My Gear List: 12 Pounds of Chewy Goodness

There are few things in life that I love more than backpacking gear. My cat Shelby, a good ABBA cover band, and my Aunt Maggie’s Jell-O salad on the 4th of July are about it. To say I have stressed over my thru hike gear selection is an understatement. I have logged hundreds of miles of shakedown hikes the past two years, tested too many cook systems, shelters, and packs. In the end, I went with a mix of lightweight gear, comfort, and durability.

I literally spent hours looking at my gear spread out on my floor and asking myself the following questions:

  • Would this item save my life?
  • Is there a lighter option that doesn’t require a kidney or liver as a down payment?
  • If I leave this at home, will it affect my mental well-being (i.e., do I take my stuffed teddy bear?)
  • Is this item multipurpose?

And with that became a winter long obsession of mixing and matching gear, testing such gear, and asking myself “Do I really want this for 5 months on the trail?” What I came up with amounts to a base weight of 12.8 pounds. For the newbs, base weight is defined by everything in your pack with the exception of consumables (fuel, water, food). These are the items that will always be in your pack.

So what do you say I stop the rambling and get on with this?

The Big 3…err…4

My Big 4

My Big 4

The heart of it all. The big 3 (backpack, shelter, sleeping bag) represent your 3 most heavy items as well as the foundation to your backpacking philosophy. The big 3 has transitioned into the big 4 with the advances of the sleeping pad, most notably the lightweight inflatable variety which now joins the big 3 at the top of the hill.

Backpack: Katabatic Gear Helios 55 – The well known quilt maker now makes backpacks. And damned good ones, too! This pack is waterproof, with minimal widgets and is extremely sexy. The craftsmanship is insanely detailed. The owner inspects every piece of gear before it leaves the shop. Plus, at a scant 32 ounces, it can haul loads up to 40 pounds. By choosing the waterproof cuben fiber composite, I’ve eliminated the need for a pack cover and thus eliminating excess weight.

Tent: You may remember my previous post about my tent dilemma? I chose neither and instead went back to an old favorite. I’m taking the Henry Shire’s Tarptent Moment DW. Henry makes incredibly awesome tents in single wall and double walled designs. For the humid east coast, I chose to go with a double walled tent because, while condensation is always present, it doesn’t mean I have to like it. The Moment reduces getting rained on in the morning from the condensation buildup, and unlike most garbage being shilled as a single person tent, the Moment is a true 1P shelter at 2 pounds. Fun Fact: I have the highest viewed video on the Moment DW on YouTube.

Sleeping Quilt: Katabatic Gear Flex 30. There are some great quilt makers out there, and I own a few. But when you’re ready to go from awesome to holy sh*t!, you choose Katabatic Gear. Just like the backpack, the fabric choices, sewing, pad attachment system, everything is perfect. You won’t find a better company that has the level of attention that goes into their products.

Sleeping Pad: NeoAir Xlite SV. This inflatable pad inflates quicker with the speed valve technology. In my humble opinion*, there is no better sleeping pad for side sleepers than the NeoAir Xlite line of pads.

*totally waiting to be corrected in the comments section

On the trail with the Katabatic Gear Helios 55 backpack

On the trail with the Katabatic Gear Helios 55


Clothing Worn

Daily clothing I will wear

Daily clothing I will wear

This is what I’ll be wearing while hiking every day:

* Icebreakers merino wool 150 tech lite shirt
* Brooks Sherpa running shorts w/ liner
* Smartwool socks
* Keen Voyageur hiking shoes
* Smartwool merino wool buff
* Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Poles


Clothing Packed

Clothing I will carry in my pack

This is clothing I will use for camp/town stops, weather, and sleeping:

* Luke’s Ultralite rain jacket
* EMS Ultralight Wind Shirt
* Zpacks Rain Kilt
* Terramar Thermasilk top and bottom for sleeping/ chilly weather
* Osprey Straight Jacket Compression Sack for storage (also part of my pillow system)
* Identical set of shirt, shorts, socks

Cooking and Hydration




I really had a tough time deciding my cooking system. I enjoy using different fueled stoves and there is no one perfect system. I chose to go with solid fuel (Esbit) since I will not be cooking as much.  The Esbit tablets allow me to portion out perfectly how much fuel I will need between resupply points.

