I HATE Talking About Gear: My Gear List (Not Yours)

When I say I hate talking about gear, I mean it.

Preparing for a thru-hike is so fun, and dialing in your gear is so fun, but it can warrant some really frustrating, really degrading conversations.

As I prepare to hike the Continental Divide Trail, I’ve been reflecting a lot about my 2021 Appalachian Trail experience. I thru-hiked the AT in 135 days (4.5 months) with a base weight of 22 pounds. One of the most beautiful qualities about the AT is it’s about as unpretentious as it gets. Some people were ultralight disciples, and others (myself included) opted to use whatever gear we had available. I started the AT with a pump water filter (carried for 500 miles), hiking boots (didn’t switch to trail runners for 1500 miles), and a stainless steel water bottle (carried the whole way through). In our tramily of 4, our base weights ranged from 11 lbs to 28 lbs, but we all finished in the same number of days. (It takes most hikers 5 or more months to complete the AT, by the way.) Perhaps my perception of trail culture was naïve and simple because it was my first thru-hike, and maybe the Appalachian Trail is particularly nonjudgmental, but it never seemed that anybody cared about anyone else’s gear setup.

the pack covers certainly don’t help our packs look any smaller

Other trails feel more judgmental. On the Colorado Trail, I was told repeatedly that my friend — a first-time thru-hiker with meticulous ultralight equipment — looked like an experienced hiker, whereas I — an Appalachian Trail veteran with a large pack and even a camp chair for fun — looked like a novice. I didn’t realize that the weight of one’s gear directly correlated to their perceived trail experience. In my (albeit inexperienced and trail-uneducated) youth, I actually assumed the opposite: the larger the pack, the more legitimate the adventurer.

More than the Colorado Trail, the Continental Divide Trail feels like a trail that requires an aesthetic presence. You’re not just a thru-hiker anymore; you’re embarking on the most logistically difficult and overall dangerous trail of the Triple Crown, and you have to look like a thru-hiker. At least that’s how I’ve been made to feel over time. I’m a middle child through and through, with a deep need to prove myself and feel belongingness, and as a result, I’ve actually changed a lot of elements of my gear. While I am very pleased with the new gear that I’ve gotten, and a lot of my upgrades make the most sense for my current needs and style, I recognize that the other gear that I had for earlier trips is still good and purposeful for other occasions, and I try to make use of them for other activities.

(To be clear, I think I would have eventually chosen to make the choice to get lighter, more compact gear anyway; I just wish the most influential factor at the time wasn’t judgment from other thru-hikers.)

my shakedown hike before the Colorado Trail, camp chair and all

Gear conversations have become my least favorite way of interacting with other thru-hikers. Every question feels like an accusation: Why did you get this pack instead of that pack? Why did you spend that little/that much on that piece of gear? Don’t you know that xyz is the best xyz that ever xyz-ed?

I’m going to describe my personal list of gear that I’m personally bringing on the Continental Divide Trail. I am not seeking advice on gear. I am not interested in debating any of my choices. My gear list is personal to me, and the purpose of this article is merely to inform you of what I am bringing. If you don’t like something on it, I hope you make a different decision for your own thru-hike.

My Gear

Big 4 + Big 4 Adjacent

The Big 4 in backpacking refers to the four most significant pieces of backpacking-specific gear: backpack, tent/shelter, sleeping bag/quilt, and sleeping pad. These four items are in bold.


