With each hike I refine my gear list with the goal of a lighter pack, better dependability, more functionality or from learning the hard way. No two hikers will agree on equipment; gear is the main topic of trail talk. I hike primarily in spring and fall, avoiding hot and cold extremes. A basic checklist is followed by details and some explanations / options.
|Tent or shelter (poles, stakes, ropes,)|
|Pack rain Cover (big enough to cover anything tied outside your pack)|
|Sleeping bag liner|
|Food (in a waterproof sack to hang from trees or bear poles) (see AT Menu.)|
|Cook gear (Pot, lid, 1 drinking/measuring cup, 1 spoon, handle, pot scrubber)|
|Wallet - money and ID, credit card, travelers checks|
|Always with you: Pocket knife, Whistle, Compass, Lighter and waterproof matches|
|Medicine - vitamins (Whatever YOU may need.)|
|First Aid kit|
|50 feet nylon rope (1/8 dia, nylon parachute cord or equiv)|
|Water Bottle/canteen (1 qt)|
|emergency space blanket (doubles as ground cloth)|
|stove (spare parts, windscreen)|
|2.5-gallon water sack|
|maps (and or trail guide)|
|toothbrush (Shorten handle for lightweight)|
|toothpaste (get a small sample size from dentist)|
|Ziploc Bags (1 2-gal, 2 1-gal, 2 qt freezer bags, 3 sandwich bags).|
|List of phone #s and contacts|
|Radio (Shorten handle for lightweight)|
|Pen/pencil (I wrote notes on back of trail guide pages.)|
|Spare eyeglasses or contacts|
|Contact lens solutions|
|could be improved upon|
A TENT gives you bug protection and the option of camping almost anywhere if need be. Tent useful if it gets colder than expected (additional sleeping bag layer) in a shelter. A tarp - ditto, but with no bug protection. TENT gives you flexibility if shelters are full. Mine: Eureka Bivvy. **** Light, airy, dry, easy to pitch. Bulletproof. Option: eliminate and go shelter to shelter or sleep under stars.
BACKPACK. Make sure 1. It is comfortable when loaded with 40 or so pounds of gear and food. It must fit you properly and not sway back and forth when rock hopping or stream jumping - this will throw you off balance. 2. Make sure it has the needed capacity for your gear and length of stay. 3. It must be rugged and not fall apart on the trail. The great debate rages between internal and external frames. They both have advantages and disadvantages. My choice: KELTY TREKKER. *** and ½* I love its adjustments. It fits great and I can easily shift the load from my hips to shoulder and vice versa. It holds plenty and is very rugged and dependable. It is a bit heavy and I may experiment with a lighter pack. Stay tuned. (I tried a Camp Trail Adjustable II * with disastrous results - it ruined my hike by falling apart after only 200 miles.)
FIRST AID KIT: Enough Band-Aids to last between re-supply (at least 15), 1 roll each 2" & 4" gauze, 1 Ace bandage (long 2.5"), tweezers, Extractor (snake & bug bite), Neosporin and iodine antiseptic, latex surgical gloves. Ibuprofen, daily max dose enough to last to re-supply.
SLEEPING BAG - 35 degree rated North Face *** mummy. - light and small, adequately rugged, warm enough for 20 degrees with liner and clothes.
BAG LINER - homemade Poly fleece 3 ft wide, 6 " long with 16" foot pocket sewn in bottom. Doubles as shawl or skirt on cool nights or when clothes are drying. On warm nights, sleep under on top of bag.
SLEEPING PAD - keeps you warm, dry and padded - well worth the weight, but get the lightest one you can bear. I use 14 oz full length Ridgerest closed cell foam. Great.**** I tried others, and none.
