Five Things That Did Not Work: Appalachian Trail 2018

I had 130 days to try out gear, routines, eating habits, sleeping set-ups, etc.  This list talks about the top five things that did not work for me on the trail, a follow-up post to the five things that worked.  

Water Filter: Gravity Filtration

I started the trail using a gravity filtration system.  Initially I loved it and thought it was the best, but I think that love turned out to be misunderstood stubbornness.  It took me a few minutes longer just because I had to get out all the pieces (bag, hose, filter, second pipe, second bag).  It was cumbersome and ended up not lasting much longer than the first month. For the PCT 2019, I will be using the Sawyer Micro Squeeze, which I am stoked about.

Pacing: Trying to Keep Up with Other People

Some days you feel fierce AF and could run the whole trail.  Other days you want to take a break at every viewpoint and relax. It was really challenging for me to stay humble and true to what my mind/body wanted in the moment.  When I would try to keep up with other people, it would sometimes lead to injury, anxiety, or frustration. It is hard to fall behind, especially when you are having great conversations with the people you’re hiking with or when you just want some company. Just try your best to be mindful and know when to push yourself versus hike your own hike.  

Trendy Gear: Zero Drop Shoes

I really wanted to be able to rock zero drops.  All of the hikers were talking about them and I wear Converse shoes day-to-day, so I figured that if they worked for everyone else, they would probably work for me, too. I quickly learned that they did not provide enough support for my feet.  My feet were in serious pain a few weeks into trail so I decided to switch over to the shoes I used before thru-hiking.  

I had a pair of Keen Targhee Vent Low Hiking shoes sent to me in Pearisburg and my feet were instantly happier. In Rutland, I had my third pair of shoes sent to me, but unfortunately my feet grew (again) and they did not fit. So I caught the local bus to the only outdoor store around and bought my third and final pair of shoes, the Salomon XA Pro 3D. These were perfect for me and I plan to use them for the PCT.

Pants

I’ve mentioned in my previous post, six tips for thru-hiking, that I started with too much gear. I wore my favorite pair of prAna pants the first day, but after that, they

stayed in my pack until I sent them home. I hiked from April 24 to Aug. 31 and did not see any snow.  Some people I know who started only a week before me had snow, so this note is situationally dependent. For me, though, it only took a few minutes to warm up.  Plus, I had my sleep pants if I really needed a barrier for my legs.

Gaiters

This was another piece of gear that everyone was talking about so I figured I needed them.  I enjoyed them for the first month or so until they broke. Then it was either buy a new pair or hike without them.  Since I was around some people who didn’t wear them and I had developed my own opinions from experience, I figured I would give hiking without them a try. Verdict—it was totally fine.  A few pebbles or twigs here and there and a few quick breaks to empty my shoes out, but overall I was just as happy without them.

Honorable Mention: Sleeping Pads with High Noise Rating

OK, I know noise rating is not a real thing but it should be. I loved my Therm-a-Rest NeoAir sleeping pad. It was so comfortable and it held up for the most part for the

entire trail. But holy moly, was it loud. Every time I moved the slightest bit, it was as if someone was crinkling wrapping paper over the loudspeaker.  Beyond it being personally annoying, I always felt badly for those around me who were trying to sleep. Actually, it was kind of funny—the crew I was with got in sync and whenever one Therm-a-Rest(er) would move, the rest of us would use that as an opportunity to adjust, too. I am still looking for a sleeping pad for the PCT. Any suggestions?

These are the things that did not work for me on trail and your experience may be totally different.  Did any of my top five make your top five? Have anything to add? Share your thoughts with me below.

Happy hiking!

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Comments 23

  • Avatar
    Ross : Feb 20th

    Have you looked at Exped? My Exped Synmat sleeping pad is quiet and warm and stows along with my sleeping gear in their Schozzle bag inflator. The only problem is the company makes over 100 different pads and it is crazy hard to figure out which one to buy.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Devin Everett : Feb 20th

      I haven’t looked yet but I will check it out! Thanks for the recommendation!

      Reply
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    Phoebe Anderson : Feb 20th

    Great post, thanks! My bf and I both use Nemo Tensor pads and I soooo love mine. The new version comes with a pumpsack and it ROCKS! Would totally recommend.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Devin Everett : Feb 20th

      thanks for reading the post 🙂 Ahh amazing to hear. Yeah, the nemo tensor seems to be the popular vote!

      Reply
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    Whitney : Feb 20th

    Nemo Tensor all the way for a new sleep pad!!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Devin Everett : Feb 20th

      seems to be the popular vote!!

      Reply
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    Shaena : Feb 20th

    I have never hiked in america, but if I tried hiking with bare legs up here I would be mutilated by insects, scratches, brush, nettles, poison oak, black flies, mosquitos and ticks. I had only hiked without roper waterproof boots and gaiters once, but I had to duct tape old bread bags onto my boots to keep the ten inch deep sucking, stinking mud out. Yet I see all these people on the AT posting about short shorts and sneakers and am utterly baffled. I also could never hike without heavy rainproofing gear, because the storms roar sideways for hours, and then when the temp drops you can get hypothermia, how can you guys hke without all of these protections, naked, with flimsy tents and one lighter? Lighters do not even work on half the elevations here and I have to really struggle with matches and a tarped up shelter to get any kind of fire or stove to catch in a storm, high wind or rain- is it really so very mild and flat in America? Are the trails truly all like flat dry roads? Does it never storm or freeze? How do you not all have bloody legs and lyme disease? How do your puny one pole tents stay up in storms? I do not understand.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Shaena : Feb 20th

