Requisite Gear Post: The Follow-Up

Waaay back in March after months of research and planning, I posted my initial gear list here. Now I’m back due to multiple requests (and my own gear nerd tendencies) to go through what worked and what did not (spoiler: most of it worked). I recently did a YouTube video for Zach (see: below), and this article is sort of a companion piece for that.

I’ve literally copied and pasted the original article here and added commentary so you can see where my head was at before the hike and where it is now. Hopefully this is helpful for future thru-hikers! Feel free to ask questions in the comments, I love talking gear 🙂

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How gorgeous is that Gorilla pack? From September in Maine.

Important to me:

-Sleeping well and being warm. These go together for me. I have learned on previous trips that I sleep very cold and that makes me very unhappy. I’m not so much worried about being warm while hiking, more when in camp and sleeping. (October comment: mostly successful. Except for a half dozen of the coldest days or nights, I was comfy).

-Being lightweight: I weigh 103 pounds fully clothed. I simply can’t have a heavy pack. My goal was 25 pounds fully loaded with full food and water. I have done previous trips carrying up to 30 and it was…ok…but I can do better. (October comment: I only carried 25lbs on one or two days, after big resupplies. I was usually at 18-20).

Not important to me:

-Manufacturer: I don’t have much brand loyalty, not because I dislike any brands but because I love them all. I think different companies are excellent at different things. I just wanted what worked best for me, and ended up with a good range of gear makers.

-Price: It’s not that money is no object (see here for just how careful I am with money), just that I was prepared to spend a good amount and I wasn’t going to skimp on quality for a few bucks. It costs what it costs.

-Other peoples’ opinions: I absolutely considered product reviews and input from the good folks at REI when making decisions, but they are not me and ultimately only I know what works for the unique combination of human that I am. I appreciate feedback and suggestions, but please don’t tell me how wrong I’m doing something (if that’s how you feel). It’s simply not constructive. I won’t die out there. Everything else I have to figure out for myself. Mistakes might be made, and that’s ok, too.

Without further ado…

Pack:

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Pilgrim on the left, Jade on the right. Photo from March.

This is going to be a game-day decision. I have my trusty internal frame Gregory Jade 40 that’s made it through some excellent miles with me, but I also impulse-purchased a frameless Gossamer Gear Pilgrim 36 as a weight-cutting experiment. I love them both. It’s a tight gear squeeze with the Pilgrim, but it’s almost 3 pounds lighter than the Gregory. If I can Tetris everything into the Pilgrim, that’ll be the winner.

Gregory weight: 59 ounces (just shy of 4 pounds). Pilgrim weight: 21 ounces (1.3 pounds).

April EDIT: I ended up with the Gossamer Gear Gorilla. It’s 40 liters- I just was not going to be able to fit everything into the Pilgrim. I think it weighs 25 ounces, still ultralight.

(October comment: I LOVE MY PACK SO MUCH. It was comfortable, rugged, streamlined, roomy… pretty much perfect in every way. It stinks now but hardly looks worn at all, and I was not particularly careful with it. I can’t say enough good things about my Gorilla. I’m surprised I never saw a single other person carrying it, although I saw several Mariposas, GG’s 60L pack. At least one of those people told me they wished they had the smaller, 40L Gorilla. Big win here.) 

Tent:

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Ummm…testing? Photo from March.

Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1. It’s small, it’s light, and I think it’s being discontinued so I got it on sale. Rather than getting the manufacturer’s brand ground cover, I got a custom-cut Tyvek sheet with grommets on Amazon for $25. It’s lightweight and super durable and works juuuuuust fine.

Total shelter weight: 38 ounces (2.4 pounds).

April EDIT: I found some wiggle room in my budget and splurged on the ZPacks Solplex. It sets up with trekking poles, which I wasn’t planning to use, so I bought the tent poles to go with it. Total cost and weight: $618, 21 ounces. Also, after 50 miles of my thru hike, I bought $20 trekking poles at Walmart (my knees demanded it), so the total shelter weight should be sub-20 ounces now.

