The Importance of Changing Up Your Gear During Your Thru-hike

When preparing for a thru-hike, it’s easy to get lost in the wormhole of sleep systems, shelters, what to wear and more. It’s overwhelming, and often feels like there’s no right answer.

The simple truth of the matter is that what works for you in Georgia may not be a fit for your needs in Pennsylvania. You’re walking across an entire country, spanning two or three seasons and endless changes in terrain.

Before you get even more overwhelmed, I want to assure you that this doesn’t mean you have to buy two or three versions of your gear choices. You just need a willingness to adapt (and sometimes a little creativity).

In previous posts I’ve spoken about my own gear swaps and drops as the summer season comes into full-swing. The number of changes I’ve made to my pack was unexpected — I honestly thought I’d take everything from Springer to Katahdin without exception.

READ NEXT: Transforming my Pack for Summer

Changing my gear didn’t necessarily mean breaking the bank either. My summer clothing swaps came from Wal-Mart and Dollar General. My shift from a tent to hammock system started with materials I already owned, and a few accessories from Amazon. I’ve seen thru-hikers drop their thermal sleeping bags for fleece blankets from local convenience stores.

Another great example of gear that should remain adaptable is your shoes. Your chosen footwear needs to be replaced a few times along the trail, so be sure to think about the weather and terrain you’re headed into as you think about replacing your foot ware. Some people stick with tried and true shoe options, while people like me swap between sandals and trail-runners depending on the trail.

Getting to trail and truly experiencing what you need for your hike is really the only way to narrow your gear choices. Luckily, stores like REI have superb return policies that make them a fan favorite for thru-hikers.

Similarly, if you choose to set up resupply boxes along the trail, you may find your needs change from what you originally thought. Having someone on the other end of those supply boxes can help swap things out as your needs change further into the trail.

There’s no perfect answer for what you’ll need to change or replace. For me, the biggest changes came in my shelter system, my shoes and food/water gear. However, many others on the trail haven’t thought twice about these same pieces of gear.

So, I can’t say there’s a right answer to all of our gear questions, but that also means there’s no wrong answer. Do what feels right and be willing to adapt and you’ll make it to Katahdin in no time.

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