Posts in Category: AT 2014

Appalachian Trail : Gear 2014

The gear you carry is close to irrelevant. It is unfortunately common for aspiring hikers to distract themselves with gear preparations rather than make the necessary physical and mental preparations.

I kindled the first genuine flame of interest for an Appalachian Trail thru hike on the 16th of May 2014. May 31st was my last day in the office. On June 4th, I got on a Greyhound bus. I began my hike North from Springer Mountain on June 5th, a mere 20 days after realizing I had an immediate interest in a thru hike.

This was possible ONLY because I had physically and mentally prepared prior to that. The logistics of gear were merely incidental.

Daily Average Pack Weight

While on the trail, I made a daily calculation to estimate my average pack weight. My base weight was known and, I recorded any gear changes that would change it. I knew both the weight of water and my water carrying capacity, which let me calculate water weight based on actual mileages & locations I refilled water or to estimate the average volume I had carried through the day. The last piece to calculate was food weight carried. In most cases, I was able to weigh my resupply or to calculate the resupply weight with the information from its retail packaging. Each day between resupplies, I would subtract off between 1 to 2.5 lbs of food weight depending on how much I had eaten. These estimates could be confirmed at my next resupply by the weight of what food remained, even if that weight was zero.

I graphed the average daily pack weights for all 110 days that I was on the trail:

2014 AT Daily Weight

July 4th, 5th, 20th are given a null value because I was off trail visiting family and hiked no trail miles.

The average value of my average daily total pack weight across the entire trail was 16.7 pounds with a standard deviation of 4.1 pounds.

Removing also the 4.5 pound pack weight day on 8/2/2014, which was a 10 mile hike with only 4 hours on the trail, the average value of my average daily total pack weight was 16.8 pounds with a standard deviation of 3.9 pounds.

There was considerable variation across my hike in the weight I was carrying. The downward stepping of weight between resupplies was one of the most substantial variations but water carrying habits and gear changes played a role too.

For another look at pack weight variation, see the histogram of my daily average weight:

2014 AT Daily Weight Histogram

For 21.5% of my hike, my total pack weight was between 9 and 14 lbs.
For 57.9% of my hike, my total pack weight was between 14 and 19 lbs.
For 14.9% of my hike, my total pack weight was between 19 and 24 lbs.

Just as it did in my hike, your pack weight will ebb and flow. Be open to changes. Regularly re-evaluate pieces of gear, your resupply strategies, and your water carrying habits.

My Gear: 2014 Appalachian Trail Hike

My base weight for the opening 341 miles from Springer to Erwin, TN was 15 lbs. In Erwin, I mailed home 2 lbs of gear (my 2oz ultrapod, the extra pair of gym shorts I had worn on bus down, a highlighter, other small unused items, and swapped out 3 Nalgenes for disposable plastic bottles, which was probably the largest part of the weight dropped). For the next 198 miles my base weight was 13 lbs.

That first 539 miles of the trail was hiked with my Go Lite Jam 50L pack. It costs ~$100 and weighs about 2 lbs. I already owned it from the year before.

Somewhere in TN, I learned about and ordered Matt Kirk’s pack kit. He designed this for his 2013 self-supported record breaking hike of the AT in less than 60 days. The pack has a 25L capacity and no padding at all. It’s basically a mesh bag with shoulder straps and hip pockets. It’s awesome.

Matt’s pack is $90 including shipping. Weights 8 or 10 ounces, depending on how you put it together. Assembly is required but no sewing is needed. I put together mine during my zero days at home on July 4th and 5th. The weight savings of this pack were much more than it’s difference in pack weight from my Go Lite. This pack forces you to carry very little. Matt says the comfortable max capacity of the pack 15 lbs. After using the pack for the last 1646 miles of the AT, I concur. This pack carried like a dream at with 14 lbs or less. It can technically carry up to 20 lbs but doing so was less than pleasant.

For shelter and rain gear, I used a Gatewood Cape from Six Moon Designs. It costs $146.55 including shipping. I did not use the net tent with it, which costs just as much again.

I carried 6 aluminum tent stakes and used a 5 mil piece of plastic for ground cloth.

For the ridge pole of the tarp-tent, I used my walking stick, which was an old ski pole from a second hand shop.

I carried one jacket and one wind breaker. I also had a pair of light sleep clothes but no extra walking clothes (except a second pair of walking socks). I wore a technical t-shirt from a second hand shop for the whole trip. I wore a pair of Race Ready brand long distance running shorts (with 5 pockets across the back and side) for the entire trip. I carried a bandanna too.

I used a sleeping back liner as my bag. For about 100 miles in PA, I hiked without any sleeping bag, and instead used a pair of lined windbreaker pants with my jacket.

My ground pad was normally a CCF pad. I hiked from the SNP to somewhere in PA without any ground pad, and instead sought out only soft places to bed down.

My camera was my iPhone in a lifeproof case.

From Springer to Hot Springs, NC, I carried no water treatment equipment. In Hot Springs, I bought some Aquamira. In Waynesboro, I swapped that for a sawyer inline mini filter. In the Whites, I left my water filter at an overlook and ordered Aquamira for the rest of the trip to arrive at my next mail drop.

I carried no stove. I had a 1 oz Victorinox Classic army knife.

I carried a few additional luxury items: a 4500 mAh batter to recharge my phone, a SPOT locator device to track my nightly stopping position and ease minds of family at home, and either a harmonica or 1 oz iPod Nano for some podcasts & audiobooks.

In summary, the specific items selected for your hike are of no importance. Carrying one pound less has cascading effects. Your weight will ebb and flow with your food and water carrying habits. Shed unnecessary: Never carry something that hinders your forward progress.