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My AT Gear List and Where I Got It All

If you search "backpacking gear list" on your preferred search engine (s/o to Ecosia, which donates 80%+ of its profits to organizations and nonprofits that focus on reforestation and is carbon negative - I've made it my default search engine on my phone and laptop and it does everything you need it to do but has better environmental contributions), you will find a million lists by a million people. Everyone has the basics - backpack, footwear, sleeping system, clothing, water filter, food storage - but that looks different to every hiker. Some hikers go ultralight, which means they carry what they need, only what they need, and the lightest version of those items. While I appreciate the minimalist approach, I do not partake in ultralight hiking because it doesn't make sense for me (peep my Thru Hiking and Sustainability post for more of my thoughts on this topic). Here's my personal gear list for everything I will have with me for the duration of the hike:


Key

~ - got it secondhand

* - already had it in my closet; got it at some point for non-backpacking intentions

** - was a gift

*** - belongs to Mitch


Sections



Below, I go into more detail about how I chose some of the items, where I got them, and advice for how to go about acquiring your own gear so you can make your own list! If you want to jump to a specific section, click on the color-coded hyperlink above.



All our stuff (minus food and water) for the next 4 months
 


Pack & Sleep

  • Cost: $202.50 (Originally $270)

  • Where: REI Co-op - Anniversary Sale

  • Why: I knew I wanted to go with Osprey as a brand because, even though they have a high upfront cost, they provide a lifetime warranty for their products. I like knowing that I will never have to buy another pack, and that makes it a worthwhile investment for me. Additionally, the antigravity system distributes the weight of the pack so it doesn't fall mainly on the lower back, which is super helpful for avoiding injury when logging miles.

  • Hot tip: If you are looking to get a backpack, GET PROFESSIONALLY FITTED. I cannot emphasize this enough. They set me up with a smaller size than I had anticipated for myself and ensured that the pack was comfortable and safe for carrying a lot of weight. They even filled the bag with a bunch of sandbags and let me walk around the store with it on while I finished the rest of my shopping to make sure it worked for me!

  • Cost: ~$300

  • Where: REI Co-op - 4th of July Sale

  • Why: Mitch got this tent because his old tent was falling apart at the no-longer-waterproofed seams and mine was too short for his liking. It's super roomy and comfortable for us! The general recommendation is to add an extra person in the tent size (e.g. there are 2 of us, we have a 3-person tent). I think my favorite feature is that both entries have their own vestibules. This covered space is really important for keeping stuff dry without actually putting it in the tent!

  • Disclaimer: When I go backpacking without Mitch, I bring my Eureka! Timberline 2-person tent. It was given to me by my parents' neighbor, and I would use it if I were doing this hike alone since it's mine and it's what I have. It doesn't compress super well, which makes it challenging for fitting in my pack, and it's twice as heavy as the Quarter Dome 3, despite it being sized for one fewer person, so even though I love my tent and use it often, I'm not too mad to be taking Mitch's tent. My Eureka! will be getting used by a friend on her road trip this summer, though, so it will still be getting good use!

  • Cost: $209.30 (Originally $299)

  • Where: REI Co-Op - Anniversary Sale

  • Why: Ok, ladies, listen up. When I was first looking into gear, I was low key irritated when I saw men's vs. women's sleeping bags. I thought it was in the same vein as marketing pink razors to women and blue ones to men. I was WRONG. Women's sleeping bags tend to be shorter, narrower at the shoulders, and wider at the hips. Additionally, their temperature rating is based on the comfort level and not the lowest tolerable temperature, which is how men's sleeping bags are rated. That means that this sleeping bag is still comfortable down to 21°F (I can verify this to be true). The survival rating is 9°F, so I should be good on this trail regardless of temperature. Additionally, it compresses down really small, which makes packing super simple. I didn't think I'd have such strong feelings toward a sleeping bag, but here we are.

  • Cost: $111.97 (Originally $159.95)

  • Where: REI Co-op - Anniversary Sale

  • Why: Have you ever tried sleeping on the cold ground? Not great. Even in an excellent sleeping bag like mine, your body weight will compress the material to minimize the barrier between you and the cold. A sleeping pad is the best way to go about adding an extra layer of heat to your sleep system. Sleeping pads are rated by how well they retain heat, and each is assigned an r-value between 1 and 7. Similarly to the sleeping bag, sleeping pads come in women's versions, and the women's versions are generally shorter and warmer. For example, mine has an r-value of 5.4, whereas the men's version of the same sleeping pad has an r-value of 4.2, which means mine is better insulated. (Note: higher r-value doesn't mean inherently superior in all ways; sometimes the pads with the highest r-values are also the bulkiest and/or heaviest.) Mine takes awhile to blow up, and it's a bit loud, but fortunately I don't move much in my sleep, and the comfort it provides is well worth the 30-40 breaths it takes to inflate.


My advice for this section: These are the most expensive items, but they're worth the cost. I suggest going to REI during a sale and asking their helpful staff for assistance picking the best gear for you. Maybe get one item at a time so it doesn't seem so harsh on your bank account. There are also plenty of other websites (backcountry.com, steepandcheap.com, moosejaw.com, etc.) that you can scope out and try to find the best deal. I will say, though, that I have never been led astray by an REI employee, and they genuinely want to help you without pressuring you to spend above your budget.


Wear

  • Cost: $30.78 ($69.95 new)

  • Where: REI Used Gear

  • Why: They're pants. They're shorts. They zip. Also they came in petite sizes so they don't feel too long on my short-ass legs! I'm obsessed with these and nobody can tell me how unfashionable they are. I'll fight you.

