Inside the Pros Packs: Terry “Serial” Klott of A Trail Life
There are few people on earth I admire more than the good folks at A Trail Life: Jill “Minutes” Bandur and Terry “Serial” Klott. The duo perfectly embody what makes the AT the truly unique and wonderful experience that it is.
During my thru-hike in 2011, they went way above and beyond to make Whoop! (my hiking partner) and I to not only feel comfortable by welcoming us in their home, but downright spoiling us: chauffeuring us around town (and to the airport), homemade dinners (and beer), an evening of board games (and Family Guy)…the list goes on and on. And it is these memories that I cherish most, reinforcing my belief that the experience of a thru-hike extends far beyond the white blazes.
I knew Minutes going into the trail (her brother is a good friend); I wouldn’t meet Serial until first arriving into Damascus. As it turns out, he is a backpacking ninja. Not only had he thru-hiked the AT a couple of years before (and many other long section hikes), but his 9-5 was to shed gear knowledge at Sundog Outfitter.
I asked Serial to shed some more knowledge for our new series, “Inside the Pros Packs“. Because with an ocean of gear information available to you, sometimes the smartest way to pack your pack, is to mock the pros. Below is what’s inside Serial’s. Enjoy.
Inside the Pros Packs with Terry “Serial” Klott
Thru Hiker, 5500+ miles on the AT
Favorite Appalachian Trail story
I remember my first night on the AT like it was yesterday. I was at Black Mountain Shelter, it’s around 9:30 at night and I’m lying in my tent hearing all the noises of the forest. I’d never really heard the countless crackling and scampering that goes on in a spring, Georgia forest before. I remember sticking my head out of the tent with headlamp on full beam trying to decipher what I was hearing while all these bugs started flying around my face. I just laid back down and tried to sleep, contemplating my new surroundings.
Gear / packing philosophy
I generally shove things into my pack in a sorta organized, haphazard manner. I try and bring as few stuff sacks as possible, so after I shove in the big stuff, I stick clothes and food and whatever into crevices to get as even a pack as possible.
I’ve used tons of bags, from REI to Kelty to Granite Gear to ULA. This is one area where comfort is the most important aspect. As my gear got lighter, I’ve gone to more minimalistic packs, but it’s always helpful to have hip belt pockets for snacks, camera, map, etc.
Hitting the AT around early/mid march, I’d recommend a 0-10 degree bag. For whatever reason, it seems people don’t fully appreciate the potential cold weather possibilities that Georgia poses, let alone, what they will actually face in the Smoky Mountains. Having a bag that is well prepared for the coldest possible temps is the smartest way to assure a good night sleep. It’s easy on warmer nights to unzip the bag and use it like a quilt as compared to putting all your clothes on and trying to get a full night’s rest in the fetal position. Trust me. For trips later in March or early/mid April, I’d suggest a 15-20. Again, snow is a real possibility in the Smokies even leaving this late.
Lots of people debate synthetic verse down bags for an AT hike. When I first started, I used a synthetic 20 degree bag from REI and it kept me warm most nights. While being fairly inexpensive, it was almost 4 pounds. Since, I’ve splurged on a down bag with waterproof stuff sack and have never had a problem. It’s a 2.5 pounds, 10 degree bag made by Rab. Real nice.
Tent / Shelter
If I’m hiking by myself, I’ll bring out the Big Agnes Copper Spur 1. For me, its durability is more important than the few ounces I could save by going with the Fly Creek. One thing I think is real important for a two-person tent is having a second door. That second door really makes getting in and out a lot easier and normally provides a second vestibule, which is convenient place to stash dirty boots, water bottles and whatnot.
I’ve always found silk liners to be flimsy and easily destroyable. If I’m bringing a liner, it’s made of fleece. For longer hikes, they are generally recommended to help keep your sleeping bag from getting overly oily on the inside. I stick with Sea to Summit fleece. Super comfortable and durable, it’s held up for thousands of miles.
I’m using the Big Agnes Insulated Pad, it’s durable and super comfortable. There’s a product called the Instaflator that is designed to help blow the pad up. Makes it super easy and saves breath.
Footwear (hiking + camp)
Lately I’ve been in love with my Salomon 3D Pro Ultra 2’s. They are super-durable and breathable. Shoes like this may get wet quicker, but they will dry quicker. For something a little more solid, I’ve used Keen Targhee II shoes with great results. The only downside to these shoes is they took forever to dry on rainy days.
Socks: Wool blends for me; Fits, Swiftwick, Darn Tough
Underwear: Synthetic boxers
Base layer: Champion (synthetic Target Brand) or wool (expensive, but well worth it)
Mid layer: I love my Patagonia Capilene 3. It’s been around for years, still looks hiker fashionable and works like a charm. Most durable and dependable piece I own.
Outer/heavy layer: Montbell Therm-a-Wrap Jacket. Lightweight and warm. This is where there are a lot of options and one’s budget really does determine the quality (weight vs. warmth ratio).
Shorts: North Face Class V shorts. Awesome durability, quick drying and they come with a liner (which I love).
Pants: North Face convertibles or really convertibles in general. Having pants and shorts in one is helpful. Plus, they are super durable and can easily last the rigors of a long distance hike.
Gloves: I always recommend waterproof gloves. On cold, rainy days, fleece gloves will inevitably get wet and then become hard to dry. A thin pair of cheap cloth gloves might be nice for hiking in, but a thin waterproof pair will be good for early morning camp.
Hat: Bring a hat.
Rain jacket: I have a Montbell Versalite. Rain coats are a tricky thing, but here’s a general rule of thumb. The more breathable a jacket is (eVent let’s say), the less warm it will keep you, but the easier it is to hike in. Something like gortex or general polyester style coats, may not breathe as well, but they will keep you warmer when hanging out at night. Whichever you choose, I always look for pit zips (unless it’s an eVent jacket which generally don’t come with’em) because that is a great way to temperature control.
I love my Jetboil. It’s an easy stove to start up and it’s by far more efficient than any alcohol set up. When it’s cold and poopy out, it’s nice to be able to fire up the JB and get a hot cup of cocoa in minutes, while others are still waiting on their set up. The thermal wrapping on the cup will keep liquids/food warm for a long time and make cooking a bit easier than in non-insulated pots.
The one piece of cookwear that I’d recommend is the Sea to Summit Alpha Long Spoon. Long spoons make eating out of a pot or Mountain House size bag a ton easier.
They are all pretty similar, but the Dueter system opens up a bit wider and makes cleaning the bladder a ton easier.
For hydration around camp, I bring my 96oz Nalgene Cantene and fill that up. While hiking, I typically just rely on a couple of 32oz Gatorade bottles. Lighter than Nalgenes and just as durable. However, Nalgenes can be used as “hot rocks” by filling them with boiling water on colder nights.
For charging of electronics, I found the Brunton Inspire to be perfect. It’s about 5.5oz and recharges my iPhone 2.5 times.
I use Leki poles with cork handles. Cork handles feel a ton more comfortable after longer use than that standard handle makeup.
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