5 Things I Wish I’d Known Before Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Looking back at significant life events, I’m sure most folks would…
I know this post is cutting into the journey–but, a video was posted on the vlog a few months back showing what exactly I carried in my pack. I mentioned adding a list onto the blog including links to the gear I used. Thankfully, a reader just reminded me that I have not yet posted it. So, without further delay–here is my gear list. Some of the links below are through my Amazon affiliate account. If you click on the image, it will pull up the details and price.
SHELTER & BEDDING
I started my journey with an ENO Double Nest Hammock and slap straps. I made my own rain fly and bug net.
I slept very well in the hammock. However, I was not an experienced hammock camper and decided to swap to a tent. I chose the Fly Creek UL2. There is only a 4 ounce difference between the one and two person version. I like being able to spread my stuff out in my tent, so the extra ounces were worth it for me.
Rather than purchasing a footprint, I opted to use a piece of Tyvek under my tent. It wasn’t the perfect size, but it was functional and much cheaper. However, if you prefer the actual footprint, there is one available.
There are pros and cons when considering down vs. synthetic bags. I will provide more details in my e-book, but after weighing my options and what would work best for me, I chose the Sierra Designs Zissou 23-Degree 700 Fill DriDown Sleeping Bag. It was a men’s bag, but I did not care about color and it was cheaper than the pink/purple options in the women’s section.
Sleeping Bag Liner
I began my journey with a baby blue foam closed cell mat. I read about foam vs. inflatable pads and after seeing the price difference, I decided to tough it out and save money. In New Jersey, I decided I couldn’t stand to sleep on the foam pad one more night, so I hitched to town and splurged on a new, inflatable, heavenly sleeping pad that is the ThermaRest Neo Air. If you sleep on your side or stomach go ahead and purchase an inflatable pad. You’ll thank me later!
Boots/Trail Runners/Camp Shoes
After swapping to trail runners (which I prefer), I had 3 different pair of Salomons. I LOVE this brand and would say it was the most popular brand on the AT. My first pair was a woman’s style trail runner and they were gore-tex.
My next pair of Salomon’s I bought at Trail Days in Damascus. I ended up with a men’s style. I ended up with another pair of this same trail runner in New Hampshire and finished out with them. This was probably my favorite of all.
The third pair I wore was also a men’s trail runner. I actually like men’s color selection better.
I wore two different types of camp shoes. At first, I wore Teva strap on shoes. They were heavier than my second pair, but I could wear socks with them. Many people also wear Crocs. It’s all about your preference.
To wear with socks – No socks (or toe socks) –
There are a ton of options when it comes to socks! After trying Patagonia, SmartWool and Darn Tough, I would say my favorite brand is Darn Tough. It makes me sad to diss SmartWool like that, because I’ve always loved them. I even slept in a thick pair of them at night. But, you just can’t be the lifetime guarantee that Darn Tough offers. If you are going to have wool socks, might as well buy a quality pair. If you’re going to pay for a quality pair, might as well make sure they will last for life. I did not care for the Patagonia brand at all, so I did not include the link for those. Most of the socks I wore at some point on the trail are below:
Insoles are one of those pieces of gear that is difficult to really recommend. Everyone’s feet are different. I know people who never wore special inserts, but some will swear you have to. I wore three different brands during my hike. The first was the SOLE brand. I liked them because you heat them in the oven and then step onto them in your boot/shoe to form them to your foot.
After my feet swelled A LOT, I decided to try to mix things up. I had heard people rave over Superfeet, so I gave those a shot. Honestly, I can’t personally tell you that I felt a difference in the two. But, again, everyone’s feet are unique!
In Pennsylvania, I ended up with a terrible case of plantar fasciitis. I tried to remedy the problem in multiple ways, but one of the things I feel truly helped was the Dr. Scholl’s inserts for plantar fasciitis. I have continued to wear them, even after the trail.
CLOTHES & RAIN GEAR
I carried a puffy coat, even in the summer. I chose an REI jacket with synthetic fill and a hood. This may not be the exact one, but it’s close. I LOVED having a hood on my coat.
Long Sleeved Shirt
When it was very cold, but not raining. I would wear my Under Armour long sleeved top. If it was raining, I kept it (and my jacket) put away so I would have something warm and dry to sleep in. I really liked the thumb holes in the sleeves of this shirt–especially because I did not have gloves.
I wore this North Face tank top and rotated out with another one (from Wal-Mart) for a while. At the end of my trip, I sent the Wal-Mart one home to lighten my load. You only really need one, I promise!
