My Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Gear List

  • Backpack 50 liters should be plenty. I like Osprey and Granite Gear
  • Don’t use a rain cover it’s too much trouble to put on and weighs too much. Instead, line backpack with a trash bag to make it waterproof (trash compactor bags are more durable; you can find them at the grocery story beside the trash bags).
  • Don’t bring a knife I had one for a few hundred miles. I only used it to open a beer bottle a couple of times.
  • Trekking poles I wasn’t a big fan of these at the start of the hike, but they saved me from injury at least once a week. Leki and Black Diamond make good ones. Make sure they don’t have integrated shocks. A single ski rigid pole can work too. Mine didn’t have cork grips, but they’re probably worth the extra money if you can afford to get them.
  • Duct tape This can be used for lots of things. Wrap it around the shaft of your trekking poles.
  • Sleeping bag Make sure it doesn’t take up all the space in your pack. Synthetic is cheaper, but takes up more space compared to down. Use a compression sack to make it smaller. In the summer I switched to a liner because it was so hot in Pennsylvania even at night.
  • Sleeping pad and pillow are both optional but make a big difference after a couple of days. Some people use their bag of clothes as a pillow, but I used a Cocoon inflatable hood pillow (fits in the hood of your sleeping bag so it doesn’t move around). The Therm-a-rest Z Lite foam pad is probably the best choice if you don’t want to buy an inflatable. Therm-a-rest NeoAir Xlite was probably the most popular on the trail. It’s awesome–comfortable and light–but expensive. You might use both if it’s cold.
  • Stove I used a JetBoil Flash (the Sol is a little lighter). If you want to do cooking other than boiling water, go for a normal gas canister stove because the JetBoil will burn anything in the bottom of the pot. See note about freezer bag cooking below.
  • Titanium spork with a long handle for reaching into Mountain House meals.
  • Hand sanitizer before meals and after visits to the privy.
  • Flushable wet wipes are much better than TP, can be used for a sponge bath. There may be concerns about the environmental impact of burying these. Consider packing them out.
  • Trowel you can also use a stick, but it’s hard to dig a hole 6 inches deep with a stick
  • Tent Big Agnes Fly Creek UL1/UL2 is good and light. I believe it can also be rigged up to be freestanding. This is important if you want to camp on cliffs/mountaintops without dirt. I used a Tarptent Squall 2 (tarptent.com) which is definitely not freestanding. You can also use a tarp, but you’ll most likely want something with bug netting. Don’t worry about a footprint; my tent made it the whole way being placed directly on the ground without a single hole in the floor.
  • Headlamp and a set of extra batteries. Some headlamps are rechargeable such as the Black Diamond ReVolt. This is useful because you won’t want to take the trouble to find an environmentally friendly place to dispose of batteries while hiking.
  • Shoes waterproofness is generally a bad idea. Your feet will be swimming in sweat on hot days. Trail runners are the most popular on the trail, but low/mid-top boots work too. I wore custom Chaco ZX/2s.
  • Darn Tough Socks are the best–lifetime guarantee!
  • Clothing two synthetic t-shirts, waterproof jacket, sun hat (optional), one pair of synthetic shorts, synthetic underwear (optional, can help with chafing between legs)
  • Cold weather clothing Same as above plus base layer top and bottom, one synthetic long sleeve shirt, one pair of synthetic pants, insulated synthetic or down jacket, beanie, neck gaiter or buff
  • Minimal synthetic wallet
  • Bag for trash I usually used grocery bags from resupply.
  • Waterproof/ditty bags for electronics, food, clothes, sleeping bag, toiletries/first aid to keep things organized and dry
  • Water treatmentSawyer Mini/Squeeze are the most popular. I used the Mini. The Squeeze flows better but is bigger and more expensive. Aquamira/iodine/bleach can also be used but I don’t like to wait for it to work when I’m thirsty.
  • 2 water bottles or Camelbak – 1L SmartWater and gatorade bottles are lighter and cheaper than Nalgenes although I used to swear by Nalgenes in the past. SmartWater bottles can be used in place of the bladder that comes with the Sawyer filters to squeeze dirty water through the filter and as a receptacle for dirty water. They’re cheap so you can replace them every few weeks. Filter water into the clean bottle and keep the other one with dirty water to filter into the clean bottle later. You can also use the filter inline with a Camelbak. It can be a little hard to suck the water through the filter, but I did this up until New York. It’s much faster collecting water this way.
  • Small bottle of sunscreen This is only needed in the summer in the middle states, otherwise the green tunnel ensures you won’t see much sun.
  • Food will be covered in another post. For now, check out freezer bag cooking. You don’t have to do any dishes and it’s much cheaper than pre-prepared meals.
  • Battery, chargers, electronics I read lots of books and played chess on my smartphone so I brought an Anker 16,000mAh battery to keep it and my camera charged. Looking back, I might have been happier without having such things on the trail.

If you can get all of this under 20 pounds not including food and water you’re in good shape. Be sure to pack with the heaviest thing at the bottom of your pack. I usually packed sleeping bag, sleeping pad, pillow, stove, clothes, electronics, toiletries in that order from bottom to top. Camera and other commonly used items were in side pockets or the lid.

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