13 Appalachian Trail Hikers Share How They Pack Their Bags

The Appalachian Trail is around 2,200 miles long, so you need to do some serious planning before you start this big hike!

To improve how we pack our bags and choose our gear, we have talked with 13 experienced Appalachian trail hikers and asked them to share their best advice.

Read on and learn from their best tips and tricks (all the hikers have lots of experience, so they know what they are talking about!).

The Appalachian Trail sign


The 13 Experts


Clarity
From Georgia. Still in Georgia.

I quit an elementary teaching career after 11 years to search for clarity. My first real hike ever took six months, two days, and spanned 2,189.2 miles of the Appalachian Trail.

Now I manage a beer brewery and work for a college. Life is good!


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

My top 3 things were:

  • Journal – Since my purpose was to find clarity, this was my biggest tool to get there. It also gave me a place to blog. My journals are all published here.
  • Big ass battery charger – It was heavy, yeah, but worth it. I liked knowing my phone had battery, especially after I fell in love with Guthook as my primary trail guide. My phone was also my camera, and now, three years after my hike, every single picture captured holds a memory that I am so glad I have.
  • Bear Spray – Most thru-hikers laughed at the fact I carried 12 ounces of bear spray with me most of the length of the trail, but as a solo female hiker, the peace of mind this gave me from man or beast (particularly when stealth camping alone) made it worth its weight in gold….especially the night I camped alone on top of a Virginia mountain and woke up around 3am to something circling my tent!

How do you bring things with you?

I carried a Deuter 65-liter backpack. I always had a little extra space, but I was comfortable with its size. It allowed me extra space to pack out a fun lunch or a few beers when I’d stop in town.

I packed my tent, fuel, other things that I didn’t care about getting wet in the bottom compartment of the backpack. In the main compartment, I layered it with a trash compactor bag for everything I needed to stay dry. First went my sleeping quilt, liner, and inflatable sleeping pad. Next my clothes and food. Most importantly, the things I’d need throughout the day (water filter, toilet paper, snacks) were stashed in the brain of my pack for quick and easy access.

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

After my hike, I worked as an A.T. ridgerunner in GA for a season and wrote this article and this article.

Pack for yourself…most people only get one shot at this opportunity. Might as well allow yourself some creature comforts to enhance the enjoyment of the experience.

Visit Clarity’s website


Curtis “Easily Forgotten” Himstedt
I’m originally from central Illinois but ended up in southern Illinois owning a small farm that I was growing tired of.

After a divorce, I got interested in hiking/backpacking/travel once again. I decided to put a check mark by a bucket list item and hiked the Annapurna Circuit and visited Bhutan. But something was missing—a travel companion and partner in life. When I got back from that trip, I met my (now) wife who had never had time to backpack because of raising a family. I bought her a backpack for Christmas and made plans for our first major hike together—the West Highland Way in Scotland. She took to it right away. Since that first trip almost five years ago, we have tried to hit one to three trails a year.

Last year, we got married, sold everything, and became full time backpackers until we fall apart or run out of money. We started by heading to Europe to hike the Pembrokshire Coastal Path in Wales, the Camino de Santiago in Spain, the GR10 in France, and the Tour du Mont Blanc. We wanted to make sure we could handle longer distances before beginning our quest for the Triple Crown (we are mid 50s, homeless and unemployed). Currently, we are nearing the end of the Appalachian Trail, which we started on February 12 of this year. We are planning on hiking in South America this winter before doing the PCT next year.


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

Top 3 things that not all hikers have:

  • a thermarest pillow — we are old and need more than just a sack of clothes to sleep on. It really allowed us to get a good night’s sleep and reduce the threat of divorce.
  • a gossamer gear chrome dome umbrella — this has changed the way we feel about rain. Bring it on (oops, not the right thing to say in the extended period of rain we are experiencing in VT presently). I will never go on another hiking trip without my umbrella, but I’ll probably leave behind the raincoat next time.
  • CNoC water bag — our Sawyer filter attaches directly to the bag. It’s wide mouth makes it easy to fill. I threw out all the other squeeze bags we were carrying.

I’m an old fashioned book reader and like to hold an actual book. Let’s face it, books are too heavy for the trail. I saw one person carrying a couple of textbooks but no rain gear. I’m sure they are off trail now.

