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.
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!
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!
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.
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.
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