My Big 3 for the CDT

Finally, I’m blogging about gear.  My last blog post went ‘viral’ and had 1,800+ readers.  I guess borrowing ideas from James Clear is a good way to get noticed.  I’ll have to check my notes to see if he had anything about choosing a backpack in Atomic Habits.

My pack

I’m going with the Gossamer Gear Gorilla 50.  This is my first thru-hike, but in past weekend excursions, I’ve used an Osprey 60-liter pack and when I was choosing my CDT pack, I knew I was going to go lighter, but I also know that I enjoy food and didn’t want pack space to limit what food I brought along. That led me to a 50-liter pack instead of a 40-liter.  Why the Gossamer Gear over countless other packs?  I liked the idea of having a spot for a sit cushion.  I like sitting and knew I was going to take some sort of sit pad, so having a convenient place to store it while also acting as a barrier between my back and the pack was a win-win.  I have about 50 miles with this pack so far, and so far so good.  I like how tight I can get the waist and the shoulders are comfortable up to the 20 pounds I’ve been training with.  I know there will be some times when I’m heavier than that, but this is a good average weight to train with.  

My sleep system

Me testing out my sleep system in my living room.

For those of you who aren’t into backpacking gear, we backpackers tend to combine our sleep pad, sleeping bag/quilt, and pillow into one package. I’m going with a sleeping pad, inflatable pillow, and quilt.  My pad is where I made lots of allowances for weight and a little bit of size.  I’m 6’4” 220ish and 45 years old, so comfort was important enough for me to sacrifice weight.  Additionally, I’m a hammock backpacker when all things are equal, but the CDT isn’t a great place to hammock.  My sleeping pad is the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm sleeping pad.  It comes in at a whopping 24 ounces or 680 grams.  If I don’t sleep well on this, it will be the first thing I swap out for a lighter item.  I haven’t had the chance to use it yet, but I have high hopes.  

I’m taking a Sea to Summit Aeros inflatable pillow.  This weighs in at 4 ounces or 105 grams.  I’ve used stuff sack pillows in the past and they’ve always been disappointing.  I’m sure I could cut this if I was aiming for ultra-light, but comfort matters for my old bones, and laying on the ground without a pillow while trying to read is awful.

Finally, I’m using a 10-degree long and wide Enlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt with straps.  It weighs in at 771 grams/27 ounces.  I’m stoked about this quilt and think it’s going to work out well. Enlightened Equipment is a Minnesota company and their packs and puffy jackets are very popular among thru-hikers.

My Shelter

There are a few options for shelters and overall the tent is the most popular.  Some other options are bivy, tarp or hammock.  This was the item I deliberated over the most.  There are a few really good options and it came down to a balance of price and weight.  I was set on a trekking pole tent that needed to be over 85” long.  If the price wasn’t a factor, I would have gone with the Zpacks Duplex.  It’s lighter and is very popular with CDT thru-hikers.  But at half the cost, I went with the Six Moon Design Lunar solo.  

I’m not shooting to be ultra-light and I frankly don’t geek out over gear, but I think these are solid choices that will serve me well.  One thing I’ve planned for is that there will be some gear and some parts of gear I don’t like.  Throughout the 2,900 miles, I’m bound to want something different.  I decided to buy the gear I thought fit me best and then plan on adjusting the fire as the hike went on.  

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Comments 12

  • Peter R : Apr 3rd

    Looks great, have fun! I have the Lunar Solo and am planning on using on my first thru, AT’24. Looking forward to hearing how you like it, as well as any changes you might make. Good luck, and have a ball!

    • Jonathan Carter : Apr 3rd

      Thanks. It went up pretty easy yesterday and it felt roomy enough.

  • Rosetta : Apr 3rd

    Long time no read Jonathan! What an interesting selection of equipment. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again, but I would love to steal your dog! He’s so cute!! Besides your dog, may-haps I will also steal your equipment! Haha, I’m just kidding. If I stole your equipment you wouldn’t go, and then it would be much harder for me to snatch Theodore Goldie Carter from his home (not yours, you know who’s really in charge). Anyways, I hope the retirement goes swell. I heard your super cool and awesome kid will be playing guitar- I’m so jealous of you. You really have a perfect life, with such a great dog and kid. Well, I had better stop writing before I get too enraged!
    P.S. You should give your kid 300$.

    • Jonathan Carter : Apr 3rd

      Thanks for the insightful comment. You must come from strong stock.

  • George in New Mexico : Apr 3rd

    I’m inspired, Bob, you taking the challenge of the CDT right out of the AF.

    Having found hiking since moving to New Mexico 13 years ago, now how wish that I would have discovered it when I retired from the AF 36 years ago (but that was in Virginia, not New Mexico). Now I hike out-and-back on the CDT when I come across a trailhead (like Mt Taylor, or San Pedro Parks, or Cumbres Pass), and maybe I will do a short section backpacking this summer.

    I look forward to following your trek, perhaps catching up with you as you transit the Land of Enchantment. Best wishes to you, your family … and the dog.

    george (

  • Cynthia : Apr 4th

    Have you tried camping with an electric fence in bear country? They’re waking up now. I used to camp with a knife by my sleeping bag so I could rip the tent to get out if one came in despite my efforts to keep a clean camp.

    • Jonathan Carter : Apr 4th

      Nope. I’ll hang my food and carry bear spray when I’m in Grizzly country.

  • Lynn Fuller : Apr 4th

    Love your Brittany!! My husband and I raised, showed, and hunted Brittany’s for many years. Does your dog hike with you?

    • Jonathan Carter : Apr 4th

      He does, but not on this trip. He loves to run off-leash, and anything longer than 10 miles is taxing.

  • D : Apr 4th

    Writing this without even trying the gear one time is hilarious.

  • Gayle Simper : Apr 27th

    Just a few more days!! I’m excited to hike this trail ‘with’ you!

    • Jon : Apr 27th

      Thanks. I’m getting excited about writing about actually hiking instead of preparing.


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