Box or Bag–it makes no difference because mine doesn’t have Gwyneth Paltrow’s noggin’ in it.
You can view everything in my pack using the web-application LighterPack. This is what I will be carrying on my way up Springer. I am suffering under no illusion: I fully expect this list to change. This is not an ultralight set-up. It’s barely lightweight. It is a system that I have built over the course of several years and numerous shakedown hikes. But there is no substitute for through hiking, and the moment the realization finally hits that I am responsible for dragging everything strapped to my sorry caracas 2000 miles north, I’m sure some changes will be made.
I’ve broken my kit down into digestible sections (more as a personal exercise than for reader enjoyment) for your perusal. I will say that a fair chunk of my stuff comes from small cottage vendors. The customer service is incredible, their prices are as good if not better than big brand outfitters, and you can call up and chat with the actual person who put together your gear. I agonized over every single item you see below and could talk at length about each and every one. Someday I might. But today is not that day. If you have questions about anything you see below just give a shout!
The Big Three
While not referring to Stalin, Churchill, and Roosevelt or the Milt Jackson album (yes go look him up), the big three does refer to the three (surprise surprise) largest items in any hikers pack. Namely: your shelter, sleep system, and the pack itself. I’ll be using a hammock so my shelter is a little less straight forward that a simple tarp or tent, but I like it and it keeps my knot-tying skills from going rusty. It also means I need top and bottom insulation (a cold booty is no beauty).
- Tarp: Cuben fiber tarp from Z-Packs with homemade ridge-line attached with homemade soft-shackles and prusik knots
- Snakeskins: From MountainGoat gear–operated by one woman out in the mountains above Santa Cruz
- Bug Net: From Papa Smurf over at Dream Hammock.
- Tree Straps: From Dutch at Dutchwaregear.com
- Hammock: From Hummingbird Hammocks
- Structural Ridgeline: Homemade from 120″ 7/64 Amsteel
- Stakes: Random aluminum stakes salvaged from the gear bin in my parent’s attic.
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Southwest (Made in MAINE!)
- Chest pack from Z-Packs (because I couldn’t bring myself to rep the fanny pack)
Clothing (Not Worn)
Self explanatory category. These items include rain and wind gear, insulating layers, clothing I’m going to sleep in, and a few fashion accessories absolutely essential to a successful through hike. This is where I’ll probably see the largest shifts over the course of the hike as the weather and my ability to embrace the suffering changes.
Rain and Wind
- Rain Jacket: Frogg Toggs Dri Ducks
- Wind Pants: nylon warm up pants from Discount Dance
- Rain Mitts: eVents from REI
- Gloves: fleece Thinsulates from God knows where
- Puffy Vest: From Montbell
- Down Sleeves: From Jacks-R-Better
- Fleece: Hoodie from Melazana
- Warm Hat: Balaclava from Outdoor Research
- Headnet: From Sea to Summit
- Buff: One I picked up in South Africa years ago
Yes I will be treating my water. Does this mean I can just take a scoop from yee-old-cholera-well and call it a day? No. Does it mean I may not get giardia? Maybe. Is my physician sleeping better knowing that I’m not just sticking my face in a puddle and slurping? Absolutely. I’m going to be bringing along an alcohol stove. There have been volumes dedicated to the benefits and detriments of the alcohol stove. Because you are only ever a few days away from a resupply on the AT and I’m only cooking one hot meal a day, alcohol stoves still technically save fuel weight so I’m going for it. This can totally change at the drop of a hat.
- Clean Water Bottles: 2x 900mL Evernew bladders
- Dirty Water Bottle: 2L Evernew bladder
- Filter: Sawyer Squeeze w/ Frankenstein gravity setup
- Stove: Aluminum alcohol stove that I’ve had for years
- Wind Screen: Heavy duty aluminum foil
- Fuel Bottle: 8oz bottle that I’ve had for years
- Pot: IMUSA mug with homemade lid
- Cozy: DIY reflectix
- Spoon: Lexan probably from REI (I got it in 6th grade)
- Silicone Mug Guard: Hot Lips from SnowPeak
- Pack Towel: Old chamois from Dad (seriously the thing is older than me)
Tools and Toiletries
You will note that my toiletries kit contains nothing involved directly in the activity of urination or defication. That is because the idea of digging through your toiletry bag for some hand sanitizer after pooping in a hole in the ground and brushing up against your toothbrush should make your insides turn into your outsides. Seriously. Norovirus is a thing. And the way you avoid it is by not smearing poo on the things you put in your mouth.
