It’s not ultralight—but it will do
Only 21 days until I set off on a flip-flop thru-hike from Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, and I’ve just finalized my gear.
I thought I had everything figured out, oh, about two months ago. And yet I continued to stalk backpacking forums and talk to thru-hikers, which made me second guess my choices. Had I chosen reliable brands? Was there a lighter model out there somewhere? Did I really need a stove? What about rain pants? If merino wool could curb some of that inevitable hiker funk, was it really worth the investment?
My brain has been in overdrive. In short, I’m doing what I expect many prospective thru-hikers do before they leave: completely overanalyze everything. If I’m honest with myself, I’ve spent way too much time watching YouTube videos about water filter setups and less time thinking about the amazing adventures I’m about to have. Yikes.
So here it is: a list of the contents of my pack, which I’ve named Magnolia. If you’d like, you can click here for a matter-of-fact breakdown without having to read my commentary.
Base weight (no fuel, food, or water): 17.7 lbs
Approximate cost: $2,200
Gossamer Gear Mariposa 60 (31.9 oz): Gossamer Gear came highly recommended to me by our very own Zach Davis—not only because of the quality of the gear, but because of the people behind the products, too. My favorite features of this particular pack include the removable internal frame and the SEVEN built in pockets (including a large mesh pocket where wet gear can be stored). I also appreciated I could choose my hip belt size independently from the pack size. I ended up getting a size medium pack (turns out my torso is actually long for someone my height) and a size small hip belt. My only gripe so far? That the hip belt pockets aren’t quite big enough for my iPhone, which I plan on using as my camera.
Shelter & Sleep System
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1 and matching footprint (37 oz): I did a lot of research on tents, and finally chose this one because of its lightweight-yet-semi-freestanding status. I can be a complete ditz at times when it comes to gear setup, and this tent is pretty idiot proof. I was also able to snag it on sale from Campsaver.com.
For me, the one thing that will take some getting used to is the small vestibule. I’ve also heard many people talk about how much this tent makes them feel very claustrophobic, but I’ve always loved sleeping in small tents, and in fact, it’s what I’m used to. Call me crazy, but it makes this 5-foot-two-inch girl feel cozy and secure!
Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 (34 oz; weight includes Sea to Summit dry bag): I’ve had this bag since 2013, and although I anticipate it will be warmer than I need for a May 1 start date, I decided to save some money and stick with it. I absolutely love this bag, and it has kept me warm on many overnights. The only frustrating piece is its zipper—sometimes it can snag pretty easily.
Therm-a-rest Prolite Sleeping Pad (11 oz): This is another piece of gear I’ve had since 2013. I’m not terribly fond of this sleeping pad. I have the small size, and it doesn’t extend all the way to my feet—so when I’ve slept in shelters, I can definitely feel the cold of the shelter platform seeping through my bag. But to save money and because I appreciate its weight and packability, I’m sticking with it.
Saucony Peregrine 7s (8.4 oz): I’ve never successfully hiked in boots without getting blisters, and yes, I’ve tried a lot of tips and tricks to fight them—so, for me, trail runners it is. This particular pair fits my feet great, and the tread is top-notch. The downside? They aren’t even close to being waterproof.
Darn Tough socks (1.8 oz): You can’t beat these. I went with the micro crew and light cushion combo.
ExOfficio Give-N-Go Mesh Hipkini (1.2 oz): Hikers swear by these breathable undies with an antimicrobial treatment. This particular cut is modest enough to double as swim bottoms (you never know).
Icebreaker Sprite Racerback bra (2.3 oz): Merino wool means less stink. To me, it’s worth the cost. You can usually find last season’s colors on sale; just search Amazon or other online retailers.
Under Armour Fly-By shorts (3.5 oz): Lightweight and breathable means a lot to me. The annoying thing about running shorts is the built-in liner; I cut mine out to better pair them with the ExOfficios.
Smartwool Merino 150 short sleeve shirt (3.6 oz): Again, merino wool is worth paying extra for. I prefer Smartwool over Icebreaker as I think it’s softer, but my skin can be sensitive to certain fabrics. Go with what you can find on sale!
Buff UV Headband (0.6 oz): Nope, I’m not cutting my hair, so I have to tame the mane somehow.
Packed Clothing & Storage
Outdoor Research Helium II (5.8 oz): My dad got me this jacket for my birthday last year (thanks, dad!) and I love how light it is, despite the fully taped seams. The hood is adjustable AND large enough to shield my face from water, and it has elastic cuffs instead of those annoying Velcro ones. There aren’t any pockets, though, which will take some getting used to. I recommend this jacket for warm weather only, as there is no liner.
