To Bring Or Not To Bring: Flip-Flop Preparations

To bring or not to bring… that is the question. Along with flip-flop preparations (but we will get to that shortly).

First of all, introductions are in order. My name is Anna (AJ) and my husband and I are planning a flip-flop thru-hike for this coming May. As a matter of fact, less than 120 days until our expected start date, May 13!

I was hesitant to make any sort of announcement of our start date but the reality is, it will be here before we know it! So it is time to talk flip-flop-preparations.

While my husband has been studying to get his master’s degree, one could say I have been studying the trail for the last year and a half. I have learned so much but still feel I have so much to learn. For instance – How many mail drops should we send? What are the most accessible mail-drop locations? How can we save money when we go into town?

That is just to list a few. Can you tell I am a planner?

I have actually really enjoyed researching all things AT and wanted to share some of the resources I have come across because I recognize that for some of you folks, your hike is just around the corner. Three, two, or even one month away!

Flip-Flop Preparations

Books Read

“Where’s The Next Shelter” is by far my favorite AT book that I have read to date. It was informative, hilarious, inspiring, and encouraging. Well done, Green Giant!

Classes At REI*

  • Nuts and bolts of hiking the Appalachian Trail,  Gary Sizer
  • How to hike the Appalachian Trail,  Chloe Decamara, an ATC employee

* I strongly recommend looking into classes at your local REI. The closest one to where we live is an hour and a half away but the classes we attended were WELL worth the drive and time. Each session offered new information for us and fresh perspectives! Classes are often free or discounted for REI members and may include but are not limited to: navigation, gear recommendations, women’s hiking basics, backpacking basics, winter camping, wilderness first aid, etc.

Other Resources

* I cannot express how wonderful this podcast has been. In the everyday hustle and bustle of work, responsibilities,  preparations,  this podcast brings me back to why I want to hike. Mighty Blue hosts a plethora of guests that include previous hikers, gear reviewers, outdoor enthusiasts, and more.

Now, What To Bring

I will be posting a blog that details what my husband and I will be carrying on our back for 2,100-plus miles, but I want to know experienced thru-hikers’ opinions.

What luxury item did you bring?

What could you have done without?

What did you discover from your pack shakedown?

Leave your input in the comments section!

Disclaimer: My husband and I do not plan to go ultralight by any means. Part of the perk of hiking with a spouse is sharing some gear (shared gear= less weight.)

But if we have learned anything from these resources, one of the main things would be dropping pack weight wherever possible, because every ounce counts.

Looking forward to some input, and thanks in advance!

Happy trails.


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Comments 6

  • Therese : Jan 17th

    I did the trail in 2017. I’m medium build and 5’6”. My base weight was about 23 pounds. I went”solo” so was not able to share my weight with anyone.

    Every time I went into town, I’d review the contents of my pack. If I hadn’t used something for awhile, I’d get rid of it. For the most part, though, and with the exception of my repair kit, I used every single thing in my pack. The weight might have slowed me down a bit, but I was fine and finished the trail.
    Be really flexible with what you bring and give up. After awhile, you’ll alway have just the perfect amount of things on your back.
    Good luck!!!!

    • Anna Jones : Jan 17th

      Thanks for your input! I’m looking forward to seeing what end up being the “ necessities” of my pack and what I can part with!

  • Ruth morley : Jan 17th

    I learned on my shakedown hike last April that, because I’m a cold sleeper, I couldn’t depend on having spare clothes to put in a stuff sack for a pillow. A lightweight Sea to Summit inflatable pillow has become one of my favorite items. It’s my biggest luxury.

    And during my 5 weeks on the trail in July and August, I found that a cup of hot tea with breakfast = endless pit stops all morning, So I eliminated a cup and tea bags from my pack, and didn’t miss them at all, especially since I prefer not cranking up the stove in the morning. I just have hot water (drunk out of my cooking pot) if I need a hot drink before dinner, and tea when I’m in town.

  • Anna Jones : Jan 17th

    Wonderful! A Sea to Summit inflatable pillow was actually my most recent purchase! At home I am a multi-pillow sleeper so I knew that was one area I would have a hard time budging on.

    And eliminating hot drinks in the morning sounds like a win in many ways! Fortunately my husband and I do not depend on a morning cup of coffee (although an occasional cup would be nice). I have often thought how that will help us get up and going quicker in the morning!

  • Stephen R Marsh : Jun 24th

    I’ve only done a number of section hikes so far, but things that stick out:

    >just a little extra weight is seductive and wrong.

    >bagels and freeze dried chicken are two meal items I’d never have thought of before a few hikes. Now they are staples.

    >a bag pump is really, really, really worth it. You can have a dedicated one or a nozzle you can use with a pack liner trash bag.

    >anyone who says you don’t need a trowel is smoking too much weed. Tent pegs, hiking poles, etc work in ideal situations and fail too often. Carry a trowel.

    >use a bag pump for your inflatable pad. Did I say that? Let me say it again. Use a bag pump. Cutting off a soda pop bottle top, adding a washer and drilling a hole in it is close to free if you use it with your trash bag liner.

    >stay dry. That one ounce for a bag liner is so worth it. If you use it as a bag pump too it really isn’t much weight.

    >polycro ground sheets are cheap, light and don’t absorb water. They weigh less than the water your tent picks up from wet ground and you can use them in shelters, etc. if they get damaged, they are so cheap it doesn’t matter. (They are just window film).

  • Stephen R Marsh : Jun 24th

    On Whiteblaze there is a guy who keeps track of hiking books being sold for free as a short term promotion.

    You can pick up quite a kindle library that way.


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