* Esbit Titanium Tri Wing Stove
* Toaks 750ml pot w/ lid
* QiWiz Titanium windscreen
* Gossamer Gear Warm Sack (doubles as a cozy warmer)
* HumanGear DuoBites fork/spoon combo – my new favorite gadget!
* Snow Peak Hot Lips – turns pot into drinking mug while saving lips from being scorched
* Sawyer Squeeze water filter
* Evernew 1.5 collapsible water bottles X2
* Zpacks Bear Bag w/ 50 ft rope


Electronics and Miscellaneous


For everything else that doesn’t fit into a system;

* RavPower 9,000 mah portable battery (has integrated wall outlet and lightning cable)
* SanDisc iXpand memory stick – designed for the iPhone. Allows for the two way storage and transfer of digital media
* The Stick Pic and phone cradle – turns my trekking pole into a selfie stick
* Joby MPOD Mini Stand
* Petzl Tikka + Headlight
* Leatherman CS multitool
* QiWiz Titanium Trowel – at .5oz, there’s no excuse to not dig a proper 6 inch cat hole
* AWOL’s The AT Guide – the gold standard for trail points and town information
* Sea2Summit Bug Headnet
* Apple Earbuds
* Big Sky Dream Sleeper inflatable pillow
* Ditty Bag – first aid kit, repair kit. Here is a video of what’s in mine.

So there you have it.  My life packed into a 55 liter sack for the next five months.  Pretty cool, eh?

If you would like to see my detailed video review of this gear list, click me!

All packed for May 14th

All packed for May 14th



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Comments 12

  • Mike : Apr 26th

    Very informative and helpful for anyone considering taking on the trail. As always, very humorous and fun to read!

  • Tina : Apr 26th

    So interesting to read about your prep process. I’m so excited for you on this great adventure. Good luck and keep the posts coming.

  • TBR : Apr 26th

    Dude, that’s the lightest pack ever! Amazing.

    Great report — one of the best gear-love lists I’ve seen.

    Sporks … keep seeing these. Hikers, here’s the news — “sporks” are lacking in dignity. Just take an honest spoon, and walk tall. Leave the fork, and fork imposters, behind.

    Took me awhile to see the inky-dinky stove in your photo. No experience wit Esbit, but now I’m intrigued.

    I am skeptical of those water purifiers. No experience, just … doesn’t look up to the task.

    Twelve pounds — impressive.

    Two pounds of tent … I’ll have to look that one up, too. I prefer to go tentless but carry a tarp for when cover is needed. At two pounds, though, I might be convinced.

    Thanks for the info … enjoy your time in the woods.

    • Tom Willard : Apr 26th

      Thanks for writing! The Sawyer Squeeze is definitely a game changer and is hugely popular on the trail now days. If you’d like to see the video companion of this gear list where I go even deeper into detail, I included a link at the bottom of the post. Thanks!

  • Andy h : Apr 27th

    Found this post super interesting. Awesome gear. Thanks for the post

  • Lizann : Apr 30th

    So glad you posted this. Section hiking in June for the first time – and really struggling to decide on what to take. This is really going to help. thanks and good luck on your thru hike!

  • Pia : May 8th

    Great posts and very informative! Im in Hummelstown! Happy trails!

  • Tber : May 8th

    Which iPhone do you use? Did I miss it?

    • Tom Willard : May 8th

      I am using the iPhone 6s

  • David Bernhardt : May 10th

    Such a great post! Thanks for putting all this together, and best of luck! Maybe we will see you on the trail here in Virginia!

  • Randy T : May 26th

    Will be interested to see how that pack works out. Looks nice, will it take the weight day in day out is the question. I love my Katabatic quilt, and also I use the same Icebreaker base layer. Merino rules.

    And yes, you waited, and here it is:

    * I am a side sleeper and think the NeoAir (and its whole family of siblings) are the single worst inflatable pads I have ever tried (and I have tried them all). I’d rather sleep on plywood, which is just as comfortable as a NeoAir, but makes far less noise 😉

    However, no man may judge another’s sleeping comfort. If it works for you, then go forth with it and sleep well.

  • Crissandra Katsandris : May 30th

    Great list! I am going to spend the money on the kakatabatic and I just ordered the power pac from Amazon to replace the one I have now. I also ordered the G7 coffee 🙂
    So many great weight savers in yours. I will keep coming back to this list!
    Thanks for sharing.


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