There’s no need to redesign the wheel

It’s that time already!!!

Springer Mountain GA "Let the games begin"

Springer Mountain GA
“Let the games begin”

I can’t believe people are filling their packs with all their new found lifelines and are headed into the woods in hopes of completing a journey of over 2,000 miles, or until they have found what they are looking for.  I have spent days talking with some of these hikers trying to impart wisdom from my own experiences.  Let me share some of these thoughts with you, maybe I can save you a lesson that’s already been learned.

Packing:  **I have included my own list of items at the bottom of this section**

“Don’t pack your fears” – this tidbit of wisdom is not mine (credit to Miami Vice) but well worth sharing as it applies to everyone!  We are taught to always be prepared but there comes a point where being too prepared puts you at risk.  Every item weighs something.  Consider your fears weight, both physical and mental.  Be willing to head off on this journey and take the first step towards growth.

As you put items in your pack think about why you have them; do you have 4 pairs of socks just incase you run into wet weather? Do you really need 4 pairs?  1 pair for hiking in, 1 pair to change into at camp, and… yeah, 4 pairs is overkill.  Come morning you will slide your nice dry feet into the disgusting cold, wet pair of socks you took off the night before and put your now cold, wet feet into your saturated shoes.  Don’t bother sacrificing a nice dry pair of socks only to put them into wet shoes or boots.

Dry things out the best you can

Dry things out the best you can

Your emergency kit carries all of your “what ifs” and “what ifs”= fears

  • What if my headlamp dies?  carry batteries
  • What if I gouge my knee?  carry gauze, Neosporin, and medical tape
  • What if I get too cold? carry an emergency blanket
  • What if I get lost?  carry a compass
  • What if… the list goes on and on, each one adding weight.

So what if your headlamp is dying? you’ll have time to pick up fresh batteries in town before it’s an emergency, just pay attention to the batteries when on trail.  Work smart not hard, take a Wilderness First Aid course (WFA) before you hit the trail, learn options for quick fixes on the trail to protect yourself and others.  Duct tape is your friend!  The trail is well marked with White Blazes, it is a rare day when you lose track of these, don’t get me wrong I had my moments, but there are common sense solutions when this happens, or you think it has.

Follow the White Blazes you'll get where you're going

Follow the White Blazes you’ll get where you’re going

After hearing “don’t pack your fears” I sorted through all of my gear in the next town and mailed home a pound and a half of “fear”.  I never needed any of the stuff I sent along, I was just happy to be able to carry a pound more food!

pack in the calories!!!

pack in the calories!!!

If you haven’t used it in four days you probably don’t need it! – In our day to day lives we have so many items surrounding us we don’t even realize how often they sit unused for days, weeks, months, maybe even years.  On trail if an item doesn’t have multiple uses or daily importance it’s probably not needed.  Believe me, I carried a couple items with me for over a month before I recognized:

  1. I was carrying it out of “what if”
  2. I couldn’t remember the last time I’d used it

When I look back over items which I sent home during the course of my trek I am embarrassed to think I ever carried some of them.

My first batch of items sent home included: EMS fleece, sunglasses case, extra batteries, extra stuff sacks, bulk of my first aid kit, extra pair of socks, pack cover, knife, and maybe one or two other small items.

These all got sent home at some point in my trip

These all got sent home at some point in my trip

I started off with two camp towels, one for me and one for the dog.  I didn’t want a wet dog in my tent and I didn’t want to share the dog towel *insert hysterical laughter at this,* it quickly became a mote point whether or not I shared this towel, we were both disgusting.  I ditched my second towel and carried the more rugged “dog” towel which was more absorbent and effective.

Think outside to box – it’s why you’re in the woods

I was back on trail in PA and heading north in October.  No one else was around, at least not for more than the time it took to say hello and exchange pleasantries.  I’d arrived at the road in Wind Gap, PA and needed to get into town for a mail drop, I’d learned early on you always did better hitching with a sign – having a clear destination makes it easier for folks to commit to picking you up.  I started digging through my pack trying to come up with an item to write on, I shifted the Tyvek out of my way and dug deeper… wait a minute, what could be more perfect than the white Tyvek I carried everywhere with me to write a hitching sign on?!  I quickly wrote in block letters PO.  I lifted the sign, stuck my thumb out and watched as the first two cars passed me by, car number three was my lucky one!  The Tyvek became my hitching sign, depending on how I folded it I could access anywhere I needed, WAL-MART, TRAIL, PO, STORE, TOWN, HOSTEL, DOCTOR, VET,  you get the idea.  The more use you can get out of one item the better off you are!

My portable hitch hiking sign

My portable hitch hiking sign

Pack smart – there are basic rules to packing your gear some are meant to be bent…

…some are not.  I was all about getting everything to fit INSIDE my pack.  I don’t like things hanging, banging, or otherwise swinging off my pack.  There were some exceptions to this rule: Tent poles should go on the outside of your pack – this reduces the risk of bending or breaking them by putting them under unnecessary stress!  Personally I liked storing mine is one of the water bottle sleeves.  Aside from that have at it!

It's all tied down

It’s all tied down

Common layering for a backpack: sleeping bag at the bottom, along with other light weight gear, Mid weight towards the center of the pack, and heavy items at the top.  ** Wild Backpacker has a great write up about it **

Many thru hikers use this method to their advantage to access their food bag quickly.  I wanted to store my heavier items, my food bag, more toward the mid section of my pack.  Each day I would pull the items I would need for snacking and lunch and pack them separately from my food bag.  This allowed me to balance my pack in a way I found more efficient and still allow me quick access to the food I would need throughout the day.

I got rid of most of my stuff sacks but kept a few to make it quick and easy to locate or organize items.   By packing items loosely into my pack I reduced “dead” space and was able to have a better balanced pack.



