AT Thru-Hikers Share Their Gear Secrets
If you were on the trail for hundreds of days and thousands of miles, what would be your most cherished piece of gear? To help answer this question of packing priorities, we queried dozens of AT thru-hikers for their hard-won thoughts on the matter. Some answers you’d expect. Others may surprise you.
Light is right
“The lighter the pack is, the happier the hiker is,” says Kris Hauman, who thru-hiked in 2005. Time and time again, thru-hikers responded that the most important element of gear ion was weight-and the less of it the better. As one thru-hiker put it: “An extra pound, ounce, or even gram might not sound like much...until you multiply it by a couple thousand miles.”
Injinji Toe Socks
“I used these socks on a supported ‘thru-run’ of the AT in 2005 and rarely got blisters because the toes are separated from each other by a soft fabric inside the sock. I wore five pairs of these synthetic, quick-drying ‘tsoks’ on the AT and they barely look used. They should last me for hundreds, if not thousands, more miles. - Sue “Runtrails” Norwood, 56, 2005 thru-hiker.
Led on the head
“For night light we each took a LEDHedz micro hat lamp. The device is the size of two quarters placed side by side and weighs a mere half ounce, including the long-lasting battery! Each light lasted about 700 miles, and was more than adequate for setting up camp, reading, and hiking at night. We got by on three for the whole trip.” - B. “Otter” Townes and William “Tadpole” Townes, 52 and 20, 2005 father-and-son thru-hikers
“My music bounces back to the mountains, an expression of what I’ve seen and felt. It’s not particularly good (according to my hiking partners) but I love it. My pennywhistle has been to the bottom of Lake Michigan, was rescued by scuba divers, and has tootled from Georgia to Maine.” -Laura “GypsyLuLu” Cavender, 2005 thru-hiker.
A book in the hand
“I cherished my copy of The Thruhiker’s Handbook by Dan “Wingfoot” Bruce. It had all the information I needed, from water sources to post offices. I enjoyed using it as part of my journal by writing the dates and times beside the places I slept each night. Now that my thru-hike is over, I relish looking at my handbook and seeing when I went through a certain place.” - Kris “Slaphappy” Hauman, 30, 2005 thru-hiker.
The one-ounce stove
”With a little handiwork, it’s possible to convert an aluminum can into an effective one-ounce alcohol stove that will readily boil water. In terms of lightness and ease of use, I really love this homemade stove.” (For the basics on building one yourself, visit www.pcthiker.com. For all the details, www.zenstoves.net.) - Hawk “Hawk Who Walks” Metheny, 1993 thru-hiker.
Sipping from the Earth
“The taste of filtered spring water was one of the best parts of the AT, and my most important piece of gear was a First Need water filter. Many hikers used chemicals, or went through several filters due to failure and breakage, but my First Need-which was already 10-15 years old and the veteran of many wilderness canoe trips-held up with only three filter exchanges.” - Vern “OC-1” Graham, 56, 2005 thru-hiker.
Pack What’s Priceless
“The greatest piece of gear that I brought was my journal. I wrote every day it just became a part of the routine. Now it is priceless.” - James “Trip” Ramsay, 21, 2005 thru-hiker.
What’s in you
No matter how carefully you pack, it’s personal fortitude that matters most, advises AMC Shelter Manager Hawk Metheny, who teaches AMC’s thru-hike planning workshops. “The number one ingredient for success is what we call ‘sticking to it.’ Your motivation will be tested. Desire is an important element. It’s not what’s in your pack. It’s what’s in you.”
Courtesy of the Appalachian Mountain Club