      My 1” insulated foam Thermarest inflatable pad from 15 years ago in heavy polyester and not flimsy nylon has lasted reliably and never popped in the field or made sounds like those fat glorified nylon pool mattresses always do. I am wondering if their newly released Apex may be the next best one for function,being a whopping 2” but still solid fabric and foam. It rolls to the size of a nalgene bottle, which is incidentally what I use to carry my water, with a katadyn hand pump I have had for 20 years, and none of them fail in the backwoods, sliding down cliffs, or temperature extremes. I have your solomons in the waterproof leather version with short gaiters for summer short hikes, and asolo 1/2 steel shank waterproof leather boots with knee gaiters in goretex for the rest of the time, with crampons for spring, fall or winter, but one must replace the rubber strap under with a fine steel chain or cord and clip to prevent wear from the sharp rocks deep in the mud pits. I have a pair of waterproof sports sandals for fording rivers in summer that get tucked in the same side pocket I put crampons when there is ice. I never carry down, because the rains are too heavy, and I cannot risk freezing. I only carry boiled wool or polar fleece and a synth bag, but I am never caught without a second and third way to make fire and a tarp to cook under

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Devin Everett : Feb 20th

        Sounds like you are all set with your gear and well versed in hiking! Happy to hear that 🙂 Also, incredibly impressed with how long all of your gear has lasted! Well done!

        Reply
    • Avatar
      Devin Everett : Feb 20th

      where is up here? I hiked the AT in shorts and was absolutely mutilated by insects, scratches, brush, nettles, mosquitoes and ticks. It was just par for the course for me. My shoes were soaked whenever it rained, which was soooo often! I hiked with a rainjacket in the beginning but eventually sent it home because everything was just soaked anyway and I hated being sweaty wet and rain wet. I did pick up a frogg togg up north when it started getting a bit chillier and I wanted a wind breaker. I didn’t even carry a lighter, i just cold soaked everything. I don’t think i’d say that it is mild or flat, but maybe it is compared to where you are from. In Virginia, i hiked in the rain for three days straight and it was awful. Everything was soaking wet, the trails were streams and it was so cold. But the sun eventually comes out and you just take breaks and find friendly people to hike with and cheer each other up! I was lucky to not get any snow. I actually have Lyme disease, but I got it before the trail. Anyway, thanks for the long message- it is lots of fun to talk trail! Have the best day 🙂

      Reply
    • Avatar
      Dirk : Feb 24th

      Hey Shaena,
      so where are you from, where do YOU hike?

      Reply
  • Avatar
    Bill : Feb 20th

    We’re they Altra Lone Peaks that you started with and switched from

    Reply
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      Devin Everett : Feb 20th

      Yup! I started in them and wore them until Pearisburg. Then I went to the Keens. After them, I was planning to try the Altras again, because I was still set on keeping up with the cool kids and really wanted the zero drops to work for me. The shoes I had send to Rutland were a size to small by the time I got there, just so much swelling in my feet. So the only option I had were the Salomons, and luckily they were great!

      Reply
      • Avatar
        Pony : Feb 25th

        Was it the zero-drop feature that bothered you for sure, or something else?

        I ask because Altra makes a model with massive cushion, the Olympus, that I liked quite a bit when I hiked in 2016. Lone Peak doesn’t have enough cushion for me. Also, the Altra Timp is about halfway between those two models in terms of cushion.

        On the other hand, I’ve been hiking in Xero sandals lately, and they have, well, zero cushion, and I like them. Not 2,190 miles (just 77 and 85, respectively), but I’m very surprised how comfortable hiking in sandals is.

        Reply
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          Phoebe Anderson : Feb 25th

          Yeah, I love the Olympus! Great shoe. Incidentally, I bought a pair recently and I’m close to having outgrown them now 🙁

          Reply
          • Avatar
            Devin Everett : Feb 26th

            Glad you found a great shoe that works for you! I can totally relate to outgrowing shoes. It is wild how much our feet can grow on a thru-hike!

            Reply
        • Avatar
          Devin Everett : Feb 26th

          I think it was a combination of the zero drop and not having enough firm support. I will keep the Olympus on my radar and consider giving them a try! Thanks for the info!

          Awesome! Glad to hear you are rocking Xero shoes. They are a great company. I was using the Xero sandals as my camp shoes and they were great. I used to LOVE to hike in my Tevas, and used them for a solid year until they went missing. I haven’t really considered sandals for a thru-hike… hmmmm…

          Reply
  • Avatar
    David : Feb 20th

    Good post. I’m with you on noisy sleeping pads. I hiked 700 miles of the AT last year and stressed over my noisy REI Flash sleeping pad the whole time. I’ve since checked out many pads in person and the one for me is the NEW Nemo Tensor. It’s pricey, but lightweight and way quieter. Hoping it will go on sale before my next 800 miles of the AT this summer…

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Devin Everett : Feb 20th

      the popular vote so far has been the nemo tensor!! Good luck on the next 800 miles 🙂

      Reply
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    Randy Dube : Feb 23rd

    I love my XA Pro 3D from Salomon. One of the things I love about their shoes are the laces. It is far easier for me to make small adjustments to each foot as my feet swell throughout the day. And they are durable, in my experience. My uppers will give out far before the soles do. I also have a pair for certain aspects of my work and trust me, they have been through the ringer, to the gates of hell, and back, and are still in great shape. Good luck on your hike!!

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Devin Everett : Feb 26th

      Yup! That is such a great point. The ease at which I can adjust them (individually) is awesome.

      Reply
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    Pony : Feb 25th

    Oh, the NeoAir is a *curse* in a shelter. Sounds like someone sleeping on a load of Ruffles bags…. so noisy.

    Reply
    • Avatar
      Devin Everett : Feb 26th

      YESSS! So noisy, but so comfortable! Sigh.

      Reply

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