Test drive of my camp setup and final preparations for the AT

It is now less than 48 hours until I catch three planes, one bus and two shuttles to Baxter State Park, Maine to begin my through-hike attempt of the Appalachian Trail. This day has been coming for a while, but it is hard to believe it is almost here!

Last weekend I finally got to try out my camp setup for my hike. I had initially planned on doing a hike/camp a couple of weekends before. However, due to a cold spring here in the Canadian Rockies, our booked campsite was still under snow. Luckily, I was scheduled to camp for three nights at Crows Nest Pass in southern Alberta for a trail race I was taking part in. I was excited to test drive my gear in the great outdoors.

Issue #1 – too cold

My tent setup went well as I had done it a couple of times in my apartment. My sleeping pad and pillow were both comfy. However, I discovered that my sleeping bag was not warm enough for the conditions. This was a sleeping bag I have owned for some time, rather than one specifically bought for this hike.  I spent the three nights in Crows Nest Pass sleeping in a t-shirt, hoodie and my down jacket, and was still a bit cold.

This is likely due to a number of factors:

  • my sleeping bag had been mainly used indoors, with only a limited number of uses outdoors. On reflection, these outdoor uses were during the height of summer in Australia and Canada
  • I have never slept solo in a tent, and the body heat of another likely provides some extra warmth
  • the warmth rating is possibly not sufficient for this use (although it has a comfort rating of 3 degrees Celsius)
  • the sleeping bag is quite old, so has possibly lost some of its warmth capacity

As a result of this, I needed to add “buy new sleeping bag” to my final preparation list! Luckily I am in Calgary this week, so I could easily go and buy a warmer sleeping bag. My new sleeping bag (which was on sale, bonus!) is a Big Agnes Sidewinder 20 (women’s fit) in petite. In a funny coincidence, I have ended up with a tent, sleeping pad and sleeping bag all from Big Agnes. Note: if Big Agnes is reading this, and wants to contact me about a sponsorship, I’m interested! 😉

Issue #2 – lots of light at night

The other thing I learnt from the weekend is that it is very bright in a white tent. This will be great when trying to find things in low light  but it is not ideal for getting to sleep in summer. I have therefore added an eye mask to my pack list.

Final preparation

The rest of this week has just been recovering from my race over the weekend (which ended up being a 34km fast hike), buying the few small things I still needed, and generally preparing to leave Canada. There has been quite a lot in this as I am planning on returning to Australia after my hike, but I feel mostly organised.

I was asked by a friend the other day if I felt ready for my hike. I think once I get on trail there will be a steep learning curve while I adapt to full-time trail life. However, I believe I have done what I can do, off-trail, to get myself off to a good start.

Excited to start this adventure!


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Comments 5

  • Barb : Jul 15th

    Glad you are ready to go. Looking forward to your trek tales.

    • Bec on the AT : Jul 15th

      Thanks Barb!

  • Ky Holland : Jul 15th

    Great to see your posts and planing. Great to hear you’ve sorted out the sleeping bag ahead of the trail… I’ve never compromised on the BEST of whatever I needed for a comfortable night’s rest. The rest of the day can be brutal, but a comfortable night makes it possible to get up and do it again.

    Curious if you have a train name already?

    Any food drops already setup?

    • Bec on the AT : Jul 15th

      Hi Ky,
      I’m definitely not the best version of myself if I don’t get good sleep!
      No trail name yet. I have some thoughts but am going to see if I get given one on trail.
      I will be doing a food drop in the middle of the 100 mile wilderness (which will be about days 2-10 of the hike), but otherwise am planning on relying on town stops for resupplies.

  • Jersey : Jul 16th

    Regarding the eye shades, my experience section hiking is that after a full day, I’m so tired no amount of light would keep me awake. To each their own though.

    On the topic of sleeping gear, I now pack a pair of foam earplugs after sharing a shelter with a couple of loud snorers.

    I look forward to following your posts!


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