Pack Shakedown and Final Considerations

After packing, unpacking, repacking, walking through the woods, unpacking, and repacking once more, I think I finally have my pack ready to see the Appalachian Trail. I am currently sitting at a base weight of about 20 pounds.

My personal possessions for the next six months fit nicely in this 60L Granite Gear pack. I especially enjoy the waist pockets that have been built into the belt to carry my knife, flashlight, and cellphone (camera) within reach. My shakedown hike in the Florida wilderness allowed me plenty of time to feel the true fit of this pack and adjust the straps as needed. Fun fact: Every strap serves a purpose.

The Tent

Honestly, I did not purchase this tent specifically for the AT. I have used this Eureka Midori tent for all of my solo camping and it has fit me well. Setup is a breeze and it is fairly lightweight. Everyone’s opinions seem to differ when it comes to a preferred shelter for thru-hiking; some prefer hammocks over tents and some don’t even carry a shelter. I am confident that I will appreciate having my own reliable shelter at the end of a long day. Securing my tent to my pack took a bit of practice, but it now sits comfortably right above shoulder level.

The Bag

I invested in the Therm-a-Rest Antares HD 15 mummy sleeping bag. Listed as 750+ hydrophobic down, it is rated well to stay warm and dry and it is incredibly lightweight. It was far too warm to sleep in on my recent 65-degree shakedown trip, but I was able to sleep just fine on top of it simply using the Sea-to-Summit Thermolite bag liner as a light blanket. Used together, the liner is said to add 25 degrees of warmth to my already toasty bag.

What Didn’t Make the Cut

Through all of my research about what I should bring for my thru-hike, I’ve made note of a few different things I am intentionally┬ánot bringing. I have seen some of these items on other hikers’ necessity lists, but have simply chosen to go without, at least for now.

Trekking poles: I have decided against starting my journey with poles simply because I can not imagine myself using them. I understand this may change once I get out there and experience the rocky terrain but, for now, nada.

Sleeping pad: Not only do I not think a sleeping pad is necessary, I have no idea where I would pack it. I’m sure it would make sleeping more comfortable, but I’m fairly conditioned to sleep uncomfortably already. I don’t believe the extra weight and volume required is worth it.

Crocs (as camp shoes): No, thank you.

My tonsils: Funny story. Not actually AT related, but I had to get those removed a couple days ago. I’ll hike better without ’em!

My dog: This has actually been the most difficult decision for me. Every time I read a success story of another thru-hiker bringing their dog, I reconsider. I have an almost 12-year-old English Springer Spaniel. She has been my little sidekick for 11.5 years and it’s hard to imagine going on such an amazing adventure without her. I know that she is not in good enough shape to make it the entire way and her eagerness to please me would certainly result in her burning out or getting injured. Instead, she will spend the next six months at home with my roommate, napping on the couch, leisurely carrying around her pink turtle, and silently judging Dogmate.

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Comments 11

  • Negotiator : Feb 18th

    Just a suggestion. You might reconsider about your decision not to take your trekking poles. These will help carry the weight from your hips and shoulders and also save you from many falls. It is not a question of if you will fall on the trail but “when.” Having trekking poles will prevent most of these.

  • Justin : Feb 18th

    Keep the trekking poles ­čÖé

  • Canada Goose : Feb 18th

    Hi Kat,

    You may not need a sleeping pad for comfort, but the insulation it provides will be required to keep you warm, with a February start in Georgia. To me, it is a safety issue…

    Good Luck on your Hike!

  • Sierra Whisky : Feb 19th

    Hello Kat

    I don’t like giving out advice but when I read you were leaving the trekking poles I thought perhaps this time I’d make an exception. I’d second (or third) the other followers’ suggestion to keep the poles. I didn’t use them until I hiked Kilimanjaro and they were so beneficial that now will not hike without them.

    Good luck I’ll be following you (from the comfort of home!).

  • Sleeveless '05 : Feb 19th

    I have to agree with the above replys. The poles are very beneficial for any water crossings also. It will help save your knees. You are young and probably can not imagine hurting them but they do wear out in active people.
    Also if you get a sleeping pad like a big Agnes or thermorest to name only a couple they take up very little volume and make such a difference in getting a good night’s sleep but as said above more important is the insulation that it provides. On my 2005 thru hike I started with a 3/4 length pad. Putting my feet on my pack at night just did not cut it. Halfway, I sent it home and bought a full length pad. Just that made a huge difference in my comfort and how well I slept.

    Good luck on your hike. Take time to smell the roses. Be safe

    BTW I also made the very hard decision to leave my hiking dog behind. It was a good decision.

    • Kat Jackson : Feb 21st

      Thank you for sharing your experience! I have changed my mind about the sleeping pad already considering my start time and insulation purposes. It is hard to find the line between necessity and comfort before even getting on the trail!!

  • Glenn : Feb 20th

    The ground in the mountains will be cold until May and it will suck the heat right out of you. Take an insulated pad. That’s not theory talking it’s experience.

  • Jeff smith : Feb 20th

    Enjoy your journey! There will be plenty of opportunities to pick up gear items along the way. Many people delete or add items once on trail. My only advice is to keep an open mind. Good luck!

  • Flossie : Feb 20th

    Reconsider the trekking poles!

  • Mile Marker : Feb 20th

    Leaving the dog – wise choice. Ditching the trekking poles – more personal preference than a lot of people think, but most thru hikers use them for good reason. Not taking a sleeping pad – that’ll be the worst decision of your thru, bar none. Don’t do that.

  • Hermano : Feb 21st

    You will freeze without a pad. Most campsites that you have to choose from are highly trafficked and lacking natural insulation (including shelters).


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