How do you bring things with you?

I use an Osprey Xenith 88 pack. It’s probably too big for the trail, but I hate to have things hanging on the outside of my pack. I needed something big enough to handle all the extra winter gear we needed (we started in February and got caught in blizzards in the Smokies, but we were prepared). I don’t feel the need to fill my bag.

In the lower compartment, I keep my tent so I can get to it quickly for set up. In the main compartment, I keep my food bag in the center with my stove & fuel to one side and sleeping pad & pillow to the other side. I have a dry sack with my sleep system that I lay across the top. In the two back zippered pockets, I carry my water filter & CNoC bag, toilet kit, bear rope, and extra bags. The outer stretch pocket has my pack cover, mosquito head net, and any trash. On the side pockets, I have a foot care kit and a back scratcher (my wife says I ask her to scratch my back way too much). On the other side is my hygiene kit and umbrella. I put one croc (camp shoes) on either side.

I also have a 2L platypus, which this pack has an external pocket for. On the hip belt is my camera on the right, my pocket knife, note pad, and sunscreen on the left. In the brain is my wallet, headlamp, & iPad mini. When it was colder, I carried snacks and lunch in the brains, but since it’s warm, I now put them on top inside the main compartment (chocolate is usually involved daily and it tends to melt in my brain, not my hands).

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

I/we do not even attempt to go ultra-light. I try to carry most of the shared gear to keep weight out of my wife’s pack. At our age, we carry more comforts than most people do. If you are going to be out for an extended duration, it’s got to not be about deprivation. I pack the same way every time. That way, I know immediately if something is left behind. In 1650 miles of the AT, I’ve only left my bandanna behind one time and I knew within 100 yards of leaving that I had done it.

I don’t really pay attention to how other people pack. Sometimes, I see people getting into their food bags every time they stop. I try to plan ahead and keep snacks, lunch, and drink mixes easy to get to in order to save time. Never put something deep in your pack that you need to use regularly.

My wife and I planned for years to “one day” hit the trail when her kids were grown. We repeatedly downsized until we only have tools we need to one day build a small house, personal memorabilia (pictures, CDs, etc) and clothes that were too small for us to wear (we’re optimistic about loosing weight and getting fit—safe bet). We set a drop dead date and went for it. My wife was afraid to quit her job because she has always worked. I had no qualms. This is our second year of hiking.

Visit Curtis “Easily Forgotten” Himstedt’s website


Roo
From Asheville, NC. Currently back on the AT hiking from Rangeley, Maine to Katahdin. I’ve always been a hiker and backpacker, but a 2017 thru hike of the AT turned me into a dedicated long distance hiker. So many trails, so little time!


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

  • Umbrella! Top 5 piece of gear. Staves off the rain while allowing for ventilation that you don’t get with a rain jacket. Also been known to function as a parasol on a hot day.
  • Wool Buff. It’s a hat. A neck warmer. And, wrapped around my down puffy, a natural fiber pillow case. Also, in a pinch, works well as a pot holder.
  • Sketchbook and a set of watercolors. Because this is the record of my journey I most enjoy perusing during the winter months when I’m not on the trail. Also, committing to daily sketching makes me slow down and absorb the beauty of my surroundings, rather than just churn out miles while staring at my feet.

NOPE:

  • Clothesline. Your stuff won’t dry by morning and may even be wetter. Leave it.
  • Chair. See below.
  • Giant first aid kit. A few bandaids. A sample of neosporin. Some surgical tape. Advil, a couple of doxycycline and some tweezers. Done.

How do you bring things with you?

My pack is a ULA Circuit lined with a trash compactor bag. Space is just right for all my gear and four to five days worth of food. I’ve got most of my stuff in clear Ziploc bags for easy viewing and a ZPacks food bag for edibles.

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

Weight really can make or break your hike, especially if you’re a small person. The lighter the better. The closer I got to New Hampshire’s White Mountains, the more things, like pants, I realized I could do without. I sent things home every month. I see lots of section hikers carrying chairs and I’m totally envious. But a thrust hike teaches you how to be comfortable any where with just what you have and most importantly teaches you that less really is more on an adventure like this. We need way less than we think we need.

