What I’m Packing as an Appalachian Trail Ridgerunner

This is my second season as a ridgerunner on the Appalachian Trail working for the Potomac Appalachian Trail Club (PATC). For those unfamiliar, a Ridgerunner is a seasonal paid employment position working on the Appalachian Trail, generally from early Spring until early/mid-Autumn. Ridgerunners work with various land management agencies and trail clubs to maintain the trail, educate trail users about Leave No Trace, update hikers with information, and even provide medical assistance to those in need.  Ridgerunners are employed through the Appalachian Trail Conservancy or affiliate trail clubs and work directly with specific land management organizations, like the National Park Service, pending their location.* It is a dream job but the responsibilities are no light undertaking. Last year I was honored to work in my home state, Maryland. This time, I am in southern Pennsylvania, home to some of the world’s most glorious rocks. 

My pack, 35L frameless, equipped with Ridgerunner patches.

This year I get to immerse myself in the local trail communities. 

Last year I worked alongside the Maryland Park Service and had reliable communications with park staff regularly. Emergency scenarios, shuttles to trailheads for patrol, weather updates, and any concerns were all managed in-house by Park Rangers. This year, the section of trail I’m working on is majorly maintained by trail clubs and volunteers. My shuttles, seasonal housing, trail updates, and resupply points are all because of caring individuals who want to contribute to the trail during their free time. It is truly heartwarming and inspiring. I’m excited to meet everyone and contribute alongside the local communities that make this such a beautiful section.

The first packing of the season always feels like way too much. Especially this Bear Vault. UGH.

Though I did a single patrol of this trail section last season, I’m curious how things will pan out. My biggest issue is carrying 5 days of food from beginning to end, across 38 miles, until my seasonal housing situation settles next week. Last season I had the privilege of hauling only 2-3 days of food at most before passing my seasonal living quarters where I could resupply. This season my housing is situated towards the southern end of my section and will only require 4 days of food at most before resupplying. The weight isn’t so much the issue as fitting a 5th day of nutrition into the bear vault proves to be the problem. Though it isn’t required, carrying a bear vault allows the opportunity for conversation about proper food storage practices. They’re cumbersome but worth their weight in conversation. 

It’s been 7 years of nonstop trailwork and backpacking trips and I still overpack. 

It’s something we all do. I can’t help but think I might need an extra long-sleeve shirt in the middle of the week (I won’t). But anyway, here’s everything I’m planning on bringing. It’s a hybrid of what I need as a Ridgerunner plus what I’m packing for my southbound thru-hike later this year. I’m thinking of making some upgrades, but we’ll see how I feel leading up to my hike $$$.

Every hiker’s favorite, the iconic “gear photo”.



Backpack – LiteAF 35L Multi-Day Pack

Sleeping Bag – MYOG (Make Your Own Gear) – 35 degree synthetic quilt

Sleeping Pad – Big Agnes Rapide Insulated

Tent – 7′ x 9′ MYOG Tarp Tent (1.1oz silnylon)

Tent Stakes – MSR Groundhogs (7)

Total weight: 4.26 lbs

I need to thank my homie (and this year’s Maryland Ridgerunner) Pigpen for tagging me in a giveaway on LiteAF’s Instagram. It’s been a game-changer, having previously almost exclusively used a plethora of Frankenstein DIY’d packs. It weighs exactly 16oz, but some are turned off by its lack of hip belt and frameless design. I love it. My Big Agnes has given me glorious sleep throughout months of arduous trail work and I expect the same for the indefinite future. I don’t care about the weight or the fact that it’s rated for winter. Sleep is my luxury item. Last year I found the bugs were mild and proper site selection allowed minimal invasion using a tarp tent. I loved it save for one night when my tent pad malfunctioned and flooded me out. Crouching underneath a low-pitched tarp in ankle-deep water kinda sucked. 


Olicamp Vector (Donated to me by MaryMack, GA RIdgerunner!)

