What’s Stayed in My Pack, and What Hasn’t
Six years ago I attempted a thru-hike and made it 700 miles. The night before I left for Amicalola Falls my pack sat next to my bed. I had not packed it fully and to be honest part of the reason was because I had too much stuff to fit into the pack. I hung out with my friends and thought I’d leave it for the morning.
This time around I didn’t want to make that mistake again. Years of shorter backpacking trips, gear shopping, testing and minimizing have left me more prepared for this year’s thru-hike. Backpacking lightweight is all about negotiating your comfort. What each person is willing to sacrifice is different and I’ve gotten pretty good at knowing exactly what I need and precisely what I do not.
Today is day 36 day on the trail and mile 394. I have less than what I started with and feel better about posting a pack breakdown now. After three days on the trail I shipped home two pounds of weight. These items were mostly bags for things that don’t need bags, a few clothing items, and items that I can’t recall now, which is a sure sign I didn’t need them. Here’s where I am now and I’m pretty happy with it. Not sure of the weight exactly; I need to get to a scale.
I decided to go for a smaller pack because the one thing I have learned is this: if you have the room, you will fill it with stuff. I downsized from the ULA Catalyst to the Circuit. Ultralight Adventure Equipment in Utah makes some of the best frameless, lightweight packs on the market. I used the Catalyst in 2012 and knew that I’d like the Circuit just as well, even more so because its size would keep my weight down.
In all ways that matter (warmth and comfort), I like my sleeping bag. It’s an REI 20 degree rated, 650 down bag. It’s a bit heavy and bulky but it works. If I had the funds this is definitely what I would upgrade. I use a 100 percent Coolmax (polyester) liner that makes extra chilly springs nights not so bad.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir is one of my favorite pieces of gear. The two inches of air-filled sleeping pad make my nights so comfy. It takes a lot to blow up, but it’s worth it. A coworker a few years ago (at Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Winston-Salem, N.C.) recommended that I get the insulated NeoAir because the insulating layer made less noise than the original NeoAir, which has a tendency to sound like you’re sleeping on a bag of chips.
Big Agnes Fly Creek UL2. I bought a two person to accommodate my dog, Sadie. Big Agnes isn’t playing around with its size ratings. I’ve met many hikers, including men, who get the two-person Fly Creek because the single is too snug for them.
Toothpaste, sunscreen, toothbrush, Dr. Bronner’s, pack towel, lotion, nail clippers. It seems to be a great mystery how backpackers clip their nails. Just bring one.
I follow a pretty strict rule: there are hiking clothes and there are camp clothes. One item crosses that line: my fleece. Very rarely I’ll break the rule with my down puffy jacket but only when it’s truly cold.
Hiking outfit: Champion brand polyester shirt, Patagonia Baggies shorts, Fits socks, baseball cap and a bandana made by Jennie Earle. These handmade and printed bandanas serve as my buff, warm my neck when it’s cold, protect my ears when I wear it stylishly beneath my baseball camp, or they collect the snot that inevitably runs down my nose every time I begin cardio exercises .
Camp outfit: Melanzana tights and hooded fleece, long-sleeve Patagonia polyester shirt, clean pair of Fits socks, Patagonia down jacket, and my camp shoes (old pair of Sanuks).
Boots: Danner! Women’s Mountain 600
The solo Jetboil. I use a Gossamer Gear bamboo spoon and a Summit aluminum cup. An MSR Pocket Rocket and a fuel canister heat things up for me. Some may find a cup and pot excessive, but I like to keep my beverages and my food separate. Coffee is sacred.
Speaking of which, my luxury item is the Aeropress. It’s basically a plastic French press. My drop boxes contain coffee grounds from a North Carolina roaster, Counter Culture.
Items of Importance
Medical kit, headlamp, bear hanging cord (50 yards), and an emergency device that my parents bought and are making me carry. Every time I go into town I think about stashing it in some hotel cabinet… but. Parents.
I purify rather than filter my water and use Aquamira. It’s the lightest form of water purification you can have and used by the CDC. The aftertaste is only the slightest and why not throw in some yummy powder stuff in your water and make drinking a whole lot more enjoyable.
David Chazin’s data book. The 100-page book includes the entire trail, town P.O. box information and all the markings you need . I take pictures of AWOL’s town pages from other hikers’ books. Everyone has one out here.
Dog stuff, see my article here to read about Sadie’s setup
I have a recording project and you can read about what I bring for that here.
Happy trails. Remember, they say you pack your fears, so think about your pack and slide into an existential state of mind.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.