Think You Know What Gear you Need for a Thru-Hike? I did too… Until I didn’t

Despite the fact that I have two family members and multiple friends that have completed thru-hikes of the AT I still was just as completely lost as anybody else when I started my thru-hike. I’d read all the books, researched for hours, and narrowed my gear list down again and again. But what I didn’t realize was you can only prepare so much before actually going out and starting your hike. Since I started at Springer Mountain on March 13th my gear list has changed even more.

When I started hiking my pack weighed 27 lbs with 3 days of food, full fuel, and a liter of water. At one point in Tennessee my pack weighed 40 lbs with 5 days of food, half a container of fuel, and a liter of water. After my tent was rendered useless at trail days and I switched to a hammock setup I’m guessing my pack weighed upwards of 45 lbs. Some of these changes in weight were because I was carrying too much winter gear. (Note to future thru-hikers: although it may snow in the smokies you’re not going to need 2 pairs of camp leggings, 2 puffy coats, 2 long sleeve camp shirts, rain mitts & gloves.) while others were due to carrying more food because hiker hunger is real.

In a couple weeks I’ll be getting back on trail (curse you lyme!) and because of that I figured I’d post an update of my gear. This is everything I’ve found necessary for sections of the trail where the weather is cooler at night but not cold enough to snow. So late spring/summer/early fall. Once it gets later into the year I plan on sending myself some warmer clothes and possibly my stove. I’ve also switched out some gear for lighter options since I’ve been home.

Gear Changes:

HMG Windrider 3400 –> HMG Windrider 2400

I already owned both packs prior to the trail but before I started I couldn’t get everything to fit into the 40L pack. Clearly I had way too much stuff when I started in Georgia!
Weight saved: ~4 oz

Zpacks Duplex Tent –> ENO Hammock Setup

This change was not by choice but has turned out to be great. My tent was awesome. I could fit all of my gear inside when it rained & it kept me dry for the most part. My only complaint is the amount of condensation that accumulated on humid or rainy nights. Zpacks now makes a wall insert to fix the issue so if I were to switch back to a tent I would definitely get the extra walls. I get a much better nights rest in my hammock and stay completely dry when it rains. The only down side is it’s a heavier setup than the tent.
Weight added: 1.7 lbs

Zpacks Bear Bag –> Sea to Summit Dry Bag

The mice had a field day on my bear bag despite me hanging the bag. There were multiple holes & the cuban fibers were ripping off at points. Instead of getting a new bear bag I opted to get a cheaper dry bag in case the mice destroy it again. Also, I can fit more food in my new bag. Which is great because I eat more food than my 6ft tall guy friends on trail.

Dirty Girl Gaiters –> Outdoor Research Sparkplug Gaiters

My original gaiters lasted about 600 miles before they were too torn up. It took almost 200 miles before I found an outfitter that actually had lightweight gaiters. I probably could’ve ordered new dirty girls but it was easier not to.

Marmot Precip Jacket –> Montbell Thunder Pass Jacket

The Marmot Precip jacket was the worst rain jacket I’ve ever had. By Hot Springs, NC it was no longer waterproof despite following all care instructions while washing. The outfitter in town only had the Marmot jacket & the Montbell for sale so of course I went with the Montbell. So far it’s stayed waterproof and the pit zips are bigger. The Marmot was lighter but that’s probably because they forgot to make it waterproof. -___-
Weight added: 2.6 oz

Under Armour Rain Pants –> Zpacks Rain Kilt

While there was nothing wrong with the rain pants (they definitely came in handy when it snowed) I’ve decided to trade them out for the kilt in an effort to save some weight.
Weight saved: 6 oz

Sea to Summit ultra-sil daypack –> Yukon Outfitters Hobo Sack

The only reason for this change was that the sea to summit pack had a couple holes in it by Damascus (because I used it in every town as a purse and slackpacked ~100 miles) and because I got a new lighter slackpack for free at trail days. Though I would buy a new sea to summit day pack because it was awesome.
Weight saved: 1.6 oz

Misc. Clothing Items

I’ve hiked about 700 miles and have lost 18 lbs so naturally I’ve had to buy new clothes. Also, the seasons have changed so I’ve switched out some warmer clothes for some cooler clothes.

Gear Additions

HMG Pillow Stuff Sack

I won this at trail days in Damascas from the Hiker Yearbook raffle. (Thanks Odie! You’re awesome!) I use this as a stuff sack for my hammock, ridgeline organizer pocket, and bug net. While I’m sleeping I use it as a pillow with my sea to summit inflatable pillow inside.
Weight added: 1.7 oz

Sea to Summit Bug Headnet

I have yet to use this but it only weighs an ounce and I hate bugs. I will be extremely happy to have this the day the bugs decide to fly in my face.
Weight added: 1 oz

Gear Subtractions

Small Notebook

I found myself too tired to write in my journal each night so I sent it home. I now use my AWOL guide as a journal when I feel like writing.
Weight saved: ~4 oz

Therm-a-rest Z-seat

I used this a lot when I had my tent as a continuation of my sleeping pad. I honestly usually forget I even have it during lunch breaks and wind up sitting on the ground anyway.
Weight saved: 2 oz

Ipad Mini

I honestly did use this a lot but once I had to get my hammock setup I needed to save weight and this was the easiest way to do so.
Weight saved: ~1 lb

MSR Blizzard Tent Stake

I just use sticks & my trekking pole as a trowel now
Weight saved: 1 oz

Zpacks Evernew Pot, Etekcity Stove, GSI Pot Scraper, Sea to Summit Cup

I found myself too tired & lazy at camp to cook so I sent home my cooking supplies. Stoveless food tastes better anyway (recipe blog post to come!)
Weight saved: 9.4 oz

And there you have it. I’d still love to narrow down my gear some more to get a lower base weight but with 7 days of food & 2L of water and my pack weighs ~35 lbs. So hopefully it’ll never weigh more than that since I don’t plan on carrying 7 days of food at a time besides the 100 mile wilderness.

Side note: the featured image is the packing list my father made for his 1980 thru-hike. Boy have things changed!

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.

What Do You Think?