Transforming my Thru-hiking Pack for Summer

It took me approximately two hours from the start of the Approach Trail to find the first items to swap from my pack. Figures.

It seemed like no amount of reading, training or shaking down could pinpoint what would become a staple and what would be a flop.

The truth of the matter is that gear choices vary between people for a variety of reasons: cost, weight and personal preference are vitally important. But, I guess I never got the memo that preferences change as the trail evolves into new seasons and terrain.

So, as I make my way through increasingly warmer days in Virginia, I look back on all of the gear changes that have led me to this point:


1. Hammock

As the warmer weather became more consistent, I opted to swap my Six Moons Designs Lunar Solo tent for two-person Eno hammock system. The tent worked well in wet, cold and even snowy conditions, but the hammock provides a higher quality of sleep. In colder conditions, an under-quilt would be necessary to sleep comfortably. But with my 15 degree bag, 40-degree nights have still felt perfect.

2. Water Filtration System

I started the trail with the baseline Sawyer water filtration system that is very common along the trail. Over time, these filters can get clogged and require frequent back-flushing to keep a good flow. I had the opportunity to get the Katadyn 3-liter bag system. The flow is superb and the upkeep is simple — it was definitely worth the upgrade just for ease of use.

3. Hiking Dresses

I spoke about this one in a blog post of its own, but hiking in dresses in warmer climates is my preferred attire for a variety of reasons. I believe you can hike anytime in dresses and skirts, but summer hikes are a perfect time to break out some flowy fabrics.

4. Sandals

Similar to the hiking dresses, I spoke in much greater detail about my shoe choices in another post, but after nearly 400 miles of living with that decision, I stand by it.

5. Therm-a-Rest Pad

I was generously given a full-length Therm-a-rest sleeping pad that I use constantly. For sitting breaks throughout the day to yoga in the evenings, even outside of a sleep system this gear piece has countless uses.


1. Lots of Clothes

After making it to Hot Springs, I thought it would be an ideal time to lighten my clothes bag. I cut some of the extras from my collection (such as extra socks or an extra shirt) and discarded much of my thermal wear. Clothes are an easy place to overpack, so I’d opt to have less and purchase things from Dollar General or Walmart (or some outfitters) along the way.

2. Camp Shoes

After hiking in my Keen’s for an extended period of time, I found I had little-to-no use for camp shoes in addition to them. They are comfortable enough to wear around camp when I’m not hiking. Although, this is a luxury item most keep through the end of the trail.

3. Stove and Cook Set

After a few weeks on trail, I noticed how little I was using my stove. I never cooked at home, so part of me was kicking myself for thinking I’d become a gourmet backcountry chef. I currently cold-soak, but I primarily use the lessened weight in my pack for fresher foods that would otherwise be too heavy to pack out.

4. Guidebook

Before coming to trail, I had never used Guthook Guides or any other digital mapping system. I highly recommend an investment into Guthook for your time on trail, then use the AWOL guidebook at home or via PDF.

5. Bear Canister

This was (by far) the heaviest piece of gear I dropped. Alone, it weighed over 2.5 pounds and carried all of my food. It was a pain to fit comfortably on my back as well. I kept it through territory where canisters were required, then joined the majority of thru-hikers in Bear-bagging.


1. Sleeping Bag Liner

My relationship with my sleeping liner changed along with the seasons. Originally, I used it to add 5-10 degrees of warmth in the cold, now I use it as my top layer through the night and my 15 degree bag works as insulation between me and my hammock. On cold nights I can still utilize my sleeping bag, but having a liner has been a welcomed option on warmer nights.

2. Injury Support

Medical kits grow and shrink in size throughout the trail depending on need. Unfortunately, mine has become rather large. But, experimenting with tools like ankle braces, wraps and blister pads has become a welcomed addition to my pack for myself and my fellow hikers.

My pack has shrunk dramatically in size as I learn more about what I truly need to survive and be happy.

Someone once told me, “if it doesn’t fit in your pack or your soul, you don’t need it.” And they were right.

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Comments 3

  • James : May 26th

    The perfect online shakedown for my final purchases before departure next weekend.

    Thanks for some on trail insight!

    Stay stoked out there-

  • DMFINO : May 28th

    Passed you on the trail this week and recognized ‘the girl that hikes in a dress’ – I’ll be following your trek. Good luck. DMFINO


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