Returning to the Trail: Gear Overview

It’s been nearly two months since I stopped hiking, but I’m finally getting back on the trail!! My flight leaves Oregon tonight and lands at LaGuardia tomorrow morning. I’m leapfrogging over ~1200 miles and starting north from Bear Mountain State Park Wednesday morning. My current plan is to hike north to Katahdin, then head back to Clingman’s Dome and hike north to Bear Mountain. We’ll see how that all shakes out.

I revised my gear list a bit and finally got around to finishing my spreadsheet.

The Big Three:  Total weight 9.84 lbs, total cost $1,217.14.

big three gearI could lose the strap pocket, lid, extra stakes, stake bag & guyline pretty easily, but I like the convenience. I should get a summer-weight quilt to replace the sleeping bag, so that’s on the horizon. I recognize it’s ridiculous to carry both an inflatable sleeping pad and a closed cell pad, but after having a deflation event at 2am on an extremely cold night, I decided NEVER AGAIN. I should probably just switch to a hammock at this point, but that’s one piece of gear I’d rather experiment with on shorter trips in case it turns out I actually hate it. If I got rid of the extra gear and subbed out the sleeping bag, I could cut ~1.5 lbs.

Food & water:  Total weight 12.1 oz, total cost $130.50.

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I have a great stove and pot system from Trail Designs – the Sidewinder Ti-Tri with Zelph modified StarLyte – but I find cooking on the trail to be an onerous and unrewarding chore. I probably don’t need the OPSak, but it makes me feel better and keeps my food bag cleaner. I carry the Sawyer because I’ve gotten ill from drinking bad water before and would prefer to never repeat the experience.

Protip: If you’re at a mosque in Uzbekistan and someone offers you unfiltered water, they probably won’t be that offended if you just say no.

I carry the cleaning plunger because I don’t want to be the person who always asks to borrow a piece of gear they’re too lazy to carry themselves. There are lighter utensil options out there, but I don’t really want to buy something else; the last time I tried to use disposable cutlery, I crushed it in my bag and it snapped.

The hydration tube is vital because I get irrationally angry if I have to take off my pack to get a drink of water, and I hate having a bottle on my shoulder strap.

Miscellaneous gear:  Total weight 2.48 lbs, total cost $414.70

Misc Gear finalOh, where to begin. I could probably get rid of 2/3 of this stuff with no problem, but we pack for our fears and I’m easily frightened! I also like to inconvenience myself as little as possible.

  • I like peeing into a jar in the middle of the night and being able to dig a cathole with my trowel.
  • I like being able to jot down notes.
  • I like having a little shopping bag I can use to carry around my valuables when I’m in town or to load up with shopping if I’m walking back to a hostel from the supermarket.
  • love getting my AT passport stamped.

I use everything I carry, and I’m not quite ready to give anything up just yet.

First Aid / Repairs / Fem Hygiene Kit: Total weight 4.9 oz, total cost ~$53.01

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This all fits into a quart-size Ziploc bag. Again, most of this could be abandoned with no appreciable decline in the overall quality of my life, but I feel better having it readily available.

Electronics: Total weight 4.16 lbs (or, tellingly, 66.6 oz), total cost $1,159.14

electronics.pngObviously, every single thing on this list could be eliminated. I have no excuse.

Clothing carried:           Total weight 2.58 lbs, total cost $202.10
Clothing/items worn:  Total weight 5.44 lb., total cost $525.50

clothes worn and carriedClothing carried could (and arguably should) be adjusted. I’d like to swap out the rain jacket for a Packa, and I should probably dump the fleece entirely for the next ~two months or, at the very least, exchange it for my down jacket. I just really like fleece, and it’s nice not to freeze in overly-air-conditioned buildings. I like having separate sleeping clothes and prefer not to wear my rain gear while doing laundry (doubly difficult now that I have jettisoned my rain pants for summer).

As for what I wear, I like having the option to wear long pants or shorts depending on trail conditions. I prefer bike shorts to anti-chafing creams or powders. I’ve been wearing liner socks with all my hiking boots and shoes for the last few years and can count the number of blisters I’ve gotten on one hand. The hiking poles are amazing; I could go lighter with carbon fiber 2-section poles, but they’re too long to fit in my usual suitcase, and I’m clumsy enough that I prefer not to risk snapping a carbon fiber pole.

