Much of my preparation for the Appalachian Trail has involved shopping. Lots and lots of shopping. This has been both fun — researching gear, scrutinizing specs, making decisions, opening up packages, trying out my purchases — and horrifying — witnessing the death throes of my bank account. The A.T. won’t be my first time backpacking, but it is the first time I’ve bought my own gear.
I’m still in the process of acquiring the odd item, but for the most part, I have all of my stuff. Here goes.
The Big Essentials
I’m pretty happy with my Gossamer Gear Mariposa so far. It’s very light and gets the job done. It’s not the prettiest thing under the sun, though, that’s for sure. It’s a dowdy gray color and suffers from bulbous, lopsided pockets. Aside from these frivolities, I do have some legitimate observations to make about the Mariposa. The hip belt comes separately, in order to make the pack more customizable. However, because the belt isn’t sewn into the pack, it tends to drift off-center. I find myself centering the hip belt each time before I sling it on and feeling a little paranoid while I’m walking over whether or not the belt is sliding. Also, the Mariposa comes with an optional aluminum stay, but I haven’t been able to figure out how to insert it properly yet. As of now, however, I’m doing just fine without the extra structure.
I love tents. I love how you can tote around a tiny house in a bag and whip it out whenever the need arises. When I pop into a tent, I can feel that same delight I felt as child, content inside a fort made of bedsheets. I have yet to feel those warm feelings inside of my Tarptent Rainbow, however. I’m waiting until it heats up a notch outside to assemble it in the backyard.
As I type this, I am snug inside my ZPacks 20 degree sleeping bag. It’s so puffy — like clouds. I like to run my hands over it, making gentle depressions in the down with my palms. I can overheat pretty quickly inside of it at times, so I have a feeling that it’ll be used as more of a blanket or sleep shrug on the A.T. during the summer. I have no complaints about it so far, except that I really wish I’d bought a longer bag. My height was right at the cutoff between sizes small and medium, and I went with the small. However, my feet are really long, something I didn’t consider when making the purchase.
As for my Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite, I think I just need to get used to it. I am an active sleeper (thrasher) and find the narrow width of this sleeping pad to be dismaying. I’m hoping I’ll be so exhausted each day from hiking that I’ll just keel over each night and not care about my dinky sleeping space. If my post-training naps are indicative of anything, I’ll be able to sleep anywhere on anything.
As for a stove — haven’t gotten in yet, but my hiking partner and I are leaning towards the Pocket Rocket.
The Fashion Statements
Oddly enough, I consider my A.T. bra to be an item of some importance. I mean, this is the bra I will be wearing for almost half a year. I was sort of stressing out about it, to be honest. I knew I didn’t want something tight and overly supportive; that would be grating on my nerves five minutes into the trip. However, I did need something that would do its job and not fall to pieces. On a stroll through Target, I found the perfect candidate. This bra is the Champion C9 and offers medium level support. I really like it.
Two pairs of Patagonia Barely Hipster underwear. Not much I can say about these except that it’s a pity cotton is a hiking no-no, because I’m not enthusiastic about synthetic underwear.
At the beginning of this winter, my mother insisted that she buy me long underwear. I was not exactly jumping up and down over this generosity. All of my pairs of long underwear in the past have been baggy, itchy, and oh so very uncool. I was surprised, then, when I put on the Patagonia Capilene 1 long johns that my mom bought. They were form-fitting without being tight, even fitting underneath my beloved skinny jeans and other pieces of clothing that weren’t designed to accommodate a base-layer beneath. Gone was the dreadful, elastic waistband on the bottoms, replaced with a wide, flat waistband that’s so popular on yoga pants these days — perfect for lovingly compressing the lower belly. Great pieces of gear for when I want to be a little warmer. Thanks, Mom!
I’m so infatuated with my Mountain Hardware Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket. When it came in the mail, I could not believe that this scrap of fabric and feathers would keep me warm. But, incredibly, it does. I’ve been wearing it while training this winter, and once I build up a little body heat while wearing it, I’m perfectly toasty.
