The Things We’ll Carry, Part 1

Lately I have been looking at all the things in our house with an odd point of view. Whatever I’m looking at, I’ll think “Would I carry that in my pack?” It can lead to some absurd thoughts . . . like carrying a bookshelf or coffee table on a backpacking trip. Once I’m convinced I can’t bring that bookshelf in my pack, I realize it has to go somewhere else, just like everything we’re not taking in our packs has to go somewhere while our house is rented out. I haven’t figured it all out, but most things will be sold, given away, lent to a friend, or put in storage. Claudia and I are looking at this as a great opportunity to offload the things we don’t need. It’s like having a very small bottleneck in the life of our possessions.  With our focus being on the contents of our packs for the AT, it’s easier than ever for us to get rid of things we covet but haven’t actually used in 5+ years.

Decision time

I feel a lot of pressure when selecting the things we’ll carry. I started reading about lightweight backpacking (Lightweight Backpacking and Camping by Ryan Jordan is my go-to reference) and using some of their practices. I would not call myself an ultralight or even a lightweight backpacker, but Ryan’s book helped me decide what to pack when we had 2 versions of a piece of equipment. My gear is a mix of things I have used since I was a teenager, items we received as wedding gifts, and a few new items purchased specifically for the AT. Based on a percentage of our body weight (20-22%), our upper-limit weight goals for fully loaded packs are 41 lbs for me and 26 lbs for Claudia. I thought our pack lists were settled, but our choice of tent is up in the air. A friend recently offered to let us borrow a tent that is 1.5 lbs lighter than ours! We don’t have any trips planned the next few weeks, so we’ll be testing it out in the backyard.

All of our gear before our first shakedown. . somehow all of this fits on our backs!

All of our gear before our first shakedown. . somehow all of this fits on our backs!

I’ve spent so much time thinking about our pack lists that I organized them into categories like rooms in our house. We’ll have some form of a garage, kitchen, pantry, closet, bedroom, office, and yes, bathroom with us on the trail. This system, along with our new Outdoor Research ditty sacks, will hopefully keep our packs well organized. Over several recent hikes, we have distributed and redistributed the gear between our packs to come up with an equitable (not equal) weight distribution.

It seems like a contradiction, but the longer the backpacking trip, the less stuff I bring along. This leads to the list of carefully thought-out items that Claudia and I are planning to start the AT with. It will be interesting to see how much these lists change when we (Lord willing) cross the 30, 100, and 2,100 mile marks. I have weighed all of our backpacking gear and recorded the weight in ounces in an excel spreadsheet, which helped immensely in deciding which things could be left behind for this trip. After all the number crunching and testing, here is the list of things we’ll carry.

GEAR LISTS!

Andrew’s Pack:

Garage

  • Pack- Kelty RedCloud 5400 (1990’s model- my pack since middle school!)
  • Brooks Cascadia 10 trail runners
  • REI Carbon PowerlockTrekking poles

Kitchen

  • MSR Whisperlite stove
  • MSR Miniworks ceramic water filter
  • GSI outdoors bugaboo cookware set (minus the frying pan, one of the cups, and foldable ‘sink.)
  • 2 plastic spoons, 1 plastic knife???
  • Stainless steel cup- one of my luxury items, since 1999

Pantry

  • Shared dry bulk foods (couscous, quick rice, oatmeal, etc)
  • 3-5 Liters water- 1 Nalgene and 2- 2 liter bladders
  • Snacks for myself

Closet

  • 2 sets of light long underwear layers
  • Fleece
  • Outdoor Research down jacket
  • REI rain jacket
  • 3x socks- heavy, mid weight, and thin running socks
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves
  • Balaclava/neck warmer
  • 2 pairs running shorts
  • Hiking shirt
  • Hiking pants
  • Sunglasses

Bedroom

  • Tent- Mountain Hardware Drifter 3 OR Sierra Designs Gamma?
  • Sleeping Pad- Inflatable ThermaRest pad
  • Sleeping bag- REI Igneo- 19 degree tall down mummy bag
  • Sleeping bag liner- Reactor Thermolite Mummy Bag Liner

Office

  • Rite in the Rain waterproof notebook
  • Mechanical pencil
  • Droid phone
  • Kindle
  • Camera
  • Spare camera battery
  • Charger (same plug works for phone, kindle and camera!)

