When it comes to hiking the AT, gear is the talk of the town. Everyone wants to know; “What gear will you be taking? How much does it weigh? Where did you buy it?” For me, I pretty much had to start from square one; I didn’t even know what trail runners were.
The Appalachian Trail will be my first thru-hike. I have camped in the past, but never under circumstances where I’ve had to carry my entire life on my back over the course of 6 months. What’s more, prior to my decision to hike the trail (which was made earlier last year), I had virtually zero knowledge about gear.
Everything you see in the picture above, and listed below, are things I have carefully researched and collected for my hike. When choosing my gear, I contemplated each item’s quality and weight, as well as its importance, against my moderately tight budget.
I am by no means ultralight, and being honest, getting worked up about the nitty-gritty details and weighing every single item just does not appeal to me; I’m far too laid back for that kind of thing, so I can’t tell you my base weight or link you to a scrupulously assembled LighterPack list.
At a glance however, I feel pretty confident in my choices and think that my kit is… dare I say, more on the minimalist side?! Once in America, I’m fully prepared for shakedowns from the pros and swapping out items as I go along; you live and you learn!
So without further ado, here is my Appalachian Trail gear list:
My pack of choice is the women’s Osprey Aura AG 65 in small. It’s comfortable, has numerous compartments (I especially like the hip belt pouches and side pockets) and it also looks pretty snazzy! I’ve actually removed the brain to save a bit of weight and to discourage myself from filling it with more stuff than I really need!
High Tail Designs are based in Virginia, USA and specialise in ultralight outdoor products. As well as my backpack, I wanted a ‘bum bag’ (as us Brits call them) to keep my small camera and phone within easy reach. It’s also waterproof, which is a must!
I love my Vango F10 Helium UL 2 tent. Force 10 is a premium sub-brand by Vango and this tent is said to be one of the most advanced lightweight tents that they currently make. At 1.14kg, it’s small and light, as well as being easy to erect and dismantle. Like most 2 person tents, it really is only big enough for one person plus their gear.
The Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Ultralight Backpacking Air Mattress is a must-have piece of equipment. It’s light, packs away small and is the key to a comfy night sleep.
My sleeping bag is the Mountain Equipment Helium 400. It claims to have a good nights sleep guaranteed at -5 degrees Celsius and is filled with audited animal welfare duck down. Being tall, I opted for the mens size. I also have a thin, silky sleeping bag liner that I will switch to during the warmer months.
I’ll store my sleeping bag and its liner in my Sea to Summit 20L Lightweight Dry Sack.
Prior to making the decision to hike the AT, I’d never used trekking poles before. After doing a bit of research, I went for the Black Diamond Trail Ergo poles, for their cork handles and flick locks.
Clothing & Shoes
One of my biggest fears is being cold whilst in camp and during the night. I’m naturally a cold sleeper and experienced this misery first hand on my Iceland camping trip last year. To combat this, I’ve tried to focus on tactical layering.
2 x quick-drying sports tops
1 x sports bra
1 x cotton top for sleeping/towns/laundry days
1 x thermal top
1 pair of H&M sports leggings
1 pair of M&S thermal leggings to sleep in
1 pair of Under Armour shorts
3 pairs of merino wool socks
3 pairs of underwear
My Jack Wolfskin fleece is warm, lightweight and quick drying. I will probably use it more as an extra layer at camp in the evenings and to sleep in, as it gets quite sweaty to hike in!
I ‘ummed and ahhed’ about getting a down jacket for a considerably long time, then came across this Mountain Warehouse Winter Jacket reduced by £100 in a sale. It’s amazingly warm and folds away into its own little drawstring bag (mine’s in green).
I decided to swap out my Trekmates touchscreen fleece gloves for these Mountain Warehouse ski gloves, because they do a much better job protecting my hands from the wind (another thing I learnt the hard way on a recent hike). They are super lightweight, warm and flexible.
