Top Stoves, Filters, Rain Gear, and More on the Appalachian Trail: 2023 Thru-Hiker Survey

Each year here at The Trek, we ask long-distance hikers on the Appalachian Trail (AT) about the stoves and water filters they used on their 2023 thru-hike. This year we added a ton of new questions about gear hikers used, including rain jackets, trekking poles, GPS devices, menstruation products, and  even more!

In this final post of the series, we’ll cover the most popular cooking systems, resupply strategies, water filters, power banks, and plenty more gear choices, as well as water- and tickborne diseases.

We had a total of 409 responses this year. Thank you to everyone who filled out the survey! The data was collected from October through November of 2023 through our survey, which was marketed using our social media platforms, Backpacker Radio, and Some responses from previous years were removed, and obvious mistakes in start and end dates were adjusted. No obvious duplicates were found.

Quick Navigation

Water filters
Water- and tickborne diseases
Resupply strategies
Cooking systems
Power banks
GPS devices
Rain gear
Trekking poles
Self defense
Luxury items

Water Treatment

We asked hikers how often they filtered the water they took from natural sources. 85 percent of hikers in our survey filtered their water every time. An even more overwhelming majority (97 percent) almost always filtered their water. Only two hikers claimed to have never filtered their water, while 10 hikers said they occasionally did so.

Water Treatment Type

Water treatment is commonly done via five methods:

  • A filter that water is pushed through manually, making it ready to drink instantly (e.g. the Sawyer Squeeze). This is usually attached to a dirty water bottle or pouch.
  • A pump that filters the water (e.g. the MSR MiniWorks). This requires no wait time.
  • Liquid chemical treatments, which take a few minutes to react before the water is safe to drink (e.g. Aquamira).
  • Tablets (e.g., Aquatabs), which operate the same way as liquid treatments. Tablet treatments have been around longer than liquid treatments and, while small, are bulkier than liquid options.
  • Devices inserted into the water bottle or bag that use UV rays to treat the water (e.g. the Steripen).

Mid-size filters, such as the Sawyer Squeeze, have been the most commonly used water treatment type for the past handful of years, growing steadily in popularity. This year 93 percent of hikers used a mid-size filter, compared to last years 94 percent. Only 4 percent of respondents used small filters such as the Sawyer Mini this year. Large pumps, UV, and liquid chemical treatment drops were each used by 1 percent of hikers. Only 2 hikers used tablets this year.

The most popular water filter by far was the Sawyer Squeeze, used by over 250 hikers. The  Katadyn BeFree and Platypus QuickDraw were mentioned numerous times. Some hikers carried multiple filters as a redundancy or may have switched during their hikes. Exact numbers for each filter are hard to capture, as many didn’t remember the model name or switched models frequently.

READ NEXT – Sawyer Squeeze vs Katadyn BeFree vs Platypus Quickdraw: Which Filter Is Best for Your Thru-Hike?

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Illnesses on Trail

We asked hikers about multiples types of illnesses or diseases they may have encountered on trail, including waterborne illness, norovirus, and tick-borne illnesses. 15 hikers (3.6% of respondents) stated they contracted a waterborne illness, such as giardia, at some point during their hike.

Notably, less than one percent of those hikers who always or almost always filtered their water and also contracted a waterborne illness. In comparison, 20 percent of those who occasionally filtered their water contracted a waterborne illness, and 1 of the 2 hikers who never filtered their water did as well.

We asked hikers if they contracted norovirus and at what location on the trail they suffered from it. A staggering 20 percent of all hikers in our survey contracted norovirus during their hike. It’s difficult to pinpoint any particular location where it was most common, but the vast majority of the hikers were in the southern states when they suffered from norovirus. Perhaps this is due to the bubble being at it’s most concentrated in the south at the start of thru-hiking season.

Almost half of all hikers in the survey treated their clothes with permethrin this year. Another 35 percent checked themselves daily for ticks. Many respondents cited multiple prevention methods and wearing picaridin. Meanwhile, 8 percent said they took no special precautions against ticks.

