The Things We Carried
Living out of your backpack is serious business.
For nearly five months I lived out of my backpack, trekking from Georgia to Maine. Before setting off, I tried to pack everything and the kitchen sink. Literally, it’s amazing the amount of stuff that can be crammed into a 65L pack. However, a hiker once said the lighter the pack the happier the hiker. This leads me to the question: whats the ideal base weight?
Ideal Base Weight **
The golden base weight for the Appalachian Trail is under 20lbs. Certainly, a lighter pack makes a happier hiker. I learned this first hand, rocking a 40 pound pack at Springer Mountain. After replacing older, heavier gear during my thru-hike, I realized how reducing my base weight by 5 lbs made a huge difference. It’s true when adding up gear- grams to ounces to pounds.
The Ideal Base Weight ultimately depends on the Trail you’re taking on. As terrain varies, so does gear, food and water requirements. Given the Appalachian Trail’s proximity to roads, terrain and weather conditions there is no need to carry more than 30-35 lbs, including food and water. On average, I tried to leave resupply day under 30 lbs. However, I often left with a pack weighing over 35 lbs. Whoops. I always carried too much food. But, I’d rather have more food than hike hungry because being hangry is the worst.
The Big Three
Backpack, tent, and sleeping bag are typically the heaviest items on a gear list. If you’re hoping to cut down on your base weight I recommend looking at light weight options for the big three.
For example, I started with an Osprey Ariel 65 which weighed around 5 lbs and switched to the Exos 58 at 2.4 lbs. Honestly, I loved my Ariel 65 and had a hard time parting with it. But, I felt a significant difference when hiking with the lighter Exos 58. Because the Exos 58’s carrying capacity is around 30 lbs, it forced me to carefully consider my food, water and luxury items.
Did you know two liters of water weighs 4.4 lbs?
Water is heavy. I made the mistake of carrying 3 liters of water my first few weeks on the trail. Looking back, what was I thinking? There were plenty of water sources and no need to haul the weight. Plan ahead and carry enough water for the weather conditions and the availability of sources. Remember, drink up at the water source too.
Base Weight Breakdown…
Below are the things we carried on the Appalachian Trail. I included the gear prices and where it was purchased to the best of my ability. Although the ideal base weight is under 20lbs for the Appalachian Trail, some people have luxury items that are worth the weight. Personally, I don’t think I could be an ultra-light hiker. There are certain luxury items that I’m unwilling to part with. Technically, I don’t need an external battery or to carry a GoPro. Yes, I could live without them but ultimately I’m willing to carry them despite the weight. Thus, I tell people I’m an ultra-average in terms of my base weight. Hike your own hike, right?
1.Backpack, Sleeping Gear and Tent:
- Osprey Exos 58 ($220, REI)
- Osprey Rain Cover L )($35.00, REI)
- Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated Sleeping Pad ($149.95, REI)
- Therm-a-Rest Adara HD Sleeping Bag 22 Degree Down ($200, Ebay)
- Kelty Cosmic 35 Sleeping Bag
- Big Agnes Copper Spur UL3 and footprint ($499.99, REI)
- MSR pocket rocket ($26, Amazon warehouse deals)
- MSR IsoPro Fuel Canister
- Bic Mini Lighter
- Steripen Classic 3 Water Purifier ($69.96, REI)
- TOAKS Titanium Long Spoon ($9.95)
- TOAKS Titanium 1100 ml Pot ($50.00, Amazon warehouse deals)
- CamelBAK Antidote Reservoir 2.0L ($25, Amazon warehouse deals)
- Sea to Summit Lightweight Dry Sack 35 l (26.95, REI)
- Para cord for Bear Bag 1.28 oz ($16.00, Gossamer Gear)
- Rain/Insulating: Frog Togg Ultra Lite Rain Jacket ($21.00)
- Mountain Hardware Insulated Rain Pant (thrift store $4)
- Puffy: Arc’teryx Atom AR Hoody (thrift store $98)
- Midlayer: Patagonia Nano-Air Hoody ($190, ebay)
- Baselayer: Arc’tyrex Delta LT Zip (store closing, $30)
3.2 Hiking Attire:
- Smart Wool Merino 150 Short-Sleeve Top ($75.00, REI)
- Patagonia Nine Trails Skirt ($60, Walkabout Outfitters)
- Patagonia Womens Active Mesh Bra ($27, REI)
- (2) Pairs of Wright Socks ($19.00 each, $40.00 total)
- Smartwool Expedition Trekking Socks ($20.95, REI)
- Walmart T-Shirt
- Nike Running Shorts
During my thru-hike, I went through five pairs of shoes. See the list below:
- Salomon X Ultra Mid II GTX Hiking Boots ($45, Amazon)
- Salomon XA Pro 3D Trail Running Shoes ($130, REI)
- Salomon Speedcross 4 Trail-Running ($130, REI)
- Sea to Summit eVAC 8L Dry Sack ($20, Amazon)
- Apple I-phone 6 with Life Proof case
- Apple headphones
- Apple iphone 6 charger
- Micro-USB charging cord
- Petzl Tikka Headlamp ($29.99, REI)
- Anker 10,000 MA charger ($23.99, amazon)
- GoPro Hero 4 Silver
- GoPro Batteries and Charger
- Leki Micro Vario Ti COR-TEC DSS Trekking Poles ($159, Leki)
- Buff Head Band
- Camp Shoes, Crocs
Well, there it is.
An official list of my backpacking gear on the Appalachian Trail. Certainly, my gear list is on the heavier side but I managed to find a purpose and justify each and every item. At the end of the day, I was happier when my pack was lighter. That being said, there are certain luxury items I’m unwilling to part with. For now. As ultra-light weight backpacking isn’t for everyone, remember the saying hike your own hike also applies to the things you carry.
Remember, on average, the Appalachian Trail crosses a road every four miles. Because of the trails proximity towns, there is no need to carry additional weight like extra food or clothing. If you need something on the trail it has this strange way of providing. And, if not, you’re probably not to far from civilization.
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