Remember I hiked the AT in an unconventional method I didn’t fully NoBo or Flip-Flop but instead did a “leap frog” which meant I hiked from GA to PA, MA to ME, and finally PA to MA.  Because of this the weather I encountered may vary from a regular thru hiker or a flip-flopper.

What did I carry:


    • Osprey Ariel 55L
    • Contractor garbage bag internally lining my pack
    • MSR Hubba Hubba
    • Big Agnes Mystic 15 degree (bounce boxed between VA and NH)
    • $5 fleece blanket (used between VA and NH)
    • Sea to Summit silk liner
    • Sea to Summit E-vent compression sac
    • NeoAir Trekker sleeping pad
    • NeoAir mini pump (sent home in VA)
    • Cocoon Ultralight Pillow (comfort item)
    • 3’x6′ piece of Tyvek – tent floor protection from dog
    • Komperdell trekking poles
    • MSR Hyperflow filter – Sent home in VA
    • Sawyer Squeeze – Picked up in VA – best decision all trip!!!
    • 1.5L Evernew water bladder for filtration – set up gravity feed system with Sawyer
    • Camel-back
    • MSR Pocket Rocket
    • Fuel canister 8oz
    • Small cook pot
    • Bandana
    • 2″ knife (with scissors)
    • Freezer bag cooking cozy
    • Bear rope – 50′ pcord
    • Sea to Summit 20L Lightweight Dry bag – bear bag/food bag

      freezer bag cooking sleeve and water filtration

      freezer bag cooking sleeve and water filtration

    • 2 Pairs of Darn Tough socks – 1 pair I wore, 1 pair was stored in sleeping gear
    • 2 Pairs of Injinji toe socks = blister prevention – 1 pair I wore, 1 pair back up
    • 1 pair compression shorts – daily hiking attire
    • 1 pair of hiking shorts converted into a skirt (finally sent it home in NH)
    • 1 pair wool compression shorts – sleeping attire
    • 2 sleeveless tops – daily hiking attire, sleep attire
    • 2 sports bras – 1 daily hiking attire, 1 town attire
    • 1 set long underwear tops and bottoms
    • Winter hat (Sent home in TN)
    • Buff – daily attire
    • EMS Down jacket
    • EMS Thunderhead rain jacket (Sent home between VA and NH)
    • Brooks Cascadia trail runners – daily foot wear
    • Dirty Girl gators
    • Vivo Barefoot Ultrapure – camp shoes

      Vivo Barefoot

      Vivo Barefoot

    • 1/3 closed cell sleeping pad for dog bed – I carried
    • Small 2’x3′ down blanket for dog – I carried
    • Towel – I carried
    • Dogtra Training collar (Sent home in NH)
    • Ruffwear Roamer Leash
    • Groundbird Gear Harness and Pack system – Dog wore daily
    • 4 Dog booties – Dog carried in her pack
    • Ruffwear Dog bowl – Dog carried on her pack
    • Bear bell – Attached to harness

      She carried her own goods

      She carried her own goods

    • AWOL guide book – pencil
    • Cell Phone – Samsung Galaxy 5
    • Wallet – ID, ATM card, and Medical info
    • First aid kit – blister pads, mole skin, thread and needle, band-aids, duct tape (attached to trekking poles), Ibuprofen, Benadryl, Inhaler, tweezers, and fingernail clippers
    • Hand Sanitizer
    • Headlamp
    • Rescue Whistle
    • Medical paperwork for dog  – Vaccine updates; Rabies and  Kennel Cough
    • Pstyle
    • Deuce of Spades trowel
    • Toilet Paper
    • Toothbrush & toothpaste
    • Battery pack
    • Charging cables and plugs
    • Kindle Paperwhite (sent home in VA)
    • Ipod mini (died in VA)
    • Sunglasses
    • Comb
    • “The Stick” massage roller (sent home in VA) – for post knee injury care
    • Rogue Fitness VooDoo band (sent home in VA) – for post knee injury care
    • Sharpie (picked up in NH)
"The Stick" was a heavily fought over item - I gained my first trail name as people worried I was keep a book on what I felt was owed for its use

“The Stick” was a heavily fought over item – I gained my first trail name as people worried I was keep a book on what I felt was owed for its use


Keep on Trekking!

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Comments 6

  • Russ : Mar 6th

    Great advise. I’ve done ga and Carolina over the years with my son and want to do the whole thing one day.

  • Russ : Mar 6th

    Great advise. Enjoyed your post.

  • Susan : Mar 8th

    Thank you for posting this! Incredibly helpful and useful for packing for my thru hike!

  • Miles Supertramp : Mar 11th

    I’m glad you saw the…light. I carried 62 lbs on my first thru. But on my 2nd thru in ’12 I started out with 9.5 lbs and never, not even in the snow in mid October, did I carry more than 17. Huge difference between the thrus; I learned the less I carried the more enjoyable my experience. Here’s a few tips:
    •Just say no to poop trowels – there’s always an ample supply of sticks you can use to dig a quick hole wherever you choose to do your do-do.
    •Bye bye, nail clippers – use half of a small emeryboard. Heck, it’s a mere 10th the weight of clippers so splurge and take the whole emeryboard!
    •Camp shoes??? – why do you NEED extra shoes to wear in camp when the ones you use on the trail work fine? You ran around barefoot all summer long as a kid, works the same in camp. Unless you wear HEEEAVY boots or boot shoes (why would you do that to your feet?!) use your light weight running sneakers for both the trail and late night bladder relief.

    • ~BuzzCut (formerly known as ~Karyn/KC : Apr 22nd

      @Supertramp: the second trip sounds more enjoyable- I agree with you except for camp shoes–I have to “release” my bound feet and I’m too tender-footed to go barefoot.


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