Walking Distance #02 | “What’s in your Pack?” ft. Alan Dixon & Kelly Floro

In this episode of Walking Distance presented by The Trek and hosted by Blissful Hiker (Alison Young), we are joined by Alan Dixon, an outdoor guide and competitive athlete, and Kelly Floro, lead writer and content editor for The Trek. An elite kayaker and triathlon competitor, Alan grew up in California hiking Yosemite and the Sierra Nevadas. Alan has been backpacking since he was 5 years old, and helped found the ultralight backpacking movement in the early 2000’s. Kelly Floro’s first thru-hike, and basically first backpacking trip ever, was her 2016 thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. Since then, she’s become an accomplished adventurer and the lead writer for The Trek.

Blissful Hiker covers how to straddle the line between ultralight and luxurious hiking, how to feel you have “permission” to take whatever you need, and gives the 411 about testing gear before going on a long hike with it.

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Interview with Alan Dixon

3:15 – How did you get your start?

4:05 – How did you get into ultralight?

6:05 – Can you share what’s in your backpack that’s what you call “practical ultralight”?

6:48 – Why do you always bring a two-person tent?

7:55 – What about your pack? Do you use a frame or frameless?

9:00 – I find it interesting that it’s possible to make all these decisions to change your food, or pack in order to make your goal pack weight.

9:30 – For your sleep system, you recommended using a woman’s style sleep pad. Why?

10:10 – I’ve heard of ultralight backpackers even using bubble wrap as a sleeping pad – your set up seems like luxury.

11:30 – I hear you talking a lot about speed and hiking people into the dust. Do you really think you need to go fast?

12:58 – Alan is not a “gram weenie”; but lets a few sneak back in to make sure he’ll rest better. Ensure you have what you need to recover faster, and then hike faster.

14:10 – There’s a way to balance luxury and realistic packing. A post on Alan’s website even advertises a backcountry cup of coffee. 

Interview with Kelly Floro

16:55 – How did you succeed on the AT while being a beginner backpacker, and entering ultralight?

18:10 – Let’s go through the big three gear items, backpack, shelter and sleep items. What’s your backpack?

19:05 – What about your sleeping bag?

20:05 – What about for shelter?

21:00 – There is a benefit to hiking with someone because you can share things, such as cookware. Do you cook or do you cold soak?

22:07 – Tell us more about your food, you heat your water during winter?

23:15 – Is there anything else you think is a staple that people might not consider?

24:20 – You said you had been researching ultralight before your AT hike. What gear do you have that you would say is for sure ultralight?

26:20 – Is there anything you carry that an ultralight guru would think is a luxury?

26:58 – Did you figure this all out as you were hiking the AT?

29:02 – Alan and Kelly both gave us permission to take what we really need. But what you should also consider is extensively testing your gear before you set out on an expedition. 

Interview with Alan Dixon

29:15 – You should always go on a shakeout hike with new gear to see how it performs. When the weather predicted a 6 degree night, I sought out the extreme weather just to see how his gear would perform.

Get all of the Walking Distance Podcast episodes.


Kelly Floro’s writing for The Trek

Kelly’s ebook, “How to Afford a Thru-Hike”

Adventure Alan, blog by Alan Dixon

Alan’s gear lists

Kelly’s gear list

Suggested Appalachian Trail thru-hiker gear list

Suggested Pacific Crest Trail Trail thru-hiker gear list

Lightweight Backpacking and Camping by Ryan Jordan and Alan Dixon

About Alison Young

Alison Young, aka Blissful Hiker, is a former host and producer at American Public Media and professional flutist. She’s thru-hiked New Zealand’s Te Araroa and the Pacific Crest Trail, as well as long trails in South America, South Africa, Europe, Pakistan and all over the US. In her podcast The Pee Rag she shares personal essays from the trail along with collected sound. Her goal in life is to hike until she drops.

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