Woolrich Colwin Fleece (5.4 oz): While this fleece is nothing fancy, it does the job if you’re looking for a lightweight layer to keep you warm on chilly mornings or evenings. I believe it will be the perfect weight fleece for my flip-flop thru-hike.
Smartwool Merino 150 baselayer leggings (3.2 oz): I’m continuing the merino wool theme (can I buy stock in Smartwool?) I really like these bottoms, and I plan on using them as a baselayer when it’s cold or by themselves if it is warmer and I’m not feeling the running shorts.
An extra short sleeve shirt (Icebreaker Sphere Low Crewe, 3.3 oz)
An extra pair of ExOfficio underwear (1.1 oz)
An extra pair of Darn Tough socks (1.8 oz)
I am also bringing a set of clothes that will just be used for camp—that way, they will never be wet. These items include a Trek tee (gotta represent!), an extra pair of lightweight shorts, and a pair of Smartwool PhD socks. My camp shoes are a pair of Karin Clog Crocs (the Mary Jane style is just a little more aesthetically pleasing than the original Crocs). Total weight of camp clothes and shoes is 18.2 oz.
All of my extra clothes will be kept in a Sea to Summit 13 liter dry bag (1.5 oz).
Sawyer Mini water filter (2.4 oz): I’m sold on this because of its ease and weight. I ditched the reusable pouch that came with it, though, and picked up an Evernew 2-liter water carry that weighs an additional 1.5 ounces. I’ll use that Evernew to fill up a couple of Smartwater water bottles to drink from throughout the day.
Aquatabs water purification tablets (0.1 oz): To use as a backup in case the Sawyer fails.
Cooking & Food Storage
Optimus Crux stove (3.4 oz): I’ve had this stove for a couple of years, and it has always worked well for me. I like the folding style.
TOAKS Light 550ml cookpot and TOAKS 375ml cup (4.2 oz): For titanium cookware, TOAKS is pretty affordable. The pot I chose is definitely big enough to boil a couple of cups of water and nothing else, so be sure to pick one that fits your needs.
TOAKS spork (0.7 oz): Long handled is key. Have you ever tried to eat out of one of those pouch-style meals with a short one?!
Zpacks Bear Bagging Kit (3 oz): This is one of those “all-in-one” deals that gets me every time. The roll top food bag has waterproof taped seams, and the fabric feels incredibly sturdy (I’ve yet to use it in the backcountry). I do like the rectangular shape of the bag, which will allow me to quickly find the food I want without digging around too much.
Petzl Tikka Plus (3.1 oz): I don’t plan on doing much night hiking, but I wanted something that was bright enough just in case.
I’m keeping my first aid kit simple and going with Neosporin, Band-Aids, Leukotape, insect repellent, and ibuprofen. Total weight is about 10.4 oz.
I have quite a few little items here that add up to about 18.4 oz. These include a mini toothbrush and toothpaste, contact case and solution, lip balm, hand sanitizer, tweezers and nail clippers, an acrylic mirror, a mini hairbrush, wipes, and a bandana to use as a pee rag. Oh, and how can I forget the Deuce of Spades? This lightweight trowel is essential to following Leave No Trace.
This whole section could be titled “Luxury Items,” because I’m definitely bringing more than necessary. However, blogging this journey is very important to me, and I’m choosing to bring an iPad Mini 4, which weighs 10.5 ounces. The OtterBox case that I have on it weighs an additional 6.9 ounces. I’ll also be taking my iPhone 6 in a Lifeproof FRE case (5.8 ounces total). To charge these devices, I’m bringing the standard charging cord with wall plug as well as an Anker PowerCore 10000. My boyfriend, Ben, braided utility cord around the charger to protect it from my destructive nature (that’s pretty much a direct quote from his mouth) and also because you can never have too much cord. In total, my electronics weigh 31 ounces.
REI Co-op Traverse Powerlocking Cork Trekking Poles (16.2 oz): I’ve had these since 2013; they are nothing fancy, and I’m not sure they will last the whole trip, but they are fine for the time being.
CRKT Ripple knife (2.5 oz): A present from my significant other, this folding knife is light and easy to open.
Granite Gear hiker wallet (1.1 oz): So I don’t lose my ID, credit card, and cash.
Thru-Hikers’ Companion (11.3 oz): As a former employee of the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, I’m fiercely loyal to the ATC and ALDHA.
Rite in the Rain journal, pen, and Sharpie (3 oz)
…And that’s it!
I would love to hear any feedback on what’s in my pack. Let me know what you think and how your own gear list is shaping up!
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