I wore Patagonia shorts. They were on sale and seemed like they would be durable and dry quickly. They worked wonderfully for me the entire trail. I kept them even when it was cold for fording rivers or to wear under my rain pants.
I rotated between two sports bras throughout the trail. They were the same brand (bcg), but different colors. In Pennsylvania, I sent home one of them to save weight. It was similar to this:
I used two pair of underwear the whole trail. I had heard wonderful things about ExOfficio underwear from both women and men–and the rumors were true. They are amazing! The selling point for me is they are made to reduce odors…which is nice when you rarely bathe.
Women’s – Men’s –
Rain Coat & Pants
After buying the rest of my gear, I realized I probably wouldn’t be able to spend a ton on rain gear. To be honest, you’re going to probably end up wet anyway, if it rains long enough. For my rain suit, I opted to go with the ‘not so cute’ Frogg Togg outfit. If I end up with an extra couple hundred dollars at some point, I might invest in some fancy, light rain gear with ‘pit zips. But, for a tight budget, Frogg Toggs are the way to go.
COOKWARE & WATER FILTRATION
I used the MSR Pocket Rocket for the duration of my hike. I really like it a lot. It’s compact, durable and light weight.
I wanted a lightweight pot, but didn’t want to pay for titanium. So, I opted to go with aluminum. It is recommended to avoid cooking and eating with aluminum. But, I figured since I wasn’t using deodorant on the AT, I was offsetting my aluminum consumption. This is the simple grease pot I used.
By no means is this a necessity. But, I like to drink my coffee while eating breakfast, so a few more ounces of weight was worth the convenience to me. The Sea-to-summit Collapsible Cup takes up very little space. I was worried about it tearing up, but this bad boy trucked through 14 states with me.
I began with the Sawyer Squeeze (the larger size, not the mini). It’s fairly inexpensive, light enough and does the trick! After a couple months, due to me over tightening, the filter gasket started tearing up. Then, the dirty water bag busted. The bags are replaceable and I’m sure the gasket is, as well. I would definitely use this system again.
In Virginia, I decided to try a new filtration system and selected the Platypus Gravity Filter. I love it. You simply fill the dirty water bag, hang it up, and wait for gravity to do the work for you. Easy, peasy.
This is the upgraded version of the SoundLogic XT charger that I used. It was lightweight and offered me at least two charges for my iphone 6.
The main thing to look for in a headlamp is BRIGHTNESS! You may think you only need it for wandering to the privy at night, but then next thing you know someone talks to into night hiking and you have the dimmest headlamp. I ditched my cheap $5-10 headlamp from Target within the first month. I upgraded (a little) to the Coast brand below. It lasted me my whole journey even through rainy nights. It could have been brighter, but again, it got me through. Other than brightness, you want a headlamp that has a red beam option, that way you aren’t blinding your fellow hikers.
For my 2017 PCT journey, I have upgraded a little more to a Black Diamond storm (below). I’ll let you know how it works out for me, but so far I’m pleased.
I wanted a lightweight, slick cord and what I chose was Z-Line. I never had any issues with this cord and plan to use it again in the future.
I did not need heavy duty carabiners because I only used them to clip onto my bear bag, and to hang my shoes from my pack while I was in town. I went with very light carabiners from Zpacks. Make sure you pay attention to the amount of weight you will be applying to the carabiners, as these are not meant to support the weight of a human.
I wanted a mid-priced trekking pole as I was on a budget. It’s all about personal preference, but I prefer a cork handles. They seem to absorb sweat better than foam. I am VERY pleased with the way my poles performed. I never had any issues with them slipping even though they are collapsible (which I would highly recommend for convenience while in town). They aren’t as light as other options, but I would definitely use them again…if I hadn’t lost them on Katahdin. Ha.
You will see all sorts of knives on the trail. I saw a lot of folks starting with Rambo knives, but I assure you a small, lightweight pocket knife is all you NEED. My knife was less than 3 ounces and fit well in my hip belt pocket. It’s all about functionality.
I never once used my pepper spray, nor did I hear of anyone else using theirs. However, it is a nice security blanket when hitch-hiking. To me it was worth a little extra weight for peace of mind. I’m sure my Mom would agree.
Okay, in the next couple days I will complete this list. Also, I would like to finish updating you on my AT journey, so I can write about all of the exciting new things presently happening in my life. Stay tuned–
If you did not see my gear video, you can watch it here:
Happy Trails 🙂