Precious Personal Hygiene Supplies

I have found that, without some basic hygiene supplies, I spend most of my hiking time praying for death’s sweet embrace. I can really only weigh the toothbrush (0.2 oz) and the single scrubby bath glove (0.5 oz) because everything else counts as a consumable and weights vary depending on what brand or size is available at any given resupply point. I usually have some/all of the following:

  • toothpaste
  • dental floss
  • lip balm
  • deodorant
  • moisturizer
  • Purell
  • Gold Bond
  • wet wipes
  • toilet paper
  • exfoliating/cleansing face wipes
  • cotton swabs
  • sunscreen
  • bug spray

I’d guesstimate the above weighs in at no more than 20 oz at any given time (probably too generous, but I’d rather overestimate than underestimate).

TOTAL BASE WEIGHT: ~354.1 oz / 22.13 lbs
(not including what I’m wearing/holding while hiking)

TOTAL COST: $3,832.60

That’s not great, but it could certainly be worse. I could easily drop ~5 lbs just by losing some of the luxury items. 

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Interlude: TN to NC Mini-Roadtrip

Thursday – Friday 22-23 May 2014

I had ~40 hours between picking up my rental car in Seymour TN and dropping it off at the Asheville NC airport.

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These are still the only bears I’ve seen so far on the trail.

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AT Interlude: Gatlinburg TN

Date:  Sunday to Wednesday – 19-21 May 2014

Gatlinburg, Tennessee, is an interesting town.

It’s obsessed with pancakes. There are, literally, dozens of pancakeries around town.

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There are also a lot of streams and creeks and rivers running through town, and every hotel worth its salt offers a balcony or a terrace or a porch with a view.

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There are some funky buildings. It’s like a mini-Dubai!

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It’s home to the world’s largest collection of salt and pepper shakers.


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There’s an adorable trolley you can ride.

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It’s a great place to visit if you have a sweet tooth.

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It’s also a great place to visit if you’ve ever wanted a Confederate belt buckle, a Smoky Mountain troll or a jar of corn cob jelly.

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There are a lot of family-friendly attractions with elaborate window displays.

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(I’m still sad I didn’t get to play Circus Blacklight mini golf.)


There’s also alcohol. Oh god, so much alcohol. You can have moonshine!

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Or wine!

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Or whiskey!

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Or beer!

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Once you’re tired of drinking, you can listen to live music.


Added bonus:  There’s always at least one amateur clogger in the audience.

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After the show, you can try to ride a mechanical donkey.


Or, if you’re lucky enough to run into some fellow hikers, you can win second place at the Smoky Mountain Brewery’s Tuesday Trivia night competition.

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When you’ve had all the fun you can handle, and you’re strolling back to your hotel room overlooking a stream, creek or river, you can stop to feed the ducks, admire the neon, and, if you’re really lucky, have a brief chat with a woman who carries around a monkey dressed in a floral onesie.

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AT Interlude: Dollywood

Date:   Monday – 19 May 2014

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Day 30: GSMNP – Double Spring Gap to Clingman’s Dome

Date:       Sunday – 18 May 2014
      Double Spring Gap Shelter                  196.0 miles            Today:            2.9 miles
Finish:   Clingman’s Dome Tower Path            198.9 miles            Total AT:     198.9 miles



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Day 29: GSMNP – Spence Field to Double Spring Gap

Date:       Saturday – 17 May 2014
      Spence Field Shelter                    182.5 miles                    Today:            13.5 miles
Finish:   Double Spring Gap Shelter        196.0 miles                     Total AT:     196.0 miles





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Day 28: GSMNP – Birch Spring Gap to Spence Field

Date:       Friday – 16 March 2014
      Birch Spring Gap Campsite          171.7 miles                    Today:            10.8 miles
Finish:   Spence Field Shelter                    182.5 miles                     Total AT:     182.5 miles


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Day 27: GSMNP – Fontana Dam to Birch Spring Campsite

Date:      Thursday – 15 May 2014
      Fontana Dam                                 166.1 miles                    Today:              5.6 miles
Finish:   Birch Spring Gap Campsite         171.7 miles                     Total AT:     171.7 miles

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Day 26: Fontana Village Zero Day #2

Date:      Wednesday – 14 May 2014
      Fontana Village                                                                    Today:             0.0 miles
Finish:   Fontana Village                                                                    Total AT:     166.1 miles


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Day 25: Fontana Village Zero Day #1

Date:      Tuesday – 13 May 2014
      Fontana Village                                                                    Today:             0.0 miles
Finish:   Fontana Village                                                                    Total AT:     166.1 miles

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