(October comment: the Solplex worked out great, although I spent way fewer nights in it than I thought I would. Turns out I really liked sleeping in the shelters, so I only used my tent for something like 20 nights out of 150. The trekking pole set-up system was quick and easy. I had plenty of room inside, at 5’2″, so I usually kept everything inside the tent with me except my shoes. I could have my pack at my head or feet and still have plenty of space, however, like most tents, if my sleeping bag pressed against the insides of the tent walls, it got damp from the condensation. I never set up or broke it down in the rain, or dealt with serious wind, but it performed well in a few overnight showers. Despite its weight, it never felt flimsy or fragile, and it’s really nice that it’s just one piece – no rain fly or ground cloth needed. I’ll definitely take this tent with me on solo trips for years to come.)

Sleep system:

This was a big one for me. Much money was spent and several test nights in the backyard helped me nail it down. Warm, cozy, and comfy.

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Nalgene for scale. Liner packs inside compression sack with quilt. March.

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I basically make a Nichole-burrito inside the red and black liner, on top of the pads, all wrapped in a soft taco quilt. Quilt pictured here upside down to show off fastening system. March.

I’m going with an Enlightened Equipment 10* quilt (Short and Slim to save weight and money), a Sea to Summit Reactor liner (adds 20* to your sleep system for only 9 ounces), a Thermarest NeoAir XLite in short (it comes down to my thighs), and the foam pad from the back of the Pilgrim in the foot of the quilt. I can send home the quilt once it gets hot and just sleep in the liner. I’ll use a stuff sack with extra clothing for a pillow.

Total sleep system weight: 42 ounces (2.6 pounds).

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The Enigma Quilt: perfect for cowboy camping in paradise. From August in NH.

(October comment: this is mostly how I did it, except I never used the foam pad. Laying in a sort of fetal position on my side, my whole body basically fit on the inflatable pad, and lying on my back, my feet just hung off the end. It didn’t bother me and I usually slept great. Rather than wrapping the quilt around the inflatable pad, however, I found it was warmer just to bundle up nice and tight with the seam underneath me; this let in less cold air. The opening of the quilt has a cinch which I ended up using on 3-4 of the coldest nights, completely sealing myself inside. I never sent either the liner or quilt home, and I’m glad I didn’t. I did get rid of the compression sack after a month or so, and just stuffed my quilt into the bottom of my pack. It fit better that way. The stuff sack with my puffy jacket inside worked great for a pillow.)

Food and water:IMG_20160324_115604635

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Sawyer Squeeze Mini, Snow Peak GigaPower stove, Sea to Summit XPot-Kettle. I’ll also have a SmartWater bottle for dirty water. I find the Sawyer pouch infuriating to fill but way easier to squeeze, so I’ll use the dirty water bottle to fill it and then drink directly (via Sawyer mini) out of that. I bought an Ursack for food storage – they’re bear-proof so you don’t have to hang them, just secure to a tree.

Total kitchen weight (excludes food and water, includes Ursack and 2 small fuel canisters): 34.8 ounces (2.2 pounds).

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In theory the Sawyer system is great, but next time I’m going with the full size filter. From May in the Smokies.

(October note: I’m not an impatient person but by the mid-Atlantic, the slowness of the Sawyer Mini was driving me crazy. I will get a regular-sized Sawyer for the future. I also had 5-6 Sawyer Squeeze bags develop leaks, possible because I was squeezing so hard because the Sawyer was so slow. That was annoying. The SnowPeak stove worked great, loved it. The silicon pot actually got chewed on by mice and ruined, but it was also too big and a little awkward to clean, so I would have traded it out anyway, probably for a titanium mug-style pot. I only ever carried a small Squeeze pouch and 750mL SmartWater bottle, less water than most people carry, but I never had a problem and it kept weight down.)

Clothing:

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I guess I like pink.

For some reason, this is the category I struggled with the most. I want to be warm and comfortable, and have layers be multi-functional. Some of it is high-end, some not so much, but I’m pretty happy with and have field-tested it all. Probably send home the hat, Trekker pants, Arc’teryx jacket, and Mountain Hardware fleece once it gets warmer.

