What Gear to Get for Your Section or Thru Hike on the Appalachian Trail (or any other)

You’ve made the decision, and set the date!  Or maybe you are still in the hypothetical imaginary ‘oh crap, I might actually do this’ phase — which by the way, means you have committed subconsciously and now your conscience mind is catching up.  Your heart is beating faster, and there’s a funny feeling in your stomach.  Also… you feel really happy.  Sound right?

Suddenly you start thinking about all the stuff you are going to need, and everything becomes overwhelming.  Happy tummy turns to nervous stomach and you feel your confidence slipping away.  I promise you, everything is going to come together right here and now.  This is such an exciting time, and I encourage you to keep researching all you can.  Hopefully with the information on putting together a base gear list (below) and your continued research on stuff, you will feel like you have a solid idea of what to pack for your overnight wilderness adventure, whether it is for one night or 6 months.


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FOOD, SHELTER, WATER:

These are the three things you need to provide yourself with so that basically – well, you don’t die in the woods.  Below I will break them down for you and create a list so you can literally just check items off once you have accumulated them.  This is your base list.  That means that if you have these items you are essentially good to go (and you have what most other hikers are carrying).  This does not include comfort items, and hygiene, which I will talk about after.  I will also talk about back packs.  Some items are connected to links to check them out on Amazon.  Yes, I get paid if you click and buy something from my ad, so thanks in advance!  Also, I only post ads of gear I use or know very well.

SHELTER:

Your shelter contains the gear needed to protect you from the elements.

  • TENT or HAMMOCK –  Decide on 1 person or 2.  Try to stay under 4lbs.  2lbs is ideal for tents.  I don’t know anything about hammocks but there are great forums on FB.
  • RAIN FLY (your tent should come with it, but double check)
  • SLEEPING BAG  – Consider the temperature you will be in and try to stay under 3lbs if possible.  They do make them very light at a price.
  • SLEEPING PAD (goes under the sleeping bag) – Consider the temperature you will be in and then get what you can afford.  Z-Lite Therm-a-Rest is common for beginners and experienced.
  • HEAD LAMP – While I know this isn’t a shelter, it is necessary while in your shelter.  I buy those $1 ones from Walmart and always leave one inside my tent when I pack it up so it’s always there.  The other I put in my pack for backup

WATER:

You will need to be able to filter your water from streams and water sources to protect against bacteria and viruses, and you will need to carry 2-4L of water.

  • WATER FILTRATION SYSTEM – Look at the Sawyer Mini, Platypus Gravity, and Aqua Mira Droplets, and decide which works best for you.  I use Aqua Mira Droplets and take the Sawyer Mini for back up.  Always carry the potable tablets for emergency.
  • WATER CARRIER – Based on your needs, you can carry a 2 or 3 liter water bladder inside your pack with the hose that hangs in front for easy use, or carry a few Nalgene or SMART water bottles with you on the outside of your pack to fill up and treat.  I do both because I am not a fast hiker so I need to carry lots of water to get me from one stream to the next.  I carry 2 liters in the bladder and 2 SMART water bottles full on outside of pack, or I just carry 4 liters of water in the SMART water bottles & Nalgene bottles.  Just depends on the space I have in my pack.  ALWAYS HAVE A BOTTLE OR 2 ON OUTSIDE OF PACK SO YOU DON’T HAVE ONLY THE BLADDER TO USE.  You can use it for gathering water or back up or to easily pour water into a pot to boil later.

FOOD

I’ll list basic ideas and you can customize it to suit you.  But before you can cook your food, you need something to cook it in and on and a way to make a fire.

  • STOVE – I will make it easy.  Look at MSR Pocket Rockets and a gas canister (what I have).  YouTube other camp stoves and pick one.  They are all pretty good.
  • POT & CUP – Get a non stick 750ml pot and a 450ml cup.  Done.
  • UTENSIL –  Get a spork with a long handle.
  • LIGHTER – I keep 3 because I lose one, and one gets wet.

What to eat:

Your food and water are going to provide the most weight to your pack.  The good news is as you eat and drink, your pack becomes lighter.  It’s heaviest the first day and then it’s downhill from there.  Whether you have a strict diet or a steel stomach, you can provide food for yourself.

  • Go with dehydrated / freeze dried meals whenever possible.
  • Dehydrate your own for fun and specialized meals.
  • Salt and calories and sugar are needed – plan on 3000 daily calories and up depending on your beastly hiking capabilities.  Seriously… this is not the time to worry about your weight, but it is important to make sure you replace electrolytes and have energy and protein to help you keep moving.
  • My food list goes like this:
  1. Breakfast:  Oatmeal (2 packets), coffee (instant) –I’ve been experimenting with Korean coffee which comes with individual packets with sugar and cream already combined
  2. Between meals snack (I keep in my pocket in Ziploc):  trail mix with added peanut butter m&ms and whatever nuts I am craving at the time.
  3. Lunch:  Vienna sausages or pre packaged tuna, or just some crackers.  (your body will let you know)  This is typically not a big meal but extension of the between meals snacks.  It’s a good time to rest and have a lil something to eat, filter water, tend to the feet, etc.
  4. Dinner:  You can purchase pre packaged dehydrated meals or just dehydrate your own.  I usually just buy pre packaged meals but I hate the high salt and they give me acid, though I love the way they taste!

