I Am My Gear
How often have you heard phrases that start with, “there are two types of people in this world,” and felt that whatever assertion followed could not be further from the truth? Well, I am here to tell you that there are two types of people in this world. One who obsessively prepares far in advance, and the other who waits and takes what comes to them in a given moment. I am, by far, the former.
My intention is to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (AT), southbound, starting in June of 2023. I have been preparing for this specific event in one way or another since around the Spring of 2020. Preparing for the AT has set me on a course of purchasing globs of equipment (wasting some money in the process), trying to get out in the world to test said equipment, physically pushing myself while hiking, and saving as much money as I can.
I am writing this in September of 2022, so there are still eight months between now and making my way up to Maine. That means I have eight more months to question my physical and mental readiness and obsess over my gear choices.
Speaking of gear choices, that’s what I’m going to begin this trek with. I strongly considered writing an introduction for myself and explaining why I intend to complete this hike for my first post here. While I have many reasons why I believe I’m doing it, I ultimately feel that the clarity of what is driving me will rear its hopefully not-so-ugly head while out there. Besides, I tend to believe that your choice of gear says a lot about your mental state going into a thru-hike (not that I’ve ever done one). The items you choose to bring, whether necessary or for comfort, could express a sense of self-confidence, fear, or perhaps expectations of what lies ahead.
I have analyzed countless lighterpacks, read articles, exhausted the vault of backpacking YouTube videos, and gotten out in the woods myself to decide what would earn its place in my pack. Though, all of that consumption doesn’t fully equate to my boiled-down decisions. I cannot help but have some kind of gear bias. Certain categories or specifications of equipment, primarily low-weight items, seem in my head to be more indicative of a serious hiker and a hiker that is more likely to succeed.
This is a mentality I hope to shake. I realize that that statement and mindset are flawed for two reasons. One, there is no right or wrong choice of equipment. My mantra should become, and stay, the tried and true ideology of “hike your own hike.”
In the end, any item that helps push through those difficult days was a good choice to pack. And two, this concept of succeeding. The only image of success I can accept for myself when being utterly honest is completing every last mile of this trail in a straight line from Maine to Georgia.
It’s hard to accept that success is relative, and sometimes, a small achievement can be just as rewarding or significant as a large one. Perhaps when, or if, I do truly discover the reason I’m out there and find what I’m subconsciously looking for, I will only have hiked half the trail. Perhaps that will be enough. But for now, all I can focus on is finishing.
With that said, let’s get into some gear.
I may or may not be embarking on this trail alone. It is possible that my partner A will be joining me, thus their full gear list is a work in progress. I will be sharing both packs here, in case they decide to come along.
The Big Three
Pack, shelter, and sleep system. It’s hard to say what the “most important” equipment is while backpacking, but an argument could be made for all three of these.
For my pack, I chose the Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60. I was utterly excited when this pack showed up at my house, even though I made the somewhat risky decision of purchasing it without having an ounce of hands-on experience with it. My decision for the Mariposa came from balancing reviews between what packs constitute ultralight and those that have also logged many miles among the community. The Mariposa was said to be popular, generally comfortable, and large enough to be flexible with what I will want to bring. I tend to agree with the positives and have had no issues with it.
A’s pack is the olive oil REI Flash 55. They found this pack quite comfortable, and the weight of it wasn’t of much concern because we’ll be hiking together and sharing most things. While it may not be entirely significant, it is also a good-looking pack and possesses several bells and whistles for various attachments. They are more than content with the Flash.
For our shelters, we are currently operating with the Gossamer Gear The One, and the Gossamer Gear The Two. I will be using The One, and A will be using The Two (for a reason which will be covered in my next post). However, once late May comes around, I am interested in switching the two tents out for a Zpacks Triplex. I had purchased the Gossamer Gear The Two a while back, thinking I would be hiking on my own. With those plans currently in limbo, I purchased a second tent (The One) to accommodate us and could not afford the Triplex at the time ($800…).
