Stuff! Gear! Things! SOBO!
Search “Appalachian Trail Thru-hike gear list”
…not bringing rain pants or extra underwear. Psh.
Search “Ultralight gear list”
No google. I need the warmer sleeping bag. Ugh.
Search “Super Ultralight Gear list”
Seriously White blaze? Cut off the pack straps? BAREFOOT HIKING?! Fine. Osprey has a warranty anyways. And my feet aren’t really that important.
Search “Hiking with only duct tape”
over a month over a week DAYS away from the June 1st start date of this insane Southbound adventure. And guess what? My gear is piled in a half-ass organized mess in the corner of my moms spare bedroom. I’m neglecting responsibilities and social events to debate important things like the actual necessity for a town tee shirt, camp shoes and a 9th dose of Imodium. My fitbit is consistently congratulating me for maintaining a heart rate in the fat burn zone. It’s been 4 weeks and I haven’t slept soundly through the night without thinking about the stove I dropped $40 on. Is it too heavy?
I desperately want to click on a magic link on the internet telling me that my 17 pounds of gear will work perfectly. That nothing will break. That I have the maturity to not leave my Ursack full of food in the car on the way to Katahdin.
Such a link doesn’t exist. I’ve checked. A lot.
Beyond physical and mental preparation, gear is the only thing I can totally refine before I leave for a 6 month party in the woods. So it’s a source of stress, naturally.
Appalachian Trials seems to love lists. So here’s a list. A compilation of the silly choices I’ve made to shed my initial 25 pound base weight to something I like better. Because everyone knows that an extra 5 pounds of cosmic brownies will serve a hiker better than a supply of extra underwear and deodorant. Probably. Keep in mind, this is a long post. I’m not sorry.
First and foremost:
I dislike HATE Crocs.
They’re bulky, stupid looking and I would never wear them. Even the Wally world versions scream “I give up”. I bought a pair of brown ones, 1 whole size larger than my current shoe size ANYWAYS.
Every gear list on Whiteblaze, AppTrials and REI cites them as a magical lightweight camp shoes “suitable for water crossings and town stays”. But I still hate them. I’m opting for a pair of dollar sandals from Wally world that weigh 12 ounces less. My trail runners can handle a couple of river fordings in the 100 mile wilderness, and I can look sexy in my sock / sandal combo in any town I stop in. Totally non-negotiable. Unless I ditch the sandals altogether. Which is likely.
I acknowledge that this is almost impossible. The things that need to stay dry absolutely NEED to stay dry. Everything else will be soaked. The problem arises in differentiating the two.
Sleeping Quilt +Stuff Sack + Trashbag Liner = DRY
Camp Clothes + Waterproof Stuff sack = DRY
Cell phone, battery etc. + Waterproof stuff sack = DRY
But what about the tent? Sleeping pad? The pack itself? When it rains, it’s going to collect water between the stitches and I’ll be inadvertently carrying and extra 71.2 pounds of H2O on my back next to my small fortune of gear. And it won’t even be filtered. Yuck.
The pack cover I spent hours debating over weights 3.9 oz, or in ultra lighter speak, “almost a quarter pound”. So it’s on the chopping block. Hopefully the compactor bag lining the bag will do the trick. Or I’ll cover my pack in seam sealer.
It worked okay in the shower. Water gains only accounted for an additional 68.2 pounds. I was a little off.
The Threads on my Back
Yes it was a pun. No it’s not funny nor it it a great pun. At 3.3 pounds, clothes are a huge piece of my base weight. I have been advised by a about 1000 sources that anything north of my home state (Massachusetts) is quite chilly before July. Considering that Mount Washington has had the highest ever recorded wind speed, and the changes in elevation incite a dramatic change in temperature, I think it’s worth it. A 13 oz Outdoor Research fleece is my mid layer of choice, because I love Outdoor Research and continue to stubbornly choose pieces of gear that aren’t the name-brand recommended fleece layers (Patagonia R1 is an extremely popular choice). I’ve decided to drop the EXTRA pair of shorts for camp / town for weight, but I don’t know if I can stand to live in my dirty OR convertible hiking pants and long underwear for half a year. And a bug net. Because I love nature, but not enough to depend on black flies in Maine as my sole protein source. Permethrin is also super awesome for that, which is why all of my clothes are soaked in it.
“Ditch your camp clothes until you hit the colder months”
was the advice I received from an extremely capable and experienced hiker. Maybe that works for some, but for me that seems silly. I’m generally clumsy and irresponsible. At the very least, my camp clothes are my insurance for total pitfalls elsewhere on my gear list. And my first puffy down jacket still has me in awe over its warmth. It really is unbelievable. Buy one. Buy two. Invest in a warehouse full of the things.
In my extensive research of lightweight backpacking methodology, alcohol stoves are described as the ONLY logical way to to cook. They’re lightweight, made from cans of cat food and beer and fuel is easily found ANYWHERE. Any experienced backpacker would be insane to use anything else.
