Put Together… ish: My AT Initial Gear List
Why post a gear list? This was my initial question when I first decided I wanted to document my thru-hike. Nearly every youtube channel I visited, and every blog that I trawled through had some form of gear list attached to them. I’m a naturally private person. As my friends and family will attest to, I’m not a huge fan of social media. The work I’m putting into publishing all this about my thru-hike is a big personal step for me. So to me, the idea of posting everything that you’ll be carrying on you for five months was crazy. But then I stopped and considered my three reasons why I was documenting my hike.
To give myself something to look back on, to help my friends and family understand what I am doing, and to help inspire and assist future thru-hikers like those who inspired me and helped me put together my own thru-hike.
Putting out a gear list seemed important for all three of these goals, so I put all my gear together and made a video on my youtube channel covering it. (You can watch it here)
However, I’m still getting used to talking on video and wasn’t too proud of the result, so I’m also putting together this text version. I’ll hopefully provide a little more detail into my decision and explain my reasons a bit better than in the video.
The Gear Itself
The Pack, The Tent, and The Sleeping Bag
For my first piece of gear, I thought I should go into my first piece of unorthodox gear and perhaps the most important, my backpack. In my research into gear for the AT, I found that people in general have begun to move towards an ultralight approach towards backpacking. However, I’m a bigger dude. At 6’6″, I much prefer gear that is going to fit me right, and the overall comfort level of said gear, rather than if it’s two pound heavier. As such, I went for the pack that fulfilled this criteria the best for me. This is the Gregory Baltoro 65.
The Baltoro was the one pack at REI that fit my frame excellently and comfortably. I’ve had trouble in the past from even heavy day packs pulling on my shoulders, but so far in my test runs the Baltoro’s frame and padding make it so that you barely feel the weight from the gear inside. Plus, with multiple ways to access the main compartment, an included rain cover, and multiple exterior pockets, it has everything I want in my pack. Though it’s on the heavier side for a thru-hiking pack at 5 lbs 6.4 Oz (All measurements in this blog are taken by myself at home), I think that it’s overall comfort and added features more than justify that weight in my opinion.
As I mentioned in my previous blog, I’m not new to the outdoor world. Over time I’ve accumulated bits and bobs of gear. One of these pieces is the tent that I will be using on the trail, the L.L. Bean Microlight UL 1. I’ve used the Microlight for a few years now, and I couldn’t imagine a tent I would rather take with me on the trail. It’s roomy enough for a one man tent, simplistic to set up, especially if the rain cover isn’t needed, and comfortably light weight at 2 lbs, 6.4 oz. I’ve been sold on this tent since it kept my warm and dry during a particularly windy night of island camping, and I’m confident that it will continue to provide that level of comfort be it stealth camping or by a shelter.
The Sleeping Bag… and Pad… and Bag Liner
For my sleep system I’ll be using a piece of well worn gear and two pieces of new gear. My sleeping bag is my well worn North Face Cat’s Meow. I’ve owned this bag for about 4-5 years now, it’s still holding strong and keeping me toasty. It is however only rated at 20 degrees, and I’m starting the AT in early March. As such, I recently purchased a Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Compact Plus. Beyond being a mouthful to say in full, I’m eager to bring the Thermolite because I think my plan with it is rather clever. I can use it as the liner for my main bag during the cold early months, swap to my main bag alone for the warmer months of spring, and during the hotter summer I can use the Thermolite on it’s own and send my heavier and much larger bag home.
Of course, neither of those is particularly useful if I lose all my heat due to lack of a sleeping pad. I’ve been a lifelong user of Thermarest products. However, when I broke out my old self inflating pad for this hike, I realized it probably wasn’t going to cut it. So instead, I opted for the newer Neoair Xlite. This pad fits more effectively on the outside of my pack, is much lighter, and comes with an inflation bag that doubles as an extra dry sack. Combined together with my bag and liner, I should have a sleeping set-up to keep my warm through the entire hike.
The Other Essentials
Here is another area where I break from tradition a bit. In my research, over the past couple of years one filter has become quintessential with thru hiking, the Sawyer Squeeze. I instead opted for the Katadyn Pocket Filter. Torches and pitchforks down people, let me explain. While it is a pound heavier than the Squeeze, I’m more than fine with my pack weight as of the writing of this gear list. In the end, choosing the Katadyn over the Sawyer came down to two primary reasons for me. The first is that while the combination of the Sawyer and a smart water bottle seems tempting, I really hate using a disposable plastic even if I put it to it’s absolute mileage. Instead, I much prefer my nalgenes, which fill much easier with the Katadyn. Secondly, I want a filter that I know isn’t going to break on me, and while the Sawyer is tough, I’ve been known to break gear similar to it. So for it’s durability and better usefulness with my water storage, I went with the Katadyn.
In terms of my kitchen I’ve gone for a simple set up. For my stove, the Optimus Vega. For my pot, a GSI Outdoors Halulite. It’s light, and it can boil water. Both products are built to last and hopefully they will.
The Other Things
Pretty much everything else
This section is going to be more of a quick rundown than the others, mostly because I have very little to say on these pieces of gear. Please note that I’m not including everything that I will be carrying on this list, but that this represents the majority of my not covered base weight. There are small odds and ends that make up approximately 1.6 lbs of my base weight that I won’t be covering mostly for privacy’s sake. Hey, I can have some secrets.
- Trekking Poles, specifically the Black Diamond Distance Zs. I’m a recent convert to trekking poles but I honestly can’t imagine attempting this thru-hike without them. The weight reduction is a game changer.
- Cloths. I will be carrying two sets, one for hiking and the other for camp. My base layer is a Smartwool Merino, my pants are Fjallraven Keb Trousers, with an Arc’Teryx Atom Hoodie for insulation. I’ll be carrying a REI Rainier jacket and pants in case of rain, and Marmot long underwear for colder nights. I’ll be starting off with Merrell Thermochill boots to start with smartwool socks.
- I’ll be using Sea to Summit dry bags of various sizes as food bags and general storage. I’ve opted not to use a bag liner and instead to drybag anything I can’t get wet.
- For my night lighting, a Petzl Swift RL headlamp.
- And the various other odds and ends that I wont be talking about here, including my electronic equipment
I’m a big environmentalist, and I’m always striving to try and find ways to be sustainable in my life. For my AT thru hike, I decided to experiment a bit and try to see if Solar Power is a viable option for powering electronics while hiking the AT. I couldn’t find a lot of conversation regarding this topic online, so I’m excited to try and bring some visibility onto the subject. I will be using the Nomad 5 from Goal Zero, and I can’t wait to report back on it, good or bad.
Put Together… ish
I’m excited to see how my gear holds together. I am at a heavier base weight than most folks, at 23 lbs flat. I think that I can handle this weight, but we’ll have to see about that. While I’m hopeful that my gear looks somewhat similar to this at the end, I’m expecting a few losses on the way. If I were a betting man, I would guess that the Solar Panel is a quick send off, but that doesn’t mean I’m not going to give it an honest go. I also don’t know if the stove will last. While hot food is appealing in the winter, I might swap to a no cooking required diet come summer and relieve myself of having to carry the fuel for the stove along with it. More than anything though, it will be interesting to come back and look at this article when I step off of Katahdin in around 5-6 months.
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