Sue, Jim & Cody on the 14,433' summit of MT Elbert, CO - The highest peak in the Rocky Mountains


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Runtrails' 2005 AT Journal
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PREP # 10:  GEAR AND SUPPLIES      March 7

“Chance favors the prepared mind.”  - Louis Pasteur


Montrail Hardrocks, ASO ankle supports, Streamlight 7-LED, Photon light

Camelbak H.A.W.G. pack

I’m glad I don’t have to be as fanatical about gear as a thru-hiker who’s carrying everything he or she needs to survive on his or her back for several days or weeks between mail drops!

One reason for so many early thru-hiker dropouts on the trail is carrying too much weight for their body size and level of fitness.

There’s an outfitter at Neel’s Gap in Georgia who is famous for helping newbies weed out unnecessary gear. He preaches practicality and low weight – what the hiker doesn’t use daily or need to keep warm should be immediately mailed home.

He’s saved more than one intelligent thru-hiker from an early DNF (intelligent because they listened to him).

I’m also taking that advice to heart, even though I’m “slack-packing” the whole way (hikers’ term for carrying a light day pack, also known as “freedom hiking”).

When I was choosing a new hydration pack I laid out the items I intend to carry with me on most days to be sure they would fit in the pack, but I have yet to weigh it. I’ve been training with it only about 2/3 full so far. I’ll add more items (or equivalent weight) as I get closer to leaving for the run.


A huge advantage that I have in using the camper every night is the ability to pick EACH DAY what I should wear and carry with me, depending on the terrain, expected weather conditions, and length of time I plan to be on the Trail.

I expect some trial and error. Again, flexibility and adaptation will be key to a pleasant journey (there's Rule #3 again!). I may have to buy some different gear or supplies along the way.

With that in mind, I’ll divide my gear and supplies into three main categories:

  1. what I am pretty sure I’ll need every day on the Trail,
  2. items that will be available in the camper to choose to take on any given day as needed,
  3. and other supplies I’ll most likely use ONLY in the camper.

To make sure I don’t forget Really Important Items, I have printed out multiple copies of a list that I can check off each time I’m getting my gear and supplies ready for the next run. I can use each sheet for a week.

Jim and I are both pretty anal-retentive like this! We have to be, at our advanced age. J


A hydration pack – My main pack is a Camelbak H.A.W.G., which is designed for cyclists, not hikers. It fits me the best of any packs I’ve tried this winter and has what appears to be adequate cargo capacity for a long day on the Trail (800 CI). It holds a 100-oz. bladder and can accommodate my 70-oz. bladder if I decide to carry it, too (see Prep9 re: my hydration plans).

The only thing I don’t like about this pack is no front access to any of the items I’ll need frequently. To remedy that, I use one or two nylon pouches in front on the wide waist belt to hold electrolyte capsules, t.p., my camera, map, etc.  Besides being convenient, the pouches also help distribute the weight a bit. I tried very hard to find a suitable new, lightweight pack with front pockets, to no avail.

For short days on the trail, I can borrow Jim’s smaller Camelbak Blowfish pack, use my old featherweight U.D. Ultimate Sports Vest with its handy front pockets, or wear my single-bottle waist pack with one or two pouches and carry a second bottle in my hand.

Gel flask holder – attaches with Velcro to shoulder strap of any of our hydration packs. We use the 5-oz. Hammergel flasks and fill them from the large bottles of gel we buy. Extra flasks will ride in the back of the pack until needed.

20-oz. or 32-oz. U.D. water bottle and hand strap – for energy drinks (I’ll keep only water in the 100-oz. bladder). I’ll use a bottle and carry bags of extra powder on days I don’t take the 70-oz. bladder for my energy drink of the day. On hot days I like to use a neoprene Kuzie sleeve on the bottle to keep the contents cooler.

Potable Aqua and Aqua Mira water purification tablets

Electrolyte capsules (Endurolytes), Ibuprofen, Tums

That day’s map/itinerary – The Trail is pretty well marked with 2 x 6” white blazes the whole way, so much of the time I can probably just memorize my route. But some days I may really need the AT maps. Jim needs them to crew me, too. This is one of those things we’ll have to decide on a day-by-day basis. He’ll also have DeLorme maps so he can find obscure trailheads in our 4WD truck. (We’re still trying to decide if DeLorme’s TopoUSA software will work on our laptop computer, or if paper atlases will be preferable for us.)