CLOTHES: Must be either Quick dry nylon or Coolmax blend or poly fleece or wool. No cotton. My preference: Pack minimal and light and wash clothes on the trail. See Laundry. PANTS: 100% nylon Sportif ***** with zip off legs (pants become shorts) , many pockets, soft fabric Brushed nylon, VERY FAST DRY and wind resistant. T-Shirts and Underpants: Duofold Coolmax *****quick dry polyester. Reserve warmth: Wool long sleeve shirt and wool knit cap - keep you warm even when wet. Others prefer fleece, especially if sensitive to wool.
SOCKS: Polypropylene Ultimax *** wicking sox in combination with THORLO Hiking socks ***** - an unbeatable combination, almost blister proof.
STOVE: A real conundrum. Eliminate pounds, stove, fuel and cook kit - carry food that needs no cooking. Now, that is LIGHT! I may try that on a future hike. But if you want a stove that is light, dependable, fast cooking and easy on fuel, get the MSR WHISPERLITE. ***** One 22 oz fuel bottle (refill at any gas station) lasts 8 days cooking 2 meals/day. Propane stoves: what a pain, carrying the extra weight of cylinders - especially empty ones - You never know your fuel level. I've never run into a dissatisfied Whisperlite user on the trail but many other stove owners have gripes. On the AT, more and more areas are restricting campfires. Smoke gets in your eyes. Romantic but not practical.
WATER FILTER - Another conundrum. Options: Drink water "as is" and wind up so sick you wish you were dead if you aren't. Tablets/pills/chemical purification. Personally, I prefer chemical free water that tastes like water. Boiling. Takes lots of time and extra fuel, but a better option than a or b. Filter disadvantage: weight and cartridge life. Advantage: peace of mind and good tasting food/water. My choice: PUR HIKER. **** I've seen and used many others along the trail but none that make me want to switch.
WATER SACK - 2.5 gallon STEARNS. Nothing to get excited about except when water is ¼ mile away - and down 600 feet from the shelter or trail. Then it pays to have a sack that is rugged and dependable and only weighs 4 oz. Doubles as a spare water bottle for that trek across a dry mountain ridge. ****
RAINWEAR: I spent big bucks for a 40 ounce breathable waterproof top name parka that isn't. When you hike and exert you sweat and get soaked from the inside out even with the zipper pits wide open and the front just snapped. I have never seen or heard of (from real people on the trail) a waterproof rain parka the breathes enough to prevent you from getting soaked in your own sweat. That being the case, why not pack and wear a water and windproof lightweight (14 oz vs 40) nylon parka? I did and 2 weeks of hiking in cold fog, wind and rain proved I made the right decision. I was wet - and warm. Same as in the big heavy expensive parka. The lightweight CAMPMOR Backpacker II parka***** was great; 1/3 the weight and 1/5 the cost.
FLASHLIGHT: Until my last trek, I considered the venerable Mini Maglight as indispensable. But I am a convert to the all new LED LITHIUM MICROLIGHT. ***** Maglight lasts about 5-6 hrs on two AA batteries, so I carried spares. Weight: 6 ounces. LED Lithium MicroLight lasts 30-40 hrs on two lithium button cells, gives a real BRIGHT light, is tiny, rugged and WEIGHS just ½ ounce. I see why so many other hikers are carrying them.
COOKWEAR: I've seen it all from tin cans with a wire bail, to UK military issue and it all boils down to what are your needs and what are you willing to carry? Being a minimalist, I prefer ONE POT cooking. I use the MSR stainless steel *** 3 liter pot with a lid that doubles as a fry pan. (I use only one of the two pots in the set.) I wish it were aluminum. But SS cleans nicely and is rugged. I pack my stove and single spoon in it. I will continue my search for a pot configured the same but made of lighter aluminum. (Personally, I have seen where the non-stick pans don't work out so well on the trail.) I don't need titanium, or silver or gold, either.
