The Gear Post

Ah, the infamous gear post has arrived. As I’ve spent the last year obsessing about thru-hiking, gear research has occupied a lot of that time. Apart from following 2012 AT thru-hikers along their hikes last year, I always looked for their gear lists. I assessed and re-assessed each piece of gear. What could I do without? How can I lower my pack weight? What makes this piece of gear better than this one? Can I find this at a lower cost? I had so many questions and I’m not joking when I say that there were a few days last year where I pretty much spent all day online researching gear. I’m not going to come out and say that I’m an expert in any way on gear. I’ve done my best to compile everything that I learned and create a system of gear that works for me. It’s more than likely that I will send some things home and buy new gear along the way. Things may break or I may find something that works better than what I have. I’m prepared to be flexible.

I’ve already listed all of my gear in the “Gear” section of my blog so you can always check that out too for a list form with the brand names as well. Now that I’ve got everything in one place and organized, I’ve got plenty of photos to share.

At the moment, my pack weight is around 18 lbs. without food and water. I have a feeling it may end up being more once we start, but I’m trying my hardest to keep my base weight at 20 lbs. or less.

This is everything.
This is everything. Whoa.

So that’s it. Well, almost all of it. I’m missing a few smaller items like my camera (since I used it to take the photo obviously) and a couple of stuff sacks, but that’s pretty much all of my gear. A bit deceiving because this also includes the clothes that I’ll be wearing while hiking and our shared gear that we will be splitting between us. When I sent this photo to my dad he had two comments:

1. “That’s all you’re going to have for 6 months?”  

2. “All of that is going to fit into your pack?”

Two very valid questions, dad. Although he said these comments in jest, it’s true. It’s not a lot. But it’s the essentials and what I’ll need to survive out there on the trail. And no fear! I’ve already arranged and re-arranged the gear in my pack several times and it all fits with room for my food stuff sack and water! It was a very exciting day I might add. There may be more exciting things in life like graduating from college or buying a new pair of jeans for example, but that day nothing could make me happier.

Now I’ll show you the gear more up close and give a few explanations here and there. I apologize ahead of time if this is boring for some of you, but I as I prepared for my thru-hike, gear posts were some of the ones I looked forward to reading the most. And if you’re just interested in what we’ll be carrying to start then please, read on!

These clothes may look fresh and new now, but wait a week into our hike and I promise you I'll be surrounded by a perpetual stench.
These clothes may look fresh and new now, but wait a week into our hike and I promise you I’ll be surrounded by a perpetual stench.

Clothing: Like everything in my pack, even my clothing options are pretty simple.

It’s all about layers. I’ve got my Under Armour 2.0 Base Layers, camp socks, and crocs for camp. For hiking I have convertible pants, a synthetic short sleeve shirt, synthetic long sleeve shirt, soccer shorts, 2 pairs of socks, a sleeveless shirt which I will have mailed to me later on, 2 bras, and 2 pairs of underwear. For warm gear I’ve got a synthetic jacket  which you’ll see here in the bottom right hand corner in the little red bag, a North Face beanie, and a pair of gloves. I’ve got my hiking shoes of course and then my rain coat (the yellow bundle) and the small black bag below it is a ULA rain kilt. I was back and forth between the kilt and rain pants, but decided against the pants since a lot of people said that they just made them sweat a ton while hiking and ended up sending them home early on. The rain skirt will help keep my lower half dry, but is very lightweight, small, and breathable. Also next to my beanie is a Buff, an awesome and versatile piece of gear that can be a bandana, headband, balaclava, face mask, wrist band, really whatever you need it to be.

And whatever I’m not wearing with the exception of rain gear, will be packed away in an 8 Liter Sea to Summit stuff sack.

Pack, pack cover, and hiking poles
Pack, pack cover, and hiking poles

And next we’ve got my Deuter ACT Lite 60+10 pack which I love. It was the only pack that I tried on in multiple stores that felt super comfortable. I’ve got a nice little pack cover to protect my gear when it rains, and of course I’ll have the knee-saving hiking poles from REI.

Tent Gear
Tent Gear

We’ll be splitting up the tent weight between the two of us. One of us will carry the rain fly and the other the tent body, so we won’t have that huge grey bag in the middle. We also ended up getting a piece of Tyvek for our ground sheet instead of buying the one from L.L. Bean.

Sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and liner.
Sleeping pad, sleeping bag, and liner.

My bed: Therm-A-Rest sleeping pad on the left, my sleeping bag is packed in the middle stuff sack. It’s a down bag so it packs down pretty small, but it will be important for me to keep it dry. On the right is my sleeping bag liner. We got it at an REI garage sale and it’s actually a little heavier than I want it to be, but hopefully when it warms up, I’ll be able to send it home and get it back before we hit the Whites.

Gear, gear, gear!
Gear, gear, gear!

Lots of good stuff here. The AWOL Guide is the best out there and I’ve been reading it like a novel lately. My journal is one of my favorite pieces of gear. My best friend, Sarah, got it for me last year for my birthday. The front reads, “Why does every day involve a fight with an American?” We are obsessed with Downton Abbey and this is a quote from Maggie Smith’s character in the show. While I’ll be writing in my journal everyday, it will also remind me of Sarah, who has been my best friend since we were 6 years old. It will be hard to for us to say goodbye of course, especially since she’ll be moving back to New York in the fall 😦 But, I hope this will help a bit. Ear plugs have made their way into my pack, although I’m not sure how well they’re going to work. I’ve had a bad track record with them in the past and find that they don’t really block out sound as much as I want them to (aka snoring). I’m a really light sleeper unfortunately so I’m hoping that a long day of hiking will help my sleeping habits. I’ve got bungee cords to secure my sleeping pad to the outside of my pack, phone and charger, camera charger, waterproof case for my phone and I’ll have one for my camera too, head lamp, headphones, Swiss Army knife, pen of course, and that weird little white contraption in the middle is a tick nipper. My mom got it for me last summer and will be invaluable in the face of tick season.

