Waaay back in March 2016 after months of research and planning, I posted my initial gear list. Now I want to go back through what worked and what did not (spoiler: most of it worked). I’ve copied and pasted the original article here and added commentary so you can see where my head was at before the hike and where it was after.
Important to me:
-Sleeping well and being warm. These go together for me. I have learned on previous trips that I sleep very cold and that makes me very unhappy. I’m not so much worried about being warm while hiking, more when in camp and sleeping. Post-hike comment: mostly successful. Except for a half dozen of the coldest days or nights, I was comfy.
-Being lightweight: I weigh 105 pounds fully clothed. I simply can’t have a heavy pack. My goal was 25 pounds fully loaded with full food and water. I have done previous trips carrying up to 30 and it was…ok…but I can do better.
Post-hike comment: I only carried 25lbs on one or two days, after big resupplies. I was usually at 18-20 lbs.
Not important to me:
-Manufacturer: I don’t have much brand loyalty, not because I dislike any brands but because I love them all. I think different companies are excellent at different things. I just wanted what worked best for me, and ended up with a good range of gear makers.
-Price: It’s not that money is no object, just that I was prepared to spend a good amount and I wasn’t going to skimp on quality for a few bucks. It costs what it costs.
-Other peoples’ opinions: I absolutely considered product reviews and input from the good folks at REI when making decisions, but they are not me and ultimately only I know what works for me. I appreciate feedback and suggestions, but please don’t tell me how wrong I’m doing something (if that’s how you feel). It’s not constructive. I won’t die out there. Everything else I have to figure out for myself. Mistakes might be made, and that’s ok, too.
Without further ado…
This felt like it was going to be a game-day decision. I have my trusty internal frame Gregory Jade 40 (similar in 38 liters that would also work) that’s made it through some excellent miles with me, but I also impulse-purchased a frameless Gossamer Gear Pilgrim 36 as a weight-cutting experiment. I love them both. It’s a tight gear squeeze with the Pilgrim, but it’s almost 3 pounds lighter than the Gregory. If I can Tetris everything into the Pilgrim, that’ll be the winner.
Gregory weight: 59 ounces (just shy of 4 pounds). Pilgrim weight: 21 ounces (1.3 pounds).
Update: I ended up with the Gossamer Gear Gorilla. It’s 40 liters- I just wasn’t going to be able to fit everything into the Pilgrim. I think it weighs 25 ounces, still ultralight.
Post-hike comment: I LOVE MY PACK SO MUCH. It was comfortable, rugged, streamlined, roomy… pretty much perfect in every way. It stinks now but hardly looks worn at all, and I was not particularly careful with it. I can’t say enough good things about my Gorilla. I’m surprised I never saw a single other person carrying it, although I saw several Mariposas, GG’s 60L pack. At least one of those people told me they wished they had the smaller, 40L Gorilla. Big win here.
Tent. I originally picked out the Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1. It’s small, it’s light, and I got it on sale. Rather than getting the manufacturer’s brand ground cover, I got a custom-cut Tyvek groundsheet with grommets on Amazon for $25 (no longer available). It’s lightweight and super durable and works just fine.
Total shelter weight: 38 ounces (2.4 pounds).
But then I found some wiggle room in my budget and splurged on the ZPacks Solplex. It sets up with trekking poles, which I wasn’t planning to use, so I bought the tent poles to go with it. Total cost and weight: $618, 21 ounces. Also, after 50 miles of my thru hike, I bought $20 trekking poles at Walmart (my knees demanded it) and returned the manufacturer poles, so the total shelter weight should be sub-20 ounces now.
Post-hike comment: the Solplex worked out great, although I spent way fewer nights in it than I thought I would. Turns out I really liked sleeping in the shelters, so I only used my tent for something like 20 nights out of 150. The trekking pole set-up system was quick and easy. I had plenty of room inside, at 5’2″, so I usually kept everything inside the tent with me except my shoes. I could have my pack at my head or feet and still have plenty of space, however, like most tents, if my sleeping bag pressed against the insides of the tent walls, it got damp from the condensation. I never set up or broke it down in the rain, or dealt with serious wind, but it performed well in a few overnight showers. Despite its weight, it never felt flimsy or fragile, and it’s really nice that it’s just one piece – no rain fly or ground cloth needed. I’ll definitely take this tent with me on solo trips for years to come.
Sleep system. This was a big one for me – I spent several nights in my backyard to get it all figured out. I’m going with an Enlightened Equipment 10* quilt (Short and Slim to save weight and money), a Sea to Summit Reactor liner (adds 20* to your sleep system for only 9 ounces), a Thermarest NeoAir XLite in short (it comes down to my thighs), and the foam pad from the back of the Pilgrim in the foot of the quilt. I can send home the quilt once it gets hot and just sleep in the liner. I’ll use a stuff sack with extra clothing for a pillow.
Total sleep system weight: 42 ounces (2.6 pounds).
Post-hike comment: this is mostly how I did it, except I never used the foam pad. Laying in a sort of fetal position on my side, my whole body basically fit on the inflatable pad, and lying on my back, my feet just hung off the end. It didn’t bother me and I usually slept great. Rather than wrapping the quilt around the inflatable pad, however, I found it was warmer just to bundle up nice and tight with the seam underneath me; this let in less cold air. The opening of the quilt has a cinch which I ended up using on 3-4 of the coldest nights, completely sealing myself inside. I never sent either the liner or quilt home, and I’m glad I didn’t. I did get rid of the compression sack after a month or so, and just stuffed my quilt into the bottom of my pack. It fit better that way. The stuff sack with my puffy jacket inside worked great for a pillow.