BOOTS: Highly individual choice. I have tried and hiked hundreds of miles in sneakers, trail runners (leather/fabric combo), and waterproof lightweight leather. The main thing is FIT, FIT, FIT. They MUST FIT you properly WITH HEAVY HIKING SOCKS or you may as well stay home because you will surely wish you had. 1. Get a good fit with hiking socks. 2. Break them in along with ALL your other gear and your body. If you do long distance backpacking, most assuredly your feet will get bigger. My foot size has increased one whole size from my always was a 9 to my now I'm a 10! My most comfortable, least foot-problem hike was 285 miles in my lightweight leather TIMBERLAND**** hiking boots - after they broke in . When they wear out, I hope I can get more exactly like them. I pack and wear sneakers around camp at night, or for the occasional roadwalk.
SNOWPROOF boot dressing*****. Hard to find. Harder to beat. It simply is the best. My feet stayed dry in this spring's soggy hike only because of Snowproof. Dry despite tromping for 8 to 10 hrs daily in mud and wet brush and rain. Water beads up. Every other day (30 miles) I re-applied and enjoyed dry feet. (see also Socks). Keeps leather so nice and soft.
CAMERA: Optional for most, essential for me since photography is such a big part of the hike. I bought a Samsung Maxima Zoom 105GL (38-105 mm) primarily for backpacking. **** (My Canon A1 is just too big, heavy, expensive and delicate). I am very satisfied with the performance, its small size and 8 oz weight, and its features. Realizing its limitations as a mostly automatic camera (I really prefer manual), it took mostly satisfactory photos.
MAP and or TRAIL GUIDE: One, at a minimum is essential for safety. Both, and you probably will know where you are all the time and know where you can get that so badly need of-trail meal or phone to call home. It's a weight trade-off. The AT is well blazed and you can follow the blazes except in town and at road crossings. Also, I have seen areas where vandals have deliberately removed blazes and relocated the trail.
RADIO: A matchbook size AIWA AM/FM mini radio runs for 30-50?? Hrs on a single AAA battery,, earplugs only, sounds great, pulls in distant stations. Great for when your sheltermates are having a snoring contest - or for getting a weather report or news update. (Radio Shack has a similar one)
KNIFE: I have probably 40 pocket and belt knives of all sizes and description,. My favorite for the trail as well as everyday life in the country is the GERBER E-Z OUT ***** stainless steel with a ½ serrated blade. It really holds an edge, is quick to open, is rugged and lightweight. I took the silly belt clip off.
HYGIENE: Take your favorite bath soap (mine: Dial) and cut a bar into ¼'s, A quarter should last a week. A Coleman or equiv. Backpackers/camp towel, like an artificial car chamois, works great. Cut off a 4 x 8 piece for a washcloth . Get some 35mm clear film canisters, with tight fitting snap lids. Fill one half full with antibacterial dish detergent and the other with a weeks supply of shampoo (Avoid sweet smelling shampoo - bugs and bears may fall in love with you.) METHOD: Using as little as 2 liters water, (warm, if you must!) unless lots more is available, dampen washcloth, soap it up, wash critical body areas. Rinse by pouring small amounts of clean water into washcloth, then dry. Short hair facilitates shampooing. Wet hair, shampoo, - just a few drops-, rinse with wet washcloth. If you want to shave, use lather from soap and a disposable razor with the handle shortened. Soap, washcloth, towel, shampoo all weigh less than 6 ounces. Worth it to remain feeling fresh and clean. You'll be more welcome in that trailside restaurant.
LAUNDRY: When your hiking duds get smelly, put them in a 2-gallon Ziploc bag, cover with clean water. Add a few drops of dish detergent (see Hygiene) and agitate by hand inside bag 3 minutes. Dump water. Add fresh and rinse. Repeat rinse. Wring out, hang dry. This process cleans the clothes and greatly reduces odors.
RE-SUPPLY PACKAGES: Send to the post office of choice addressed as follows:
AT Hiker (your name)
C/O General Delivery
Town, State, ZIP-9999
SUGGESTIONS FOR RE-SUPPLY:
|Food (per list, spoilage is no problem.)|
|Batteries (if you'll need for radio, flashlight, camera)|
|Maps/guides (for your new trail sections)|
|Travelers checks or more money|
|Return labels (your home address)|