Traveling on foot between Maine and Georgia for almost half a year raises some unsettling questions. You will have to live out of a backpack for most of the time and this may worry you. The thru-hike gear list you make has to be perfected. Carrying too little or too much stuff with you is bad. This is why you have to find the right amount of items and backpacking food you can carry.
In this article, we will cover the things that an ideal Appalachian Trail gear list should have. One thing is certain, the ideal pack will differ from individual to individual. However, there is some essential stuff you have to bring with you if you want to march the full 2,189 miles without any problems.
A good pack should be the #1 thing on your Appalachian Trail gear list. Your backpack will get lighter and more compact once you start using things in it. The pack’s capacity will depend on how much food you require, the gear’s compression, and how much gear you are carrying. Ideally, your pack’s capacity should be about 40L-65L. Nowadays, hikers prefer to use internal frame packs. Also, people who go on long-distance treks usually carry whistles and bells with them.
The most important thing you should look for in a pack that will fit your back properly. Also, the pack’s weight and durability are among important things too. To discover which pack will fit your hips and torso properly, head to your local REI. Different brands feature different fits, so make sure you try out different models.
You won’t be going anywhere without a backpacking tent on your thru-hike gear list. Of course, you can use a hammock too, but most hikers usually prefer the first option. In the end, it is only a matter of personal preference.
The Appalachian Trail has one backcountry shelter every eight miles (more than 250 in total). This is why some people go to the AT without a hammock or a shelter, they rely solely on these structures. Try not to be one of these people. You never know if someone is going to be at the next backcountry shelter you want to rest in. If this happens, you will be forced to ask people to make room for you or to hike on to the next shelter. You have no guarantees that a shelter will be available and you want to avoid hiking more when it is time to rest.
Durability and weight are two important criteria to look for, whether you prefer a tent or hammock.
Don’t be surprised if you experience sub-freezing temperatures while you’re on the AT. This is why you should get a proper sleeping bag and make sure it is in the 60°-70° F range. An 85° F sleeping bag is also an option. However, if you go for this option be sure that you will experience some bone-chilling nights if you’re starting in Georgia in April.
An important thing to look for when buying a sleeping bag is the insulation material. It is usually synthetic or down. Both materials have their own advantages. Synthetic is cheaper and holds better in damp environments but down is more compressible and lighter. Pick down if you are concerned about the pack weight.
Again, pick a bag that is in the 60°-70° F range. Prefer down insulation material if you sleep in a waterproof tent. You can also look for some sleeping bags that have water-repellent down, so even if it gets damp you will still have some insulation. Pick synthetic if you sleep in a ground cloth, tent sans footprint, or a tarp tent. Your sleeping bag should weigh less than three pounds. For lighter backpackers, we recommend picking a bag that’s closer to two pounds.
To achieve peak physical performance, your Appalachian Trail gear list should have a good sleeping pad on it. There are many different options, but try aiming either for an inflatable or foam pad. The main goal is to get something that will provide you with some comfort against the rocks and roots under your tent or the wood floor of a shelter.
The ideal sleeping pad should be from a reputable brand, properly insulated, and very light in weight (not more than one pound).
This is where most backpackers make mistakes when it comes to coming up with a thru-hike gear list. The only thing hikers need is appropriate clothes for different weather conditions they will face on the Appalachian Trail. Anything beyond the absolute necessities is a luxury and you will probably end up shipping those clothes home only after a couple of days. To make it clearer, you can probably finish the AT with only two pairs of hiking socks, two pairs of underwear, and one sports bra for women hikers.
There’s one thing you should remember when picking up clothes – don’t pick cotton materials! Cotton can absorb a lot of moisture and can hardly remove it from your skin. It also retains odor and is considered to be a poor insulator. In other words, cotton clothes will make you smell really bad faster than other fabrics and will put you at a higher risk of hypothermia.
When it comes to insulating layers, down is considered to have the best insulation-to-weight ratio. However, it is finicky and some people don’t like it for that reason. Keeping your down gear completely dry is very important. Also, you may have to wash it after particular humid spells.
Finally, the last thing you have to know about packing up clothes is to have a set of clothing reserved only for camp. Protecting yourself against hypothermia is important while you’re on a hike and a dry set of clothes will help you with this. Also, changing into clean clothes at the end of a grueling day will serve as a nice morale boost. Usually, hikers carry a clean pair of socks and underwear, a down jacket, and a clean pair of leggings reserved only for camp.
