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Getting Ready To Follow The White Blaze

It's been almost two years since my rookie thru hike of the Appalachian Trail. After summiting Mt. Katahdin, the northern terminus, the last thing I ever wanted to do again was to long distance hike. Those feelings waned and soon I was feeling the call of the trail.

I wasn't ready for another thru hike but the idea remained in the back of my head. Last fall I began planning a second helping of A.T. wonder. I kept it hush until my friend's plans were confirmed. This time I will be hiking with "Shortcake", a dear friend who is seeking adventure.

My winter has been spent researching my favorite hiking topic, gear. I won't be replacing many items, what I have still works. There is so much to choose from it can be overwhelming. I belong to a few hiking groups on social media and as the days get longer and March draws closer everyone is seeking advice on gear. I have decided to share my list in hopes it will help a fellow hiker.

What’s In The Pack

One long distance hiker’s guide to choosing gear

Outdoor adventure can be a thrill of a lifetime to be enjoyed at all ages of life. But one aspect that can make or break your escapades is what you throw into your backpack. Choosing gear should not be taken lightly because the wrong decisions are a heavy burden to carry. Being the know-it-all independent type I created my own initial list. It was so long there was no way it all was going to fit into my pack. I had to admit I could not choose gear without the help of experts. So I made an appointment with my computer and Google and got lost in a world of information overload.

Searching the pros like Hyperlite Mountain Gear (HMG), REI, L.L.Bean and various hiking forums, it wasn’t long before I discovered recurring themes on the subject of gear choice. Terms like, lightweight, Ultralight weight, multipurpose, and compact, surfaced time and time again. I am by no means an expert, just an outdoor enthusiast sharing what has worked for me. The best simple advice came from a ridge runner named Sisus I met my first night hiking the Appalachian Trail in 2015. He said, “When choosing gear for long distance hiking, ask yourself one question. Are you there to camp or are you there to hike? Choose gear that will help you have a successful hike.” My favorite golden nugget came from an unknown fellow hiker who simple said, “Every piece of gear I have has to earn its way into my pack.”

Going Ultralight has it’s advantages and disadvantages. The obvious being a light pack means you can hike more enjoyably with less strain on your body. The disadvantage is if you pack too little you may find yourself without the basic items needed to enjoy yourself. Afterall, that is why we seek wilderness adventure. I found a happy medium I was comfortable with after being too heavy at times and then going without. It is a learning curve every hiker must experience for themselves based on one’s comfort level.

Having a light pack also comes with a heavy price tag. High tech gear is expensive. But it doesn’t have to be for the thrifty shopper. If you are just starting out, be careful not to over buy or get lost in the newest and greatest trend hot out of the research and development department. Start small with what you think is the most important piece of equipment. I chose to spend my money on a great ultralight backpack and tent from Hyperlite Mountain Gear.

There are endless forums you can research on what gear is best, lightest and high tech. I do not have the expertise to compare all the choices out there. The following is what works for me. But with that said, each item has to earn its way into my pack, then has to perform or it gets benched the next time my budget allows.

So what’s in my pack? Below is the starting line up for my second go around on the Appalachian Trail. Items listed in Parenthesis are what I used on my first A.T. thru hike. that I re Items with an asterisk are items I am thinking about trying but have not yet committed to. I filled my pack with the following items plus 5 days worth of food and I topped the scales at 32 pounds. That weight excludes the Platypus water system and rain pants. This time I have added a few luxury items I did not use on round one. I am excited to use my fry pan and extra seasonings to help make bland gluten free meals tasty. I also want to give rain pants a try. I was cold and soaked too many times. I know getting wet is unpreventable but my rain jacket also kept me warm so I am hoping rain pants might do the same. And the last item I might add is the Platypus 4-liter filtration system to make end of the day water collection quicker and easier.

My Pack: HMG Windrider 3400 in black. (White 3400 Windrider, worked like a charm. Still has lots of miles left in her but I retired it for sentimental reasons. I bought a black one to replace the original.)

Poles: Black Diamond ladies pro-shock bought at L.L.Bean

Tent: HMG Echo II with screen/floor insert. I use several tents and switch them out because I like variety. In my collection is the Echo II, MSR Hubba, and MSR Hubba Hubba.

Sleeping Bag: REI Women’s Flash. (L.L.Bean women’s Katahdin 20 degree bag with celliant and the L.L.Bean Ultralight 35 degree bag.) My next dream bag when the budget allows will be the Women’s Ultralight 850 Down 15 degree bag my L.L.Bean

Sleeping Pad: Sea-to-Summit Ultralight Sleeping Pad yellow regular from L.L.Bean. (I used the Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite 3/4 length and placed my pack under my legs to compensate for the short pad.)