Food and water. Sawyer Squeeze Mini, Snow Peak GigaPower stove, and the Sea to Summit XPot Kettle. I’ll also have a SmartWater bottle for dirty water. I find the Sawyer pouch annoying to fill but way easier to squeeze, so I’ll use the dirty water bottle to fill it and then drink directly (via Sawyer mini) out of that. I bought an Ursack for food storage – they’re bear-proof so you don’t have to hang them, just secure to a tree.
Total kitchen weight (excludes food and water, includes Ursack and 2 small fuel canisters): 34.8 ounces (2.2 pounds).
Post-hike comment: I’m not an impatient person but by the mid-Atlantic, the slowness of the Sawyer Mini was driving me crazy. I will get a regular size Sawyer for the future. I also had several Sawyer Squeeze bags develop leaks, possible because I was squeezing so hard because the Sawyer was so slow. That was annoying. The SnowPeak stove worked great, loved it. The silicon pot actually got chewed on by mice and ruined, but it was also too big and a little awkward to clean, so I would have traded it out anyway, probably for an aluminum pot. I only ever carried a small Squeeze pouch and 750mL SmartWater bottle, less water than most people carry, but I never had a problem and it kept weight down. I also only felt the need to carry one fuel canister – they lasted me 3-4 weeks (I only cooked for dinner) and the worst case would be that I’d have to eat cold food for a few days.
Top row: Black Athleta trekker pants (sent these home from Damascus, got them back for White Mtns but loved them when I had them), Injinji liner socks underneath (loved them but usually wore on their own, not as liners), light gray Nike half-zip (kept this with me the whole hike, perfect mid layer), hot pink Arc’teryx Atom LT (LOVED, kept with me the whole hike), black Saucony RunWarm leggings (sent home before Smokies, never wore, never got back).
Across the middle: Purple and pink Columbia jacket that is actually not coming, gray and pink Mountain Hardware zip-up fleece (carried for a while but hardly used, only on 3-4 coldest nights, would probably have been fine without), Merrell low-top boots (loved, wore for 1300 miles), REI hat (essential from the Whites north, helped me sleep warmer), SmartWool socks underneath (too thick for most of the weather, rubbed the skin off my toes when it got warm).
Along the bottom: silver rubber Old Navy flip-flops (worked perfectly, lasted entire hike), powder-blue North Face t-shirt (never wore, went with an Adidas tee instead), Rugu and Nike sports bras (got rid of one early, only ever had 1 with/on me), pink Ex Officio tank (got rid of early on, never used), C9 Target-brand running shorts (wore these pretty much every day of my hike, they barely look used, they were great).
I bought a new tee-shirt and sports bra in Connecticut – the old ones were just getting too worn.
Total weight for all clothing: 61 ounces (3.8 pounds), but at any given time I’ll be wearing much of it or have sent it home.
Post-hike comment: What’s pictured is WAY TOO MUCH clothing. I will now always bring less clothing than I think I need. One outfit is enough – there’s no point to bringing more than you can wear at any one time.
Electronics, miscellaneous, first-aid, and toiletries (not pictured):
Phone, Kindle (the newest model is waterproof!), charger, earbuds, sketch book and pens: 24.4 ounces (1.5 pounds) (Sent home sketch book and pens after a week. Bought a larger external battery after a month, gave me 2.5 full charges instead of 1. Phone would last days and days if left on airplane, even if I listened to music for 8 hours a day. Read my Kindle most nights before bed, battery would last a month, totally worth it).
Petzl Tikka X2 headlamp (newer model) and extra batteries: 5 ounces. (Either it was really dim and I never noticed because I only ever used it to read at night, or the batteries started to go near the end of the hike. Either way, it was impossible to night-hike with up Katahdin).
Plastic orange poncho with hood, big enough to go over me and my pack. (I was surprised how well this worked for the weight and cost. I looked silly but who cares?)
Toiletries: glasses, contact case, lens solution, spare pair, toothpaste and toothbrush, small liquid soap (Dr. Bronner’s?), comb, nail clippers, tweezers, disposable razor, Chapstick, plastic trowel, TP. (Sent home glasses since I had spare contacts. Sent home comb. Never bought soap but did carry hand sanitizer. Was happy to have nail clippers, tweezers, and razor.)
First aid: Ibuprofin, Benadryl, Immodium, antibiotics. Leukotape, Neosporin. Maybe some wet wipes. (I learned that Neosporin and Leukotape fix almost everything, and Body Glide is your best friend to prevent needing the first two. Pills I carried were anti-pain, anti-allergy, anti-poop, and that’s all I ever needed. I gave up on Wet Wipes after a month; they just always left me feeling sticky.)
Base weight (this includes everything listed above, if I carry the Pilgrim, wearing cold-weather hiking clothes, excluding food and water): 12.5 pounds. Throw in food and water and I’ll be right between 20-25 pounds. Post-hike comment: I got my base weight down to about 10 pounds, and usually carried 18-20 with plenty of food. I think I left town carrying 25 only twice, before big sections. My knees and feet will forever be grateful that I went ultralight.
Through the use of some sales, discounts, and coupons, I’ve spent a total of $2,000 on gear. I had budgeted for $1500-$2000 so I’m pretty happy with that. I still have wiggle room to replace anything that doesn’t work, as well as buy a few more pairs of trail runners. Post-hike comment: I probably spent another $200 on other little odds and ends: socks, more Sawyer bags, one more pair of trail runners, replacement shoe inserts (Superfeet!), Wal-Mart trekking poles, an aluminum mug, additional fuel canisters, the other external battery… I think that’s everything…and luckily I never lost anything!!)
OK, I think that covers everything! Questions are always welcome below if anything is unclear or you want details on the specs or cost or reasoning behind a particular piece of gear.