Bathroom

  • Glasses and case
  • Contacts and saline solution
  • Toothbrush
  • Small plastic Trowel
  • Chapstick
Trail Kitchen

Trail Kitchen

Claudia’s Pack:

Garage

  • Pack- Jansport 52L
  • Brooks Cascadia 10 trail runners
  • REI Carbon PowerlockTrekking poles

Pantry

  • Shared dry bulk foods (couscous, quick rice, oatmeal, etc)
  • 1-2 liters of water
  • Iodine tablets
  • Snacks for herself

Closet

  • 2 sets of light long underwear layers
  • Fleece
  • Down jacket
  • Rain jacket
  • 2x wool socks
  • Warm hat
  • Gloves
  • Hiking shirt
  • Hiking pants
  • Sunglasses
  • Sports bra
  • Underwear x2
  • Bandana

Bedroom

  • Sleeping Pad- Self-inflating ThermaRest pad
  • Sleeping bag- REI 15 degree synthetic mummy bag
  • Sleeping bag liner- Thermolite Reactor Extreme mummy bag liner

Office

  • Notebook
  • Pen
  • Kindle

Bathroom

  • Toothbrush/Toothpaste
  • Dr. Bronner’s soap
  • Wet wipes
  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Feminine goods
  • First aid kit

Part 2

In the next installment of ‘The Things We’ll Carry’, we’ll share some of the things we are doing to prepare our hearts and minds for this adventure, so we can be happy campers.

Happy Camper

Happy Camper, despite wet feet after a stream crossing!

Affiliate Disclosure

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.

Comments 9

  • Kait2333 : Feb 23rd

    What will you be wearing to sleep/in camp? What’s in your first aid kit?

    Reply
    • Andrew : Feb 27th

      We’ll both sleep in a base layer with a fleece on top. We’ll wear down jackets when we’re sitting in camp. First aid kit isn’t finalized, but some ibuprofen, tweezers, and duct tape.

      Reply
  • Christine : Feb 23rd

    Just want to say that I have that glow-in-the-dark nalgene.

    Reply
    • Andrew : Feb 27th

      Aren’t they cool!

      Reply
  • Carl Zimmerman : Feb 23rd

    Just looking at your list, it looks a bit heavy for a thru-hiker. I only saw one Whisperlite stove on the AT in 2013 (who claimed he was a thru-hiker). Most were carrying alcohol stoves or light canister stoves. I think I only saw one Nalgene bottle, also. Everyone was carrying SmartWater bottles or something similar (6.3 oz vs 1.4 oz). AquaMira drops or a Sawyer Squeeze filter are both about 3 oz vs your ceramic filter (over a 1 lb). You can save a lot of weight pretty quick for not a lot of money.

    I wish you luck on your planned hike.

    Zman GA-ME 2013
    3/21 to 8/19; schedule below
    https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1Vq3wfR_I1vBnCQkuIrKKB_Kx0xdti_I8Tf37jA3gt1M/edit#gid=0

    Reply
    • Andrew : Feb 27th

      Thanks for the perspective. We are carrying 3 2-L bladders (1 oz), the Nalgene is to attach to the filter for filling up, and convenience, and it glows!

      Reply
  • Alex Harps : Feb 23rd

    Hey man, gear list looks pretty solid. I thru hiked in 2014 and live in little rock too, if you wanna pick one more brain before heading out hit me up. P.s. The eagle rock loop is awesome!!

    -gearhead

    Reply
  • Rob Lewis : Feb 23rd

    Think about reducing you weight some to be more comfortable. Especially if you are sharing gear. Carrying too much clothes is one place to start. Wear one pair of clothes to hike in and one pair of sleeping clothes. For example lose one pair of long underwear and keep the other as sleeping only/ keep dry at all costs. As Carl mentioned I would strongly consider replacing the Nalgene with a 1 liter smart water bottle or widemouth Gatorade bottle. The difference can be 7oz for the Nalgene or .6-1.5 oz for the Gatorade bottle.
    -lose the filter and get a Sawyer Mini (3oz vs. 16 and some Auquamira drops (1oz)
    -Consider a new/lighter pack.
    -get an alcohol stove ( tin man stove from anti gravity gear, good for wide pots, fuel efficient and burns hot)
    -The whisper light is a heavy beast and is really only for deep winter treks where you need to melt snow for water.

    Besides the pack these are all low cost or free ways to reduce some pack weight on the trail.

    Best of Luck and don’t forget to hike your own hike!

    Reply
    • Andrew : Feb 27th

      Thanks! If we get out there and need to adjust, the filter and stove are some of the first things I think we’ll change. We’ll be sending layers home once we don’t need them.

      Reply

What Do You Think?