My Life in 58 liters

My first backpacking trip was about a decade ago. I was a mere 85 pounds carrying a pack that was just 55 pounds… we were out for a night. A lot has changed since then. Here is a breakdown of what I plan on living off of for the next 5 months of my life.

The Big 4 (10.5 pounds)

Osprey Exos 58 liter – this pack is about as light as it gets and will likely be too big for me by the time I finish

MSR Hubba – an older version but still perfect tent for the trek

REI Air Rail – insulated and partially inflates on its own, a really nice feature when you’re dead tired

Big Agnes Mystic – a 15-degree bag (put in sinch sack) to later be switched for a 45 degree bag also by Big Agnes

Clothing (10 pounds)

For warmth I have a tight fitting thermals top and bottom with an additional old looser thermal top that I can ditch at any point. In addition to that I have an Arcteryx synthetic down vest, knee high, thick wool socks, neoprene gloves, and a wool hat.

Base layers include 3 pairs of Exofficio briefs (different colors so I know what’s dirty), basketball shorts x 2, light and medium weight wool socks, and synthetic short and long sleeve shirts.

Outerwear is likely to change come warmer months. But for the start I will have rain pants, rain jacket, 2 bandannas, and a ball cap.

The last things in my clothing list include Crocs for use around camp, cheap knee braces for the long downhill sections, and a dry bag to store it all in.

Cookwear and Water (5.75 pounds)

As far as cookware goes I am using a MSR Pocket Rocket and carrying 2 – 3 canisters of fuel. For the pot I am using an MSR Stowaway stainless steel pot because it is durable and the lid locks in place to allow easier storage inside of it. Inside I have a spork, a plastic water bottle with the top cut to make a cup (my coffee cup), all purpose soap, sponge, lighter, 3 trash bags, 1 quart and 1 small Ziploc bag, micro towel, can opener, pocket knife, multi-tool, tooth brush, paste, and floss.

For water I am using the Sawyer Squeeze for filtration. I find this option nice since there is no wait to consume water and the bags allow additional storage of water if you are going through an especially dry area. It’s important to also bring the back flush syringe, an extra bag, and some chemical treatment if your bags fail on you. In total I will carry 3 liters of water, 2 in a Camelback and one in a Nalgene.

Electronics (1.7 pounds)

I really tried to make this category as minimal as possible but in the end I need some. I am bringing my phone (128 gb) in a Lifeproof case, a Nikon AW-130 waterproof/ shockproof camera (128 gb), a Goalzero portable charger, headphones, a 3 port wall charger, and three 6 inch charging cables. This is as small as I could make everything without missing out on opportunities to document my adventure.

Necessities (2 pounds)

This section includes everything I haven’t already mentioned that is still vital to a successful thru hike. This includes the AWOL NOBO 2017 Guide Book, trekking poles, headlamp, trowel, toilet paper, rain fly, brightly colored dry bag for food bag, and 50 feet of paracord and carabiners to hang a bear bag.

Personal (1.5 pounds)

This section includes unnecessary items but I am still choosing to bring them to make my hike a little more enjoyable. This includes a waterproof notebook, pencil, pen, sharpie, cash, credit card, ID, medical insurance card, duct tape wrapped around a small tube of super glue, toe nail clippers, Body Glide, and a comb. I included my medical kit in this section because it should be made to fit the person who is using it. The additional micro SD cards will be sent to me on a later date if needed.

In Total

Seems like a lot doesn’t it? Surprisingly it all fits very easily inside of my 58 liter pack. With out any food and water I am looking at a total gear weight of 33.5 pounds. Once I factor out the clothes I’ll be wearing and boots and trekking poles my pack will be weighing in at under 27 pounds. Add in 3 liters of water and 4 days worth of food I have a weight totaling to roughly 38 pounds. With 5 months of continuous backpacking in mind that is a far cry from the 55 pound one nighter I did a decade ago.

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Comments 13

  • Diann Sheldon : Feb 20th

    I’m really looking forward to your journey Matt! Just reading your stories before you begin has me stoked!! Glad to see you are packing some glide and clippers!! Happy trails ~

  • BK Noonan : Feb 21st

    Quick tip for the Sawyer squeeze… If you ditch the nalgene and use instead a smart water bottle with sports cap you can use it to backflush the filter and ditch the syringe. Also if you replace the rubber gasket with a filter gasket (commonly found at hardware stores) it works great to pre-filter larger sediment. Enjoy your hike I look forward to reading of your adventures.

