The Final Gear List (Sprite)
Alright, if you have been following us, You’ll know that we made A LOT of gear switches. So, here it is, what we finished with, and what made it the entire trail.
**made the entire trip**
Wish I started with it
Started with, bounced, used again
I say “ish” because for most of us, it’s more than 3 items.
Gossamer Gear Kumo- Backpack
I love how light this backpack is, and that it has as removable backpad that can be used as a sit pad. However, I dislike how quickly rain soaks through it, and I found the front zipper pocket to be useless.
ENO ProFly Sil Rain Tarp and Guardian SL bugnet, Helios Whoopie Straps- Shelter
ENO DoubleNest Hammock- Hammock
This hammock system was really user friendly, and effective. The whoopie straps are easy to adjust, and the rain tarp is easy to peg out and tension. I probably could have used a ENO SingleNest hammock instead of the double though.
ENO Ember Underquilt- Underquilt
Enlightened Equipment Revelation (Custom)- Top quilt
Small Squishmallow- Pillow
The underquilt was adequate, but really was the only thing I could get my hands on quickly and affordably to do the job. In future, I would probably order the underquilt from Hammock Gear, Enlightened Equipment, or UGQ. I’m usually a down-fill kind of girl, but the synthetic fill gave me security that if there was rain splash back or mist, that the underquilt would continue to keep me warm. As for the Squishmallow, well… it’s a funny story. Smugness is a savant when it comes to those 1$ claw games, and he won me this. As it turns out, it’s the perfect size and shape to tuck in between my shoulder and my head as a pillow. Not to mention, it’s very soft, pretty light, and extremely compressible.
Sea to Summit Small Waterproof Compression Sack
Smugness and I made a lot of gear changes, and this last configuration lasted us the entire last half of the trail (Harper’s Ferry to Georgia). We were really happy with our Big Agnes tent but weren’t sure that Smugness and I would be able to hike together for the last half of the trail, as he might have had to speed up to finish early for an at-home thing. I switched to a hammock system because I had never tried one before, and really struggle to get a good night’s sleep on trail. Additionally, everybody that I’ve met who uses a hammock has indicated that it gives them the best sleep EVER. I will say, it was a struggle to find a good hang to start, but I eventually got there and slept pretty soundly. Stay tuned for a small hammock life post later!
Brooks Cascadia: I loved these but they only lasted just over a week before my feet swelled too much for them, and I couldn’t get my hands on another pair.
Hoka Speedgoats: there was a lot to love about these shoes. They had great traction, they lasted from Pennsylvania to New Hampshire, and they were incredibly comfortable. Unfortunately, when I bought them to replace the Cascadias, I bought them too big, because they were my only option. I ended up feeling like I had Kleenex boxes on my feet which I was not a fan of. Moreover, the sole of the shoe juts out quite far past the sides of your feet, as is. So, that combined with my foot sliding around made some mountain goating more challenging than it had to be. I would love to try these again in the right size.
Altra Lone Peak 5: these shoes were night and day by comparison to the Speedgoats. They were, light, fast, and minimalist. However, they were less comfortable and they didn’t last as long. My experience with this brand tells me that longevity is not one of their selling features.
I wore this pair of shoes from Lincoln to Katahdin (380mi), and then from Harper’s Ferry to Waynesboro (160mi), for a total of about 540mi, which is the expected average life of a shoe. Having said that, when I replaced them, the lugs on the bottom were completely flat, and I’m a very small person. Conversely, most people I crossed paths with claimed to replace this model of shoe once every 200-300mi, which is believable to me.
Overall, I really enjoyed the agility of this pair of shoes, and the zero drop. Though, I would be lying to you if I told you my feet weren’t more tired at the end of the day than they were in the Speedgoats.
Having had really good experiences with both my second and third pairs of shoes, I searched for a middle ground and found the Altra Olympus: high stack, zero drop, slim profile (compared to the Speedgoats).
They were fine.
My big complaint was the longevity of this shoe. They started falling apart right before Daleville. Unfortunately, there are small blocks of treads that seem to be glued into the sole and they started peeling off almost immediately, and neither gorilla glue, or shoe goo could keep them on for very long. That was kind of disappointing.
In addition to the durability of the shoe, there was a feature on this shoe, that wasn’t on the Lone Peaks that was not suitable for my foot long-term. The heel cup was rather deep, and the ankle closure had what looked like tiny pillows just under the cuff of the shoe. I’m assuming they were to aid in heel lock and overall padding, but I found they just made my heel sit farther from the back of the cup, and gave me blisters. I ended up stuffing the heel cup with bits of merino wool to remedy the problem.