And we are way more capable than we may believe. The best way to find out is to just go. Start with an overnight trip. Practice throwing your bear bag and pitching your tent in the back yard if you’re not sure of your skills. Long distance hiking has a learning curve and we all make mistakes (that’s where the best trail names come from!). Surround yourself with people who are living the dream (even if it’s by reading their books and watching their YouTube channels). Their adventures are infectious and will help you see your own dream come true. P. S. Leave your gun at home.

Visit Roo’s website


Bruce
I’m from Richmond Virginia. Originally Connecticut.

Right now I’m in Maine on the AT.

Started in ’70s hiking, backpacking and guiding canoe trips in north Maine Woods.


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

I brought an iPad. Journaling, reading and watching videos.

Ursack – much easier than bear-bagging.

On a thru-hike you bring little that is common.

People bring saws, bear bells and whistles, solar chargers, and too much clothes.

How do you bring things with you?

Not sure what you mean by bags. I have a waterproof Sea-to-Summit clothes bag. Other than that a few stuff sacks that came with sleeping bag and tent. I just use ziplock bags.

My pack is an Osprey Atmos.

My sleeping bag is a Mountain Hardwest Phantom 15.

Mt tent is a Big Agnes Copper Spur UL2.

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

You have to schedule the trek. Dreaming/talking will never get you out there.

Things people do wrong: Too much clothes and too much food.

Visit Bruce’s website


Elsye Walker “Chardonnay”

Hello, my name is Elsye, people call me Chardonnay. Chardonnay is a name I picked up back when I was a road biking in Iowa! I’m a thru hiker, adventurer and lover of wine; originally from Michigan I lived in Iowa for a long time, and a couple of years in the Colorado Mountains. Currently I reside in San Diego, when I first moved to California hiking was a great way for me to get outdoors and meet people. After reading about other women and their experiences on the PCT I knew that it was a journey I needed to take.

In 2015, I completed a thru hike of the Pacific Crest Trail. Over the next 3 years I would hike both the Appalachian and Continental Divide Trails, over 7500 miles of hiking. I love the challenge, adventure and simplicity of backpacking in the wilderness. Doing something I love I became the first African American to complete the Triple Crown of hiking!


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

My town dress, tutu and my tail! The lightweight, butterfly print, thrift store dress is what I wear while my hiking clothes are in the laundry; I’ve also hiked in it! Coincidentally the dress matches my gaiters, trail style. The tutu I wear on the last days of my hike, it’s a great mood lifter. The tail, well it’s unique and different, like me! The trail doesn’t tell you how to dress, act or feel so why not radically express yourself.

A mirror. I know this because I took a “camp” mirror my first thru hike. Useless, I finally mailed it home. Your beautiful, you look fine, no mirror necessary. The other thing was an umbrella. It’s gonna rain and you’re gonna get wet, the sooner you embrace the rain the happier you’ll be.

How do you bring things with you?

I hike with a ULA Circuit backpack, highly recommend it. Your pack is an extension of you, love me, love my pack; I call her Blackbird! I carried the same backpack for three years, when I needed to replace it I got the same one again! Not only did it fit me great but it was familiar; I know just where everything goes. There is even a great pocket for my wine! The Circuit is a 68L pack, so there is room for my stuff (I’ve even had a bear canister in there) and plenty of gummy bears! It’s a great pack for a thru hike or just a weekend camp out.

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

Keep things simple, organized and try all your gear BEFORE you hit the trail. The AT can be rainy so line your pack with a trash compactor bag to keep things dry. To keep cost down on gear check out thrift shops, clothing doesn’t have to be name brand to work well. Join a meet up group, other hikers may have used gear to sell to get you started. They say you pack your fears, that can make your pack pretty heavy. At some point you have to face them to lighten your load, if you’re not using something mail it ahead. When you get there if you still don’t need it let it go.

Visit Elsye “Chardonnay” Walker’s website


Jason “Pace Car”
I live in St. Paul, Minnesota, USA, when I am not hiking.

Right now as I am writing this, I am in Monson, Maine taking a day of rest from thru hiking the Appalachian Trail north bound. I have about one week of hiking left before I complete the whole trail. I have been on the trail for about five and a half months.