    • Matthew Morelli : Feb 22nd

      That is some awesome and useful advice I hadn’t heard before! I will be doing that. Thanks!

  • Patrick Donahue : Feb 21st

    hey I would only carry 1 medium mar isopro canister and switch out your pot for a gsi pinnacle or haululite soloist. ow yah ditch the sawyer bag and go with 2 1L smart water bottles (one dirty w/filter attached and the other for filtered water and drink mixes)

    • Matthew Morelli : Feb 22nd

      The SMART Water trick was mentioned above so I will definitely be trying that out! and realistically I was looking at carrying 2 for areas like the smokies and the 100 mile wilderness. My dad always taught me that its better to have something and not need it than need something and don’ have it. I guess that’s something that has to be conditioned out of me on the trail. Thanks for the feedback though! Super helpful.

  • Joe Haller : Feb 21st

    Where and how do you resupply food every 4-5 days? Thank you .

    • Matthew Morelli : Feb 22nd

      The Appalachian Trail is a very long and scenic hike but unfortunately not all that remote. The farthest one can get away from a road while on the trail is in the northern half of The Great Smoky Mountains National Park and its only 7 miles (counting logging roads in the 100 mile wilderness). So almost every day I will be crossing a road where I can catch a ride into some small town that hopefully has at least a Dollar General. I can restock, recharge, and catch a ride back out. Up north the trail gets so close to some towns that I can pretty easily walk there without having to worry about hitch hiking. So whenever I am low on food I can just hop into town to restock.

  • William Frodge : Feb 21st

    Hey Matthew, great job getting your weight down and your set up looks pretty good! I’ve got some tips that may help you save even more weight and space.
    The fuel canisters have become quite popular and it sounds as if you can resupply in many places so you could keep 1 on ya instead of 2-3. Also, from what I have heard, the weight-conscious hikers ditch quarter empty or even half empty fuel canisters in hiker boxes so you may be able to snag one of those if needed.
    If your Gerber multi-tool has a knife you probably don’t need your pocket knife as well, no need to carry two of the same thing! Probably only need a knife for opening dinner packets and cutting the cheese anyways. 😉
    The Dr. Bronners soap is concentrated so you really only need a drop or two when cleaning so I found a 15ml(.5oz) eye dropper at REI, made by Nalgene. The eye dropper, full, weighed in about .86oz while Dr. Bronner’s is about 2.72oz. Not a huge saving but ounces leads to pounds!
    And then as others have already mentioned, get 1-2 Smart water bottles, one of which should have the blue sports cap which can be used to backflush your Sawyer, then leave your Nalgene and syringe at home. Just weighed my empty 32oz Nalgene to an empty 1L Smart Water Bottle: Nalgene=6.4oz, SWB=1.3oz.
    Hope these may have given some enlightenment but regardless, HYOH and best of luck!

    • Matthew Morelli : Feb 22nd

      I love the SMART Water idea! Thanks! And I still have to get conditioned into the school of thought that I don’t need nearly as much as I think. I always have a knife on me, they are just useful to have, so leaving it behind might kill me a little on the inside haha. As far as the fuel canisters go I was really only planning on 2 for areas like the smokies and 100 mile wilderness (70 and 100 miles without resupply). I’m just excited to be at trail weight!

  • JASH : Feb 22nd

    Skip the multi tool, soap, deodorant and pink, really, crocs. Black crocs weigh less ? Have your same pack and love it. Go over your gear again. Think you can shave weight and not give up function.
    The Trail will teach you. It teaches us all.
    Happy Trails.

    • Matthew Morelli : Feb 22nd

      I really think the trail will be an eye opening experience about how little I can survive off of. The deodorant I think you was is actually body glide, and no amount of ounces is worth leaving that guy behind! Y’all have already convinced me to ditch my knife so I may end up ditching the multi tool at some point too.
      P.S. Amazon told me they were red but I’m not complaining haha

  • Eric : Feb 22nd

    Take half the book, have the othe half mailed to you in damascus. 1 fuel canister is enough, pick up m
    Another along the way.

  • Bob : Feb 27th

    Great rundown! I’ve tried everything and the best I can do carrying 4 days of food and 1/2 of a 3 liter platypus, and basically everything you have, but my tent’s a Big Agnes Rattlesnake 2 man (with poles) and my pack is the Aether 65….all told is 39 lbs….and I’m wearing the boots, pants, rain jacket and base and top layers… so good on ya’!
    I’ll be watching your success1


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