Let’s Talk Gear
Any section of the Appalachian Trail will require its own combination of gear, however, a southbound hike beginning in June will throw both humid days and chilly nights in my direction. In my final days of preparation, I have slimmed my gear list down to what I believe is the bare minimum, and we’ll surely see how my gear list holds up in the 100 Mile Wilderness. Below is a brief outline of the gear I will be carrying on my southbound hike of the Appalachian Trail.
The Big Three
Although there are hundreds of man-made shelters on the Appalachian Trail, the tent you decide to carry will have a major impact on how you sleep for the next two thousand miles. As for myself, I will be carrying Gossamer Gear’s The Two, a shelter spacious enough to house my hiking partner, Hazel, and myself. The Two is just under 24 ounces and is not free-standing, meaning that it relies entirely on trekking poles for support(as do I, after some long days).
This is a very ultralight shelter option that was introduced to me by my brother. I was not originally in support of splitting the cost of the tent, because I didn’t think I’d ever get my fair share of use from it. Little did I know, I’d be planning to sleep in it all summer just a few months later. The Two is a great option for my partner and me as we set out on our journey because it’s very lightweight and durable, allowing me to cut down on weight for one of my “big three” items.
On the Appalachian Trail, I will be carrying my gear in the Granite Gear Crown2 60 liter backpack. Although it’s not the lightest or most expensive backpack on the market, it has been through hundreds of miles of tough terrain and has proven to be very durable over its lifetime.
The Granite Gear Crown2 60 weighs in at 2.2 pounds and comes with a removable brain (lid). I purchased this backpack for under $150 on sale and have considered upgrading this item several times to a Hyperlite or Gossamer Gear pack, however, I just can’t find the guts to do it, so I think it’s stuck with me for the next 2,000 miles. This is a very affordable, middle-of-the-pack backpack for thru-hikers of all levels. I find that when I’m hiking with my family and sharing most gear, it can be a little large for my needs, however, for solo hiking, it seems to be the perfect size.
My all-time favorite of the big three, my sleep system. Starting with my sleeping pad, I will be carrying the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite. The women’s version of this sleeping pad is made wider, shorter, and warmer than the men’s version, to fit the smaller frame of women. It’s most certainly not the cheapest pad on the market, but I’ve had it for over a year now and plan to use it until it pops. Weighing in at 12 ounces, with an R-value of 5.4, in comparison to the men’s pad with an R-value of 4.2. This sleeping pad isn’t necessarily the cheapest on the market, however, it is comfortable and has kept me warm on a few very cold nights on the Colorado Trail.
My absolute favorite item to carry is my quilt. This was my biggest gear upgrade for the Appalachian Trail, as I reduced the weight of my sleeping bag from 3lbs to just over 1. I invested in an Enlightened Equipment 10-degree quilt early in February, and I initially regretted spending the money as the cost is steep for a quilt of this quality. However, after taking it to the bottom of the Grand Canyon in March, I’ll never regret spending the money to be warm again.
This is the most comfortable piece of gear I will be carrying on the Appalachian Trail, and I’m looking forward to taking it to its limits in the early weeks of my Southbound hike. As for a pillow, I’ve experimented in the past with lightweight inflatable camping pillows, but due to a recent misplacement of my pillow and attempt to cut weight from my pack, I will be using my clothing sack as a pillow at night.
Cooking and Clothing
On the Appalachian Trail I will be carrying a base layer top and bottom, shorts, fleece hoodie, down puffy, winter hat, waterproof glove system, rain pants, and a rain jacket. My clothing system hasn’t undergone much change since the Colorado Trail, with the exception of adding rain pants. I’m expecting the Appalachian Trail to be much colder and rainier than Colorado for the first 500 miles. I’m expecting to make several changes to my clothing system as the hiking season goes on and things start to warm up, but for now, I’m packing the warmest clothing I own.
My cook system is very simple: MSR PocketRocket stove and a Toaks 900mL titanium pot. Most of my meals for the first month are homemade, noodle-and-protein-based dinners and oatmeal or granola cereal breakfasts. Therefore, I have found that the simplicity of this cook system works best for me.
While lightweight gear is essential for an enjoyable thru-hike, there are many inexpensive alternatives to the big ultralight name brands. I would have to say that my Granite Gear backpack is the perfect example of this. The beautiful thing about backpacking is that no two hikers carry the exact same gear systems, and everyone values different items. While the most expensive gear tends to be the lightest, it is not always about saving weight.
Thru-hiking is a constant balancing act between expense and enjoyment, which is why I decided to share with you some items worth splurging for and areas in my gear systems where I prefer to keep it simple. Thanks for reading, I hope you learned a few things about what I’m carrying on the Appalachian Trail and can apply it to your next adventure!
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