Prospective thru hikers are always asking us what sort of gear we suggest, what we would bring and what we would leave behind. We have a little document sitting on the computer desktop at work which we can print out and it explains a lot of it. But not everyone is able to make it to the shop before their hike and sometimes its just so much more helpful to see an actual, visual example of a piece of gear rather than read about it. So this is intended to be a visual guide to assist you in being able to spy a good piece of gear that will serve you well on your thru hike.
Sleeping Bag: Western Mountaineering : 20°
A Western Bag is a big investment but it is one that will last you decades if you take care of it. Some of the lightest, smallest compressing, most accurately rated bags out there.
Sleeping Pad: Therm-A-Rest NeoAir
The absolute happy medium between comfort and weight. At 2.5 inches thick but only 12 oz. in weight, this is a piece of gear that makes everyone happy.
Tent: Big Agnes Fly Creek UL 1
Big Agnes makes some of the most popular tents used on the AT. The Fly Creek UL 1 is the lightest of them all. The footprint, fly and tent body all compress down to the size of a football. It can be pitched in a “fast fly” manner that allows for getting out of the rain quicker when pitching and staying in the sleeping bag longer when breaking down.
Don’t Forget Your Rain Fly
Backpack: ULA Catalyst
At approximately 70 liters, the Catalyst is on the upper end of desired capacity for a thru hiking pack but it is still incredibly lightweight. With two water bottle pockets, a joey pocket, a shock cord attachment, trekking pole holders, a comfortable hip belt with pockets and load lifters, this pack is very “everything you need and nothing you don’t”.
Rain Jacket: Mountain Hardwear Super Light Plasmic
Lightweight rain shell. All of them will have you sweating in no time but that is favorable over hypothermia, so just find the lightest, most comfortable one you can.
Down Jacket: Mont Bell UL Down Parka
Very lightweight and compressible down jacket. Not recommended for wearing while hiking, mostly for wearing around camp. Always wear a rain shell over it in rain or snow. Down jackets second wonderfully as a pillow.
Gloves & Hat: North Face Power Stretch Gloves, Mouse Works Rolled Beanie
Make sure not to go overboard on the thickness of the gloves because you still want dexterity in your hands. Windproof gloves end up being the most worm. For hats, don’t over think it, just get a warm hat.
Nylon Hiking Pant: Marmot, Mountain Hardwear, MontBell and many others
Lightweight, comfortable, nylon hiking pants are a must in Winter and early Spring unless you carry rain pants. Hiking pants are quick drying, seconding well enough as a rain pant, but can also be converted in to shorts, making them three times over multi-use.
Midweight Pullover: Mountain Hardwear, Marmot, Patagonia, and others
Wether it is fleece, wool, or some synthetic material, having a long sleeve pull over as an extra layer is nice when its cold. It also gives you a long sleeve layer to hike in with out fear of sweating though it and damaging the warming qualities like down.
Light Weight Base Layer: Patagonia Daily (Capilene 1)
Lightweight, synthetic layer to pull on over shorts to wear under pants. Makes an excellent sleep layer.
Synthetic Running Shorts: Department stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, Wal-Mart and Target have cheap active wear
Any synthetic, quick drying material will do. Some hikers prefer a built in liner over underwear. Make sure to be conscious of the waist band because it has the most potential to cause problems. Wear them with a fully loaded pack before leaving to truly test out the band.
Quick Drying T-Shirt: Department stores like TJ Maxx and Marshall’s, Wal-Mart and Target have cheap active wear
Any synthetic, quick drying t-shirt will do. You’re just trying to avoid cotton. Lighter colors will become dirtier than you ever expected but you will probably throw it away due to smell long before you need a new shirt.
Shoes: Brooks (Cascadia 9 depicted), Montrail, Salomon, all good brands.
Trail Runners have taken the lead over boots as the most popular style of footwear on long distance trails today. They are way lighter weight, they let your foot bend and move in a more fluid, natural way, and they dry more quickly that any boots if they are not waterproof coated.
