Getting into Gear and onto the Trail

In less than a week, I will be hiking the Appalachian Trail, and I’m pretty sure I’ll be making tweaks to my gear until the very last minute. The major items are locked in and have been for a while, so I’m really just trying to balance how much comfort I want in camp vs while I’m hiking. While I wait for permethrin to dry, here is some of my gear and thoughts about it.

DISCLAIMER: I have not been paid or sponsored by anyone to use or review their gear. I bought all this gear myself and any commentary is purely my personal opinion. I’m not a professional backpacker (though it sounds like a good job, where do I apply?) so take my opinions with a dehydrated meal worth of salt and find what works for you!

The Big Three

Backpack – Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 (L)

I don’t know that there is much left for me to say about this pack. It seems to be a very popular pack at the moment, so there are plenty of great write-ups. I read quite a few here on The Trek that helped me make my choice.

It is really light and comfortable! Not the cheapest option out there, but if you keep an eye out you might find some decent sales. (I was kicking myself when a 30% sale went live just weeks after paying full price for mine)

Tent – Durston X-Mid 2

Another popular choice on the trail these days. It is my first trekking pole tent. That means it doesn’t use the usual array of tent poles for support, but rather gets staked into the ground with my trekking poles holding up the Ridgeline. While it would be nice to have a freestanding tent to use on at campgrounds that have platforms, this tent does everything else I wanted.

It is very lightweight, double walled, and has been easy to setup in my test runs. I can’t wait to put it through its paces on the trail, but so far, it’s another purchase I am very happy with.

Sleep System – Mountain Hardware Bishop Pass Gore-tex 15F, Thermarest NeoAir Xlit Nxt

This is where I broke away from the trend a bit. I have always used a sleeping bag (as opposed to a quilt), so that already had me going a bit heavier than most options, and this bag is particularly heavy due to the Gore-tex finish. I wanted something with a little extra protection in case I decide to do some cowboy camping. (No tent, sleeping literally under the stars.) As I walk into the heat of summer, I will consider changing to a quilt, but I’m still not there yet.

I’ll be pairing my heavy sleeping bag with a pretty comment light inflatable pad. The biggest concern in most reviews was the sound, which I believe has been addressed in the latest model. I have been very happy with it so far and I think a squeaking or crinkly pad would have driven me crazy.

I’ll also be starting with a bag liner and Sea to Summit Aeros inflatable pillow.

Food Stuff

BearVault BV475

There are plenty of spirited debates on the merits of a bear cannister vs other methods of food storage on trail. I have decided to at least start with a bear cannister for a few reasons:

  • The ATC currently recommends using a bear cannister on all parts of the trail, year round. It is mandatory in a very small section (~5 miles)
  • I believe it is the best available option to keep food out of the paws of bears
  • It should help keep any smaller woodland creatures at bay too (I’m looking at you shelter mice!)
  • I don’t want to worry about getting a good food hang at the end of the day (or getting it down the next morning). Just set it (down) and forget it!

Jetboil Flash

It’s a bit heavier and pricier than some other options I looked at, but it’s a system that I trust will work easily. It boils water fast and is fuel efficient; my biggest concern is with cooking things other than water. I will start with a supply of dehydrated meals but expect to move onto ramen bombs and other culinary delights before too long. I have a smaller/light stove and cooking pot I might ask mom to mail drop for me if I’m not feeling the Jetboil after a while. I do not think I could go stoveless like some monsters out there!


I’m bring a titanium spoon, titanium chopsticks, and a cup for morning/nighttime tea. The spoon is standard and I’ll be happy with it for everything except ramen and other long noodles. I also plan to make tea regularly, so having a dedicated cup seems like a reasonable luxury.

Shoes, Trekking Poles, Headlamp

Shoes – Altra Lone Peak 7

I have been wearing Altra Lone Peaks for years. I fell in love with my first pair of Lone Peak 4’s and although every version since has gotten farther and farther from what made them great, I haven’t changed yet (but they are really testing my loyalty). I’ll be starting in a pair 1/2 size larger than I normally wear.

Trekking Poles – Cascade Mountain Tech Aluminum Quick Lock

Nothing too fancy here, a pretty budget friendly option that I have been happy with so far. I don’t personally notice the weight difference between more expensive trekking poles since it’s split between both hands and everything else is on my back. I will point out that I initially ordered the folding version and they never felt solid to me, so immediately returned them for quick-lock.

Headlamp – Nitecore NU25

I already had a few battery-powered headlamps, but there was no way I wanted to carry extra batteries, so this was an easy upgrade decision to make. this Headlamp is very light, comfortable, and has all the features I wanted.

Keeping Water Out (Rain Gear)

Inside my pack

Based on the suggestions of random internet posters (like me!) I’ll be lining my pack with a trash compactor bag. Seems fitting if I hope to join the ranks of hiker trash in the very near future. I also have a few Sea to Summit dry bags that will hold my clothes and electronics for a little extra protection.

Outside my Pack

I have been waffling all over the place on what rain gear my actually keep me fairly dry without being a sauna suit. I have decided to start with a Frogg Toggs poncho and a Joy Walker pack cover. I also have two full sets of Frogg Toggs rain gear that I debated, but they didn’t quite make the cut.

Getting Water In (Drinking water)

Filter – Sawyer Squeeze

A pretty common choice for the trail. I have tried it out and I’m very impressed! It is lightweight, easy to use, and compatible with so many peripherals. I will carry some Aquatabs for a backup purification option but I hope to never touch them.

Hydration Bladder – Gregory 3D Hydro 2L

Hydration bladders maybe pass at the moment, but I really like the convenience while I’m hiking. I don’t expect to hike with a full bladder, CNOC bag, and water bottle at the same time, so to me this is another minimal add to weight considering the use it will get.

CNOC & Smart Water Bottle

These seems to be commonly recommended with the Sawyer Squeeze, and with an adapter I can do a gravity hang overnight to have water ready in the morning. So far, so good.

Ta ta ’til the Trail

So much has gone into making just a single step on the trail, and while I’m out there living a dream, my family will be picking up the slack. A huge thank you to my mom who has loved and supported me, my brother who will be relied on for pet care and manning the gear I send home or need mailed, and Stephen who has kept me very well fed and cared for, and a special shout-out to my sister who I reconnected with just as I’m leaving. I love, appreciate, and will miss you all!

I’ve put off checking my permethrin application long enough. Let me know if you have any questions; otherwise, I don’t expect to get another post up before I’m out on the trail, so I’ll see you out there!

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