No Cutting Corners


The Appalachian Trail will eat through gear and beat you down if you let it. I plan on spending around 5 months on trail which is a long time to be stuck with a bad piece of gear. I’m the type of shopper that likes to get things at a bargain. However, I had to break this habit in order to properly prepare for my trek.

My Epiphany

During a short day hike I took my pack out with most of my gear. I only had a liter of water and a box of protein bars extra. The greuling hike was slightly difficult carrying only the bare minimum with me. To be fair the incline was about a 25 degree slope uphill but still. I know I need to be able to carry my pack for long distances and it felt heavy.

My pack weight came in around 24 lbs! This is not much to carry but I only had a liter of water extra really. I knew that my base weight needed to go way down. On top of that the pack was loaded awkwardly that made it sit uncomfortably.

What I changed

I decided to upgrade certain items and cut others out completely.

  1.  Garcia Model 812 Bear Canister – This item weighs in around 2lbs 12 oz. It is awkward and heavy. If I decided to carry this item it would be on the outside of my pack. However that would put it further away from my center of gravity. This is why I will be opting for a lightweight ultra-sil 13 liter dry bag to hang instead.
  2. Old Sleeping Bag – I had planned on not buying a sleeping bag since mine was rated for 20 degrees. However, my old bag weighed right at 5 lbs! I decided to buy a Marmot Trestles Elite which weighs 2lbs, .05 oz. There’s a huge difference between the two bags.
  3. Original Packaging – My first aid kit, foot care kit, and hygiene kit all have their own bags. However, I opted for using ziploc bags for these items. While this doesn’t seem significant it will save me almost a half pound between everything I’ve lost the packaging for.
  4. Hammock Straps – I will be carrying a Eno Double Nest hammock and wanted to use my Atlas Straps. However their new Helios straps are half the weight and actually easier for setup.

Don’t Be Cheap

While I would have loved to not spend the extra money on these items it was necessary. Shelling out another $400 is going to make my time far more comfortable. When all is said and done I will have shaved around 7 lbs from my original base weight. This is a significant amount and gets me closer to my goal of a 15 lb base weight.

Over the next week I will make even more decisions on what is necessary vs what isn’t. Considering 5 months of my life will be spent with these items then it makes it worth the money.  I will be leaving this week and every ounce is worth reviewing.

DIY vs Store Bought

There is plenty of controversy on this topic but in truth there are only few items DIY worthy.  For instance, my alcohol stove is made out of aluminum beer pints.  It is incredibly light and easy to use.  Not to mention the fuel is cheap.  However, I know that I will be okay using this because if it happens to break on me I can build another.  (Buy the can for your stove and there’s free beer inside).  All alcohol  drank in order to perfect this stove is purely for research of course.  Not to mention the fuel is incredibly cheap and can be purchased at almost any convenience store.

Another item that might be DIY worthy are hammock straps if you have the know how.  My trail Partner, T, created a pair of lightweight whoopie slings for himself.  This is essentially the same thing as my Helios straps but I do not trust myself to sleep in something I made.  Only time will tell how well his straps hold up.

There are many items however that most likely should not be homemade.  A shelter for instance should probably be purchased rather than created.  I saw a video of a girl that attempted to make a rain fly for her hammock out of clear plastic sheeting.  Needless to say at the first retailer she came to she bought an overpriced Big Agnes backpacker tent.

Be Prepared

Now if you have the technical know how to make things yourself then by all means go for it.  However, any DIY object should undergo thorough testing before hitting the trail.  You do not want to be a SOBO in the 100 mile wilderness and find out that your stove doesn’t work.  Preparation with any type of gear whether bought in store, or made at home is essential for happiness on trail.  Remember, this is your livelihood for the next several months.  You would not live in a cardboard box (I would hope) at home.  So do not give the same carelessness towards your gear.  Sometimes you might have to splurge, but the comfort will increase your chances of a successful thru-hike.  NO Cutting Corners!

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Comments 1

  • Macdiver : Apr 4th

    Yeah, the money I have spent on this stuff. First it was volunteer as a Boy Scout assistant scoutmaster. I had been a scout so knew kinda what gear to get. I got walmart sleeping bag, tent and what I thought was a nice big backpack all this stuff wayy too heavy and cheap now that I’ve decided to hike the AT.

    I’ve now spent 400 on a Lightheart Solo 6 tent. 200 on a Outdoor Vitals 0 degree sleeping bag and am fixing to plop down 544 on a Zpacks Arc Haul pack with most all the accessories. Not to mention wicking shirts and underwear, insulated and some not. A 350 bucks Wilderness Innovations poncho with all the fixins including Polartec liner, Black Diamond headlamp, newest 350 lumens 50 bucks. Zensah compression featherweight leg sleeves and wool running socks. Lifetime REI membership and 100 bucks coupon to spend for signing up for their Master Card. I should have just bought the place. Patagona this and Smartwool that…. I’ll be broke forever, heheh.


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