I first started backpacking at age 14, when I was in the Boy Scouts. Since then I have taken many one week and two week long backpacking trips to a lot of various places. I just love hiking, seeing nature, seeing new places, having quiet time to reflect and just being outside makes me very happy.


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

I brought a little plastic handheld massage thing. It is lightweight and it has really helped me work out the knots in my muscles. For me, it has helped me recover and hike more.

Also, I brought a little radio/MP3 player. I have only used it a few times though. If I was having a real bad day, some music helped me get past it. I also had it along so I could listen if any weather was severe. I could not always look on my cell phone as service is hard to come by sometimes.

I also liked having some extra water bags with, so I only had to get water at camp once, or I could camp away from water on a mountain top and carry enough water to get me through the day.

I have seen a few people with cast iron pans, massive stove fuel canisters, a can of potpourri for the outhouse. Those things are way too heavy for me and of no added value, but maybe they were important to the person carrying them.

How do you bring things with you?

I use the Zpacks Arc Haul backpack. It is pretty lightweight.

Inside that, I have put a Cuban fiber dry bag, with a plastic trash compactor bag inside that. I did that to ensure my clothing and sleeping gear never got wet. I just crammed it all in there and rolled it closed. Then I would put my food bags on top of that, inside my backpack. It has worked great for me. No wet clothing or sleeping gear at all.

I had a separate little bag for my small first aid kit and hygiene supplies. Those were in zip lock bags. That’s really about it. I did use a small Thermorest pillow case and I would stuff clothing in it at night to sleep on.

I had enough room…barely.

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

Do not be afraid to take on something massive that you dream of doing. It is normal to be a little afraid or of failing. I say, the only failure is failing to try something you want to do. It is your life, so live it and make amazing memories.

If you are looking to pack light or ultralight, please do so. I did. But remember to keep tabs on your safety. For example, if it gets cold and wet, are you prepared for that or will you risk getting hypothermia. Have fun, be safe and be smart.

It seems like a fair number of hikers got injured on trail. My advice is to start with small miles and slowly build up as your body adapts — that decreases the risk of overuse injuries. Also, in wet weather and slippery trails, just slow down and make wise foot placement decisions.

Visit Jason’s website


Ryan Lipinski “DOC”

I grew up all over the USA and currently live in Pennsylvania. I have always enjoyed the outdoors and now that I have plenty of free time I hike everywhere I can. I am a Health Education Specialist and an Outdoor Recreation Leadership & Management Specialist. I try to teach people how to live healthier happier lives through the use of outdoor recreation and proper nutrition. I am a disabled Veteran with spinal damage and Parkinson disease and use hiking to stay active, alive, healthy, and mobile..


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

I bring a journal but not for me to write in. I try to get everyone I meet to write something in it themselves. It helps to make friends and learn about people and hear what others think. It is great fun to later, maybe a year or so, go back and read their thoughts. I bring a trail buddy, which is a toy figurine (in my case a raccoon). It gives me something to talk my thoughts out to when hiking long distances without others around to keep your brain occupied. On long hikes I will create adventure stories that my raccoon gets into. I also bring a different cook set that you might never see out hiking. I do what is called wet baking and cook from scratch things like pies, cakes, pizzas, doughnuts, etc… so I need special items to make that happen.

My trail buddy improves my travel by keeping my brain occupied. My fancy foods I cook keep me from having cravings and full, as well as, are great conversation starters. My journal helps keep me motivated by the words of other hikers out there with me.

I have tons of stories about how they have helped or improved things. My best story is about a family hiking with some children and one turned 10 on the trail. She was sad she didn’t have a birthday cake in the middle of nowhere. I just happened along and heard. So I asked the mom if it would be alright and proceeded to bake her a personal chocolate cake. She was so happy and her family were as well. Ever since I have been baking cakes for people along the Appalachian trail.

I have seen many useless things on the trail but the most was a laptop computer. I’ve seen full size axes, big bowie knives, guns, and more… all pretty much useless. Usually carried for self defense but never needed. And chopping trees is not allowed so why an axe?

How do you bring things with you?

