Pack Weight and More Trial and Error

I am currently enjoying night 14 of my Appalachian Trail hike in the lovely town of Franklin, North Carolina. Rather than tell you the day-to-day activities of hiking the trail, I thought it best to share a few pieces of advice from a hiker who has experienced its significant amount of trial and error.

As I’ve previously said, I walked into Amicalola Falls Visitors’ Center with a pack that weighed over 65 pounds. Here is a list of adjustments that I made to decrease my pack weight.

1. I packed far too much food. In fact, I probably initially packed enough food for more than 7-8 days. The truth is that your appetite will shrink significantly while on the trail. This is coming from a large guy who likes to eat. Pack to sustain, not to thrive. Plan your resupply locations carefully. I’m not a fan of resupply boxes. They seem to be more trouble than it’s worth. I just finished 40 miles plus without any resupply just fine. Don’t worry about your diminished appetite. It’ll return during town days and trail magic.

2. I bought a Gerber multitool. Useful, but it was shipped home. A small pocketknife is all that’s necessary.

3. Yes, I bought lots of 550 cord. I’m an Army vet. Of course I did. It ended up in a hiker box.

4. 2 – 20,000mAh battery packs is one too many.

5. I brought a small, one AAA keychain flashlight, my headlamp, and an LED rechargeable flashlight. The rechargeable flashlight was sent home.

6. My self-inflating sleeping pad weighed 4 pounds. Yup. Sent home. New one weighs less than a pound.

7. 2-person, 4-pound backpacking tent. Yup. Replaced with a 2-pound lightweight tent.

Basically, anywhere you can cut pack weight, it is important to do so. Do the math. Every single ounce matters. Let me see that again for the people in the rear. Every. Single. Ounce. Matters. Pack to sustain your life, not to thrive.

Remember, there are enough outfitters along the trail to buy needed equipment. If you left something behind that you find out you want, you’ll be able to buy it at a trail town.


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Comments 2

  • Lewis Sharman : Mar 12th

    Hey Mike – keep chipping away at that pack weight. It’ll be worth it. You’re not done yet. For now, I’d suggest shooting for a “base pack weight” (everything except food, water, fuel, and what you’re wearing) of 20-25 lbs. I know, that sounds like a lot. But by the time you get to Damascus it’ll be summer (or at least it’ll be starting to feel like it), you’ll be trail-hard, and you may even be looking toward a sub-20-lb. base weight. It seems like most people on the AT these days don’t carry more than 5 days’ worth of food at a time. You should be able to eat pretty well on 2 lbs. of food/day. That’s 10 lbs., so hopefu;lly your pack should only rarely weigh more than around 35 lbs., and often (usually?) less. How’s that sound, vs. 65 lbs.?! Also, about now (2 weeks in), “hiker hunger” should be starting to kick in, and it’ll be your constant companion the rest of the way. So my guess is that your appetite will actually INCREASE from here on out. So trade some of that gear weight for more Little Debbies! Sounds like you’re having a good time – you’re gonna be FINE. Good luck!

  • DeAnn Nerem : Mar 13th

    Check out Aaron at Backcountry foodie. She is amazing about packing ultralight food dense choices. You pack less, but it is high in carbs, protein, and fats that the body needs to recover from a day of hiking. She is a thru hiker herself and a dietician who provides an alternative to junk food and empty calories. You can go with prepackaged food or follow her recipe. Good luck with the hike. Dee


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