**TIPS FOR COOKING** – Instead of cooking directly in your pot, prepare your meals in individual freezer bags.  Boil the desire amount of water in your pot, then pour that into your freezer bag and eat from there.  This way, you don’t have to clean your pot after you eat and dispose of water that has food particles in it that may attract bears and critters to your site.  Also, you might end up camping where there is no water to clean your pot and that gets gross later.  You can then burn or pack out your used freezer bags.

YOUR IDEAL WEIGHT FOR ALL OF YOUR GEAR COMBINED (INCLUDING HYGIENE AND FIRST AID AND COMFORTS) SHOULD BE UNDER 20LBS.  13-17LBS IS THE USUAL RANGE BUT DON’T PANIC IF YOU GO OVER.  JUST STAY UNDER 20 AND YOU MIGHT STILL LIVE…

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 BACKPACKS AND STORAGE:

So now that you have an idea of what you will need to take with you, let’s look at how you will carry your stuff.

Two essential items are a back pack and a dry bag for your food.  There are also smaller packs (ditty bag or other dry bags) to carry grouped items in, like clothes, toiletries, and first aid… and electronics.

The dry bag for food is where all your food will go at night along with trash and certain smellables like toothpaste.  I pack away my trash in its own bag and store it at night in my dry bag when I hang it.

BACKPACKS

If you like shopping for purses, it doesn’t get any less obsessive when shopping for packs.

I don’t want hurt your feelings, but if you are planning to spend any amount of time camping while hiking, do not look to Walmart to make it happen for your backpack choice.  You have got to get something that is specifically engineered to protect your back and shoulders, otherwise you will be miserable!  Even for one night worth of camping, it is going to be significant weight, so do not skimp on your pack.  Obviously, there are those super humans or those still under 21 who feel no pain on their shoulders and knees yet, but for the average person.. heed these words!

With the right pack, you should be able to comfortably carry 30lbs of stuff.  This includes food and water!!  Without your food and water, you are looking to carry 13-17lbs, not to exceed 20lbs. When I am not paying attention, my food and water weigh 23lbs, so add that to my other stuff, and it could be way too heavy for comfort.  Remember — you are camping, not trying to make sure you have something to cover every comfort need you have.

  • The easy solution is to get fitted for an Osprey, an REI brand (the Flash is awesome), and a Deuter, and see which one you like.
  • If that is not an option, measure your torso and your belly and find the size that works for you in your price range.
  • I would totally shop on EBay and on FB gear shops for better deals.
  • Talk to your hiker friends and get their opinions too

FOOD STORAGE

As mentioned earlier, you need a dry bag (AKA Bear Bag) to store your food.  This bag will be hung outside and away from your tent, so you want to make sure it is water proof.  Generally a 12-14L bag is big enough.  Don’t forget a cord or rope to hang your bag.  Don’t get too caught up on whether it says bear bag or dry bag.  They are essentially the same – mostly.

Walmart brand or something from Sea to Summit is fine.

Also, you will want dry ditty bags for storing your clothes, meds, comforts, toiletries, and trash (already in their own bags, don’t  just throw trash in there).  Walmart has great selections, prices, and sizes.


THE REST OF THE STUFF

HYGIENE

Forget deodorant.  I promise.

  • baby wipes
  • hand sanitizer
  • Ziploc bag for packing out used baby wipes.
  • toothbrush/paste

FIRST AID

  • two bandaids per day
  • mole skins (pre cut)
  • aspirin, ibuprofen, Tylenol (or whatever your cocktail is)
  • snake bit kit
  • Benadryl
  • small toenail clippers (trust me)

COMFORT

  • To each his own.
  • I bring a Kindle and ear phones to listen to audible books at night.  It helps.
  • Sleep aids:  It’s common to use them on the trail to help relax at night especially if you have a fear of the noises you can’t see.  Personally, I can be dog tired and become wide awake the moment I am all tucked in.  I take otc cheap-o’s and plug in my favorite book on my Kindle, set the timer to 1 hour.
  • Don’t forget your meds
  • Some people bring little bottles of olive oil to cook with, and salt n pepper.
  • camp soap
  • CAMP SHOES!!!! A MUST HAVE.  Flip flops, Crocs, whatev.  Take your boots off and let your feet breathe!
  • HIKING POLES:  The answer is yes.  Always!  Even superman needed a cape.

Thanks for reading this!  I hope it helped in some way.  Please leave comments and questions below and sign up for other posts!

STAY STINKY!

 

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