Pot 750mL (Aluminum, but lightweight and awesome, packed out from trail in trash pile)

4oz fuel canister

Sawyer Squeeze (the regular NOT the micro or nano)

CNOC 1L Collapsible Water Bottle

2x 1L Smart Water bottles

Bearvault 450 Jaunt

Microfiber Cleaning Towel


Tin Foil Lid

TOTAL WEIGHT: 3.19 lbs

I have gone stoveless on previous long trails. On the Tuscarora Trail I brought an Esbit alcohol stove and quickly realized I hadn’t brought enough fuel. As a result a lot of my meals had to be cold-soaked and I regretted then having to carry the extra 5 oz of metal cup and stove with no hot meal. Various recreation areas in North America require hikers to have stoves equipped with “off” switches, something alcohol stoves don’t have. Naturally, the trail provided as I was planning on buying a cheaper stove from Amazon when last year’s PA Ridgerunner MaryMack gifted me a fresh Olicamp stove. It’s worked great and has a simmer setting so I use it for cooking actual meals, without fear of burning the pan, on random car-camping trips. I’m planning on upgrading from aluminum to titanium cooking pots for my thru-hike. Probably 500mL. 


Nitecore 20k mAH Battery Pack

2x USB C Cords/Wall Plugs

Black Diamond Headlamp (AAA Batteries)  (Gifted to me by Maggie!)

Headphones ($5 Cheap-o from Walmart)

Cellphone (Motorolla/Android) 

Garmin GPS

Total Weight: 1.4 lbs

This is all pretty basic. I love my phone for taking pictures and videos but it’s nothing fancy or probably even Youtube-worthy. Garmin GPS is standard for Ridgerunners without proximity to State or National Park resources. My headlamp is independently powered from my battery pack to reserve juice for my phone and/or GPS. Two sets of batteries last a while surprisingly. 


Patagonia Puffy Hoody (I DIY’d this thing to hell and back, gifted to me by Matt Dickey!)

Thermal Leggings – Alpha Direct Fleece (gifted to me by Chris!)

FroggToggs Rain Suit – I might ditch the pants, we’ll see

Three pairs of socks – Injinji, and two pairs of Darn Tough.

Total Weight: 1.85 lbs

Normally I’ll wear running shorts, my Ridgerunner shirt and hat, and either my DarnTough or Ininji socks. Merrell Trail Gloves are my standard. Vapor Gloves when I’m feeling fancy. The stuff listed is the clothing that lives in my pack and gets worn at camp overnight with my sleep system. I might not need it for this Summer, but it’s coming with me in the Smokies.









Another Microfiber Rag

TOTAL WEIGHT: 0.36 lbs

This one is super basic. Bodyglide for chaffing. I always brush my teeth, I try to keep my hands clean, I always wash after using the bathroom, never shake hands with a thru-hiker, etc, etc.


Wilderness First Aid Med-Kit

Hand Saw

Hand Clippers

Oh-Shit Kit (Sewing needle, thread, Leukotape, etc)




TOTAL WEIGHT: 3.09 lbs

Stocking up on resupply foods.

My total base weight with no food and water is 14.16 lbs. 

It’s not quite as light as I’d like but I often remind myself how easy I have it compared to trail maintainers of years before. I’ve seen pictures of Myron Avery and Benton Mackaye on Ridgelines with cotton clothing and heavy framed packs. I can afford to lose weight with more diligent food planning and not carrying water long distances. Either way, I’m about to get some serious trail legs. I appreciate where I am and I’m confident my pack will only get lighter the closer I am to my thru.

All in all, it’s not a bad way to start the season. I’m excited to meet you all in Pennsylvania.

Happy Trails!


*Rewritten for clarity. Future Ridgerunner applicants should apply directly through the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, not the National Park Service. 

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Comments 5

  • Kelly : May 23rd

    Did you have to take a WFA or WFR class as part of being hired as a Ridgerunner?

    • Bones : Jun 2nd

      Previous Wilderness First-Aid and/or First-Aid/CPR certification/experience is strongly preferred, however, Ridgerunners (at least for the PATC) are put through WFA and LNT training prior to hitting the trail for the season.

  • Andrew Downs : May 24th

    Great article! Good luck with your season. One correction: Ridgerunners in Great Smoky Mountains National Park are hired by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, not the Park.

    • Bones : Jun 2nd

      Thanks for reading. I rewrote that bit for clarity.


  • Sockeye : Jun 3rd

    Have to laugh a bit at your gear shot. It looks great. Strikes me as extremely light. Here in Alaska hitting the Talkeetnas or the Wrangell St. Elias I always have 2-1/2 weeks or more of food, mountaineering gear, and typically spelunking gear. When the pack is less than a quarter my weight I am a very happy!


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