Cooking and Water supplies
Cooking and Water supplies

We’ve got our cookset on the top, the Pinnacle Dualist. I love this thing. Our MSR Pocket Rocket stove is stored in there and our fuel canister will fit in there as well. I’ve got a Camelbak bladder for my pack and I’ll also have a Gatorade bottle. We decided on the Steripen after a lot of deliberation. We were debating between the Steripen and the Sawyer Squeeze Filter. I’m not joking when I say that it was a really hard decision and I still wonder about whether we should switch or not. The Steripen is fast and easy as long as you take care of it, but there is the chance of the batteries not working or some other technical problem. The Sawyer bags are known to rip easily, but we could just attach the nozzle to a different bag. We’re using Aquamira as our back-up either way. We also decided to invest in a Platypus 4 Liter water bag. One of the couples that I followed last year used one of these and it allowed them to get all of the water they needed for cooking dinner and water to start the morning with. This allowed them to make one trip to the water source, so I think this will be a good addition to our gear.

That's all folks.
That’s all folks.

And that folks is pretty much it for the hygiene section of my gear. A small towel that will have various uses, a comb (so my hair doesn’t get too knotty and nasty), hand sanitizer, a couple of extra elastics, nail clippers, Burt’s Bees, toothbrush, and Dr. Bronner’s soap. Dr. Bronner’s has multiple uses which is great for backpacking. We can use it to wash our dishes, brush our teeth, and as soap in the shower. Bottom line, I’m going to smell the majority of the time, so be forewarned if you end up meeting us somewhere along the trail 🙂

Everything packed up.

Alright, so this is everything from the first photo packed up into their various stuff sacks and minus the items that Miles will most likely be carrying. Starting on the top left we’ve got clothes, water bag, crocs, tent body, tent poles, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, pack, and bladder. On the bottom we’ve got the pack liner, rain kilt, rain coat, 4 liter stuff sack with various items like my head lamp, journal, guide book, etc., Pak Towel, tent stakes, bungee cords, and a 2 liter stuff sack for toiletries. And besides food, that’s it! I realize that maybe I should have taken a picture of my pack with everything in it, but I’m being lazy right now, so I’ll get that up another time. Hell, maybe that’s not even that interesting. We’ll stick with this for now.

If you’ve experienced gear overload, then again, I apologize. But, I hope this was at least of some interest to my lovely readers out there in the blogosphere. I am no expert backpacker here, but I hope that my gear choices will prove worthy out there on the AT. There was a point in my life not too long ago that I would think living with such a small amount of “stuff” would be crazy. Well, now I’m ready for the simplicity which is in stark contrast to the life I live now. I could probably fill up an entire dresser with all of the t-shirts I own and then another one with my sweatshirts and sweatpants.

Can you tell that I’m a freelance editor by the majority of my wardrobe? I do wear “real” clothes too, but it’s a rare event that you’ll find me in a dress or a skirt. I like to be comfortable, I keep my hair back, I like to be outside, and sometimes I go a couple of days without a shower 😮

Maybe thru-hiking is the perfect thing for me…

Pretty normal attire when I'm not out in public. maybe I wear them in public too.
Pretty normal attire when I’m not out in public…and the CUTEST cat ever, Motley! Well okay, so maybe I wear them in public too. Hey, I live in Maine! The way life should be; where sweatpants are acceptable everywhere. And I love it.

7 thoughts on “The Gear Post

  1. Getting close, you must be excited, especially looking out the window at 2 plus feet of snow. I was just looking at your gear list. Looks good (smart on extra pair of socks it will save you, not everyone does it). If I may, one recommendation and one suggestion. You might want to leave your thermarest pad behind and replace it with a thermarest neoair, it will keep you much warmer than the foam pad. They are pricey, but go to the Bean’s outlet store, they sometimes have them there. It is worth it, you will have some really cold nights until you hit Roanoke, VA. The other thing is, the Steripen, one of the best pieces of gear I used, but batteries are hard to find in the south, and you will eat your way through batteries, carry extra 2 pair of batteries, and ship yourself some to places like Hot Springs, NC and Pearisburg, VA, so that you have yourself covered. (although you may have the newer version that recharges and this might not be an issue).

    1. Yes! Record-breaking snowfall here in Portland and still coming down. I appreciate the advice! I have been debating as to whether or not I should switch out to the NeoAir actually. Living close to Freeport, I’ll be able to check out the outlet store there. The Steripen is something that went back and forth on for awhile as I mentioned, but I’m glad to hear that it was one the best pieces of gear you had out there. How many pairs of batteries did you go through with the Steripen? We don’t have the rechargeable one, but I just took a look at it, hadn’t heard of it until now.

      1. I went burned through a set of batteries about each week. I didn’t take any chances and purified all the time, except when I knew the pipe to the water source was coming directly from a spring. It was in the 80’s when I started in Georgia and North Carolina, and I drank more water than usual. I learned to not treat the water I used for cooking and that saves a litre or 2 a day.If you are doubling up, I would imagine a set of batteries will last maybe 5 days.

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