Get the Gear

At 22 years old I have been able to acquire most of the gear I need to be able to get up on any given morning and hop on a trail for a backpacking excursion. This has been a slow process and, after the course of four-ish years, I still “need” a few things.

I am a believer in what I’ll call the “backpacking accessibility method” of gear collection. When I shop for gear I try to keep in mind that I need to pay rent and can not afford to frivolously spend top dollars on ultralight gear. The backpacking accessibility method means that you have enough to make an overnight, weekend or weeklong excursion possible by whatever means necessary. It means that it is possible to acquire everything you need without ever paying full price. Almost everything I own has been purchased for more than half-off at an REI garage sale, at an actual garage sale or has been received as a gift on Christmas and birthdays. It is a “duct tape and beer”* kind of camping with a few rips and stains mixed in, but it works. It does not have to be the top brand and it does not have to be the most expensive thing – it just has to do the job. Good reviews are a plus.

With the Appalachian Trail in mind as a prospective adventure, I purchased my own backpacking pack in my freshman year of college. I got my light blue Gregory Sage pack after weeks of research. Not wanting to spend the money, I put it off until I was more than sure it was the pack I wanted. A few days before purchasing I ran into a local Milwaukee outdoors store to try on the pack and figure out sizing. When a discount code for 40 percent off popped up on Sierra Trading Post, I pulled the trigger.

My pack has gone on nearly every climbing, paddling, hiking and cycling adventure with me since it showed up in my dorm mailbox. It is still in tip-top shape, but I can imagine the wear and tear it may suffer on the AT might force my Gregory into retirement. Along with my boots and climbing gear, my pack is one of my most prized possessions. I call it “Greg” for short.

When I made the decision to pursue hiking the Appalachian Trail starting May 2018, I made my first list: the “what I still need” list. With a recent and chaotic trip to Brookfield, Wisconsin’s, REI Garage Sale under my belt, I have gotten almost everything. Keeping the backpacking accessibility method in mind, I could leave at any moment. That is, if I didn’t still have a full semester-and-a-half of college to finish. Until I leave I will, only semi-obsessively, make packing and to-do lists for the trail.

Below is my tentative pack list for the AT. I adapted the list from a mix of Backpacker and REI’s suggested items to pack. Items with a plus sign next to them are things I still need to acquire before I leave. Keep in mind, also, that this list is very specific to items I have purchased or received as gifts in the past.

The List

  • Long underwear top and bottoms
  • Patagonia baselayer
  • Patagonia Houdini
  • Crappy t-shirt
  • Waterproofs – Rain jacket and pants
  • Lightweight, Royal Robbins hiking pants
  • Mountain Hardwear stretchy shorts
  • Wicking tank top
  • Patagonia down jacket
  • Sports bra
  • Three pairs of socks +
  • Two pairs of sock liners +
  • Sun hat
  • Warm hat +
  • Buff

This list will change over time. When I make adjustments to it, I’ll make a note here and explain what I’ve changed and why. Things like sock liners may not be necessary for others but for a girl prone to getting eight blisters after a day of hiking, they really make a difference. Please make a comment if there is anything glaring I’ve forgotten to add or something else that might be useful to bring (or not bring) with me on the trail.

*If you have not already listened to the Dirtbag Diaries, a “duct tape and beer” production, you should. My best suggestion is the short called “Hey, Bear!” about resilient hikers making their way through a trail in Yosemite.

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Comments 14

  • Jim : Oct 8th

    I am 73 and stI’ll BPing. Look for an alternate stove that uses wood. On the AT you will have rain days. Your fuel will last longer. Trekking poles.
    Good planning.

    • Clara Hatcher : Oct 9th

      Trekking poles will definitely be added, thank you Jim!