But I’m yet not that experienced backpacker. I have an MSR MicroRocket canister stove, windscreen and my pride. Kinda.
Ladies and Gentlemen I present you with the 3.5 ounce full size Sawyer Squeeze! It’s quick, convenient and LIGHT. (#mostimportant) I ditched the P.O.S filtration bag that came with it and picked up a 1.5 L Evernew water bag. With this system I can quickly scoop up dirty water, and filter it into my Camelbak with the Sawyer quick disconnect system I found at REI! Less time standing around and filtering water means MORE time fumbling with my own shoelaces for reasons nobody is really sure of yet.
The Big (heavy) Three
Okay I conform a little. The Osprey Exos 58 is a wonderful pack. At 2.6 pounds, its not the lightest pack on the market, but I think it’s the most comfortable. Granted I’ll blend in with every backpacker on the trail carrying the gorgeous black and green Osprey colors, but with the removal a 4 oz brain and an Appalachian Trials patch, I’ll be able to pull it out of a pile of hiker trash without too much difficulty.
After setting it up about 50 times in my backyard, I think I’ve mastered the Tarptent Protrail. It’s not the roomiest, the most user intuitive or even the best shelter option on the AT, but I paid $209 for 28 ounces of sweet, sweet privacy. You’re reading the post of a hiker who is trying (and failing) to be cost-effective every step of the way. Once I decided to stuff the tent at the bottom of my pack (naked, no stuff sack) I liked the weight a little better.
Here is the mistake. I debated for the last 4 months over a sleeping bag. Sourcing every site on the world wide web (every one) I was recommended a bag under 2 pounds. Big Agnes? Too heavy. North Face? Too expensive. Zpacks? Perfect. Shit. $500.
I settled (settled) on an Enlightened Equipment Revalation 20 down quilt. And 4 weeks before I leave it comes in the mail. Totally amazing. But I keep looking at it and cringing at the 23 ounces of down with the belief that it might actually be too heavy (Seriously Jeremy? You’re cringing over 2 pounds of pure bliss?) It might be the best piece of equipment I have for a mere $260, but if I had another 9 weeks to wait for a quilt in the mail, I would have dropped even more dollars for a warmer, lighter model. I do have to say that paired with the Thermarest NeoAir Xlite, I’m toasty and comfortable, both in my bedroom and on a Massachusetts section of the AT.
If a tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound? If a twenty-something student / paramedic / manchild leaves his life to hike down the east coast and returns without any cool pictures, did it actually happen? (See “pics or it didn’t happen” **Article to come**)
I’m bringing a camera. Not a waterproof Nikon Coolpix, not a GoPro, not the camera on the back of my phone. I’ll save you the finer details in hopes of getting another view on a separate blog post, but I’m bringing an additional 2 pounds of camera gear to be strapped to my chest for all 2,200 miles of my Thru-hike. Not the ideal setup for most hikers, but I think the pictures I can get with this setup make it all worth it. What do you think?
I’m calling the 2L Camelbak bladder a luxury too. And only because its heavy and justified only by my desire to hike and drink simultaneously.
(Please note that “drink” is a term that can be used for a number of activities, not isolated only to hydration.)
By now you’re sick of reading. Let me wrap this up.
Balaclava: It’s multipurpose. Replaces a wool hat and can be used in an impromptu bank robbery
First Aid Kit: I work on a boo-boo bus for a living. I’m bringing a little more than some Ibuprofen and an alcohol swab.
Town Tee Shirt: Okay. Another extra. I need to rep Umass Amherst in towns though. College Discounts ya dig?
MSR Stake: Not as awesome as an actual STEAK, but it keeps better in my pack. And burying feces is important.
Ground Cloth: My air mattress is sensitive. She doesn’t like name-calling or rusty nails on the floors of shelters. Tyvek (cut to size) will do the trick.
Extra Underwear: Come on. Can I even bitch about a heavy pack when I’m carrying extra whitey tighties? No. I can’t. They’re not coming.
My base weight is NOT 10 pounds. It’s not even 15. I’m sitting at a base weight of 17. Not ideal but I’m HYOHing, and totally accepting of the likelihood of angrily thrown tee shirts and sandals following the decent of the first ant hill I surmount. I’m dealing with it. For now. Maybe.
Everyone who is reading this has an opinion of what gear is “necessary” and what can be left. Help out your favorite (okay, 3rd favorite) A-Trials Blogger and check out this gear list and offer your input in the comments!
SHAMELESS SELF PROMOTION
You’re still here? You wanted to skip all the word parts of the post and check for anything neat? Okay. Well this is neat. And way easier than reading. Play at FULL VOLUME for maximum effect.
Produced and edited by my good friend Alex Smith. He’s the cat’s pajamas.
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