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If you aren’t changing your gear after each backpacking trip are you even a real hiker? Just kidding. Entering into the backpacking world can be overwhelming and intimidating. I remember beginning to purchase gear in the summer of 2018 hoping that being an “experienced hiker” was enough and the REI employees were really experts.

Some of the gear I inherited from my dad, which who doesn’t love free stuff? Some I purchased on my own. However, I learned a lot from that first backpacking trip and still do. Each trip I go on, I come home switching out items and testing them out on my next trip. The purpose of a gear exchange is finding out what things work for you! I found after my first trip I wanted lighter gear. I still don’t have it down to an exact science and I think that’s the beauty of REI (Returns within a year… no questions asked) Sorry REI!


Osprey Aura AG 65
I picked up this pack from REI. I had zero knowledge about backpacking gear. I literally walked in eager to get the gear I needed and head to the forest. I told them I planned on doing week long trips which the time I didn’t do any backpacking. I tried on multiple packs but ultimately went with this one due to its popularity and capacity. Long story short, I went on my first backpacking trek injured my feet and felt my bag was too heavy based on comments from other hikers. It was too big for my current needs.

Weight for a small 4 lbs. 5 oz.

Retail $270

Osprey Lumina 60

Looking for a replacement for the Aura, I went with the Lumina. It was ultralight, still had that lifetime warranty but didn’t have the extra features I was looking for like hipbelt pockets. I kept my Aura and returned the Lumina.

Weight for a small 1 lb. 14 oz.

Retail $270

Gossamer Gear Gorilla

Spoiler alert: I really thought this was the one. It was the perfect summer bag! It fit all my gear. The material seemed durable, it was lightweight and it felt good.

The bad: it barely fit my cold hiking gear comfortably. After wearing it for an extended amount of time, I started to get extremely bad neck pain to the point that it was extremely painful to look down and shoulder pain. Yeah, that’s not normal…

Weight for a medium Total with small belt: 29.8 oz / 844 g

Retail $215 plus hipbelt ($45), total cost $260

Current Pack: ULA OHM Circuit
  • Ultralight – check
  • Durable material – check
  • Hip belt pocks – check
  • No neck/shoulder pain – check
  • Customizable features

The only thing I miss is that the Gossamer Gear had a huge outside pocket and ULA has a much smaller pocket.

Current Weight for Small with Medium hipbelt: 32 oz

Retail $210

Current Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek HV2 Platinum
About 2lbs including the footprint. I really like this tent for one person! It gives me space to move around, change my clothes, and the vestibule fits my back. I’ve only used it a handful of times. I am considering getting a Zpacks in the future to save some ounces.

Sleeping Bags

North Face Cat’s Meow

This was free from my dad. Not sure of the weight. It was heavier and not as lofty as it could have been. It is a men’s 25-degree sleeping bag, it was not warm enough for me. It was also too long and I was losing a lot of heat. It also took up about half of my Gossamer Pack inside…

Current Sleeping Bag for Colder Temps: REI Co-Op Joule 21
This bag weighs in at 2 lbs. 3 oz. It is a relatively new gear purchase for me but I used it the week I was in Georgia. The lowest low was mid-twenties and I stayed toasty the entire time. I think if it got any colder, I would want a sleeping bag liner because I tend to sleep cold. Prior to this purchase, I had a quilt being made from Enlightened Equipment via their Black Friday sale. I cancelled my order after purchasing this bag. In the future, I still think I want something a tad lighter and something that allows me to turn without my whole bag coming with me. I’m also unsure of what temperature rating to get. The 21 degrees will be good for the rest of the Appalachian Trail.

Sleeping Pad

Big Agnes Air Core Ultra Sleeping Pad

I bought this via REI’s used gear section. I enjoyed using this pad but it isn’t the most weight friendly option on the market. Also, I used this in November in New York and slept very cold that night because the R-value isn’t that high. A great summer mat.

Total Cost: $69.95 (regular)

Weight 1 lb. 4 oz.

Current Sleeping Pad Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Women’s Sleeping Pad
Another recent purchase that I brought with me on the Georgia Section Hike that I enjoyed. I was able to sleep on my side and not touch the ground.  It doesn’t take too long to blow up. It does make a bit of noise. It slips away from me a bit in my tent. It weighs in at 12 oz. Moving forward, I might try the Therm-a-Rest Z Lite but not sure how comfortable that would be since I usually sleep on my stomach.

Water Filtration
I started off using a Platypus Big Zip 3 liter, which would hold dirty water filter through my regular Sawyer into a Camelback Reservoir. On my latest trip, I just used smart water bottles but moving forward I will be trying out the CNOC Outdoors Vecto 2L water container for dirty water and fill my water bottles.

Rain Jacket

I started off with a Marmot Precip Rain Jacket. It does prevent you from getting wet from the rain but it’s like a hotbox. Your body heat gets trapped and you start to sweat. It does have pit zips but they don’t help. I recently switched to the Outdoor Research Helium II and will report back with how it works.

For a more detailed look at what I carry in my back check out my Georgia Section Hike Gear list here.