      • Will : Oct 10th

        Definitely trekking poles – wrap a little duct tape around them so you can avoid carrying a big role w/you. Might caution against carrying pots and a cup – to save space/weight I use one snowpeak 700 pot. I’ll have my coffee out of it first then cook my food in it. Utensil-wise, plenty of folks advocate for plastic, aluminum, titanium, yadda yadda, the list goes on. The one common thread among the utenstils (spork) used is that a long handled one is boss. That way you’re not getting all goopy trying to scoop out the good stuff at the end of the meal. Rock on!

  • SafetyGuyDude : Oct 8th

    As a safety professional in the Milwaukee area.. a first aid kit would be an essential unless that’s included in the toiletries section.. as you said blisters are a *pain* and to have even minimal relief will help you get er done. Good luck n have fun!!

  • smokestack : Oct 9th

    Consider either AWOL or the Companion rather than the Data Book which have much more vital info. Don’t do a wood stove.

  • Fionn Delahunty : Oct 9th

    Kindle! Carries a million books, and there pretty cheap.

    Keeps me alive on trails.

  • Fionn Delahunty : Oct 9th

    Kindle! Carries a million books and there pretty cheap.

    Keeps me alive on trails.

    • Monarch : Oct 10th

      Hiker’s wool for blisters!!
      Expensive but totally worth it. Never had a blister using hiker’s wool!!

  • The Old Gray Goose : Oct 10th

    Get T-shirt that is NOT all cotton. Same with bra…cotton is cold when wet and does not dry quickly enough. Also, Farm to feet Sox with wool are good. I can not wear other Sox with wool, with these I get no rash.

  • Robjn : Oct 10th

    Gloves or mittens – I always keep a pair in my pack. In a pinch you can use socks of course, but you will need those socks for your feet. Happy hiking!

  • Emily : Oct 10th

    I would trade out the Chacos for something less heavy- many opt for crocs on the trail. Camp shoes are also one of the first things to go when folks are transitioning to smaller loads.

    • Clara Hatcher : Oct 11th

      Hmmm yeah I’ve been told Chacos will be too heavy. Do you have a lighter trail sandal besides crocs you might recommend?

  • Chris Guynn : Oct 11th

    With you saying you get 8 blisters a day I have to inquire what shoes you are wearing. I as well as others I hiked wth the full AT had less than 5 if not no blisters. With that many blisters your shoes may be too small. Keep in mind your feet will grow almost a full size so buy accordingly. This will be even more important if you have sensitive feet.

    I have a few suggestions for what you have so far that may help you loose some pack weight. These helped me on my thru hike but feel free to tell me i’m crazy you wouln’t be the first or last.

    Instead of carrying a lot of stuff sacks and dry bags just buy a pack liner and stuff all your gear in there loose. This will save you some weight as well as be cheaper than those expensive stuff sacks. You can buy liners for $5 and they work so well that experienced hikers commonly just use a liner and dont even cover their pack.

    Consider leaving your cup at home. Most of the stuff you eat most likely will be making hot water and pouring it into something else. You can just make enough water pour out the water you need for food and then make coffee or tea in the cooking pot.

    I would say try hiking in trail runners they are amazing and I will never hike in boots, except in the snow again.

    Agree that chacos may not be the best camp shoe choice just from a weight perspective.

    You can wrap your duct tape around your trekking poles and turn it into worn weight if you want.

    If you have any other questions I or several other lurkers are happy to answer any questions!

    • Clara Hatcher : Oct 11th

      The time I got 8 blisters I had hiked more than 15 miles in too small Chaco hiking boots – not smart. On a different hiking trip I got new boots (my current ones, the capra mid Merrell boots) in a half size up and they were wonderful. I got a few blisters on the 6th day of hiking – the day after 20 miles. Since I will be hiking in summer, fall and winter I am thinking of saving my boots for the later seasons and starting on trail runners.

      Do you have trail runners you would recommend?

      I have been told many times to leave my cup at home. I think I am convinced.

      Liners are a good suggestion – I will look into it. Thank you!


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