What Lasts Longer than Your Thru-Hike and Costs Just as Much?

The Infamous Gear Post

Two things come immediately to mind when I think of my adventure gearing up for the trail:

  1. The KonMari Method
  2. The Spreadsheet Simulator (aka the video game EVE)

Graced as I was with some gear due to the nature of my job I’ve spent many hours googling “are tamariki fighting sticks worth carrying on the A-T?” (This is a joke, they were actually sticks to hold the mosquito netting off your hammock.) After a couple years of shakedown hikes, tax returns, and even more googling I now have what I believe to be my ] for the Appalachian Trail. Since TheTrek.co has graced us with a phenomenal Gear List section I won’t bore everyone with the everything, but there are a few stand-out decisions that I had to hold in the air and ask, “Does this bring me joy for the weight?”

The Pack

Back in ’18 I was issued a Kelty Redwing 50 as a”Flight Bag,” as in – a bag for your survival gear, food, snacks, and flight gear. The supposition, I guess, was that if we crashed in Afghanistan we would need something more..pack-like? To hike? To civilization? Life Pro LPT; if you crash land in Afghanistan and survive just stay with the wreckage. Weighing a cool, crisp 59oz, the 2017 Redwing 50 features a padded everything, brain pocket, side pockets, other side pockets, load bearing walls, weird loopy things, and can haul something like 50L of gear. I took it on two and a half shakedowns before I deciding to swap it out. I knew that I wanted lighter, waterproofier, with easier to access pockets and eventually settled on the Hyperlite Southwest 3400 (renamed Southwest 55) – and the only complaint that I have so far is that it lacks organization.

On a side note, I’ve heard and somewhat support that pack weight does not matter. I believe your overall weight matters, and if you can cut ounces you should. But outside the weight you know what the biggest difference between the 3400 and the Kelty was? Comfort. It fit well, carried well, and had lots of organization options. I gave that up for something lighter and more waterproof, and only time will tell if I regret that.

(Sidenote: the “half a shakedown hike” involved me slalomming a ’13 Kia Soul down a mountain because of some poor decision making skills)



The Heavy Sleeping Pad

Ahhhh, Conflict! I’ve tossed and turned on this one for quite a while (pun intended) and the KonMari method had be up nights with this. I’m taking a hammock with me, and most people argue for an underquilt until it warms up enough. I have seen posts saying you can use a pad, and hammocks that allow for pads, but the general opinion I’ve gleaned from the interwebs is that hammocks and pads don’t really go together. I tried out two different pads as well as the Warbonnet Wooki Underquilt: the Klymit Static V2 and the Klymit Insulated V Luxe. After using both I’m torn, but I think I’ll be taking the Static v2 which is about 20 ounces lighter.

As long as temperatures stay above 40 I don’t think I need the added insulation, and the additional size (while great at spreading out the hammock a bit) is really only a luxury if I go to ground in a shelter. Opinions welcome, especially if they validate my worldview! Then if I’m wrong I can cuddle up with the irony as I freeze at night


The Sleeping Bag

Whoever “They” are say that the Bag and Pad make up the third of the Big Three. Luckily I have several sleeping bags from previous hikes with my family and deployments that I can choose from! Right? Right? Hah. Initiation Step 2 of the Cut Weight to Cut Weight Cult showed me just how wrong I was. I present you, dear reader, the holy duo of “that’s not gonna work.”

1 – Generic Mummy Cocoon for comparison (I did not have a banana handy)

2 – Recon 3 Gen II -5*C Bag from 2012, $161.46                                 2lbs 15 oz

3 – Snugpak Tactical 3 -7*C Bag from 2017  #319.95                          3lbs 12 oz

I actually tried to wedge both of those into my pack and it’s amazing how much space they take up to accomplish the same thing. Especially considering the price.


Throwing all that away (into storage) I’m going with my shakedown quilt, the Enlightened Equipment Revelation in Regular/Wide ‘cuz I like to have a little more rap to my sonata. I can’t imagine anyone finding fault in this decision but I do wonder why EE doesn’t have a government contract at this point.