Top row: Black Athleta trekker pants (sent these home from Damascus, got them back for White Mtns but loved them when I had them), Injinji liner socks underneath (loved them but usually wore on their own, not as liners), light gray Nike half-zip (kept this with me the whole hike, perfect mid layer), hot pink Arc’teryx Atom LT (LOVED, kept with me the whole hike), black Saucony RunWarm leggings (sent home before Smokies, never wore, never got back).

*The puffy jacket was something I was really struggling with selecting. Thanks to Brian at my local REI for pointing me to the Atom LT, which I was extra excited to see justified here by the good editors of this fine website. I LOVE this jacket after testing through my car-less winter commuting.*

Across the middle: Purple and pink Columbia jacket that is actually not coming, gray and pink Mountain Hardware zip-up fleece (carried for a while but hardly used, only on 3-4 coldest nights, would probably have been fine without), Merrell low-top boots (loved, wore for 1300 miles), REI hat (essential from Whites north, helped me sleep warmer), SmartWool socks underneath (too thick for most of the weather, rubbed the skin off my toes when it got warm).

Along the bottom: silver rubber Old Navy flip-flops (worked perfectly, lasted entire hike), powder-blue North Face t-shirt (never wore, went with an Adidas tee instead), Rugu and Nike sports bras (got rid of one early, only ever had 1 with/on me), pink Ex Officio tank (got rid of early on, never used), C9 Target-brand running shorts (wore these pretty much every day of my hike, they barely look used, they were great).

Total weight for all clothing: 61 ounces (3.8 pounds), but at any given time I’ll be wearing much of it or have sent it home. (Personal take-away message: I will now always bring less clothing than I think I need. One outfit is enough.)

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Ex Officio tank, C9 shorts, Injinji sock liners for hot weather. March.

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Add Mountain Hardware fleece, Athleta pants, SmartWool socks for cooler weather. March.

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Throw on the REI knit hat and Arc’teryx Atom LT puffy jacket when it’s REALLY cold. March.

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Finally, warm and comfy clothes kept dry no matter what for camp and sleeping: T-shirt, Nike half-zip, and Saucony leggings, with cheap rubber flip-flops. March.

Electronics, miscellaneous, first-aid, and toiletries (not pictured):

Phone, Kindle, charger, earbuds, sketch book and pens: 24.4 ounces (1.5 pounds) (Sent home sketch book and pens after a week. Bought a larger external battery after a month, gave me 2.5 full charges instead of 1. Phone would last days and days if left on airplane, even if I listened to music for 8 hours a day. Read my Kindle most nights before bed, battery would last a month, totally worth it).

Petzl Tikka X2 headlamp and extra batteries: 5 ounces. (Either it was really dim and I never noticed because I only ever used it to read at night, or the batteries started to go near the end of the hike. Either way, it was impossible to night-hike with up Katahdin.)

Plastic orange poncho with hood, big enough to go over me and my pack. (I was surprised how well this worked for the weight and cost. I looked silly but who cares?)

Toiletries: glasses, contact case, lens solution, spare pair, toothpaste and toothbrush, small liquid soap (Dr. Bronner’s?), comb, nail clippers, tweezers, disposable razor, Chapstick, plastic trowel, TP. (Sent home glasses since I had spare contacts. Sent home comb. Never bought soap but did carry hand sanitizer. Was happy to have nail clippers, tweezers, razor.)

First aid: Ibuprofin, Benadryl, Immodium, antibiotics. Leukotape, Neosporin. Maybe some wet wipes. (I feel good about this very pared-down first aid kit. As my friend the nurse and thru-hiker says, your injury is either minor enough that you don’t need first aid, or bad enough that any first aid you carry isn’t going to cut it. I learned that Neosporin and Leukotape fix almost everything, and Body Glide is your best friend to prevent needing the first two. Pills I carried were anti-pain, anti-allergy, anti-poop, and that’s all I ever needed. I gave up on Wet Wipes after a month; they just always left me feeling sticky.)

Base weight (this includes everything listed above, if I carry the Pilgrim, wearing cold-weather hiking clothes, excluding food and water): 12.5 pounds. Throw in food and water and I’ll be right between 20-25 pounds. (I got my base weight down to about 10 pounds, and usually carried 18-20 with plenty of food. I think I left town carrying 25 only twice, before big sections. My knees and feet will forever be grateful that I went ultralight.)