I use a backpack. The Stratus Latitude pack by Granite Gear is the one and only BEST pack EVER on the market! I place some items in dry sacks (Granite Gear or Osprey) the type with a draw cord not the roll tops. This helps let the air out for packing efficiently in small spaces but also keep your gear dry in the event your pack cover fails and it will. I always pack the exact same way. I have organized things in my pack the best way for me and have done it that way for years. I can blindly reach in and get exactly what I need without looking. It also helps me when packing to not forget something because everything has a place to fill.

I put my shelter in the bottom of my pack. On top of that goes my clothes bag. Next up is the food bag followed by my cook set and water filter system and first aid kit. On top of it all goes a small pouch of personal items like toiletries, headlamp, phone, harmonica, journal and what ever else I may have. Everything is packed on the inside of my backpack and kept so the pack is not bumpy or rough looking. I try to keep it smooth and as balanced as possible. I don’t like things swinging around or making noise. I feel you should always buy your gear first then your backpack. Bring all your gear with you when buying a backpack so you can pack it up and wear it to see if it is right for you. Always leave a small space for things you may collect along your hike.

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

Start about four months out by going to a gym three times a week. You want to do all kinds of knee strengthening being sure to account for full range of motion. Also use the stair master and a treadmill while wearing your fully packed backpack. The number one injury on the trail is due to inappropriately prepared KNEES! Do NOT change your shoe style. If you normally wear hightops or boots then you should on the trail as well because your ankles and the way you walk are adapted too such. Same as for those who are used to wearing trail runners or the like. Changing your shoe style takes a long time to get used to on a trail and often causes more harm than good. Stay away from freeze dried foods when possible. The nutritional value is crap and you will always be hungry. Learn to cook and make time to do so. Your body will be much happier and you will have lots better energy. Less chances of you getting sick as well with a good diet. By packing proper foods you ultimately carry less due to being fulfilled and not so hungry causing you to carry more.

Everyone is different. Everyone has different tastes and wants. Find what is best for you and pack it. Pack the way that makes you comfortable and feel good and secure. Hike your own hike!

The number one thing I see wrong on the trail that hikers do is how they use their trekking poles. They should not be extended out with your arms way up in the air. You should extend them 1 to 1.5 hands widths above your hip pointers with your hands on the grip and the pole running in line with your leg. This sets the proper height. In use your rear pole should fall at near the same angle as your rear leg and the pole in front should be straight up with you wrist slightly angled down. Your wrist should never rise above your elbows. To get the most out of your poles and be anatomically correct in posture and properly balanced/supportive this is the proper setup.

Just get out there and do it. The first hike is the hardest. Generally whether you admit it or not you are nervous about the unknown and that is the cause of hesitation. The only way I have found to overcome that is to just do it. Pay attention to what seasoned hikers are doing and follow suit. Eventually you will learn your own system and ways.

Visit Ryan Lipinski “DOC”‘s website and YouTube


Regina
From Ohio and grew up with parents who took us for walks in nearby parks. At 50, living in Atlanta, GA, I went out to see the Appalachian Trail one day and got my call to walk to Maine.


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

  • Extra phone batteries: they are lighter than a battery pack;
  • a waist pouch: to keep my little things at hand and safe;
  • a tarp instead of a tent: it’s lighter, bigger, and more versatile than a tent.

Useless/unnecessary/impractical things I’ve seen: Iron skillet, hatchet, extra underwear, rainpants, extra batteries

How do you bring things with you?

Gregory Jade60

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

1. Know your Trail

2. Consider your timing

3. Love your gear

4. Magnetize your trail angels

5. Nourish your Inner Journey

Visit Regina’s website


Greg Seymour “Sunsets”
In 2013, my wife “Chica” and I left corporate America, sold everything we owned, and moved to Costa Rica in our early 40s. We lived in Costa Rica for nearly four years. While there, we really got into hiking. For the first time in our adult lives we had time to explore our surroundings. And living in the mountains of Costa Rica’s central valley there was much to experience.

When we decided we were ready for our next adventure we settled on thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. In 2017, over 179 we walked 2,200 miles from Georgia to Maine. It was the hardest task we had ever accomplished … and it is awesome. Next up is walking the 500 miles of the Camino de Santiago in Spain.


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

My top three uncommon items I bring are: Cooling rag, backpack strap water bottle holder, and tent guy-line locks.