Socks: Darn Tough (depicted) and Point 6
Darn Tough Socks are made in Vermont and boast one of the most unbelievable guarantees in the outdoor industry with a product that is so good most people never have to use it. Point6 Socks are made in Chattanooga, TN and hold one of the higher wool counts found in wool socks. Because of this, it takes them longer to begin to smell. Unavoidable on a thru hike, but cool for the rest of us.
Gaiters: Dirty Girl Gaiters
Gaiters are just one extra thing to carry that you can absolutely live with out. If you are going to get some, make them a pair of Dirty Girl’s. They are cheap, they are insanely light and they come in a million awesome patterns.
Cook Pot: Snow Peak Trek 700ml Titanium Pot
Small, lightweight pot that holds approximately 3 cups of water, an excellent size when cooking many meals that require 2 cups or less. Can store small canister of fuel and small stove inside. Also will double as a cup or a mug when needed.
Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket
A small lightweight canister stove with varying flame intensities. Connects up with any brand of fuel canister. Along with the canister needed to fuel it, this stove can fit into a pot the size of the Snow Peak mentioned above.
Canister Fuel: MSR Canister Fuel
Any brand of canister is compatible with a canister stove. The smaller canisters will last approximately an hour but it is good to pay attention to your cooking habits and learn how much fuel you are using so you can estimate when to purchase a new canister. The smaller canisters are also able to fit in a pot the size of the Snow Peak mentioned above along with an MSR Pocket Rocket.
Water Filter: Sawyer Classic Water Filter
The perfect meld between lightest and fastest flowing water filter. Takes more effort and time than larger, heavier pump water filters.Chemical Treatment: AquaMira Chemical Treatment
A lightweight, lazy way to treat water. Two parts, mixed together, 7 drops of each per liter of water. Won’t freeze like a ceramic filter.
Pocket Knife: Voctorynox Classic Swiss Army Knife
A tiny pocket knife that is all you need! Blade will slice cheese and summer sausage. Scissors will open packages. Comes with tweezers built in.
Bandana: Regular ole bandana.
One, maybe two, is all you need. Serves as a hankie when sweating, a towel when showering, a mop when you track mud and water into your tent.
Data Book: Awol’s AT Guide
The most favored and detailed of all the guide books for thru hikers. Most end up cutting it in half, mailing the second half ahead, and taping the spine so that it does not fall apart.
Pack Cover: Etowah Gear Pack Cover
Very light weight sil nylon pack cover designed to keep the water out of your pack. They come in sizes ranging from XS to L that are made for packs of varying liter capacity.
Water Bladder: Playpus Big Zip 3L Water Bladder
If you choose to use a bladder over multiple water bottles, a 3 liter is recommended just so that you have the ability to carry large amounts of water, even if you only use it a few times while on trail. These are great because they offer hands free drinking while hiking. If you find you have problems keeping track of how much water you have left, store it in an external side pocket so you can periodically check your supply. Doing this also makes refilling the bladder more simple as it is easier to get to.
Water Bottles: 1L Smart Water Bottle
Super light and inexpensive. Can be found at almost any gas station along the trial.
Couple Lighters: Bic Lighter
One for everyday use and one for back up. Don’t go over board. You can always pickup another at a gas station.
Waterproof Stuff Sacks: Sea to Summit or Granite Gear
Good for organizing your gear based off of colored bags and helps keep everything dry.
Band-Aids: Not too many! Most injuries are tiny scratches and don’t even require a bandaid. Chap Stick: You will regret not having it if you are starting early.
Mole Skin/Blister Treatment: Blisters are pretty common injuries on trail. Best to be prepared!
Body Glide/Anti-Chaffing Product: Some people need it, other don’t. It’s good to have starting off if you’re not sure which your are.
Duct Tape: Just a little, wrapped around a water bottle, trekking pole or lighter.
This is a fairly comprehensive gear list for the beginning thru hiker. Some folks want to carry more, some folks want to carry less. We strongly encourage hikers to gather their gear with ample time to go out on practice hikes in order to learn how gear works and what may or may not be of use to you. Nearly all the items you see on this list (or something very comparable) are available at Mountain Crossings.