The Altra Olympus was a very popular shoe on trail this year, most people complained of a 200mi longevity, with the crux of the shoe usually being separation of the rubber on the toe. Unlike the Lone Peak, the Olympus doesn’t have stitches to hold the toe rubber on, so the glue separates rather quickly (in my encounters anyway).
**Walmart Kids Flip Flops**: Surprisingly, these things were one of the only items that not only stayed with me the entire trip, but lasted without question. Water crossings, town shoes, camp shoes, and shower sandals… They’re not even haggard either, after all that!
**Injinji Crew Length Socks x2**
**Smartwool Panties x2**
**Patagonia Barely There Bra**
Kari Traa Mid Fleece
Walmart Kids Shorts (sleep)
Walmart Kids Tank Top (sleep)
**Injinji Top Layer sock (sleep)**
**Buff Neck Gaitor**x2
This clothing system worked out very well for me. I made some swaps, and had we finished our hike later, there are some items I would have added.
The dress was amazing. If modesty isn’t an issue for you, it’s mobile, dries out super quick, and takes no time to put on in the morning. The one drawback has mostly to do with our itinerary. When the trail was hot and exceptionally sweaty (Virginia in August), the chub rub was very real, and I ended up tying my Buffs around my thighs. When the trail was overgrown (Virginia in August), and the rainy days grew colder (Smokies near fall), I wished that I had something over the small patch of exposed skin between the bottom of my dress, and the top of my socks. It was never inconvenient enough for me to justify carrying a pair so tights or something though, so it obviously wasn’t that bad.
Some of you might notice that I swapped out my Swanky Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer in favor of a fleece. This was one of the best decisions I made. I loved my puffy but there were a few realities I had to face: you can’t really hike or sleep in it well because it gets damp and oily, it’s delicate, and it’s sticky when you’re not completely dry. By contrast, the fleece is multi functional: it stays warm when wet, feels nice on your skin in most situations, and is extremely durable. I’ll likely pack a puffy in colder climates, but for the conditions I hiked through, the fleece was the right choice, and I wish I had it for all the northern 4k+ mountains.
Zpacks Rain Kilt
Osprey Pack Cover
Reality: I have yet to find a rain protection system that I am truly happy with. I brought back the Toggs on the flop for 1 reason. In the north, atop all the exposed peaks, it was heckin’ windy, and cold. No poncho will keep you as warm as a rain jacket does. When we summited Katahdin, everybody donned their rain gear strictly for another layer of warmth, and the emergency poncho didn’t quite cut it. By contrast, the lack of ventilation in the Toggs is absolute garbage. Immediately after I put them on I could feel the jacket starting to stick to my arms.
As for the kilt, I never used it. It would have been really helpful in the earlier states where I was sporting a fanny pack and rain was intermittent strictly for keeping the fanny pack dry, and the rest of me cool. I never used it once on the Flop though.
So, the debate of rain cover vs pack liner vs both… I got rid of the pack liner fairly early on and had no regrets. I will say that I neglected to use the rain cover once, just to see what happened, and found that some sort of rain protection for the GG Kumo pack is absolutely necessary. In the 30 minutes of intermittent light showers, everything in my pack became damp. By contrast, when I used the pack cover, everything stayed as dry as I needed it to be, and didn’t carry any extra water weight from the pack absorbing it… If only the pack was waterproof.
**Sea to Summit Titanium Long Handle Spoon**
Hydrapak Flux 1L, Hose, Bite Valve, Connectors
Cold Soak! I didn’t miss hot food nearly as much as I thought I would. It was nice to dump my meal and some water into a jar, and then immediately sit down to a meal at the end of the day.
I can say that if I were to cook hot meals again, my approach would change drastically. What most people ended up doing (including Smugness) negated the need for a conventional pot. More often than not, people would use one of their leftover freeze-dried bag meals as a rehydration tool/bowl (to save on cleaning). Then, once the seal on it no longer worked, people would treat themselves to a new freeze dried meal to replace the bag. In reality, the pot was functionally a kettle, and Sea to Summit makes a collapsible kettle. I should mention, one Happy Yak bag lasted Smugness almost three months.
