You Show Me Your Appalachian Trail Gear and I’ll Show You Mine
Winter Start on the Appalachian Trail Considerations
After an abundance of advice and research I think my base pack is ready for a winter start. Knowing that nature will do as she pleases My gear choices should withstand any weather I am willing to endure on the trail. Of course a caveat is when the weather is coming in real ugly I will be cocooned up somewhere more hospitable. Extra cold weather gear and socks are a must as it would be foolish to go into mission failure for not bringing the appropriate clothing. As an adjustment I will bring additional socks, a warmer mid layer set, as well as a couple of other tactical redundancies. Not extra stuff, tactical redundancies in case of failure of one piece of equipment. Since I tend to be nocturnal, a second headlamp so that one will be fully charged and available. Thicker mid-layers in merino wool and alpaca with the bottoms being full side-zips for easier removal. A set of cold weather waterproof socks as an addition as well as four different pairs of socks and liners. I have been up in the air on camp footwear until I found Mayfly Ultralight Imago sandals weighing in at 1.8 ounces per pair and ordered them this morning. I have a preference for cold weather gear from Norway and Minnesota for they know how to keep warm in those locations. My wife is from Minnesota and has Nordic Heritage, she has been my guide on warm clothing. Final Base weight 20.74 pounds!
The Big Three
I have purchased three different packs, an Osprey Exos 55 Pro, a Zpacks Arc Zip Ultra 62L, and a ULA Circuit. All are great packs no question. I’m going with the ULA Circuit straight out of the chute for comfort and capacity. I added two additional side pockets for my stove and rain gear for convenience. The Zpacks Arc Zip is outstanding, however I have some dexterity issues in my fingers and zippers can be difficult for me, so I am selling this pack. I may have the Osprey EXOS shipped to me in warmer weather when my load volume is lessened for the simple reason that it is the most comfortable pack to carry in my measured opinion.
Edit: I now have a ULA with the S-Straps and it is as comfortable as any pack I’ve tried. The change fits my build much better than J-straps.
For the sleep system I chose an Enlightened Equipment Conundrum O F as it can be configured as a quilt or a sleeping bag. I have tested this bag/quilt on top of a Thermarest X-Therm NXT Max with a Gossamer Gear thin pad under it. Sleeping out during two snows in North Central, Montana the sleep system performed more than satisfactorily. My only sleep issue was having a pillow that continually slid out from underneath my head. I have now purchased both Trekology Aluft 2 and Hikenture Ultralight pillows. Both have an elastic strap to attach them to your pad. It’s a coin flip as to which one I’ll be carrying.
Worn Clothing and Outer Wear from Top to Bottom
For head and neck, a Turtle Fur Rufus Beanie and a colorful Buff. Top base layer is an REI 185 Merino Wool piece and a heavier Arms of Andes Alpaca 300 Half-zip mid- layer. These are interchangeable for outside temperature. My daily mid-layer top is a Melanzana Grid Hoodie V2. Thank you Cousin Stacy for going to Leadville for me, you are the Best! My Puffy is a Norrona Trollveggen Superlight Down850 Hooded Jacket. My rain jacket is an Outdoor Research Helium. For the hands, Pearl Izumi Alpha Summit Gloves, Rossignol Lobster Gloves, and Mountain Laurel Rain Mittens
Bottom base layer is REI 185 Merino Wool leggings, and Arms of Andes Alpaca Wool Thermal Leggings. Mid-layer is Norrona Flex Wool Stretch Legging. My pants are Norrona Svalbard Flex1 Pants. Dirty Girl Gaiters will be daily wear. Skivvies are Smartwool and Ex-Oficio Boxer Briefs.
I’ll be sporting Hoka TenNine GTXs from Springer Mountain to Roan Mountain. Breaking these in has been an eye-opener. The extended Hubble Heel helps the shins and Achilles tendons on the hills, and downhill is happiness wearing these. There also is the opportunity for making hovercraft noises and moonwalking to confuse people. Next on are Hoka Speedboat GTXs followed further up the trail by TOPO Ultraventure 2, Mountain Racer 2, and Terraventures with a rock plate. Footwear will be switched to adjust to my needs for the terrain being traveled.
The socks in my bag are; Darn Toughs- Great fit and lifetime guarantee. FITS- Good enough for Jennifer Pharr Davis, good enough for me. Injinji Sock Liners- Prevent toe on toe crime. Sealskinz Cold Weather Waterproof Socks- The name says it all. There will be a pair of Silverlight Hikers sent further up the trail, great compression feel.
Outside of my worn clothing there is not much in my pack. A Howler Brothers Long Sleeve Heritage shirt, a pair of OR Astro Shorts, Melanzana Base Hoodie, Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Lightweight Base Layer Bottoms, and the socks, underwear, and outer layers not being worn at any given time. If there’s too much in there I will bounce it up the trail.
I find I need nothing more than a Jet Boil Stash, Fitness City Large Titanium Spoon, chopsticks (I don’t care to eat ramen with a spoon), lighter, and a small plastic container with lid from a good gelato brand. Regarding the spoon, it’s larger and slightly heavier than many, but it makes eating The Sludge and ice cream more efficient.
Luxury Items and Electronics
I wear a COROS APEX 2 PRO and it has great functions and an app to interface with. My GPS is a Garmin 66i for a few reasons. First off, there was a killer sale at REI and the $399 price was the same as an InReach Mini. Next, hiking is not the only activity I’ll be using it for. Lastly the functionality suits me and the few extra ounces have been counterbalanced by another item removed from my pack. My iPhone, Dark Energy Poseidon Pro battery pack, Shokz Open Run Pro headphones, and hearing aids round it out. Currently waiting delivery of a Flextail Zero Pump. Black Diamond Cork Trekking Poles are a must have for me. A bit additional about the Dark Energy Poseidon Pro battery. It is waterproof and takes a beating. The weight on mine is 8.8 ounces and is slightly larger than my phone. It has performed extremely well for me, I like Mil Spec type toughness!
Health, Safety, and Sanitation
Normal hygiene items from toothbrush, tooth paste, liquid soap, hand sanitizer, soap, and pack towel. I have a light first aid kit OTC meds, my meds, Leukotape, Glide, a variety of bandage material and triple antibiotic ointment. The PACT toilet kit is a great item consisting of trowel, expanding wipes, and tablets to put in for decomposition. For safety in icy places I have Kathoola Microspikes.
There might be a small odd or end not listed, and there will be things added and subtracted along the way. Countless hours have been spent researching all this stuff and those who have put out equipment lists, gear videos, suggestions, and positive direction are greatly appreciated. There might be a change or two in the next few weeks before I fly. I would be remiss if I did not offer a public Thank You to the staff at Bighorn Outdoors in Great Falls, Montana for all their effort, time, advice, and guidance as I have prepared. You have helped me immeasurably and have my gratitude. To all who read this I hope you find an idea that may help you.
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