My Favorite Gear for an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike
Last week we reviewed Saoirse “Story” Ibargüen’s biggest gear regrets from her 2018 Appalachian Thru-Hike. Now that you know what not to bring on the AT, it’s time we recommended some gear you should absolutely invest in. Below are Story’s top gear picks for hiking the AT.
Gaiters are an often overlooked piece of gear, but they’re exactly what you need to stop pesky rocks from gathering in your shoes. The only downside is that these gaiters aren’t waterproof, so you’ll have to keep them in your pack on rainy days.
MSRP: $80 – $100
These guys are the real deal. Story tried Frogg Toggs for the first part of her hike, but she soon found that they didn’t keep out rain and they fall apart pretty easily. She pivoted to Marmot rain pants for the later, colder months and now recommends everyone start out with them. They kept her dry during the day and warm and insulated at night.
MSRP: $10 – $13
Not fashionable, but very effective. A bug net will keep away the gnarliest flies and mosquitoes when you just want to hike in peace.
Blister prevention for days! Injinji offers both sock liners and toe socks to prevent blisters from popping up on your foot and between your toes.
Story paired her Injinji liner socks with Darn Tough Socks for maximum blister prevention. Darn Tough Socks are fantastic because they don’t get holes. Period. And if they do tear for some bizarre reason, you can exchange them for free, courtesy of their lifetime guarantee. That’s how good they are.
MSRP: $6 (Mini Vaseline); $8 (Leukotape)
Story is the queen of blister prevention, and along with her double socks, she swears by Vaseline and toe tape to save your feet. The toe tape is helpful if you have an extra-sensitive spot on your foot that needs extra love. Story layered Vaseline, sock liners, and socks to prevent any blisters from popping up on the AT. That’s right, with her method she hiked over 2,200 miles without developing a single blister.
These stoves are so tiny they can literally fit in the palm of your hand. They’re not the most lavish of camping stoves, but they’re light, easy to use, and ensure you’ll have a hot dinner after a long day of hiking.
For those with bad knees, a knee brace is a total game-changer. This one cinches right under the knee and provides the kind of support that saved Story from quitting the trail when her sore knees were acting up.
This brace is similar to a knee brace, but it goes above the knee and provides support to those with IT band injuries. Story liked to wear both braces when her legs were killing her, and by the end of her hike, her legs and knees felt strong enough that she didn’t need to wear either!
KT Tape also works to support achy knees, but it’s more dynamic than a knee brace. You can tape it over your knee wherever you need the most support, but look up how to use it before taping up on your own.
This ultra-light tent is perfect for the AT. The duplex requires two hiking poles to set up (one for the single-person size), and it kept Story dry even on the rainiest nights.
Ahnu Hiking Boots
MSRP: $170 (Ahnu Montara II)
These boots are light enough for a long trek, and they provide ankle support to those prone to rolling their ankles. Story wore these hiking boots all the way to Pennsylvania before she needed a replacement pair, and they kept her feet blister-free.
Not only are pee funnels great for a quick pee in the woods, but they offer the extra perk of peeing in your tent at night. How? Just get a bottle and use your pee funnel to aim your stream straight into it. (Make sure to close the bottle tightly so you don’t spill it when you toss in your sleep.)
MSRP: $10 (6-pack)
A tiny piece of gear that can make all the difference. Story used them to strap things to her pack, and they’re perfect for cinching the hose from a water reservoir exactly where you want it on your shoulder strap.
Sun hats are a must for the AT since the wide brim can protect your face and neck from sunburn. Pro tip: for those with long hair, cut out the top half of the hat so you can stick your bun or ponytail through it.
ZPacks Arc Blast Pack
A pack that’s both waterproof and ultralight? Yes please! Story found this pack to be incredibly comfortable with the adjustable arc and breathable net on the back. She also loved the big belt pockets to store easily-accessible snacks and gear as she’s hiking.
No one can predict exactly what gear will work for you on your hike, but Story and The Trek can help you find where to start.
Check out The Trek’s extensive AT gear list for inspiration.
Most importantly, invest in the gear that you find most comfortable, and over time you’ll find what works best for you. Happy Hiking!
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