Regardless of their preventive measures, 17 hikers (4 percent) contracted Lyme disease this year. Of those 17 hikers, 11 checked for ticks daily, 3 treated their clothes with permethrin, and 1 did both as prevention tactics. Two more didn’t answer what their prevention tactics were, while one Lyme disease sufferer said they had not used any prevention tactics.

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Resupply Strategy

The vast majority of hiker resupplied every 3-5 days. Resupplying every four days was the most common option by far, chosen by 50 percent of hikers. There weren’t many outliers this year: two respondents resupplied daily, while at the other end of the spectrum, a single intrepid hiker only resupplied every eight days, the longest interval reported.

Most hikers (80 percent) choose to resupply by purchasing food in towns as they hike through. 14 percent resupplied with a combination of mail drops and purchasing food in town, and only 6 percent relied solely on mail drops.

Typically, we’ve found that hikers with dietary restrictions use mail drops more often that those without. That’s the case again this year, but the difference isn’t as pronounced as in years past: Fewer hikers with dietary restrictions used mail drops this year, while more hikers without restrictions chose to mail at least a few boxes.

14 percent of hikers had some form of dietary restriction this year, the most common being vegetarian.

READ NEXT – Top Stoves, Filters, and Power Banks on the AT: 2022 Thru-Hiker Survey (prior year survey)


The majority of hikers (91 percent) used a canister stove. This has been the most popular option for a while, growing even more in popularity over last year’s 86 percent. 5 percent of hikers went stoveless, while even fewer used alcohol or liquid stoves. One hiker used a wood stove.

15 percent of hikers swapped out their stove along the way. When switching, canister stoves remained the most popular choice, although 20 hikers decided to switch to going stoveless. Most hikers (92 percent) were satisfied with their stove choices. However, 5 percent or 20 hikers were extremely dissatisfied with their stove. Of the hikers who switched their stove during their hike, only 1 reported any level of dissatisfaction.

Top Stoves

As in years past, the top stove model in 2023 was the MSR PocketRocket. This canister stove has held the top spot since at least 2017. Below are the tables for all of the top brands and models.

Snow Peak17
MSR Pocket Rocket167
BRS 3000T32
Soto Windmaster22
JetBoil Flash19
JetBoil MiniMo13

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Read next: The Top Backpacking Stoves

Power Banks

Almost every hiker this year (98 percent) carried a power bank. The capacities of their power banks varied, with a cluster around 10,000 mAh and another around 20,000 mAh. This makes sense because 10,000 and 20,000 mAh are standard battery bank sizes.

The 7501-10,000 mAh range was the most popular by quite a bit, with 39 percent of hikers carrying a power bank within that capacity range.

Different phone models require a different number of milliamp hours to charge, depending on the size of their batteries. Here’s a handy chart to determine how many phone charges you can get from a power bank based on it mAh capacity. Speaking in broad terms, a 10,000 mAh bank has enough juice for two full charges of an average modern smartphone.

The most popular model of power banks were difficult to determine, with so many offerings of size and hikers not remembering exactly what model they had. There were many brands listed as well, but two brands were decidedly the most popular.

Anker was the number one brand again, with 201 hikers using their brand of power bank. Nitecore was once again the second most popular brand, with 107 hikers using that brand. The only model of power bank that was a clear favorite was Nitecore’s NB1000.

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GPS Devices

We also asked hikers about their use of GPS devices for the first time this year. Almost two-thirds of hikers carried a GPS device on their hike. Garmin was overwhelmingly the most popular brand, with 237 hikers using one of their GPS devices. Specifically, Garmin’s inReach Mini 2 was the most popular model. Other brands and models were used by very few hikers in comparison, the top few brands are listed in the table below.


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Rain Gear

We asked hikers about the type of rain gear they used this year and their favorite brands and models. A rain jacket was the most popular option, and many hikers used a combination of umbrella, rain jacket, and ponchos.