  • Cost: $40

  • Where: Facebook Marketplace

  • Cost: $25 ($100 new)

  • Where: depop

  • Cost: $165

  • Where: REI Co-op - birthday gift from my parents

  • Why: The current trend in long distance hiking is trail runners, but I am obsessed with my hiking boots. I've had these ever since I started hiking in 2017 (don't worry, I haven't logged nearly enough miles to need them replaced yet!) and they have been my loyal companions in three countries and on countless hikes. They keep my feet dry and comfortable. I've never gotten a blister from these boots, even while I was in the process of breaking them in. I cannot speak of these boots highly enough, and I'm confident they'll carry me well on the trail.

  • Cost: $23/pair

  • Where: REI Co-op

  • Why: They're made in Vermont, and when the socks inevitably get too worn out, they take them back and replace them free of charge, so I never have to buy another pair! Also they're so comfortable. If you hike in another brand of socks, I'm not here to tell you you're wrong, but you're certainly not right, is all I'm saying.

  • Cost: $70

  • Where: Teva's website

  • Why: A lot of people don't like bringing hiking sandals for their camp shoes because they're a little heavier than other types of shoes (like Crocs). However, I have had my Tevas since 2016 and they are probably my favorite thing that I own, period. I'm even attaching them to my pack with a locking carabiner because one fell off my backpack when we were backpacking in Yosemite and we had to backtrack 20 minutes to find it. I don't think I could bear to go 5 months without wearing my Tevas.


My advice for this section: Aside from your hiking footwear, which you should get brand new, everything else can come from your closet or someone else's. I saved a ton of money on this section by using clothing I already had and buying things I needed secondhand, which has never been easier! I'd recommend Facebook Marketplace, apps like depop and Poshmark, consignment/thrift stores, and rei.com/used. Also, for everyone asking: yes, I will only have one hiking outfit that will get washed only when I'm in town. I'm not doing this hike for cleanliness, you know?


Safety

Bear canister: BearVault 450 (7.2 L)

  • Cost: $69.95

  • Where: REI Co-op

  • Why: Bear canisters protect your food from bears or other critters. Unlike bear bags, they're pretty fool-proof. The design is such that bears can't penetrate the exterior with their teeth, so the worst that can happen is it getting moved around a bit. It's important (and even required in some spots) that anything with a scent - food, garbage, sunscreen, anything with an odor - is stored away from your tent so that bears don't mess with people and don't get too acclimated to their presence. I already have the BV450, which is smaller than the BV500 by 4.3 L; if I were doing the PCT or CDT, where resupply towns are further apart, I'd invest in the larger canister, but on the AT, I should never be going more than 5 days without restocking on food, so I feel comfortable sticking with the smaller size. Some people ship their canisters in and out of sections where it's required, but I don't mind the added weight for the peace of mind that my food is safe and safely distanced from where I'm sleeping.

Satellite communicator and GPS: Garmin inReach Explorer+ **

  • Cost: $449.99

  • Where: gift from my parents, with unquantifiable appreciation

  • Why: I joke that this was a gift from my parents, to me, for them. I won't always be in cell service range, but this device allows me to communicate with my parents no matter where I am, as well as reach out to an emergency response team if we find ourselves in need of help. These devices can also be rented or found on refurbished electronics sites.

  • Cost: $79.95

  • Where: REI Co-op

  • Why: I cannot recommend trekking poles highly enough to someone who has bad knees. Especially on downhill stretches, they distribute the weight so it's not all on your legs. These also collapse down a lot so they store easily. My knees have taken a pounding from running, so I'm taking extra precautions to make sure they don't give out on me along the way. I've joked to Mitch that I'd rather suffer permanent knee damage than quit the hike, but I'd really rather maintain joint health and finish the hike.


My advice for this section: What makes you feel safe and healthy is so personal, so the items I have on my list may be totally different from other lists you'll see on others.


Hygiene & Entertainment

Menstrual cup: Diva Cup

  • Cost: ~$25

  • Where: Target

  • Why: I've been using this particular menstrual cup for many years, and I cannot recommend it strongly enough. For $25, you don't have to buy other period products until you have to replace it, which is recommended after 10 years, or getting a larger model after you turn 30 or give birth. Also I generally can keep it in for 12-24 hours before having to empty and clean it out, which is super convenient for my lifestyle. I've been able to save a ton of money over the years, and I have been able to minimize my garbage production around my period, which y'all know I love. When it comes to hiking, I won't want to carry a bunch of pads or tampons, AND have to carry around the used ones when they're full (hello Leave No Trace), especially because, as mentioned in the Bear Canister section, I'll often have to store trash and food in the same place. I don't want to worry about making sure I have enough at any given time, or being forced to stop into town if I run out early, or have to carry around a larger supply. Nope, just one little product that I can rinse out and use over and over again as needed.

Entertainment: earbuds, deck of cards, paperback book, journal, foldable Bluetooth keyboard

  • Why: Haha you think I'm just gonna walk in the woods and not do anything else for 4 months? You're hilarious.


My advice for this section: Just because it's not necessary for survival, doesn't mean you don't need it. The items I'm choosing to bring for entertainment will help keep me grounded and give me things to do. Also, you'll notice my hygiene kit is pretty sparse. The concept of "hygiene" on the trail is pretty limited, as we will go several days between showers and being indoors, so you're quite unlikely to see stuff like deodorant on anyone's list. That's just a losing battle. Embrace the fact that you're going to be nasty, and don't let anyone judge you for your leg hair, girl, 'cause if anyone genuinely cares about your appearance while you're hiking thousands of miles (or any time, really), then maybe they should figure out how to judge a person's merit by better standards, and that's that.

 

Want more details on anything else? Let me know!



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