Gear List, Part 1 – In Which I’ve Probably Packed Too Much

I’ll start out strong and admit that my initial base weight is about 25 pounds. Yes, yes, I know, that’s before food and water and how can I expect to make it to North Carolina, let alone Maine, with so much weight and if I’d done any research at all I’d have a base weight of 13 pounds and I may as well never try rather than subject my 32-year-old knees to such a weight!

Ok, now that all that negativity is out of our systems, let’s go over my gear. Some of it is cold-weather stuff that I plan to send home after I get through the Smokies, which will drop my base weight to about 22 pounds. For non-hikers, “base weight” means everything I’ll be carrying minus food and water. It does NOT include worn items like shoes and clothing. (I could make the argument that since it’s tied to my body, I’m “wearing” my pack and everything inside it, which would make my base weight zero…but I digress.)

The Big Three – Pack, Shelter, Sleep System

Pack – Osprey Aura AG 65

This pack is incredibly comfortable and carries weight very well. I love that I can reach up and grab things like an extra layer or microspikes out of the brain without having to take the whole thing off. I tried a couple lighter packs in an effort to cut weight, but they weren’t comfortable on my body, so in this case it makes the most sense to take a heavier pack that fits me like a glove.

Tent – MSR Freelite 2

This is about the lightest semi-freestanding tent you can find. It’s got multiple pockets, two doors, and it weathered a thunderstorm last summer without leaking. I ordered a polycro footprint from Gossamer Gear, which was a few ounces lighter than the MSR footprint.

Sleep System

I am a pretty cold sleeper and I toss and turn a lot, so I bought the Zero Degree Enigma quilt from Enlightened Equipment. I also have the Thermarest Xtherm sleeping pad which has an R-value of 7+, so I’d better be warm! I’ll be using the Sea to Summit Thermolite bag liner to add in a few degrees of warmth and help keep the bag clean. Once it’s summer, I’ll switch that out for a lighter silk liner. I’ve got an inflatable pillow from Sea to Summit, and synthetic booties from Enlightened Equipment to keep my toes extra toasty in the Smokies. All my sleep gear is going inside a Sea to Summit compression dry bag to make doubly sure no rain gets in. Finally, I’ve got a Nalgene that I’ll use as a hot water bottle (inside a sock) until the nights warm up.

My trusty pack on a cliff face during lunch break in the Shenandoahs last fall. You can see the smoke from the Quaker Run fire in the background.


Outer Layers

  • Mountain Hardwear Down pants – These will keep me warm at camp on cold days. They’ll go home once I hit Davenport Gap.
  • Mountain Hardwear Ghost Shadow hoodie – I decided on a synthetic insulating layer rather than down since the AT is so prone to dumping rain on hikers, and a wet synthetic coat will still provide a little warmth. This coat is pretty dang toasty, so I don’t think I’ll need to hike in it unless it is REALLY cold; I’ll save it for camp and the extra cold nights.
  • Mountain Hardwear fleece hoodie – Despite the rest of this paragraph, I’m not married to Mountain Hardwear gear! I bought this just a few weeks ago and love its cinchable hood. This will be my insulating layer while I’m hiking. It’s a smidge on the warm side but I can dump heat by loosening the hood. Again, this will go home once I finish the Smokies.

Base Layers

  • Quick-dry polyester pants from Target – I bought these pants over a year ago when I started hiking, and I’m absolutely obsessed with them. They have pockets that zip, a drawstring waistline, and they’ll keep my legs safe from sunburn and ticks.
  • REI polyester leggings – I’ll wear these under my Target pants when I start out, just for a little extra warmth. Once I’m through the Smokies, they’ll be going home.
  • Cuddl-Duds long-sleeved shirt – this shirt has a fuzzy inside which is great for cutting the wind, and the hood keeps the sun and/or wind off my ears. After the Smokies, I’ll trade it out for a lighter top.

(Did I mention all of these are black? If my trail name weren’t already Overkill, I’d probably be christened Ninja.)

  • Mountain Hardwear Crater Lake Hoodie – this shirt is SUPER lightweight and it’ll be my warm-weather top. Again I love the hood to keep the sun off my face.
  • Sundry others worn – Altra Lone Peak 7s (people seem to love or hate these shoes, and for about 100 miles I’ve loved them). REI fanny pack to hold my snacks, my knife, my earbuds, and my ID/CCs. A ball cap to keep the sun off my tender nose. Darn Tough socks, one to wear and one to wash (and a pair of Injini socks for extra warmth). REI liner gloves, which I’ll send home after the Smokies. A Sea to Summit head net to keep the damn gnats off my face. Cho-Pat knee straps on the advice of my physical therapist. Teva sandals to wear around camp to give my feet a rest from sneakers.

Sleep Clothing

  • This is pretty simple, just Smartwool leggings and a long-sleeved Smartwool shirt. I may switch out the leggings for running shorts in the summer. I also have Darn Tough socks and a balaclava to wear in the first cold nights.


That’s it for this post! Stay tuned for Part 2 with the rest of my gear.

My first shakedown hike in Shenandoah in May 2023. I’ve changed out a lot of gear since then!

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