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.
WHAT TO TAKE, WHAT TO TAKE . . .
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
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:
- what I am pretty sure I’ll need every day on the Trail,
- items that will be available in the camper to choose to
take on any given day as needed,
- and other supplies I’ll most likely use ONLY in the
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
Jim and I are both pretty anal-retentive like this! We have
to be, at our advanced age. J
ITEMS I'LL PROBABLY NEED EVERY DAY ON THE A.T.:
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
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
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
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
2. ITEMS AVAILABLE IN THE CAMPER IN CASE I NEED THEM ON A
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
3. ITEMS TO USE IN THE CAMPER:
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
necessary maps and guidebooks for the AT and connecting roads