I will say — getting into these leggings is not a drill. I hazard to suggest that women of most shapes would find stuffing themselves into the Under Armour HeatGear Printed Leggings a challenge. Most everything aside from bone gets in the way of them. Once you’re in, however, you’re in. One thing that really surprised me about these leggings was how breezy they are. It seems fair to refer to them as glorified hosiery. If you stare quite directly at them, you see that they are, in fact, see-through, though not in an obscene way (I hope). This lightness makes sense, as they are advertised as hot-weather pants.
As for my footwear, I bought the Oboz Men’s Traverse Low BDRY Hiking Shoe. I was planning on buying a nice pair of pillow-esque Vasques, because I like the brand, but no outfitter or shoe store in my area carried my size. Eventually I had to go with an unfamiliar shoe. So far, they’ve been good to me, although I had to replace the orthopedic insole that came with the shoe, because it wasn’t cutting it against the abuse I put on the balls of my feet.
The insole I procured is the New Balance Supportive Cushioning Insoles. I haven’t tested them out adequately yet, but I have high hopes.
To make sure I don’t get debris in my shoes, I procured some Dirty Girl Gaiters.
Toss in a buff, two bandanas, a shirt from Goodwill, and that’s what I have so far. I do still have to decide on socks. I have a history of being allergic to wool, but wore my hiking partner’s Smartwool socks on an outing and didn’t come up against any problems. Still hem-hawing. Oh yeah, and a hat.
Life’s Little Luxuries
Reading is a huge part of my life. It’s just not feasible for me to go over five months without a lot of reading getting done. Added to that, I have a blog where I write book reviews. I plan to post what I can from the trail and in order to post reviews, I actually need to read, you know, books. Enter my beloved and well-used Kindle Paperwhite.
This little luxury I’m really looking forward to using. Hours upon hours each day will be
spent hiking and I know I’m going to need a carrot at times. The Sansa Clip MP3 Player will make my days much more entertaining. It’s light, has a built-in clip, and also plays FM radio. I’m already stockpiling audiobooks and will cram as many book recordings as possible onto this little device.
A Trent PowerPak Ultra to keep everything charged.
A Euroschirm Swing Liteflex Trekking Umbrella is coming along with me just because I’m curious. I’ve done a lot of hiking in the rain and I’m intrigued by the idea of not having to wear rain gear. I plan on making a little fastening contraption so I can attach the umbrella to my pack strap.
Odds and Ends
Zpacks food bag. Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sacks. Plastic bags. My Dad’s headlamp. Toothbrush. Toothpaste. Comb. Contacts. Contact solution. Glasses. A swiss army knife. A trowel. Water bottles. Medicine. Aquamira. Trekking poles. Spork. Collapsible bowl. Lip Balm. Rainproof pack cover. A pot. ID. Money. Food. First Aid.
Please Argue With Me
Now for things I won’t be bringing, things that make me sweat a little to leave behind… A water filter. Rain jacket. Rain pants. Rope. A towel. A tarp cover for my tent. Gloves.
What do you think, Greek Chorus? Let me know your thoughts and potentially save me from myself.
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Since you asked,,,,water filter, loved my sawyer, rain jacket and pants, “Frog Togs”used on laundry days cause every thing else was in the wash. Found they were too hot to wear hiking in the rain I was as wet from sweat in them. Rope for bear bag, towel. “The Absorber” from Wall Mart, Cut off 1/3 of it. Used it to dry off after a swim. Every place that I showered had towels. Cut a 6″ X 6″ square of the absorber and used it as a butt washcloth, kept it in a zip-lock. Keep your butt clean. No tarp too much weight. Gloves, very happy to have a light weight pair in the Smokeys. Sent them home from Hot Springs.
Nice. I’m reconsidering leaving behind the water filter. I’ll probably do without frog togs. Is the rope a thing that’s only necessary one or two times? Excellent advice about butt cleanliness. I will definitely take measures to keep my butt clean! 😛
Get something lightweight like a Sawyer Squeeze and definitely bring the rope. Not really worth messing around not hanging a bear bag in bear country for a 2oz weight savings.
Great! I need people to talk me down from potential mistakes. 😀
You get the bra dilemma! It has, for me as well, been one of the more difficult gear decisions. I personally wasn’t into the fit from any of the bras at Target, but ended up with a thirteen dollar, awesome bra at Ross.
The struggle is real! High five for finding a winner!