Sit Down, We Need To Talk… (About Gear)

Since The Trek offered me a spot as a blogger I’ve been grappling with how to approach the topic of gear.

It seems like the majority of hiking-related content on the internet today has something to do with gear. Those new to hiking want to know “what do I need?” And while they’re on the subject they want to know what’s the best. Gear reviews also lead to sales, which lead to money for companies and content creators. That’s awesome since we want our favorite creators to earn a living.

This year will be my second Appalachian Trail thru-hike attempt, and I’ve given my gear a ton of thought. Over 50% of what I started with in 2021 has been replaced by better, lighter, more expensive gear.

I could bore you all with an in-depth review of the contents of my pack, and it would read a lot like most gear reviews you’ll see on any hiking site. The thing is…that runs counter to my goal with this blog, and anything else I write.

You’re Scaring the Children

I’ve had a lot of really wild adventures in my short time on this earth, and I want to let people out there know that this is attainable. That’s why I don’t write much for the experts. The goal is to get that person wandering down an internet rabbit hole to think “I could actually do this!”

$2,500 top-of-the-line gear setups are impressive! I wish I had one. To the person at home who’s always wanted to hike the AT, you can do it for a whole lot less. Heck, Grandma Gatewood did it with a pair of Keds, a shower curtain shelter and a denim sack slung over her shoulder.

Not everyone can afford a $600 1lb tent or the absolute top-of-the-line, ultralight rain gear. Some of us have to be with what we’ve got. We have a window of time and a tight budget. I’ve witnessed many a rude comment, both online and in-person, from ultralight hikers to those with a pack over 20lbs.

It’s Not A Contest

When the topic of gear comes up in conversation, inevitably a competition for base weight ensues. As in golf the lowest score wins. I like to remind everyone that there’s a reason for having a lighter pack.

It seems pretty self-explanatory. Less weight means easier miles and a faster pace. It’s also easier on the joints. Boil that all down to basics and reducing weight is meant to reduce The Suck (everything we don’t like about backpacking).

Other Things Matter

Here’s where I get annoyed with the gear heads and the super ultralight folks. Many seem to forget that there’s another side of The Suck. It’s the discomfort that comes with a 1/8in sleeping pad, or cold-soaking on a snowy day, or not having a book to read, or an extra pot, or your favorite stuffed animal. (Some folks are sentimental, relax gram weenies). That stuff reduces The Suck too.

Whether or not the weight adds more Suck than the comfort takes away is personal preference. Yes, you tarp people are awesome. I totally wish I could go months on end eating out of a Talenti jar. I wish I had no allergies and could use down instead of synthetic. For me, tough shelter setups, cold food, and inability to breathe are just too much Suck to be worth the weight savings.

Shave your weight down. Don’t carry things you’ll never use, or can very easily go without, but the minute taking weight out of your bag makes hiking worse, stop. And when you’re comparing gear, remember, their comfort level is different than yours. You aren’t better because your pack is smaller.

Note: For transparency my winter base weight is 17lbs and I haven’t been hassled over it.

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Comments 2

  • Kelli : Mar 16th

    What a nice attitude.
    Everyone has different needs and focus.
    Crazy there would be gear shaming.
    Hike on.

  • Yarrow : Mar 17th

    Fantastic post!! I couldn’t agree more. Many of us (especially guys since we seem to be more competitive than cooperative) escape to the outdoors to get away from the very attitudes you’ve discussed only to find that the passing contest has followed us. Great approach, great topic, marvelous article.


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