I prefer using a Buff over a hat because they are so light and can be used in a multitude of ways. It comes in handy for keeping my face and neck warm, gives me a bit of sun protection and will be good for hiding my disgustingly greasy hair. I will also be taking a fleecy beanie, for when it’s really cold.
These no-thrills Regatta Pack It Waterproof Over Trousers are cheap ‘n’ cheerful and fold down into a small carry pouch. The medium come up a little short on my lanky legs, but I expect I’ll be getting wet feet regardless.
I will also be taking my Rainbird waterproof jacket, which I purchased back in Tasmania. It’s lightweight, has great ventilation and folds away into a small pouch. If it doesn’t work out, I will probably purchase something cheap like Frogg Toggs.
Trail runners are the shoe of choice these days for the Appalachian Trail because they are unbelievably lightweight, comfortable and dry quickly compared to hiking boots.
I adore my Inov-8 Trailtalon 290 Trail Runners. They are the first brand of trail runners I have ever owned and I am yet to get a blister. I will no doubt try different brands in the US, as I will get through about 3-4 pairs of shoes on my hike. I also have a pair of Dirty Girl Gaiters to try out over my shoes.
My camp and river fording shoe of choice is the humble Croc. I have been anti-Croc all my life, but now I’m that girl who wears them to the supermarket and gives zero fucks.
Eating & Drinking
I will be storing my food, cooking equipment and anything else that bears and critters might find mildly tasty in my Zpacks ultralight Bear Bagging Kit.
My MSR Pocket Rocket 2 is lightweight, durable and compact. I used it throughout Iceland and couldn’t fault it. It also fits inside my cook pot.
I swapped out my cheap Hi Gear 2 Person Cookset from Go Outdoors for the MSR Titan Kettle, for its durability and considerably better handles.
Classed as a ‘luxury’ item by many, but I’m English and I like my cups of tea! My cup of choice is this collapsible Sea to Summit X-Cup.
My Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spork is the perfect tool to shovel all the foods into my face.
Like the majority of hikers on the AT, I will be using the Sawyer Squeeze and probably screwing it straight onto my water bottles to drink from.
I’ll use my 2L Platypus Water Bladder as a backup for if/when water is less readily available.
Technology & Electronics
After much thought, I’ve decided to take my Olympus PEN E-PL8 camera with me on my hike. It’s not particularly lightweight and I am terrified of bashing it up, but I love it and use it to take all my photos. I will store it within easy reach in my waterproof fanny pack. Another downside to this camera is that it cannot be charged via USB, so I will have to lug around its bulky battery charger.
This PEDCO Ultra Camera Tripod was a great find. It was cheap, it’s lightweight and great for those all-important ‘advanced selfies’.
I’ll be charging up my phone with the Anker PowerCore 20100. It’s a little on the heavy side but well worth it.
I’ve opted for the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp for its decent reviews and relatively cheap price.
I’ll be wearing my Fitbit Charge 2 on the trail, primarily as a watch but also as a fun way to see how many steps I walk in a day!
Finally, we enter the miscellaneous section. I won’t bore you with toiletries and first aid, suffice to say they will be minimal.
Notebook & pen
Zpacks Passport Zip Pouch
Umbrella – many hikers swear by them!
Not everyone’s cup of tea, but for travelling and backpacking especially, the Moon Cup is a game-changer. It saves weight, money, stress and the environment! If you do consider trying it out for your travels, I definitely suggest giving it a few months to get used to it before diving straight in at the deep end. Pun not intended.
For when I do occasionally shower, a small microfibre travel towel will come in handy.
So there you have it. Anything I have missed or cannot take on board my flight, I will pick up in the US before I hit the trail.
I hope this list is useful, please get in touch if you have any questions or would like to share your own wisdom. And if you’re completely new to all this, don’t worry, I was too, all it takes is a bit of research and planning and you’ll soon end up with your own awesome kit!