Side note: Sawed-off toothbrushes drive me positively insane! Why would I want to shove my dirty fingers down my throat to try and clean my mouth? And those little travel ones where the brush collapses into the handle are like some petri dish from hell. I will be using a real-person toothbrush (I may even get a new one every three months like you’re supposed to).
- Lighter: Minibic
- Knife: Opinel no.6
- Compas: Old Silva from Dad
- Headlamp: Old one from L.L.Bean
- Whistle: Haverford Public Safety (I still remember the song…)
- Notebook: Write in the rain
- Pencil: Standard No. 2
- Map: AWOL guide
- Toothbrush: Regular stiff bristled one from the supermarket (no I did not saw off the handle)
- Toothpaste: Arm and Hammer 1.1oz
- Ear Plugs: The orange ones from the hardware store
- Comb: Sawed-off
I’m a certified Wilderness EMT through NOLS and it took all of my willpower to not bring a 2lb first aid kit. Part of backpacking light is being comfortable with your knowledge, ability to problem solve, and improvise in emergency situations. We’ll see how it goes. I have a box with a bag-valve mask, pre-natal kit, six splints, and more steri-strips than God waiting to be mailed should I feel the need for my safety blanket.
And yes. I will be using 100% DEET. It is one of the only fluids with actual scientific evidence saying it wards off mosquitoes and my sodium intake alone (not to mention sun, general fatigue, physical wear and tear, and inhaled dust) over the next six months will be far more carcinogenic than a few milliliters of N,N-diethyl-meta-toluamide.
- Body Glide
- 100% DEET
- Lip Balm
- Actual Medical Stuff: Gloves, benedryl, ibuprofin, immodium, neosporin, steri-strips, needle/thread, nail clippers, , razor blade, tweezers, irrigation syringe, moleskin
See above for my diatribe on defecation. I will be bringing hand sanitizer. The idea that a nonspecific bactericidal agent is somehow evolving a superbug just does not make scientific sense. Don’t get me wrong, antibiotics are absolutely artificially selecting resistant strains of bacteria-borne illnesses. But ethanol works by washing entire cells, shriveling membranes, and denaturing every protein it comes into contact with. It also is a nearly instantaneous sanitizing process, meaning there is no prolonged exposure to the stressor to promote selective evolution in the first place. The argument that hand sanitizer breeds super bugs is like saying if the entire human race went camping at Chernobyl, eventually we could breed spiderman.
That being said. I’m still bringing soap.
- Trowel: Original orange picked up near Olympic National Park
- Hand Sanitizer
- Bandana: Random sea-foam green one
- Mesh Bag: From REI
- Dr. Bronner’s (currently sitting in my shower)
Everything that will be on my skin. I’ll be using Chacos to hike in. I’ve never found a shoe with a toe box I find comfortable. Plus I think they give you a sick tan (even though I’ll be wearing socks). I’m starting with the Pro version which has stickier soles. We’ll see how they stand up.
- Shirt: Thrift Store Synthetic button-down
- Shorts: 1″ inseam from BOA
- Socks: From Darn Tough
- Sandals: Chacos Pro (stickier soles)
- Poles (w/ Duck Tape)
- Sun Hat: Old baseball cap from the hat drawer at home
I will be bringing a phone that will also double as a camera. My parents insisted on me bringing a personal locator beacon. My assumption is that they want to make sure I’m actually hiking the trail and not just living on a beach somewhere working on catching some gnarly curls for six months. They are patient and supportive people, but only to a point.
Food, fuel, water. At any given time I’ll be carrying around 1.5lbs of food per day, 7oz of fuel, and 1L of water. There will be places where this will be more. There will be places where this will be less. It will always feel heavier than it should.