What’s In Your Pack? My Pre-Appalachian Trail Gear List

Apparently, if you decide months or even years in advance that you will be hiking the Appalachian Trail, the responsibility to be the most researched, planned, and prepared hiker rests upon your shoulders. This is specifically evidenced by what’s in your pack. And if you’ve dipped even your pinkyest of toes into the pool of the thru-hiking world, you know that everyone has a strong opinion as to what they’re carrying. Gearheads are obsessed with weight, multi-functionality, and style. Will you go minimalist and lightweight, or will you carry luxury items and tent poles in your frame pack? Needless to say, when you’re carrying all you need to survive for the next six months, these decisions are weighty.

I would venture to say that the most stressful part of the entire thru-hiker planning process for me has been gear research and purchases. As a generally frugal person, I struggled with the prices for recommended and name-brand backpacking gear. At the same time, I was terrified to trade quality for a cheaper price. After all, $50 won’t make much of a difference if my sleeping bag doesn’t keep me warm at night. (Ask my friends: I almost cried over the decision of which sleeping bag to take.) And what if what worked for them doesn’t work for me? These factors (and potential consequences) made me feel paralyzed when it came to making decisions about gear. I felt (and still feel) the need to justify every purchase. Will other hikers judge me because I’m ditching trekking poles for a hand-carved walking staff? Is this how I get my trail name?

Trying out water filters on training hikes!

After wading through endless gear reviews and dodging affiliate links, I am grateful to conclude that while some hikers may not agree with my choices of gear, most will shrug their shoulders and say, “hike your own hike, honey.” In the end, there’s only one way to figure out if something works for you: try it out. So I took my gear on a five-day shakedown hike in southern Indiana. I’ve tweaked the detailed spreadsheet. I’m prepared to continue tweaking my gear list until the day I die. Check back in six months to see what finished the trail with me. I’m curious, too.

Nope, the dog is not coming along.

My Appalachian Trail Gear List

In many areas of my life, I’m a huge proponent of using what I already have (or what my family already has), so you’ll see quite a bit of well-loved gear on this list. I am also grateful for a supportive community who contributed financially to my gear purchases. Thank you!

Can’t Forget the People!

I would be remiss not to express my deep gratitude for the backpackers that shared gear lists, experience, and critique. Their advice has been most invaluable to me. My dad and uncle have both spent weeks on various trails across the US, and they were an incredible source of experience, gear, and advice. A huge shout out also goes to Footloose (AT ’21), TB (AT ’21), Dr. Jones (AT ’23), CFO (AT section hiker), Juicy (AT section hiker), and others, whose stories give me hope. These folks convinced me that I should not leave my phone at home and prevented me from packing a faulty water filter. Practically life savers.

A small-scale visual of how scattered my scattered brain has felt in the months leading up to my thru-hike.

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.

Comments 4

  • KittySlayer : Mar 21st

    Bonus points for posing the gloves in your gear photo.

    5 day shakedown in southern Indiana sounds like the Knobstone.

    • Emilia Grunden : Mar 26th

      Haha, thank you (my dad and sister helped)!! Yes, the Knobstone was extremely helpful!

  • Sheila Holloway : Mar 31st

    When i hiked the canyon my pack was 40 pounds. I stayed one night at north rim, three days in, and one night at south rim. I feel like i used everything i packed.

    • Emilia Grunden : Apr 3rd

      That’s great! I measure the value of the items in my kit by how much I use them. I would love to hike rim to rim someday!


What Do You Think?