Losing Sleep Over My Pre-Appalachian Trail Gear List

I had a nightmare last week in which my backpack was so heavy I couldn’t manage a single step through the archway at Amicalola Falls. When I opened my bag to figure out what the hell was weighing me down, I noticed my bear canister was full of Petoskey stones. I woke up in a literal sweat and immediately bought a food bag. And today, my neighbors got to watch me practice the PCT hang method in my parents’ backyard. We got there; it took a while. I’ll return the bear canister on my way to Georgia.

Anyway, I haven’t been on a backpacking trip longer than three days and expect to learn a lot on trail. Take this gear list with a grain of salt, and when I’m done, I’ll share what made it to Maine and which items I switched or ditched.

But first…

How I’m Preparing for the Appalachian Trail

Actually Hiking (Duh)

I love northern Michigan in the summer, but there’s something truly magical about the silence and solitude of snowy wintertime up here. 

Over the past couple months, I’ve strapped on my pack to trudge through knee-high snow across town or take long walks on sandy, rocky (and sometimes icy!) beach terrain until the sun would set. I’d venture further from home once or twice a week in search of longer trails with more elevation change. There’s one not too far from me that has 462 stairs I’d repeat in preparation for Day 0 at Amicalola Falls. 

Icy 🥶

Research! Spreadsheets!

This winter, there have been plenty of cold nights for me to stay in and watch gear reviews on YouTube or read product comparisons until well past midnight. I especially liked Gear Lab’s in-depth reviews when it came to choosing my Big Three (backpack, sleep system, shelter).

As a brand-new long-distance backpacker, I considered things that I never had to give much thought for long day hikes or car camping: How much weight might I be comfortable carrying over the course of consecutive weeks? What kind of organizational system might work for me? Can I adjust to sleeping on my back? No, I don’t think I can. Do I splurge on merino wool underwear or go sans skivvies? How does Instagram already know I’m thinking about merino wool underwear?

Then there’s my beloved spreadsheet. This helped me visualize and organize my rambling thoughts, budget, and get a solid weight estimate. From there, I scoured the Internet for deals and tried to make use of what I already had in my hiking and camping kits. I’m proud to say that I didn’t pay full price for anything in my kit except for my travel-sized deodorant (let me have this).

Connecting with Other Thru-Hikers

When looking to others for recommendations, I preferred to review thru-hiker gear lists written after they’d completed the Appalachian Trail. Taking it one step further, it was most helpful for me to talk to other backpackers on the phone or face-to-face. Big love to these incredible humans for helping me get my ducks in a row: Claire/Tobacco Hornworm (section hiker), Shuping/Mr. Clean (SOBO ‘21), Christopher/Band Aid (section hiker), Bryce, Cara, Trevor/Bear (NOBO ‘20, Flip Flop ‘21), and Reset (NOBO ‘23).

Susan Creek Nature Preserve in Charlevoix, MI

My Appalachian Trail Gear List

Alright, enough preamble. This is what you’re here for — I’ll circle back in a few months.

Turns out those iconic pre-thru-hike photos are really hard to get right when all you have is an iPhone, a step ladder, and tricky lighting. Everyone go tell my sister what a great job she did in the comments 🙂

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 15

  • chris : Mar 6th

    Your sister did a great job! I got a kick out of “Things I need to see”

    • Mo Wynne : Mar 6th

      Haha, thank you! 🤓🤓🤓

  • Allie : Mar 6th

    The planning, the thrifty purchases, the aesthetic photos 😍💪👏👏👏 amazing.
    Also, well done, Syd 💓 💯

    • Mo Wynne : Mar 6th

      Allie!!! Feelin the love ❤️

  • Amazon "Prime" Dennison : Mar 6th

    You.should be fine, but I do think your going a bit heavy. With food and water you will be close to 30lbs. I started my hime to heavy as well. You have a good deal of cold weather gear you probably won’t need. The spikes will probably not be necessary, and your first aid kit is heavy. My kit was duct tape, dental floss, a needle and some antibacterial ointment and some Ibuprofen. Any injury more serious requires a stop in town anyway. Still, part of the fun is discovering what works for you while hiking. Good luck and have fun!

    • Mo Wynne : Mar 6th

      Ha, definitely packing my fears a bit 😅 Thanks so much for the tips!!

  • Leah : Mar 6th

    nailed it, Syd!! excellent organization, Mo 🙂

    safe travels to GA!!!!

    • Mo Wynne : Mar 6th

      Thanks, Leah!!

  • Jared : Mar 6th

    Your sister did an excellent job! Looks like you have a great list to start, I’m sure you will find ways to tweak it as your hike goes on! Are you only planning on bringing one BeFree for all your water storage, though? I personally would bring either one more, or something else to store water; I always try to have at least 2 bottles/Cnoc bags, even in Vermont, which usually has plenty of water. I like the Cnoc bags myself (tough, light, pack down small), but you’ve got other options, too. That’s only a suggestion, of course, not trying to be critical. Have a blast out there! Safe travels, happy hiking, ✌️

    • Mo Wynne : Mar 6th

      Thanks for lookin out 🙂 I didn’t add these to my gear list, but I’ll also be carrying 1L and 700ml Smartwater bottles for water!

  • Turtle Man : Mar 6th

    Yay, photographer sis! Love your vibe. Looks like a reasonable kit, though i’d lose the “travel-sized deodorant.” Ain’t gonna help. You won’t need microspikes for most of the hike, just beginning and, possibly, end. I’d add a backup water purification—Potable Aqua or equivalent—in case something happens with the filter (lost, clogs, freezes). Also didn’t see any stove-lighter/fire starter. I’d get a rechargeable headlamp. You already have a power bank, so you wouldn’t have to worry about extra AAA batteries.

    • Mo Wynne : Mar 6th

      Great advice re: backup water purification, and I’m sure I’ll ditch the deodorant shortly lol. Planning to send spikes and winter gear home in April (depending on where I am & weather). I wanted to start my hike with the headlamp I already own, but a rechargeable one is definitely on my wish list. Do you have one you like? Totally forgot to add my isopro/lighter combo here, but they’re in there 🙂 Thanks for the in-depth review — it all helps!

  • Michael Beecher : Mar 7th

    I think you should be just fine and your gear list looks pretty reasonable to me. Good luck.

  • Julie Hyatt : Mar 7th

    Morgan, I’m so impressed and so excited for you! What an amazing adventure! I’m so excited to read these blog posts and you post them and hope we can meet up for lunch of coffee or something when you get back!

  • Emilia Grunden : Mar 21st

    It’s a fact, those Branwyn ads on Instagram are relentless 😂


What Do You Think?