Through the use of some sales, discounts, and coupons, I’ve spent a total of $2,000 on gear. I had budgeted for $1500-$2000 so I’m pretty happy with that. I still have wiggle room to replace anything that doesn’t work, as well as buy a few more pairs of trail runners. (I probably spent another $200 on other little odds and ends: socks, more Sawyer bags, one more pair of trail runners, Wal-Mart trekking poles, an aluminum mug, additional fuel canisters, the other external battery… I think that’s everything…and luckily I never lost anything!!)

OK, I think that covers everything! Questions are always welcome below if anything is unclear or you want details on the specs or cost or reasoning behind a particular piece of gear. Find me on the Instagram @nicholeyoung1 to see it all in action!

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Comments 6

  • David Wheeler : Jan 2nd

    Nichole – I LOVE your gear lists for the AT…best I’ve seen and I’ve looked at a bunch! I’m hiking the AT in 2018, Question: What phone did you use? I’m thinking of an iPhone 6s with Guthook and AWOL guide apps…on the straight talk plan to text home sometime..other then that photos are my biggest purpose. Im also bringing an IPod for tunes and audiobooks. Do you think an iPhone 6s (with case) will fit in the Gorilla belt pockets? Also any other advice about phones, electronics or anything else you can provide, but my main question is what you recommend for phone/apps and whether a iPhone 6s will fit in the Gorrilla bel pocket – Thanks Nichole! – Wheeltown

    Reply
    • Nichole Young : Apr 5th

      Hi David, thanks so much! I’m not sure how big an iPhone 6s is but I’m thinking it maybe won’t fit. I have a Motorola Moto X, and it fit just perfectly in the pocket. Maybe you can size-compare to get an idea of fit. Personally, I would ditch the iPod and just use your phone for photos, tunes, and apps. Definitely carry a back-up battery- I used an Anker battery (https://www.amazon.com/Anker-bar-Sized-Portable-High-Speed-Technology/dp/B00P7N0320/ref=sr_1_5?s=wireless&ie=UTF8&qid=1491404622&sr=1-5&keywords=anker+battery) and I liked it a lot for the AT since there is frequent access to charging, but when I head out West I’ll probably go up one size. I did not use any hiking apps (I used my phone for music, photos, audiobooks, and podcasts), I just used the hard copy AWOL guidebook. But I had a friend with Guthook and she really liked it, it definitely came in handy at times.

      Good luck in 2018!!

      Reply
  • Joe S : Apr 4th

    Nichole, what brand external battery did you end up going with? Sounds like you got a lot of miles out of it and I am in the market for one. I really enjoy your posts and wish you the best of luck on your Mini Triple Crown hike. FYI, I was also going to go with the Gorilla backpack but since I am in Arizona, I felt I would need something with more ventilation on my back so I got the Osprey Exos 48.

    Reply
  • Father Phoenix : Apr 5th

    I’m looking to do an AT thru-hike. I’ve been trying to find a text-based list (hyperlinks, of course, would be welcome) and your’s is the first one I’ve found that I liked. I have fibromyalgia so I’m going to have to go ultra light. Anything else just simply isn’t an option for me. So I want to thank you for doing this. I have just come a very long way to putting together a gear list. The one difference I had planned on was going the hammock route but after some reading, I’m not sure that will work. I’ve got to do more research or find people who have hiked the entire thing to find out how many areas there are where there is simply no place to put up a hammock.

    Reply
    • Nichole Young : Apr 5th

      Hi Father Phoenix, thanks so much, I’m glad it was helpful! I feel the same way about ultralight- anything else just isn’t an option for me personally. I looked at hammocks for a while too- I hear they’re very comfy, but I sleep very cold, and they’re not good for that. I had a few friends use hammocks and they generally really liked them. Their main problem was not carrying a sleep pad in the event they slept in a shelter (like if it was raining and they didn’t want to set up in the rain) or on a floor (like huts in the Whites) or cowboy camped, they had no padding. But for the most part, the hammockers I met were just as happy with their decision as the tenters! Best of luck!

      Reply

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