Gear Hunting

Although I have been hiking and camping for most of my life, I don’t have most of the equipment needed for a thru hike on the Appalachian Trail. My tent is too large and too heavy, my sleeping bags are the wrong material, my pack is too small. Search any backpacking site and most articles and discussions are on gear. Which gear is newer, stronger, lighter. I feel like I’m starting out all over again.

Planning a trip like this is an adventure in itself, and one of the most stressful (and most fun) parts of planning is buying new stuff!

I started researching basic gear lists. I would need to have a tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, and pack. I would need boots (or a suitable alternative), clothing, and rain gear. I would need a way to treat water and cook. I would need any number of other bits and pieces that make up the cornucopia that is a thru hiker’s backpack.

The more I researched the more I realized it’s not just about finding the right size tent with the right features. It’s about weight, and often most importantly, it’s about price. Luckily, I’m an experienced deal hunter and comparison shopper (not to mention haggler). None of my online research would help me without seeing what I would be living with, or in, for months on end. I figured the next step was to hit the Labor Day sale at REI. It’s a bit of a drive, but the staff is usually knowledgeable about their products and I’m a member.

After being fitted for a pack (size xs to s…what?!?) and walking around in a few I thought I had found an Osprey pack that would work for me. In the end, a combination of price (not on sale) and a less than enthusiastic saleswoman made me want to wait. So no pack.

The same saleswoman pulled a green Marmot sleeping bag from a shelf, handed it to me, and promptly went to help someone else. The bag was the right material, rating, weight, and price…so I got it. Plus, it’s green 🙂

The saleswoman disappeared for good somewhere around the sleeping pads. The one I liked wasn’t on sale and I decided to wait on that too. It’s a good thing I did. The following weekend I picked up the same one for $115 off at one of their garage sales. I was so excited to have found it that i didn’t realize until I got home that it was the super huge jumbo size version. So it’s a little heftier than I’d hoped. It may get swapped out to save weight down the line.

The tents were on sale and I picked up a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 for $100 off as well. I managed to grab a pair of Black Diamond trekking poles for $50 off too. Both the poles and pad were only used one night with no damage. I can’t wait for the next sale!

I’m still on the hunt for the perfect pack. I’m leaning towards a Deuter bag, but it’s becoming increasingly hard to find the right size anywhere. My day pack is the same brand and I love that bag, plus they fit me better than anything else I’ve tried on so far. Hopefully I’ll find my pack this week so I can test it out on next weekend’s trip.

The other day I picked up my water filtration system. It’s a combination squeeze/gravity system. I grabbed a couple Nalgenes too…you can never own too many.

Next up on the “Gear to be Purchased” list:
-Footprint (still on the fence)

Clothes will have to wait until spring since I am still losing weight. Of course I will also need to get other odds and ends, but luckily I still have about six months. I hope it goes fast!

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