Gear Time! (winter edition)

For my first long-distance backpacking experience, I want to list the gear that I will be taking and using during the winter stretch of the AT. While I know this is a topic that can be overwhelming or uninteresting, I feel that putting it out there is good for peace of mind, as well as fun to look back on. One of the most fun things about getting ready for a thru hike is collecting all the gear and working out what is best for YOU!

*It is very important to note that much of this gear has been provided by Emory & Henry College, and that I am truly blessed and privileged to have the opportunity and resources here. My experience will hopefully be a catalyst for other artists and students with college goals to have some sort of framework with the program as a jumping-off point. Here is the link to the program, which will include profiles of all students in this year’s cohort at some point soon if not already:

If you don’t even want to read the list via blog, my lighterpack lists it with detail (it is still a work in progress as I keep forgetting things): ¬†

BIG three

  1. Pack: Granite Gear Blaze 60. It took a little bit of getting used to, but I like it. The hip pockets aren’t all that, though.
  2. Tent: MSR Carbon Reflex 1. This tent is super light and easy to put up with the rain fly. Perfect size for one person.
  3. Sleeping Bag: Mountain Hardwear Phantom Down 0-degree Bag. This is the most important thing, sleep is essential and miserable sleep doesn’t cut it for all the energy that is spent climbing mountains.

THANK you to our program lead, Jim, for getting these super high quality, mucho important big three items for us.

What is in the pack, even..?

This is a basic outline of the contents of my pack, from bottom to top. All together it weighs around 32 lbs, so I plan to cut a tiny bit out still.

  1. Trash bag pack liner
  2. 20L dry bag with personal trash bag liner for my sleeping bag. I also have my sleeping pad packed around here somewhere, it’s a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite.
  3. Appalachian Thru Hikers Companion, 2021.
  4. Cuben Fiber food bag, loaded to 6 pounds. This bag also includes the 4L dry bag with my toiletries (toothpaste tabs, toothbrush, stove and titanium pot/spoon, chapstick and any other scented items so no sniffing wild noses come for it)
  5. 8L dry bag for sleep clothes+ down puffy. This includes Smartwool leggings, wool socks, a different shirt.
  6. 2L dry bag for battery/charging cords/sketchbook+ travel watercolor kit (I plan to move this for easier access)
  7. Pockets on the outside of the pack hold: med kit, 2- 1L water bottles, heavy glove liners, hand sanitizer, tent poles
  8. Pockets on the hip belt can barely hold anything so maybe one granola bar/sunglasses/Arc’teryx glove liners. Truly, it’s unacceptable and I am getting a fanny pack to remedy this.
  9. Raincoat (Marmot)/rain pants (Marmot) outside of pack if I am not wearing them
  10. Tent+stakes/rainfly/Tyvek shoved on front pocket of pack
  11. On me: Trekking Poles (Black Diamond), wool beanie (rustek), buff, gloves (Outdoor Research/ Arc’teryx), base layer (Patagonia t-shirt), midlayer (Outdoor Research), raincoat, leggings (Marmot), sock liners, wool socks, and Salomon boots.

Granite Gear Blaze 60 pack and 3D printed tag from Taps and Snacks Designs


The boots gave me some ankle trouble at the beginning, but with an ankle brace they seem to be doing ok. The shock of hiking also probably made the ankle dramatic.


All my gear was piled on my floor, so I gathered it up to make it look like I had arranged a flatlay before packing it.


The cook setup was interesting to learn. I’m a fan of hot food on a cold night. MSR Pocket Rocket 2 and Toaks titanium pot/ spoon. I also brought a Talenti Mediterranean Mint jar for sippin’ coffee or tea, it fits perfectly in the pot and holds the stove/lighter when I’m packed.

Winter Fears… I’m facing them.

I’ve come to realize that my winter fears are mainly freezing. That’s fair, right? They say we pack our fears… Dialing in what will work vs what is extra has been educational. I have come to learn that when you are hiking, you get hot. And hiking in snow has been so rewarding because of this. Waking up in a winter wonderland is awesome.

So mostly, it’s sleep I’m worried about. But the sleeping bag I have is made for cold times like this, so I really only need a long sleeve shirt, leggings, and socks. With the help of hand warmers in the socks, I’m set. The down puffy is for camp. Coming off the trail to make camp is when I have been most cold, and the coat and gloves have been essential, as well as the coffee and warm dinner.

Keeping my items dry is important, especially the sleeping bag and down coat. The trash bag liners and dry bags are to keep all items as dry as possible so that when I get to camp, I can set up the tent, change into warm dry clothes, and keep everything safe from the rain.

With preparation and knowledge, there really isn’t much to worry about.

I’m on Instagram posting about my trek @amara.gardner





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Comments 4

  • pearwood : Feb 9th

    Looks like you have winter tested the tent!
    Steve / pearwood

  • James : Feb 9th

    I like the 2021 AT tag!!!!

  • Karlie : Feb 13th

    I am so proud of you, cuz! This is great to be able to read about your experiences/ feelings in preparation for your journey. ?

  • Sandra L Gardner : Feb 14th

    That’s fantastic that you’ve paired your stuff down! Its super interesting to find out from you what you re actually finding essential.


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