For those who took a combined approach, pairing a rain jacket with an umbrella was the most popular option: 70 hikers opted for this combo. Most of the umbrella users fell into this category (i.e., most were not standalone umbrella users), with only 13 hikers who used an umbrella as their only form of rain protection. A small cohort (7 hikers) carried all three options.

Frogg Toggs was the top brand and model of rain gear used by hikers, as an affordable and easily replaceable option. Below are the tables of the remaining top brands and models.

Frogg Toggs92
Outdoor Research50
Frogg Toggs Ultra-Lite Rain Suit93
Outdoor Research Helium32
Patagonia Torrentshell24
LightHeart Gear Rain Jacket18
Montbell Versalite18

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Trekking Poles

We asked hikers this year about their trekking pole use as well. Almost all hikers used trekking poles, as you can see from the chart above. We also asked what type of poles they used: carbon fiber or aluminum. It was almost an even split, with 44 percent opting for carbon fiber and 55 percent opting for aluminum. The top brands are shown in the table below.

Black Diamond143
Cascade Mountain Tech28
Gossamer Gear17

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Self Defense

This year we asked hikers a lot of questions about their safety on trail, including if they carried something for self defense during their hike. 27 percent of hikers said they carried some form of protection with them. We also asked what they carried, and the results are shown in the table below.

Protection TypeResponses
Mace/Pepper Spray39

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Another question we added this year was for hikers who menstruate, and what products they used during menstruation. Each type of menstrual product was used widely and many hikers used a combination of multiple products. Tampons and pads were the most commonly used menstrual product overall.

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Luxury Items

Last but not least, we also asked hikers if they carried a luxury item and what it was. About three-quarters of hikers said they carried a luxury item and some listed multiple items. The list of items was long and diverse. Some of the more popular luxury items are listed in the table below, but this is by no means a complete list.

Luxury ItemResponses

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  • The majority of hikers always filtered their water from natural sources.
  • Mid-size filters, such as the Saywer Squeeze, were the most popular type of water treatment, with 93 percent of hikers using them
  • 20 percent of hikers contracted norovirus, 4 percent of hikers contracted a waterborne illness, and 4 percent of hikers contracted Lyme disease during their hike. Almost half of hikers treated their clothes or gear with permethrin to prevent Lyme disease.
  • Most hikers resupplied every three to five days, with every four days being the most popular interval.
  • Purchasing food in town was the most popular resupply strategy, with 80 percent overall choosing that method. 20 percent of hikers had dietary needs; those with dietary needs were more slightly likely to send themselves at least some mail drops.
  • The majority of hikers used canister a canister fuel stove, with the MSR PocketRocket being the most popular.
  • The most popular power bank capacity was 7,501-10,000 mAh, with Anker and Nitecore being the most popular brands.
  • Almost 2 out of 3 hikers used a GPS device, with Garmin being the most popular brand.
  • Rain jackets were the most popular type of rain gear used, although many hikers took a combination approach involving umbrellas or ponchos as well. Frogg Toggs were the most popular model and brand of rain gear.
  • Almost all hikers used trekking poles, with aluminum being slightly more popular than carbon fiber. Black Diamond was the most popular brand.
  • 27 percent of hikers carried some form of protection for self defense.
  • All types of menstrual products are widely used on the AT, but tampons and pads are the most popular for hikers who menstruate.

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More From the Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Survey

Thank You!

The survey couldn’t be possible without the hikers who answer all our questions, so many thanks to those who participated! Congratulations to all on your hikes! A huge thank you as well to Zach Davis, Kelly Floro, and Owen Eigenbrot for their help with this year’s survey. Don’t forget to check out the other posts from this year’s survey linked above. To stay updated on next year’s thru-hiker survey, subscribe to The Trek’s newsletter.

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Comments 2

  • Ralph B. Mahon : Feb 21st

    Whisperlite universal stove. Can use multiple fuels, packs small.

  • Sparks : Feb 21st

    VERY good article and informative for a few items that I hadn’t considered (or, not that well).


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