Exactly what you need & nothing more: ultralight gear for Appalachian Trail thru hikers
Text & illustrations by Tyson Perkins
Early summer 2014, my girlfriend, Kendra Jackson, and I took on our second 5000-footer together—Mount Katahdin. Soon after waking up the day of our ascent we met a 20-something New York City-based mountain guide, Peter. A veteran thru-hiker, he had a wealth of knowledge about backcountry travel and the Appalachian Trail. He taught us about shelters that set up with trekking poles instead of your common tent poles, trail names, “Trail Magic,” “Zero Days,” “Nero Days,” “Hiker Hobble” and cleaning yourself with baby wipes. We immediately got overly enamored and stoked on this magically ridiculous world and decided to hike the “AT.” Fast travel to the summer of 2015, and Kendra and I began taking on adventures such as the Mahoosuc Range between New Hampshire and Maine in a weekend and returning to work on Monday.
On our first forays into the wilderness, we took awkward thrift store backpacks and a beaten-down double sleeping bag. We cooked dinner on a heavy propane stove right near our Walmart dome tent. Needless to say we had a ton of fun using terrible gear, but knew there had to be better options out there. Through my job as a tent maker at Hyperlite Mountain Gear, I gleaned a ton of ultralight knowledge from the owner, Mike St. Pierre. The more I learned, the easier our trips became. And, more importantly, we enjoyed our backcountry adventures even more. And now’s the time. We’re taking all that we have learned since 2014 and heading out for our Appalachian Trail thru hike. In this blog post I detail our planning, preparation and gear.
We really enjoyed planning the logistics of this trip, regularly geeking out over Excel spread sheets and line art graphs (Kendra developed the one published to the right) and the ultralight Appalachian Trail Gear we planned to take. We’ve meticulously categorized and sorted all our mail drop supplies along the AT, and we’ve mapped out our post office stops and planned out how we will meet up with Kendra’s parents in Shenandoah National Park. Everyone needs to take breaks, and we have come up with a plan to take some without compromising our March 4th to July 22nd timeline. If we stick to the plan, we’ll hike 16 miles a day on average. We’ve developed a “bank” system. Essentially, any miles we do over the 16-mile average we add to the bank, and once we have a days worth of miles in it, we can take a full day off. Also, we built in two full Zero Days. And, we planned our food and gear very carefully…
Home-made dehydrated meals or Mountain House? Nalgene® or a SmartWater bottle? Eucalyptus or almond soap?!?! There are so many choices, some of which are easy to make, and some that seem like you are perpetually leaving something behind. Will I need a footprint for my shelter? Will down be a superior sleeping bag choice? These are things that we will not find out until we really take them out and put them to the test. Gear is really fun. Planning what to take was actually my favorite part of this whole endeavor.
Here is a quick breakdown of our ultralight gear for Appalachian Trail thru hikes: Check out the full list.