — and more so, the mindset behind getting rid of unesscary items matters. The more you look at everything in your pack, and weigh it on a scale of if it will make you happy to bring to Katahdin, if it will actually help you get to Katahdin and if the weight is worth bringing to Katahdin — the easier it will be to actually have the stuff you need to get to Katahdin.
I do my best these days to make sure my resupplies are exactly what I need to eat over the course of the next three to five days, and nothing more or less. This is easier said than done — but if you think about the AT as twenty or so three to five day backpacking trips, it’s easier to pack out food for it. Packing more food weighs you down more, and packing less food risks not eating enough. Find a balance, and you, your stomach and your feet will be happy!
I exchanged my metal spoon for a spork I found on the side of a shelter. Not my most shining moment — but it was cost effective and more lightweight!
For some, these help rocks stay out of their shoes. For me, they just helped me feel cool. I felt cooler without more stuff to keep track of, so I got rid of them and hoped another hiker would enjoy them.
Bug spray and sunscreen
I just sized these down. I got a smaller tube of sunscreen, and it wasn’t late enough in the season for the bug spray yet. I realized going onto the AT isn’t really disappearing from society altogether. If you need something… just get it from town in the next couple days!
I’m not saying getting rid of these things is right for everyone. It was the right thing for me — and your pack might look different! Maybe you have less blisters, so you don’t need loads of tape. Maybe you have a sense of dignity, so you don’t use a spork you find outside. Maybe you’re an incredible photographer, and you will keep your camera. Who knows! For me, it was a feeling of taking solely what I needed, and knowing it would make my sore feet feel better with less weight, and that I was taking steps (literally) towards helping myself reach Katahdin. After I dropped everything in the hiker box, I was grinning so much a fellow hiker said, “wow! You look like you just had a revelation!” And I did: less shit makes me happier!
Avoiding shakedowns and advice will stunt your growth in backpacking and in life. Pride makes for a heavy pack.
So get rid of it! It’s the latest in ultralight.
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