The Knife

Knives are important right? I guess you can always spread your peanut butter with a stick or just scoop it with your fingers, but it won’t cut cord if you need to. Again I was “blessed” with being issued a CRKT M16-10KS Tanto that I used all the time: cleaning nails, poking dead things, cutting rope, potting assiduously, etc. Only downside was that it weighs 73.71g, and since I joined into the “cut weight to cut weight cult” I started looking around to find different options. After all, options are good right? That’s what my first wife keeps telling me anyways.

What I went with was one of those “Facebook and Amazon keep showing me this thing” options, the Deejo. I gotta admit, this thing is pretty and sharp – which according to science makes it pretty sharp (and it is). Weighing in at 27g I’m actually debating bringing the leather carrying case just so I don’t lose the damn thing.

Like my pack however I am giving up certain things that I may or may not regret; there’s something to be said for heft in a tool, and I felt like I could pry things open with the CRKT. But damn if it’s not a pretty little knife.

The Cook Set

I won’t lie, I’m actually excited about a cookset. When I was coming up it was always Coleman grills and fire pits to cook on, so oddly enough this was a first for me. On my first shakedown hike I took the “MSR PocketRocket 2 Ultralight Backpacking and Camping Mini Stove Kit” because it had the word “Ultralight” in it and could bundle up with the fuel can. While I was on that hike I watched other people use the integrated strikers on their stoves and thought that was fancy.

On my second shakedown I took the MSR PocketRocket Deluxe for the larger can and the integrated striker. After hemming and hawing I think I’m going to roll with the original set with the smaller can with the deluxe stove. My assumption is that I can get smaller cans anywhere I can get the larger ones, and I can’t then I still have pack space for the larger can. If anyone has some clarity before I start my hike I’m happy to take suggestions.

The Entertainment

Falling squarely into the class of luxury items, I needed to take with me something to read. I’d come to terms with the fact that the 13.7 oz, 7″ Onn Tablet that I use regularly was a good fit. It’s reasonably cheap for what it’s capable of ($60.00) and has a decent battery life. Also, it’s Walmart brand so I can get it anywhere, and it runs android so I can use any eReader app that I wanted to use.

Downside of course is that it’s backlit and heavier than a “traditional” eReader. Google did me in on this one, and the Onyx Boox Poke 5 popped up in my feed for $170.00. Android, good battery life, has a backlight when necessary, and 5.2oz. I also have to admit that I’ve a craving for paper and an eReader scratches that itch a lot better than a pseudo-book like the Onn tablet.

The Guy Lines

I would be horribly remiss if I did not mention this because a random person the the Reddit did me a solid.

It might be masculine, but I like tying stuff up. I’m a fan of throwing a loop around a doohickey to hitch a line, and it shouldn’t surprise anyone that’s gotten this far that I have a lot of 550 cord laying around because of reasons. When I purchased my hammock/tarp from Warbonnet I also snagged their TarpTicks and I was in heaven. Until I dropped one and then I was in Hell because they weigh 1 gram and can be lost in the packaging they send them in, or on the floor after you rip open the packaging.

After my last shakedown hike I posted a Lighterpack on the Reddit and u/Samimortal turned me onto Ironwire, and the difference was dramatic. I went from Stakes/Lines at 323 grams to 153 grams and with the tarpticks I can still throw my lines and pretend I’m a sailor. Thank u/samimortal, it’s a small thing but it’s also a remind that community is what makes this work.

The Conclusion

Which of course, brings us all to the Credit Scene. I couldn’t have gotten here without support: the community (that’s yawl), family, and friends. I’ve spent more time worrying about gear than actually on the trail at this point, but they say that the more you sweat the less you bleed. In this case, the more you prepare, the more you enjoy right?

If you’ve suggestions or recommendations please don’t be shy; we learn by having open minds and open conversations. If not, then maybe I’ll see you on the trail and we can all figure out what did or didn’t work.



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Comments 3

  • Stephen : Mar 22nd

    You’re going to kick yourself for not buying the 20* under quilt.

    • d20 Marsh : Mar 24th

      Or at least using a pad with a greater r value like a Thermarest.

      You are right. He will find himself wanting one or the other.

  • jhonY : Mar 23rd

    I truly enjoyed your write up this morn. And this caught my eye: “the community (that’s yawl)”. Now I guess I will be using your lighter version of y’all. Thanks for that


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