Ten Main Items for a Northbound Thru-hike in 2021

Ten Main Items for a Northbound Thru-hike

Image: riyan_hidayart

When I first started hiking, I had no idea I’d be attempting a successful northbound thru-hike in 2021. There was also little indication that my gear list items would become so expansive (and expensive). My ten main items for a northbound thru-hike in 2021 are the cornerstone of my gear list. It’s a forty-five-minute drive to Cabela’s to buy a pair of trekking poles. Poles or a hiking stick (my husband has a stick he found in the woods) would come to be a cornerstone of my hiking career. When I walked into Cabela’s, I felt like a cat under a Christmas tree. So much shiny stuff! My gear has accumulated over time. While I have more stuff than the list below, these ten items could get me by without all the fluff that will accompany me on my trip.

My Main Ten

  1. Shelter: Tent – REI Co-op Quarter Dome SL 1 Tent (and floor): Weighing under three pounds (and a price under $300) this tent was a no-brainer. Not to mention, it is easily set up. The bonus is that the cover can be put up first and the tent pitched second in case of rain.
  2. Sleeping: Marmot Trestles 0 Sleeping Bag I went to Cabela’s to try out sleeping bags – they didn’t have much of a selection, so I wound up going on Moosejaw & REI and getting two bags: I am going with the 0 bag for my hike.
  3. Pack: Osprey Aura AG 65 Pack – Women’s I got fitted for my pack at REI and I am still having some problems with it sliding around on my back. This pack is the lightest and most durable out of three, I continue to hike and adjust it. I’m getting closer to perfection.
  4. Headlamp: Durable with three settings and rechargeable.
  5. Water Filtration: Sawyer Squeeze System with two bags. And also a flow cap for Smart Water bottles. I felt like this made the most sense. I also have a pot to boil water. Which I will cover next.
  6. Cooking: I have a small titanium stove and also a durable pot and lid. Also got some Hot Lips. I will pick up my fuel when I arrive in Georgia and get my shuttle.
  7. Fire: I have a bag of fire! A ziplock bag with a Bic lighter, Hurricane matches, Black Beard Fire Starter. The bag also has a repair kit in it and holds my stove. Not sure why so much fire, but I feel like there are worse things I could go overboard with.
  8. First Aid/Protection: It weighs less than 4 ounces and holds antiseptic, tweezers, bandaids, Q-tips, burn cream, sunscreen, insect protection, and poison ivy cleanser (even though I am not allergic to poison ivy). Also, knife, compass, bear whistle, and guyline.
  9. Food: Besides Knorr sides, I have a gallon ziplock with beef jerky, peanut butter crackers, granola bars, etc. I also have another ziplock bag that contains energy chews, protein bars, stinger waffles, and a little thing of salt & pepper.
  10. Navigation: I have a compass and my phone. My cell service sucks, however, I have noticed that even when I can’t get a signal to call or text someone, my GPS still works. I also have Guthook and will be carrying my 2021 Appalachain Trail book.

What does all this mean? I have about as much backpacking experience as my cat has to install plumbing fixtures. Going out for day hikes is teaching me and I will learn more when I get out on the trail. As a hands-on learner, the first two weeks in Georgia will be interesting! And a lot of it will be on video, so there’s that. I noticed that most of the stuff that I have been carrying I haven’t really used. Like, the fire, the first aid kit, etc. But I haven’t hiked around 2,220 miles yet either, so there’s that as well. Maybe I won’t need a lot of it and can shed a good five pounds. Look for my YouTube video in a week or so when I break down my gear! Links are in my profile.

Thank you for reading my gear list! Please feel free to chime in on anything you want to give me a gold star for or even a big red F. Constructive criticism is the name of the game.

See you on the trail!

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Comments 20

  • Julie : Dec 14th

    I look forward to following your adventures!

    • Darlene M : Dec 21st

      Thank you! 🙂

  • Morgan : Dec 14th

    Hi Darlene,

    I look forward to following your journey, especially since you are in a similar demographic to me. I can live vicariously through you while I dream of my own thru hike someday!

    Happy prepping!

    • Darlene M : Jan 25th

      Thank you, Morgan! Grateful for your support.

  • pearwood : Dec 14th

    My gear will be a mix of new stuff and old. You beat the price of something you already have.

    • Darlene M : Jan 25th

      Very true! Pretty awesome stuff.

  • Jen de Holl : Dec 14th

    Hi Darlene,

    You’re such an amazing human being, with all that you’ve accomplished already. I look forward to following you and your husband along the Trail and I’m excited to see what you may encounter along the way!