Communication device(s) – This has been a frustration so far in our trip planning – finding FRS/GMRS radios that will work in the mountains for more than half a mile. I’d feel safer if Jim and I had a way to communicate with each other about any problems we’re having (injury, flat tire, etc.) and to coordinate our rendezvous each day.

So far, our cell phones with Verizon service have worked better than the two-way radios we’ve tried. But I don’t think the cell phones will be very useful on the Trail. So this remains a research project before we start the run. Guess we need to investigate satellite radios next (any suggestions by readers would be appreciated).

Digital camera – I’ll use our little ergonomic Nikon Coolpix 4100 so we can include one or more photos on each day’s journal during the trek. I’ll put it in two plastic bags when I’m crossing creeks without bridges, in case I fall in!

Trekking pole – helpful up steep inclines and across creeks; not as useful downhill and on flats. I’ve never used two at a time like hikers (and some ultra runners) do, and probably won’t on this run. I want one hand free for a water bottle, dog leash, whatever.

ID, medical insurance card, phone card, and a small amount of money in a plastic bag

Toilet paper and moist towelette in plastic bag

Small blister kit

Emergency kit with Photon light, Streamlite 7-LED flashlight, whistle, matches, space blanket

Sunblock and bug spray, as needed

Clip-on sunglasses and Croakies to keep my glasses on

Cool-Off neck bandana – good for many purposes

Tiny ruled notebook and pen – to remember names, make notes about things I’ve seen, send a note ahead to Jim in an emergency, etc.  Not all the trail registers have pencils or pens, and I want to sign all of them. Some hikers use stickers or stamps with their names on them. I might use the “Runtrails & Company” sketch (see Prep12) on address labels to use in the numerous trail registers. I won't be the first to use stickers!

Food and beverages discussed in Prep9.

Footwear – Montrail Hardrock trail shoes (I also wear Vitesse and Leona Divides, but will probably use the Hardrocks most on this run); thin Spenco inserts under custom-made orthotics; Injinji tetratsoks (individual toes) with regular Coolmax socks over them, or just Thorlo light hikers with wool if I’m not having blister problems; and ASO ankle supports to stabilize my trashed ankles

Clothing du jour – shorts, loose tights (is that an oxymoron?), and/or pants with zip-off legs; sports bra and one or more shirts; maybe a nylon vest; headband and visor

Spare clothing when I’m in mountainous areas (most of the trek!) in case the weather gets cold or wet – Marmot Precip jacket and pants, gloves, wool headband, fleece cap, extra long-sleeved shirt or wind shirt, dry socks


Clothing options – extra shorts, tights, pants, jackets, vests, socks, headbands, shoes, gloves, hats, etc.

Other shoes – I’m used to having several pairs of shoes that I rotate often. That will be especially important on this trek so they can dry out thoroughly between wearings (have I mentioned there’s a LOT of rain on the AT??) and so I can alternate different models if/when I get blisters.

Spare ankle supports – my current ones have about 3,000 miles on them and they aren’t going to last another 2,300 miles (that includes Vermont 100 in July).

Gaiters – only if I’m having major debris problems. I don’t like to wear them with the ankle supports because of the hassle if I need to take my shoes off when I’m on the trail.

Other hydration vests mentioned in first category; spare bladders and water bottles

The second trekking pole in case something happens to the first one

Spare glasses and sunglasses

More flashlights and batteries


Full blister kits and Jon Vonhof’s latest “Fixing Your Feet” book – lubricants, powders, tapes, bandages, adherents, alcohol, Second Skin, scissors, etc.

The Stick to work on sore muscles and a wooden foot roller with ridges – both feel great after a long day on the trail

Cold packs and ice in plastic bags for inevitable sore and/or swollen body parts

Laptop computer, printer, topo software, and related equipment

All the necessary maps and guidebooks for the AT and connecting roads

Happy trails,

"Runtrails & Company" - Sue Norwood, Jim O'Neil, Cody, and Tater

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© 2005 Sue Norwood and Jim O'Neil