Pack wool, synthetic, and down clothes for camp. Wool and synthetic fabrics for hiking. Also, pay attention to that you pack durable materials from reputable brands.
Footwear is very important, if not the most important part of every thru-hike gear list. However, it is very difficult to prescribe an ideal pair for people who plan to spend a lot of time on the trail. It would be best if you go to your local REI and get some help there. However, there are a couple of points worth noting.
Hikers usually wear thick, heavy leather hiking boots. However, trail runners have become more popular in the past couple of years. You can even put both of these on your Appalachian Trail gear list due to the terrain and season changes. Boots are suited better for heavier pack weights, have better protection against rocks, and provide more ankle stability. On the other hand, trail runners cause fewer blisters and dry out faster. Also, they allow hikers to cover more ground since they are much lighter.
Another thing to keep in mind is the size of the footwear you pack. Try getting something that is up to 1.5 sizes larger than your normal fit. Hiking downhill may cause your toenails to bump against the toe box, so make sure you have enough space in the front of your shoe to prevent this from happening. You may lose your toenails if you don’t follow this rule. Also, your feet will swell and lose their arch during a thru-hike. You can’t know for sure how much will your foot grow, but be sure that it will be about one full size larger.
Some hikers claim that there’s no need to treat water during the AT. However, some hikers say that they contracted diseases like giardia during their hike. Don’t take any risks and treat your water.
The most important part of your Appalachian Trail gear list. You can’t go anywhere without a water bottle. Staying hydrated is essential on a hike, so make sure you bring a hydration reservoir or a reusable water bottle with you.
You are going to need at least two stuff sacks: one for your clothes and another for a sleeping bag. Keeping your camp clothes and your sleeping bag dry at all times is vital. This means that your stuff sacks have to be waterproof too. Also, having a stuff sack for food is a must-have for a lot of thru-hikers.
Having Appalachian Trail guidebooks is essential for gathering campsite and shelter information, and planning resupply options. If you want to be sure that you won’t get lost, get a map. A map will also provide you with details about the surrounding terrain. However, the majority of hikers decide to bring a guidebook over a map since the trail is marked every 70 feet with a white blaze.
Hygiene / First Aid
This is another category where you can easily make a mistake in your thru-hike gear list. Hygiene products should include only the essential and first-aid kits can be simple. These are the things you want to put on your list:
- Duct tape
- Gauze pads
- Antiseptic wipes
- Mini toothbrush
- Sewing needle
- Toilet paper
- Multipurpose soap
These are not necessary, but we recommend you using trekking poles if you have them. They are very useful on the downhills since they absorb a lot of the impact. This will save your knees, especially if they are weak. A T. Rex effect is common among hikers. It is a condition where you have small, weak arms, but very large and muscular legs. Using hiking poles will help you not developing this.
You may think that a knife is a necessity, but you are wrong (in most cases). Using a knife on a hike goes down to using it only when you’re cutting summer sausage. However, you should have one with you just in case.
Cookwear / Stove
Stoves are not popular among all thru-hikers. However, a warm meal at the end of the night can feel like a necessity when battling excessively heavy pack weights. This is why a lot of hikers prefer carrying a stove rather than eating instant mashed potatoes and oatmeal all the time.
You won’t have a lot of light while you’re in the woods. Having a headlamp can be useful, so make sure you look for something with at least 70 lumens but keep in mind that it has to be lightweight. If you plan to do significant night hiking, a headlamp with more lumens might be a better option.
One of the most versatile pieces of gear is, obviously, your smartphone. It will serve you as a flashlight, notetaker, camera, MP3 player, and phone. However, there are a lot of people who go into the woods to disconnect. Still, it is very important to stay in touch with the parent or a spouse just to prevent gray hairs back home. Other luxury items are books, camp pillows, and a memento.
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Packing everything you need for the Appalachian Trail can be hard. You will be away from home for such a long time, which means you need to find the right amount of items you can carry. Packing too many things will make it harder for you to hike since you will be feeling constant physical discomfort. Packing too little will put you in danger of hypothermia or even hunger.
Weigh your pack once you are done with the packing and check whether you can carry it comfortably. If you think there your pack is too heavy make sure you leave out some luxury stuff. You only need essentials, so focus on those things only!
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- Appalachian Trail Gear List, homemadewanderlust.com