Sleeping Bag Liner: Sea-to-Summit 15 degree sleeping bag liner bought at L.L.Bean

Ground Cloth: A piece of Tyvek house wrap cut to 7 feet by 24 inches. I use this under my sleeping pad. I also used it to wrap around my legs when hiking in the rain in lieu of rain pants.

Packed Clothing:

- L.L.Bean 850 hooded down jacket.

- L.L.Bean Gortex hooded rain jacket

- L.L.Bean Cresta 250 Merino Wool 3/4 zip long sleeved top

- L.L.Bean Cresta 250 Merino pant

- L.L.Bean Cresta 150 Merino Wool short sleeve top

- L.L.Bean hiking skort

- L.L.Bean Snowpath Insulated Fitness Skirt

- L.L.Bean wool hiking socks

- Injinji toe sock liners

- Long Sleeved lightweight button down layering shirt

- Extra thin gloves from a dollar store just to break the morning chill while packing up

- Stocking Hat

- Wind Blocker Fleece Gloves by L.L.Bean

- Dirty Girl Gaiters

- *Arc’terx Zeta Rain Pants from REI

- Crocs (Keen Sandals)


- L.L.Bean Crest Hiker boots - worth every penny and ounce of weight

- L.L.Bean fitness capris pants

- L.L.Bean Cresta Wool Merino 150 long sleeved shirt

- Exoficio undies (Smartwool undies)

- Smartwool Sports Bra

- Injinji toe sock liners

- Smartwool Ski PHD socks

- Buff neck/head gear

- Ball cap

- Outdoor Research Crocodile Gaiters

When warmer weather arrives I make a few minor changes. I will delete the 850 hooded down jacket, the 250 wool clothing, insulated fitness shirt, stocking hat, fleece gloves, long ski socks and capris fitness pants. I will add an L.L.Bean 850 hooded sweater jacket, 150 wool pants, an extra 150 wool short sleeved t-shirt, L.L.Bean Runabout skort, tank top, and Injinji hiking toe socks.


- Iphone 6 Plus

- DeLorme (Garmin) InReach Explore GPS

- 2 Lumsing-008-01 10,400mAh battery chargers from Amazon

- GoPro 4 with 4 extra batteries,

- 2 double chargers

- 2 micro SD cards

- 2 charging blocks

- 4 Charging Cables

- Headphones


- Sawyer Mini water filter and 1/2 liter collection bag - REI

- 2 - 1 liter smart water bottles or 2 - 1 liter 1907 New Zealand bottles

- 1 - 500 ml Nalgene during cold weather to hold hot drinks. Or to make hot water bottles to sleep with

- Micropur MP1 water purifier tablets for back-up

- *Platypus 4 liter filtration system

Health & Safety:

- Petzel Zipka Headlamp 200 lumens with 4 settings: high, low, red and red stobe - REI

- Small Gerber Knife

- Bandana

- Tick remover

- Tweezers

- Ibuprofen, Aleve, and Tylenol

- Chapstick

- Bacitracin mini foil pack

- a few Alcohol pads

- a few bandaids

- 12” circular gauze tube

- Feminine hygiene products as needed

- 2 metatarsal felt pads - specific to my foot pain

- Multivitamins

- Glucosamine

- Calcium Magnesium supplements

- Echinacea supplements

- Rhodiola supplements

- Reading Glasses

- Sunglasses

- Earplugs

- Extra lighter


- Baby toothbrush

- Travel toothpaste

- GoldBond green bottle

- Babywipes

- Travel deodorant

- Tissues - I use this for toilet paper

- PackTowel size medium

- P-Style

- Handsanitizer

- Bandana for sweat

- Titanium trowel

Dry Sacks: all from HMG. I use them to compartimentalize by pack and to add an extra layer of waterproofing to my gear. They also make packing up quicker. I have one for each of the items listed sized slightly larger then the item.

- Tent

- Sleeping bag

- Extra clothes

- Food bag

- Toiletry bag

- Snack bag

- Electronics bag

- Extra batteries

- First Aid Kit

- Down jacket

Camp Kitchen:

- Optimus cookpot combo and stove

- Evernew titanium fry pan (my luxury item)

- 4x4 ultra thin plastic cutting board with smooth corners and edges

- 8oz fuel can

- Lighter

- 50 feet of dyneema ultralight, ultra strong bear line with a LoopAlien

- Small scrubbie

- Scrapper

- Dedicated bandana as a placemat when eating in gross places Aka: shelter tables.

- Food for 4 - 5 days

- Sea to Summit long spork


- 20 feet of dyneema rope and 2 LoopAliens for a clothes line

- 3x4 piece of Tyvec for my "sit-upon" when resting and snacking

- 1 or 2 small plastic grocery bags to place hiking boots in to keep condensation and critters out at night

- Gallon or Quart size slider lock food storage bag for a trash bag

- AWOL Guidebook

- AWOL digital copy on iPhone

- GutHook App on iPhone

- Paper Journal

- Pen, Pencil, & Sharpie

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