Before I depart I thought it appropriate to describe the equipment and clothing I will be taking in my effort to hike the 2,190.9 miles from Georgia to Maine. I have previously described in a post entitled “The Winter Supplement,” the items I am taking as a result of the likelihood of some very cold, if not winter, weather for my first five weeks. I have also discussed these winter items on the Podcast. Finally, I detailed the meal planning and food I would be eating in a post entitled “What’s for Dinner?”, and discussed the same in a Podcast (Food & Resupply). Thus, this post will describe the essential gear that I expect to need to help me complete thru-hike.[All of my gear and clothing choices can be seen with their respective weights and a link to a photograph at GearGrams (Please support GearGrams).
I start with what is often called “The Big Three,” which itself was the topic of a Podcast episode by the same name. The Big Three are your backpack, tent and sleeping bag. Here are my choices:
I will be using an Osprey Atmos AG (65 liter). I had used and liked the prior Atmos model, but when Osprey added the new belt and suspension system I thought it was so superior (even though it weighed a half a pound more) in terms of comfort in carrying a load, I “upgraded” to the Atmos AG model even though my earlier Atmos still had hundreds if not thousands of miles left in it.
Without going into a detailed review, the Atmos AG is distinguished by its belt/support system and its pockets – rather than just a large sack, the Atmos AG has a few pockets and compartments that make organization and access easier – but for ultra lighters, with a weight penalty. (Whenever you add pockets, you add material and zippers that add weight.)
Every backpacker must have some form of shelter. The options generally are (i) to try and stay in the wooden three-sided shelters along the Trail (there are approximately 300 sprinkled throughout the 2,200 miles), (ii) to camp in a tent, or (iii) to use a hammock. The later method is relatively new, especially to a hiker from the 1970’s and it is gaining increased acceptance. The obvious benefit to a hammock is that – at least in most of the eastern United States – it means there are almost limitless places to sleep as long as you can find two trees.
I will be using a fairly traditional, two-walled tent, but an extremely lightweight one for the components. The one I will use is called the Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2 – supposedly built for two people (hence the “UL2”), but it is a very nice shelter for one large man. Research suggests that there are few, if any, lighter tents with two walls, which (briefly) attempts to provide a waterproof outer “fly” with a breathable, interior ceiling and walls – the objective, stay dry from the outside elements without drowning from inside condensation. [There are lightweight, “breathable” single-wall tents (like the ever-popular Z-Packs Duplex), but they still have trouble in heavy, constant rain and with condensation where the dew point is high.]
I call it a “sleep system” rather than a sleeping bag because there is at least one (if not two) items that supplement your sleeping bag to create a comfortable, rest promising sleep environment.
I will be using a Mountain Hardwear Phantom 15 sleeping bag (its royal blue on the outside and navy blue on the inside). [When I get to Virginia, God willing, I plan to swap out this bag for a lighter one – the Mountain Hardwear Phantom 45.] The numbers are essentially a “rating” that indicates the normal person should be comfortable using that bag in temperature as low as 15 degrees. To supplement that bag in extreme cold, I have a polyester liner – Sea-To-Summit Reactor – that is advertised to add 15 to 20 degrees of comfort.
Sleeping Pad. While a liner is not critical for everyone, few will venture out on a thru-hike without a sleeping pad. In the 1970’s we used a thin, closed cell foam pad called “ensolite.” Today, most pads are inflatable, although there are some “self-inflating” and some closed cell foam pads. The inflatable models tend to be the most comfortable. The closed cell are the most convenient (no blowing up at end of the day). The self-inflatable are comfortable, but tend to be the bulkier and heavier options.
I am taking a brand new product – the Big Agnes Third Degree – a closed cell foam pad. It is half the weight of most of the inflatable pads, but for me, the main feature for its selection is that it has been designed for the colder weather – “designed actually for mountaineering. Hence, the barrier it creates between the [read: cold] ground and your sleeping bag will have a material impact on warmth through the night. Not surprisingly, the ground can steal an incredible amount of comfort due to conduction – contact with the ground. [I do plan to switch to a slightly more comfortable pad – the Klymit Static V – when I get out of the “winter” conditions; probably when I reach Virginia.
Part II of this article will address miscellaneous equipment like my stove, water filter, trekking poles and utensils.
Last modified: February 10, 2018