Bonus goat fact: cold soaking tomorrow’s meal directly after dinner is not a good idea… Unless you like fizzy chili… Pretty sure I made chili kombucha…
I know, I know, I know…. The Bear Vault is unnecessary on the AT, and if I got one, why not spring for the 500 when it’s only a few ounces heavier? First, personal circumstances. Second, conditions this year changed. Third, I did and it sucked.
When Smugness and I flopped, we were unsure if he was going to be able to stay the whole way. I’m good at throwing a bear line, but a few things convinced me to go for the vault. To start, it’s convenient. Despite having all the trees in the world around you, finding the right branch for a proper hang can take a very long time. Lots of branches grow upwards and close to the trunk in a “Y” shape, rather than straight out in a “T” shape, which means a line hanging 6ft from the trunk is harder to do than it sounds. Additionally, when you find a branch that’s the right height, its not huge in circumference, and therefore flimsy. Outcome? Trying to hoist a full food bag often means you’re going to fight with pulling the branch down, rather than the bag up.
Bear things also changed this year. Halfway through our trip, the ATC announced that bear cans are now recommended, and I heard many people say that there were encounters with aggressive bears in the smokies who were tearing up tents that didn’t even have food in them.
I wish I could say this next bit without it coming out as a lecture. I care about Leave No Trace, and I care about keeping the wilderness wild. I’m not trying to shame, or tell people what they should do, but I am going to relay what I witnessed, and put in my 2 cents– this is a blog, after all.
This is troubling… And Im’ma get up on my high horse for a second here (and yes, the view from up here is beautiful, Clip clop).
I cannot tell you how many people I heard say they sleep with their food. I cannot tell you how many people I saw cook in the vestibule of their tent, or straight-up in the shelters. I cannot tell you how many improper hangs I saw. I cannot tell you how many proper hangs that I saw that were close to the shelters, and I cannot tell you how few “smell proof bags” were used. I can tell you it’s enough for me to say that complicity exists on the trail, and it’s likely leading to increased friction between hikers, volunteers, park rangers, and bears.
Was I part of the problem? Absolutely. But I can tell you that I put in a lot of effort to not contribute, and in some cases it wasn’t enough. Though my food and gear was never messed with by any bear, there were nights where I couldn’t find a suitable tree within half a mile of the shelter, so I settled for a subpar hang. Do I use smell proof bags exclusively? No; they’re expensive and they break. But I used them when I could. The best solution for me moving forward was to take the advice of the ATC, and “bear” the weight of the vault. I tried to lead by example, and be the change I wanted to see.
We have all heard that the bear can is not a perfect solution. If you have a viable solution that isn’t “there’s no solution, just stay home.” I would sincerely love to hear your suggestions in the comments. Genuinely. No sarcasm.
So, I had the BV500, and surprisingly, it fit in the Kumo! Unfortunately, if carried inside, it could only be packed upright, and took up almost my entire pack. When I mounted it atop the pack, it really messed with the carry dynamics. Food is the heaviest part of the pack, and putting the heavy stuff on top just wasn’t fun for me. Further, even with a 5 day food carry, I only ever filled it half way. Switching to the 450 made a world of a difference in comfort and pack dynamics.
** Kids Bamboo Toothbrush, Toothpaste, Floss, Retainers**
**Drugs, Wrist Braces and First Aid**
**Anker Fusion Power Core, charging cables**
**Garmin Vivoactive 4s**
**BUG HEAD NET**
**Nixit Menstrual Disk**
These things are all basically the shoe-in necessities. I do sometimes question my decision in carrying an all-in-one power bank. Charging was finnicky due to the weight of the power bank pulling itself off the wall. It’s not usually a problem, but we came across a fair amount of “loose” outlets, and in those cases, people with typical power adapters tended to have an easier time than I did. The up-side was that I never forgot my wall adapter anywhere, because it was my power bank.
The one thing I wish I brought, against the advice of the reddits was my Garmin InReach Mini. I was assured that service was exceptionally good and that a phone would suffice. In my opinion, that’s not true. There were many points in which I would have felt much safer with an SOS function.
The gear that I ended the trail with was fine… The reality of the situation is that gear is incredibly personal and specific. What works or doesn’t work for me, may be completely different for someone else. I learned that I love the thought of ultralight, but there are a few things that the weight sacrifice just isn’t worth for me. Specifically, sleep. I’m a picky sleeper and it impacts my energy level for the next day. Carrying an extra pound of gear for a comfy sleep might have been worth it for me.
-a mountain goat, named Sprite.
This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!
To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.