Appalachian Trail Shakedown

Nick and I purchased a bunch of new gear for the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT). We wanted to test out the gear on a shorter trip to see how it would work for us, also known as a shakedown hike, so two weeks ago we set off to hike the 42-mile Maryland section of the Appalachian Trail (AT). We based our plans loosely on this blog post.

We started off at Pen Mar park at the border of Pennsylvania and Maryland and ended at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Get it, Pen (Pennsylvania) Mar (Maryland)? I didn’t pick up on that until Nick mentioned it on the last day of our hike. We planned 5 days for the hike. We started Wednesday morning after spending the night at Nick’s folks’ place.

Maine 1080 miles, Georgia 920 miles. We went south.

I hadn’t been out backpacking since last season, so I was super excited get out there. I changed a lot about my set up, including my backpack, sleeping quilt (not bag), and hiking shoes. I knew I definitely needed to try these items out before the PCT next month!

So happy to be outside again!

The hike was successful and I’m really proud of our accomplishment! It was the longest hike that I’ve ever completed. There were challenges, but overall it was great!

Mama ducky and her ducklings on the Potomac river near Harpers Ferry, WV

Me being silly near the Washington Monument

I like my new gear, although I am still figuring out the kinks. Here is a list of some of my new gear:

  • Backpack: ULA Circuit
  • Sleeping Quilt: Katabatic Flex 15°F Quilt
  • Shoes: Hoka Speedgoat
  • Socks: Darn Tough
  • Sock Liners: Injinji Crew and Wool

Backpack: I really like this new backpack. I feel a lot of weight on my hips, and it’s much more comfortable than my over 10 year old Osprey bag. However, my shoulders still hurt a lot. Is this something that I’ll get over as my body gets used to the bag, or is it ill-fitting? I really can’t tell. Hopefully it will be fine on the trail.

Sleeping Quilt: It’s fantastic. The quilt is different than a sleeping bag because it doesn’t wrap all the way around your body. You hook it to side of your sleeping pad and can adjust the fit with little clips. I hate feeling trapped by a bag. I essentially used the quilt as blanket, which was super comfortable and wonderful. We were blessed to have wonderful weather along the trail, so I wasn’t able to test how warm it will keep me when it’s cold.

Shoes, Socks, and Sock Liners: This I still need to figure out. My feet were not in good shape at the end of the hike. I had lots of blisters and my right ankle was pretty sore. I wonder if this is something I will get used to or if I should change the set up. Perhaps I will try not wearing the liners next time, since I had a bunch of blisters in-between my toes.

Stunning viewpoint at Annapolis Rocks

Nick made an ultralight backgammon set out of felt and wood. This is us on a break at the Washington Monument.

I can’t wait to start our journey on the PCT! We met a bunch of cool thru-hikers along the way. It put me in the mindset of being one myself.

Do you see the tree frog?

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 10

  • Cactus : May 3rd

    Tell Elaine to get Hikers Goo at rei for feet and wrap individual toes with bandaids before hiking. Works great for me.

    • Elaine : May 3rd

      Thanks for the tip!

  • Dana : May 5th

    Don’t get used to pain! I have the 65L ULA Circuit pack. I carry between 17-30 pounds easily. Did you tweak the weight lifters on the shoulders? Try different loading to keep the heavier items mid to low close to your back? Did you carry a bear can on that trip? Take it somewhere where it can be checked for correct sise and adjustments!

    • Elaine : May 5th

      Thanks for the input, Dana. I have played around with the weight lifters on the shoulders. I’ve pulled them all the way in, but I still feel like I’m carrying a ton of weight on my shoulders. I haven’t had a chance to bring my bear canister on the trail, and based on what I’ve read from others, I’m a little worried about how that will work.

      • Ken : May 10th

        I always carried way to much weight. I went to a foam shop and had them cut me a strip of closed cell about 1/2″thick 2″ wide to put under my straps. You have to play with the shape until you get it to were it doesn’t work out when you walk. Is ends up being a laisey ‘s’ shape, or kinda like a boomerang.

  • Ken : May 10th

    Always carry mole skin for the blisters and use shoes that your toes don’t move so much on your down hill. Loose on uphill tight on downhill. Have fun when you come to our state. It’s nothing like the Appalachian trail. Get ready for elevation changes. You drive to 8,000 and the pass to the back will be 10,000 to 11,500, spectacular views that you will ever foget. I’m 76 now and remember every step. Have fun!

  • Ken : May 10th

    Oh I didn’t see any rope to hang the bear can. I went to a yacht ⛵ ING store and got 2 lengths of 1/4″ really strong line 25ft long.

  • Cindy : May 26th

    Hi Elaine, I have had the same issue with my feet, I now wear toe socks and have not had any more issyes

  • Earle Chase : May 26th

    The photo identification is incorrect (not a tree frog). The correct identification is a wood frog.


What Do You Think?