    Jen and Jeff

    • Darlene M : Jan 25th

      Aww, you guys! Thank you, Jen & Jeff! I am super grateful for your support and positive energy! <3

  • Shannon : Dec 14th

    I really like my Osprey Aura 65 pack as well though I agree the fitting is a little awkward but overall it’s a strong, durable pack and I love that Osprey has a lifetime warranty should anything go haywire. I highly recommend Permethrin to spray your clothes to protect yourself from ticks. It really does the trick and comes in a decent sized bottle so I spray my clothes before going out and then you can ship it to yourself on the trail when you need it again or you could easily pick it up in a trail town at an outfitter. And as exhausted as I am by the end of the day I always check myself for ticks when I get to camp which is where those tweezers you’re bringing come in handy.

    I definitely think bringing your 0-degree bag is a smart move since you’re leaving in March. I learned the hard way when I brought my 20-degree bag. When the weather warms up you could swap it out for your warmer bag or just use your 0-degree bag as a quilt. Some other small things I like to bring with me are bear/dog spray (I mainly just bring it to feel safe out there as a woman since I hike solo and in remote places) and bandana’s for wiping up messes, sweat, and myself when toilet paper isn’t available (sorry TMI lol). Just a few small things that have made a big difference for me on the trail but everyone’s got their own system and you seem to have a great one!

    Best of luck, I know you’ll enjoy your time out there. I’m really looking forward to following your journey!

  • Jeffrey Fialkowski : Dec 14th

    Hi Darlene, I’m excited for you. Can’t wait to hear about your adventures. I just wanted to make a few suggestions that I hope will help. There is a lot of civilization along the AT, like Little towns with stores to stock up on food & supplies, make phone calls, mail letters, refill your water bottles, etc. so it’s best to not over pack your food supply because you can stock up along the trail. Of course double check me on this because it’s been a while since I hiked the trail. ( I only did a small portion up in Water Gap Pa, but I did a lot of research. ). I think there’s a website that shows you all the places to stock up along the trail, if you haven’t already found it. Also, when you’re out in the wild and constantly moving, you burn a lot of calories and fat. So, try and eat a lot of fatty foods and protein. Your body will be burning a lot of fat, and if you don’t get enough fat your body will start consuming its fat stores, and once your fat stores are gone your body will start consuming muscle, so fat is important. Oh, and try not to eat too many protein and energy bars, sometimes they can block you up because they are soy based, so your backpack won’t be the only load you’ carrying around………. hahahahaha. Hope this helps, like they say, take what you like and leave the rest. 😃 Jeff Fialkowski

    • Darlene : Jan 25th

      Hey Jeff! Thank you so much! Really great info here. Research is important for sure. I do have my GutHooks app on my phone which is a wonderful resource and of course, mapping.
      And yeah! Totally getting that about the protein bars… won’t go into detail – lol
      Thanks again! Glad you are following along. It’s nice to read words from a familiar person.

  • Heather : Dec 14th

    You have a sleeping pad, right?

    Please consider doing, at minimum, a few nights’ practice run before heading to Georgia.

  • Sam Cermak : Dec 14th

    Great post! I’m looking forward to following your journey next year!

  • Rocketman : Dec 14th

    Sorry to be the pessimist here….
    Ditch the plans to video everything and just get on with your hike. Too many already in the trails who can’t take a dump with sharing it with everyone on the internet.
    Happy Trails.

  • Ethan : Dec 15th

    Add some Moleskin to your medical kit. Put it over any blisters that you might get on your feet (or chafed areas from your kit). It’ll work wonders getting you through some hot spots. Enjoy!

  • Spike's Mom : Dec 18th

    I think this is a good start. I would recommend a smaller pack. I used the Aura AG 50 and still had plenty of room (I probably could have taken off the “brain” but found it helpful for organization). I agree with Heather that you definitely need a sleeping pad if you don’t have one already. Also, you mention ziplock bags in the food section — you will also need to be able to store your food, so you need a bag and rope to hang your food or a bear canister.

  • Robbie Steen : Dec 21st

    Shannon, I’m planning on a NOBO hike at the first of April. What do you and any of your followers have to say about hiking poles–yea or nay? I hiked the Trail as a young guy with my pop and a friend and those were some of the most meaningful times w/my dad. I’ve biked across countries (including our own) and camping is a way of life with me. Hiking? Not altogether, tho I scaled Volcan Baru in Feb pre-COVID. Questioning the need for poles before maybe PA. Opinions appreciated.

  • Timothy L. Terry : Jan 25th

    Hey Darlene,

    Congrats on getting so organized, and if you do a few just basic over nighters, those really help you practice some important stuff, like building fires, setting up a campsite to your liking, having fun digging in the dirt to bury stuff, and getting used to sounds in the night outside your tent.

    Is that you standing in front of that intimidating mountain trail? Looking up at that would get my heart racing and my calves quivering!

    When is your start date?

    Best of luck, and I look forward to reading your posts.

    • Darlene M : Jan 25th

      Hey Timothy,
      thank you for your comment. I plan on doing at least one overnight before I head to Georgia. That is not me in the photo. But stay tuned! There will be photos of me in front of all sorts of mountains I am hoping.


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