Shake it Off: My 2017 AT Shakedown and Breakdown

I’m completely prepared. Everything is settled, gear purchased and field tested. Best physical condition of my life. Mentally focused. I’ve trained like a gladiator. Never been more ready for anything in my life.

Narrator: But Amber was most definitely not ready.

Okay. Maybe I overstated. A little. Apparently, moving the entire contents of my house to one storage space, finding fosters for two cats, visiting every outfitter in a 300-mile radius to finalize gear, and scheduling a shakedown hike all while caring for my boyfriend who got Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever from a tick bite, may have caused some delay. And a test of my sanity.

Apartment Shakedown

I have this incredible bedroom set. Solid wood. California King with pillow top mattress. Cost a fu#k ton, so I’ve hauled this weighted monstrosity each time I’ve moved. Four times exactly. There are several people out there that I imagine still have night sweats just thinking about the time they helped me move. And probably blocked my number. So three of us painfully load this thing in the back of a rental truck that I drive 150 miles to unload into storage. Where I promptly decide I don’t want it anymore. Why am I telling you this? Because maybe you want to buy a bedroom set (seriously, call me), but I found that the process of culling out inessential items for the trail carried over into my personal life. Sorting through years of collected “stuff,” I realized what little I actually need to be happy. My personal shakedown resulted in four truckloads to charity. It’s an amazing feeling to go ultralight in real life.

Gear Shakedown

Based on my browsing history, Amazon had suggested I purchase a ShamWow for my backpacking adventures. Has it come to this, Amazon? You also recommended the 5-pound bag of Haribo gummy bears and the Columbia edition of Lonely Planet. It was finally time to accept my gear selections and test them on trail. That, or book a flight to Columbia.

Narrator: Amber indeed bought the ShamWow.

Sigh, It’s like a chamois, a towel, and a sponge all in one! Worked great at removing condensation on my tent and as a pot holder. It can be used to collect water or stop bleeding in an emergency. Shut up and take my money. But I’m not buying the damn gummy bears.

Miracle microfiber towels aside, I had a full load of other gear to field test:


*Osprey Aura AG 50 *Big Agnes Flycreek UL2 HV *REI Joule *Therm-A-Rest Z-Lite foam pad *Seat to Summit Thermolite Reactor liner *Optimus Cruxlite cookstove *Snow Peak TitaniumTrek 700 *Sawyer Squeeze and 2L Platypus *URSACK food bag

The Sawyer is great. Filters relatively quickly. Cook stove also a big thumbs up. Has multiple burner outputs to allow for an adjustable flame. My Knorr pasta side tasted like mana from Heaven with its hot, cant believe it’s not buttery, goodness. Sleep system is solid, but I may trade out for an inflatable pad. Only real complaint is the pack. For two reasons: 1) Chafes against my collarbone causing open wounds, and more importantly, 2) the built in anti-gravity spidey access holes.

Leaving my pack outside overnight in the Ozarks, a family of large spiders took residence. Okay. No problem. Just shake them off. Except these spiders somehow figured out that they could squeeze inside the mesh holes, placing them safely between my back panel and the mesh. And they weren’t coming out. I spent the next 30 minutes playing a version of “whack-a-mole” with a stick. It’s as ridiculous as it sounds. There is no way to get critters out of this safe zone aside from rigorously shaking the pack and offering a ritualistic sacrifice.

Narrator: What about the zippered access from the interior of the pack?

Shut up.

So ends my wilderness shakedown. Springer in a few days. After a trip to REI to look at spider proof packs.

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