Good gear for the Benton MacKaye Trail

Foggy morning on the BMTI’m halfway through my northbound thru-hike of the Benton MacKaye Trail and it has surpassed my expectations on so many levels. Once I’m done hiking and have a real desk and keyboard I’ll go into more details about this beautiful, lesser known sister of the southern Appalachian Trail. For now – at 5 am camped at a remote creek and pecking on my phone screen – I just want to offer a few thoughts on what the trail has been teaching me.

Umbrella and clip

My umbrella is a winner, especially with the clip to fasten it to my backpack. There’s been a good bit of rain on the BMT, but it’s not always strong and sustained. Instead it seems to come and go in waves of clouds and moisture. Constantly donning and doffing a rain jacket and pack cover (since my pack is nylon rather than water-shedding DCF) would be a chore that puts me off my hiking rhythm. Instead I can hike under my umbrella, with both hands free for my trekking poles. And it’s a psychic lift not to have rain pounding directly on my face and shoulders. It also allows me to take photos without getting my camera wet. And on the hot sunny days it’s kept me cooler. So: umbrella “for the win.”

Camp shoes

I’ve never taken camp shoes before, but have enjoyed them here. I had some toe discomfort – blister under a nail – early on, and my sandals helped me recover faster. But more importantly, the BMT has multiple creek fords, and it’s been great to be able to quickly slip off my Lone Peaks and socks and use my lightweight Teva-like Hurleys in the water. And my feet have felt wonderfully refreshed and rejuvenated when I’ve put my shoes and socks back on.

“Wide and long”

I’m so glad I’ve bought my quilt with wide and long options. The extra material has kept me from experiencing drafts. And a larger (2-person) Durston X-Mid Pro tent has given me room to spread out and pack up my gear indoors. It just feels better having a little more room around me.


I’ve loved my Tyvek groundsheet. It’s great as a comfortable sit pad, folded up. And I can spread it out to take a mini-siesta. It’s much more durable than my polycro sheet. And it sheds condensation much better than no groundsheet at all. Definitely worth the slight added weight over polycro.

Cold food

I’m glad I have my stove along as an option, but so far I’ve had several meals when I’ve been just as happy eating cold food and cold coffee. Last night I had a tortilla burrito consisting of peanut butter and crushed Fritos, with a Slim Jim on the side and a spoon of Nutella for dessert. I know it sounds kinda disgusting, but I loved it. And it was so easy!

Inflater bag

I’m also so happy with the inflater bag that came with my Thermarest sleeping pad. It’s a dual purpose item: it makes inflating my pad so much easier, and I can store my extra clothes in it. At camp I also throw in my puffy (and my rainwear, if dry), put the bag inside my fleece, and use it as a very soft and comfy pillow.


Finally, I’m glad I pre-treated my clothes, shoes, groundsheet and tent with Permethrin to guard against ticks. I wish I’d treated my pack as well. I haven’t seen a ton of ticks, but I’ve seen some, and that’s enough.

That’s it for now. I’ve learned and experienced so many other things – about nature, people and myself, and even about more gear – but I’ll save those thoughts for other posts. Happy hiking!

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