Part 2: The Who, What, When, Where, and Whys!?

Part 2: What?

With Christmas approaching, my mind has been at ease from the anticipation of the AT; although, if I stop to think about it, I can’t wait! Whenever I have a few moments or hours, I try to read new blog posts and articles on The Trek, scanning for stories, ideas, and inspirations for the trip. I’ve started to go through all my gear, picking and choosing what I need to take. If I sit back and contemplate everything that needs to be done before the start of the trip, it seems a bit overwhelming. So, today I’ll get back to the focused questions that we should be asking ourselves before starting a thru-hike this spring.


If you haven’t read part 1 of this series, please do! What preparations will I be identifying in Part 2? Well, everything about whatever we could ask ourselves revolving around “what-questions”. Following the same rules as part 1, these questions are to serve as inspiration for other thru-hikers, or any wanderlusts out there planning an epic journey. If anyone has any other ideas, or questions to ask that pertain to this article, please comment below; I would appreciate interaction/inspiration from others!


What? (Gear-List)


This may be everyone’s favorite topic to discuss on and off the trail. I know from road-tripping, and competitive bass fishing that everyone loves to discuss gear. Hearing about the latest, lightest weight, most efficient gear is exciting–although not always practical. As AT thru-hikers, we are challenged with the question: “What do we take?”. I’m not going to reveal my specific gear list yet, because I haven’t finished acquiring everything that I’m planning on taking; but, when I do, I’ll post it. In addition to my personal experience of hiking and traveling, I’ve also done research to compose a list that will allow for easy planning when it comes to gear. Below is a simply list of just about everything you need to take, plus some extras! (Feel free to print the list off and fill in your own items).

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(Packing for a previous road-trip with a friend that lasted 40-days; we found out that we took too much!)

  • Shelter:
  • Pack:
  • Sleeping Bag:
  • Sleeping Pad:
  • Footwear (1):
    • Insoles?:
  • Footwear (2):
  • Base-Layer:
    • Top:
    • Bottoms:
  • Mid-Layer:
    • Top:
  • Pants:
  • Insulating Layer (Down-Coat, etc.)
  • Rain Gear:
  • Hiking Socks (2-Pair):
  • Sleeping Socks (1-pair):
  • Underwear (1-pair*):
  • Gloves:
  • Hat/Buff:
  • Cooking Pot/Mug:
  • Cooking System:
  • Eating Utensil:
  • Water Bottle (2):
  • Toiletries:
  • Books, Maps, E-reader:
  • Water-Filtration:
  • Hiking Poles:
  • Trowel:
  • Lighter/Ferro Rod
  • Knife
  • Para-Cord (Bear-bag)
  • Gaiters:
  • Misc
    • Prescription Glasses
    • Sunglasses
    • Hand Sanitizer
    • Phone & Charger
    • Journal and Pen (or Pencil) / Or journal with phone
  • First-Aid Kit
    • Patient Assessment Form (PAS):
    • Muslin Triangular Bandage:
    • Benadryl, Aspirin, Ibuprofen:
    • Other medications/prescriptions:
    • Pointy Tweezers
    • Gauze Pads (2): (2) 2×4
    • MoleSkin:
    • Steri-Strips (they are awesome!!):
    • Scruby Sponge:
    • Whistle:
    • Leukotape:

(*I know one pair of underwear…I’m planning on wearing my base-layer pants to sleep in, and underwear to hike it. At least you won’t smell me through the blog–hopefully not.)


What physical activities are you doing to prepare for the hike? This is a big one. I’ve read of many accounts of people taking on the AT without physically preparing, and though it is possible, it’s best to get your body in shape to some extent. In a future post I will aim at describing the physical preparations that I have taken. Some ideas right off the bat…get out and hike now! Yoga, swimming, weight-lifting, body-weight exercises, etc. The list of activities that a person could do is enormous; I would say the most important thing is to pick something you enjoy doing; don’t force yourself to workout, you should want to be doing it! Try to incorporate the gear that you will be taking on the AT in your workouts; this will give you an opportunity to test stuff out, break it in, and learn how it works.


This category should probably go before Exercise, because the mentality we have going into a undertaking like a 2,180 mile hike is going to determine our success. No matter how fit or unfit one is, a person’s mind has the potential to push them to do anything. I personally think that developing a strong mentality in your confidence/mental endurance on the trail all starts with knowing yourself, and your reasons for being out there. Much of this will most likely develop as the miles on the trail pass, but entering into your hike with strong practice will be beneficial. Another option to work on your mental preparation is to read. Try to find books of people pushing themselves, read other trail journals; focus on the struggles that former AT hikers have experienced, and try to understand how they were able to overcome those obstacles.


And More…

What weight are you aiming for?! I’m going to try to aim right around 19 pounds. Yeah, all that above, and under 19 pounds? A lot of people do it, but it seems difficult.  I personally don’t like to go out and spend a bunch of money on gear, but for some items such as a tent, sleeping bag, or shoes, you have to–to be comfortable at least. When putting your gear together for the start of the trip, make sure you’re looking at everything you already have; or, go to a thrift-store (such as Goodwill) to find some amazing stuff at cheap prices. I’ve found some nice wool clothing that is lightweight for only a couple dollars. Some of the items on the list above may not be necessary for you to take, and there may be some items that aren’t on my list that you are taking. Pick and choose, I’m sure we will all be looking to make changes in the first couple hundred miles.


Another question that can be asked before the start of the trip is: “What do you do about all you stuff back home?” I personally can’t give an easy to-do list on this question, because we are all in different circumstances; but, this is a realistic question to ask. I’ve been into minimalism for the last couple of years, so this transition to pack up all my stuff (the very little I have) is pretty easy. For those that are having a harder time with this, keep on truckin’. If your open to the idea of minimalism, please do some research on it–you’ll have a greater sense of freedom afterwards.


Like Part 1, I’m going to pose another tough question at the end of this article: “What are you doing the trip for?”. Is it mandatory you ask this, I guess it depends on who you ask. I think hiking the AT will be amazing, and I can’t wait; so, if you ask me, I don’t care if you don’t have an answer. In reality though, it’s a good idea to identify the reason(s) your hiking. Who knows, they may change over the course of your hike; but, like I stated in Part 1 being able to identify yourself or your reasons for going on a 2,180 mile hike will only help you in times of struggle. This all ties back into mental preparation!


Well there you have it. Gear, physical/mental preparation, weight, stuff back home, and reasons for the trip. These questions should keep you busy for awhile, and hopefully lead to more questions/ideas for planning. I would really like to get to know more thru-hikers that are planning on hiking this upcoming year, if you are, please introduce yourself in the comments below!  


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Comments 2

  • Nanook : Dec 23rd

    Hey Adam,
    I can’t tell you how much I admire people like you,who have decided chasing their dreams is very important. I never learned that lesson for many years.
    Like yourself, I will also be doing a thru hike of the AT next year, albeit going SOBO. It is the last installment on what I refer to as my ” Trifecta Bucket List”. I completed a 16,000 mile bicycle trip around the continental US two years ago and followed it with a thru paddle of the entire Mississippi River (2500 miles) this year.
    Being 60 has slowed me down a bit but I know thru hiking the AT will be no different.Keep a great attitude and just have fun!
    Hope to cross paths with you next year.
    Be SAFE!

    • Adam Smith : Dec 30th


      Thanks! Your “Trifecta Bucket List” sounds amazing, and very inspiring. Is there a place that I can follow, or read about your adventures? Have a safe hike this upcoming year, and I hope I meet you out on the trail.


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