Appalachian Trail Happiness: Gear Lists

Appalachian Trail Happiness: Gear Lists

fix gear pile

My gear pile right before I left for the trail, I didn’t carry the computer it just ended up in the photo

Returning home is the most difficult part of long-distance hiking; You have grown outside the puzzle and your piece no longer fits. ~ Cindy Ross

There is a ton of preparation that goes into most people’s thru-hike attempt, that means reading, talking to folks and test hikes.  Toward that end I’ve put up a resources page on the blog that I’ll be updating periodically.  So today I’ll address one of the big questions.

What should you carry on your thru-hike? This is a matter for fabulous amounts of discussion, eventually of course it comes down to hike your own hike.  I met hikers carrying, in my opinion, insanely small amounts of gear.  I met hikers carrying insanely large amounts of gear.  Some people had to have multiple books, lots of maps, multiple pieces of electronic gear, several cameras and/or lots of redundancy.  Some people sleep under a tarp, don’t have a camera, carry toothpaste dots, wipe with leaves and say redundancy be damned.  It all comes down to what you need, what makes you comfortable and what you can comfortably carry.

The best piece of advice I can give you after doing 1000 miles on the AT last summer is to not freak out about it, it will certainly change.  I started with about 42 pounds on my back, by Virginia I was in the low to mid 30’s depending on how much water I was carrying.  Test hikes can help this a lot, if you do four or five test hikes with all your gear and you have stuff you haven’t used, you probably shouldn’t carry it.  The exception of course being safety and first-aid equipment.  Almost everyone starts carrying too much.  I remember meeting other hikers on the train down to Atlanta, our packs, (we were all carrying 61 liter Osprey Exos packs), were bursting at the seams.  It was barely possible to shove my water bottle into the outer pocket in the beginning.  By time I hit Virginia there was plenty of space in the pack.  A result of changing the way I packed, but mostly because there were a lot of things I’d stopped carrying AND I was finally learning how to not carry too much food.

fix packSo tonight I’ve scoured the web to give you lots of gear list options.  How do you decide between them, well, common sense, your gut, talk to people who’ve done this sort of thing (you can e-mail me at if you want) and the most effective method, load up and do shakedown hikes.  Of course I realize that’s not always possible and it doesn’t have to be the same terrain, that helps, but you’re mostly gauging what you need and don’t need to carry.

A couple of small things I will say that were my personal preferences.  I used a rain skirt instead of rain pants and loved them.  Except for one day where a 40 mph wind on a bald did a one-eighty and soaked me, it worked great, is super lightweight and packs into anything. This is the one I used, but there are lots of places to find them and you can make one yourself. If you google DIY or how to make a rain skirt/kilt you’ll find a ton of links from using anything from garbage bags to Tyvek to using old rain pants and coats.

Rev Kane on his first day on the Appalachian Trail

Rev Kane on his first day on the Appalachian Trail

My other recommendation is don’t carry gear for a long time before or after it will be necessary.  I carried my spikes from the Springer through the Smokies.  I never put them on once.  Now, had a been a few days earlier into Fontana I would have needed them in the Smokies, but I could have easily had them shipped to me at Fontana.  Would have saved me space and weight.  Now if you’re starting in January obviously that changes and if you’re starting in mid-April they are not even on the gear list.  Again gear really is a personalized thing and highly dependent on seasons, terrain, etc…

fix trekking polesGEAR LISTS

Appalachian Trail Conservancy list – This is really just the very basics, if you are contemplating a section or thru-hike on the trail and you just don’t know where to begin this is a great spot.  However, if you’ve done a lot of hiking it’s probably only worth a quick scan.

Appalachian Trail Gear List – My favorite gear list written by Bruce “Buck” Nelson.  There are a lot of gear lists on the web, I just prefer this one for the focus on ultralight and the gear links to where he purchased each item.

Serials 2012 Gear List – I like that there’s a lot of description on this list

Hammock tips – For those who choose to hammock, I did and will write more on that soon, I loved it, here are some basic tips out of a great book, The Ultimate Hang.

Zach Davis’ list – Zach is the author of Appalachian Trials and did a guest post on the REI blog, I like the way he breaks down the list into essentials, almost essentials, etc…

Section Hike list – Here’s a nice list for a 3 week section hike.

Risky Business Gear Video – Here’s a YouTube link and good discussion in the comments.

Linthikes – An interesting ultra-light list

From Wander the Wild Blog – an updated list of what they “actually” ended up carrying on the AT

Run, Hike, Live, Love – A really detailed gear list, ultra-light but the detail counts in this one, you may just need to note weight differences for non ultra-light components.

Andrew Skurka – A great list by Andrew for a 32 pound total weight

Hiking for Autism – Another list that lands in the mid-30 pound range’s – Video series on gear

Unaka enhancedUltra-light Tips

One last set of links related to ultra-light gear tips.  I love these folks, some of the ideas are just nuts in my opinion, but in looking at these sites pre-trip I did learn a few ways to reduce weight and the sites really got me thinking about the difference between what I needed and wanted to carry.

201 Ultralight Tips – Absolutely awesome site but I don’t like the title of this piece, the tips are FANTASTIC but I wouldn’t consider a lot of them ultra-light tips but rather great tips on how to trim weight from your pack.  Don’t let the ultra-light in the title keep you from looking through this.’s – Tips for lightening your backpack.

Ultralight Backpacking Tips – A YouTube video with a good set of recommendations

fix final pack

My pack sitting in the train station on my last day on the AT this summer.

If you have any other links to gear lists please pass them on in the comments or by email.  Have a great hike and a happy day my friends ~ Rev Kane

Other Posts You May Enjoy!

My Appalachian Trail Resources Page

Appalachian Trail Happiness: Trail Community

Appalachian Trail Happiness: Precious Moments

Appalachian Trail Happiness: My Favorite Little Hiker



About Michael Kane

Michael Kane is a writer, photographer, educator, speaker, adventurer and a general sampler of life. His books on hiking and poetry are available in soft cover and Kindle on Amazon.
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10 Responses to Appalachian Trail Happiness: Gear Lists

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