Late to the Party: A SOBO Hiker Intro

While NOBO’s have been hitting the trail for a few months at this point, I’ve been stuck existentially crisis-ing and considering dropping out of my engineering degree. About a hundred times. Well, it’s done.

Freaking finally.

And now it’s time to start what some might say is actually just an existential crisis in another form. Hiking the Appalachian Trail.

My name’s Jana…

…and I don’t have a hiker name yet but I’ve got a list of about 5 that I want to adopt so I’ll be casually dropping hints to fellow hikers for the next month or so until one catches on. Stay tuned.

I grew up in New Brunswick, Canada, the border of which is conveniently only 1.5 hours from Millinocket in case Katahdin is really bad and I want to go home on the first day. I have spent the last 6 years of my life in crippling pain as I worked through a chemical engineering degree. Thankfully, I spent some of that time living in the Caribbean taking elective classes just for fun and then also many semesters of working, intentially taking as much time off between actual semesters with classes as I possibly could. I love engineering work, but I’m not an overall fan of academia. Maybe it’s the sitting still all day. Maybe it’s the toxic productivity culture and unconscious misogyny. You tell me.

ANYWAY, I’m also a semi-regular weekend warrior type of backpacker.

Every summer, I usually do at least 3 weekend hiking trips. These trips are usually 15-20 mile days. The terrain in Atlantic Canada, where I live and do most of my hiking, is hilly, but not mountainous. Otherwise, it’s fairly similar in climate and ruggedness to Maine! Or, at least, that’s what I’m hoping. Being from this corner of the universe at least means I KNOW how bad the mosquitoes and black flies are going to be, whether or not I’m ready for it, I guess that’s another story.

In preparation for the Appalachian Trail, I committed to 16+ hours in my desk chair every day while finishing my degree, casual bouldering, walks to campus, and some spin classes. My hiking buddy did all the gear research for me, but I did book the Baxter reservation, so I’m basically super prepared for this.

Joking aside — I’m thrilled about the opportunity to hike this trail, especially at such a pivotal time in my life. But more to come on that in my next post. For now, a brief introduction to the contents of my backpack.

What’s in my Backpack?

Eep. Okay. Confession time. I, Jana, am not into gear research. Fine, fine, I’ll get off the stage, I can hear you boo-ing, I’m sorry. Here’s the thing, I’m totally here for having a light backpack, I really am. I’m also totally here for quality gear. I’m also totally here for functional gear once I own it. But here’s also the thing, I am way too impatient for gear research. So, here’s my very under-researched gear line-up including the inspo for each item.


Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2 Bike Pack. My original tent choice was actually the Eclipse 2-Person from Bass Pro Shops, which weighs like 6+ pounds and cost $50 CAD (uh probably like $35 USD). Anyway, after waking up floating in my tent on the Nepisiguit-Mikm’maq Trail in Northern New Brunswick, I vowed to just spend the money (read: ask for gift cards for Christmas) and get a decent tent. This one has been tested exactly once, in my living room. Seems great. Happy it weighs nothing. Why a bike pack? It was cute. And in case my ankles are toast after the AT, maybe I can get into bike camping.

Sleeping Bag

The North Face Furnace 600 Pro. I don’t think my original sleeping bag choice even had a temperature rating it was so bad. I found this one on Facebook Marketplace a couple years ago almost brand new and purchased it with cash in the parking lot of the engineering building on campus. The only feature I care about is that it’s warm because I’m a cold sleeper. So this is great.

Oops, what’s the third item in the big 3?

Googled it, we’re back on track, folks.


Osprey Eja 48L. My previous bag was a small 40L and I struggled to fit my 6-pound tent inside so needed an upgrade. I originally bought a Gregory Stout 45L M for the trail, which I found on, you guessed it, Facebook Marketplace. I bought it from some guy who used it for backpacking Europe pre-pandemic and who I assume has lost all hope of ever travelling again. But, after a few trial runs with the Stout, I realized it was perhaps a little bit too gigantic for my torso size (read: the hip straps were loose when tightened all the way) and downsized to the Eja. Don’t tell the other hikers but I just cut the tags off the Eja this morning and have never worn it hiking before…wish me luck.

Other Honourable Mentions

I’m told the ‘big 3’ are what people are interested in when it comes to “base weight”, but I thought these other items were kinda fun.


It was so cheap. Decathlon, don’t let me down, this jacket was the only one I could stomach paying for.

Pee cloths

You know I did actually kind of research this one and I think Kula Cloth is the only outdoor gear company I follow on Instagram, but that’s purely for the memes. #CVC


Love my Darn Tough’s. And they have a bunny blowing bubble gum on them. ‘Nough said. Thanks Mom.


I walked into a trail store in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I said: “Hello, I’m a really active hiker and runner and I need trail shoes but know nothing about them. I don’t want waterproof, I have wide feet, and I’m a size 9.” The clerk gave me last year’s Salomon sneakers in all black. Don’t ask what model. I love them.


Like I said, I sleep cold and I’m also one of those horrible people that likes to have the blankets right up to their chin when they sleep. No brainer. Sea to Summit silk feels nice.

Well, that’s pretty much me in a nutshell. Happy trails and see you soon!

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Comments 9

  • Susan : May 30th

    Love to read about another Atlantic Canadian. Nova Scotia here

    • Jana : Jun 9th

      Yay! 🙂

  • thetentman : May 30th

    Good luck. The AT is not the place to hide from ‘crippling pain’. I hope whatever caused it has been resolved. But having that experience will help you tolerate the AT. Remember, these are the good old days.


  • Greg : May 30th

    After 40 years in civil engineering, gender inequality is certainly a problem. However – I’m a professional mentor for Engineers Without Borders at Arizona State Univ. in Phoenix, Arizona where student enrollment in engineering classes is about 40% female. Positive change is coming. Hang in there.

    Grew up in New England and spent lots of time scampering up and down the White Mountains. Great fun. Super views above tree line.

    You’ll enjoy it!

    • Jana : Jun 9th

      I was an active member of EWB here in Canada! Yes, student enrolment is up, I’m excited to see the same numbers reflected in the work place in the future!

  • Davd : May 31st

    unconscious misogyny
    The Dark Ages did not end with the Renaissance
    You will learn a lot about your self

  • Mama Bear : May 31st

    Yea Salomons, I just came back from my first trip with a new pair of Salomon trail runners, also last year’s model that I got cheap at TJ Maxx and they were super comfortable right off…and they’re purple

    • Jana : Jun 9th


  • GruntGal : Jun 13th

    Some reality for your journey.
    FEAR…when you reach that evening ‘s destination and a guy with a huge knife is in the shelter demanding food and water from you. It’s getting dark now and no other hikers are around
    FEAR… it’s black powder hunting season and silently a big man with a black powder rifle steps out of the woods into the trail in front of you–blocking your way

    Have more reality based experiences for you if you’d like me to share them.

    In short it does not matter what’s up with your sleeping bag or gear or whatever. Do you have good common sense? Can you think fast on your feet? These are the skills you will need to complete a thru- hike.


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