I love trekking pole tents, I already have trekking poles with me while hiking, and these tents are both very light. The One fits in my Mariposa side pocket, enabling easy access for setting up camp. I am overall happy with these tents.
For a sleep system, we are using 20-degree Enlightened Equipment APEX quilts. I went with synthetic quilts in preparation for wetter conditions along the AT. I have seen varying opinions on what quilt rating will suffice for a SOBO hike, but I am sure I will find out if I made the right choice very quickly. (Or maybe very late once fall rolls around).
I am using a NEMO Switchback for my sleeping pad, and my partner will be using a Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite. I intend to start with the NEMO, though am prepared to switch it out for something more comfortable if needed. My pad has never been an issue, but I have never had to sleep on it for months. The Therm-a-Rest was a must for my partner, as they are a side sleeper. I will admit, it is a very luxurious pad and I am envious at times. We are both using pillows, specifically the Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight pillow.
Food and Water
There are still some decisions to be made for food and water. We are tentatively planning on each carrying a 20L stuff sack for food storage. I say tentatively because of the recent Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) recommendation to carry a bear canister along the entirety of the AT. I understand bear canisters are bulky and heavy, and most people avoid them. However, I believe that stewardship of the land is of utmost importance, and if I can manage to lug a bear canister (which I will test on some upcoming hikes), then I will carry one along the AT.
For water filtration, I have been using a Sawyer Squeeze attached to a 2L Cnoc bladder and filtering into a 1L Smart Water bottle (the classic). I like this system, though I am going to test a 1L Katadyn BeFree on the upcoming shakedown hikes. Ultimately, only one of these systems will join us on the AT. Carrying more than 2L of water seems unnecessary for the most part, and never has one of my East Coast hikes required it. In addition to this, the BeFree has a pleasingly fast flow rate.
I will just list the rest of the cooking system as we are set with our decisions.
- Bear Hang kit (rope, rock sack, and carabiners)
- Two Talenti jars for eating from and for some cold soaking
- Two Toaks titanium long-handled spoons
- One collapsible coffee mug (only I like coffee, so we don’t need two)
- BRS 3000T stove
- Toaks 900ml titanium pot
Clothing and Footwear
Our clothing and footwear choices are mostly solidified as well, though some updates may be made over time.
- Baseball cap
- Arc’Teryx Skyline
- The North Face Class V Pull-On shorts 5”
- Injinji midweight Socks (x2)
- Altra Lone Peak 5
- Smartwool merino baselayer (for sleeping)
- Merino wool leggings (for sleeping)
- Cotton socks (for sleeping)
- Frogg Toggs ultralight rain jacket
- Enlightened Equipment Torrid pullover jacket
- Dry Bag
- Darn Tough Crew Socks (x2)
- Altra Lone Peak 6
- REI Take Your Time Bra Top
- REI Take Your Time Leggings
- Outdoor Voices Hudson 2.5”
- Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket Custom
- Patagonia rain jacket
- Patagonia Base Layers (for sleeping)
- Cotton Socks (for sleeping)
- Dry Bag
Electronics, Toiletries, and Other
- Nitecore NB10000 (x2)
- Nitecore NU25 Headlamps (x2)
- Charging cables
- Cell Phones
- Pocket Knife
- Bug Net
- Med Kit
- The Deuce
- Travel Bidet
- General Toiletries (toothpaste, chapstick, toothbrush, hand sanitizer, sunscreen)
- Baggies for items
Well, that should be everything. It is possible that things will be switched out over time. Heck, I’m sure a lot of it will, probably during the hike. I’m a firm believer that shakedown hikes, while important, can only tell you so much. I don’t want to find myself locked into any one piece of gear. It’s all expensive and, thus, easy to convince yourself you’ve made a wise purchase. I suppose we’ll just see how it goes.
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