  • Gossamer Gear G4-20
  • Osprey pack cover
  • Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear 2.5L fanny pack


  • Gossamer Gear The One
  • Tyvek ground sheet
  • Diorite cork trekking poles
  • MSR Groundhog tent stakes (x10)
  • Hammock Gear Economy Burrow 10° quilt
  • Hammock Gear Premium Down Quilt Hood
  • Hammock Gear 14L dry bag
  • Therm-a-rest Neoair Xlite (Women’s)
  • Therm-a-rest Synergy Lite Sheet




  • BV450
  • Toaks 750mL pot
  • MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe stove
  • Long-handled spork
  • Isobutane fuel canister
  • FlipFuel fuel transfer device (discount code MADELYN20)
  • Bic mini lighter
  • Bandana


  • Katadyn BeFree 3L water filter bag
  • Katadyn BeFree 0.6L water bottle
  • CNOC Vesica 1L water bottle
  • Chicken Tramper Ultralight Gear water bottle sleeve (fit for Vesica)


Safety & First Aid

Safety Items

  • Garmin inReach
  • Swiss Army Knife
  • Gossamer Gear Gold Dome Ultralight Umbrella (New Mexico, Colorado)
  • Black Diamond Spot 400 headlamp
  • Pepper spray
  • Sleeping pad repair kit
  • Microspikes (Colorado)
  • Ice ax (Colorado)
  • Bear spray (Wyoming, Idaho, Montana)

Med Kit

  • Ibuprofen
  • Bandaids (x5)
  • Neosporin
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Moleskin
  • Gauze
  • Tweezers
  • Tick key
  • ACE wrap
  • Wilderness First Aid booklet



  • Kula Cloth
  • Menstrual cup
  • Never-worn socks that act as reusable pads if needed
  • PACT poop kit
  • Baby wipes
  • Trail Stuff Trailbrush
  • Toothpaste tablets
  • Lip balms
  • Sunblock stick
  • Extra quart-sized plastic baggies




  • Patagonia Capiline Cool Daily Hoodie
  • Melanzana microgrid fleece hoodie
  • Patagonia Nano Puff
  • Frogg Toggs rain jacket
  • Pajama t-shirt


  • Running shorts from the thrift store
  • Melanzana Windpro Sweatpants
  • Frogg Toggs rain pants


  • Altra Lone Peak trail runners
  • Darn Tough Micro Crew socks x2
  • Tent socks
  • Crocs
  • Dirty Girl Gaiters

Head & Hands

  • Buff
  • Hair bands x2
  • Bucket hat
  • Glove liners
  • Bug head net


Electronics, Etc.

  • Anker 20,000 mah power bank
  • iPhone 13 Pro
  • Garmin Forerunner 230 watch
  • Earbuds
  • Sony a6000 camera
  • SD cards x2
  • iPhone charger
  • Micro-USB charger
  • Watch charger
  • Wall port for charging cables
  • SD card to lightning adapter
  • Tripod
  • Bluetooth phone camera remote
  • AAA batteries
  • BD 1500 rechargeable headlamp battery
  • Deck of cards
  • Wallet baggie


I want to leave you with this:

Please stop judging or shaming people for the gear they choose to bring. Everybody brings the gear that they feel is right for them, and unless you are somehow an expert on someone else’s needs, you have no right to tell them how they should be packing. If someone’s base weight is higher than yours, maybe they can handle carrying a heavier weight for longer than you can. If someone’s gear is more expensive than yours, maybe they’ve been saving up for a long time to afford those specific pieces. If someone needs the lightest possible base weight in order to avoid agitating old injuries or bodily ailments, just be glad for them that they’re out there. In short, please worry about your own gear choices and let others worry about theirs. I hate to quote my least favorite thru-hiking mantra, but hike your own damn hike.

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Comments 2

  • Krista F : Mar 28th

    Great article!! I agree so much – it’s not fun when people nit-pick what you’re carrying! I’m 51 with bad shoulders and back, and I’m lucky that I can afford to buy some of the more expensive UL gear that *allows* me to hike. But I really don’t want to have to defend why I have an expensive UL tent or the Zenbivy bed system when I just hiking locally and don’t plan on doing any long trails.
    If someone asks for advice, that’s entirely different. But unsolicited “help” is not always wanted or welcome.

    • Madelyn Dukart : Apr 2nd

      Thank you so much for saying that! Unsolicited gear advice is so unhelpful. I’m glad you’ve found items that work well for you and help get you out there!!


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