Cooling rag – I am very susceptible to heat exhaustion. A cooling rag is a towel that can be dipped in water and provides cooling relief when twirled. Once it warms up, just twirl it again and it cools down. I used this in the summer months on the Appalachian Trail draping it over my neck. It saved my sanity.

Water bottle holder – holders on backpacks are notoriously difficult to retrieve bottles from. We found a fellow hiker, Justin’s Etsy shop, who hand sews holders that fit on the shoulder straps of a backpack. The water bottle stays on your chest in easy reach.

Line locks – once again, here is a piece of gear that just makes things easy. These plastic contraptions fit on the end of tent guy-lines and make tensioning easy. Just pull until taut – no need for fancy knots or the annoying options tents come with out of the box. I bought mine at Zpacks – http://www.zpacks.com/accessories/spectra_cord.shtml#hardware.

How do you bring things with you?

Each trip is different based on duration and nightly accommodations. For my Camino de Santiago trip I am using a ULA Equipment Photon backpack. Inside that pack I will have two stuff sacks. First is a 14-liter “bear bag” dynema dry bag from ZPacks. This will carry my down throw and sleeping bag liner. Next I have a ZPacks dynema 8-liter bag the company calls “Medium-Plus.” This bag will hold all my clean clothes. In addition to the two dry bags, I have three ziplock bags. These hold my toiletries, electronics, and first aid it respectively. Five organized compartments. Done.

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

Honestly, I think too much time is spend hand-wringing over gear. There is so much minutia to absorb it can be overwhelming. And there are those who insist you must be ultralight. While a lighter pack does help, it does no one any good if, say, your backpack doesn’t fit right. So, stop obsessing about gear, but get out there and put it to the test – not on a perfect day either. Do it when it’s raining (like it will be on the AT).

Finally, if I had one tip to tell a wannabe thru-hiker is this: Do not do big miles for the first month. Don’t. You WILL get injured. There are several reasons 75% of prospective thru-hikers quit. The number one reason? Injury. And, that injury is likely to happen in the first couple hundred miles of the 2,200 mile trek. My wife and I actually forced ourselves to do this. We did only 8 miles per day the first week, 10 per day the second, 12 per day the third, and 14 the fourth. I credit this strategy for allowing us to 1) complete the trail and 2) to complete it injury free despite not having ANY overnight backpacking experience.

Visit Greg “Sunsets” Seymour’s website


Megan McGowan
Born in Washington, I’ve moved around the West Coast my whole life, though I consider Arizona home. Currently, my husband and I are thru-hiking the Continental Divide Trail from the Mexican border to the Canadian border. It was in Arizona I fell in love with hiking, and when I met my husband we bonded over our love of hiking and the outdoors. We got into backpacking together, and the next thing we knew we were on the Appalachian Trail and the rest is history!


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

I always carry a monocular. I love to look at and identify birds, but it also allows me to look at all varieties of wildlife, or spot and identify hikers off in the distance as well.

I carry an inflatable pillow. At 2oz, it’s worth the comfort of a good night’s sleep.

Lastly, I carry A+D ointment. It’s a diaper rash ointment, and works for all types of skin rashes but really does wonders for the incredible chafe that all AT hikers are familiar with. Body Glide doesn’t cut it for me.

People bring all matter of useless items, but in the end it’s only useless if you don’t actually use it, and no one can tell you what that is but yourself. My husband carries a 20-sided die and has on every trail! But in all seriousness, most backpackers start out with too many clothes. You’ll wear the same thing every day (whatever is most comfortable) plus a few warm layers and the rest is dead weight. For the AT specifically, don’t bring a solar charger, you’re in the trees too much for it to be functional. I also saw someone with a full sized pillow. Never saw them after day 1, if that indicates anything.

How do you bring things with you?

On the AT, I carried the Osprey Exos and highly recommend it. As we’ve continued hiking and lightened our load, I’ve gotten into making my own packs, but I wouldn’t recommend it to a novice hiker. My husband carried the Gossamer Gear Mariposa on the AT, and today carries the Gossamer Gear Kumo. Any thru-hiker should be able to fit their load into a 60 liter pack- it’s plenty. These days, my husband and I both carry 36 litter packs, but it takes some work to get down to that size. Plus, we share gear so that helps.

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

Anyone can hike with any gear. It doesn’t matter your body type, it doesn’t matter if you have the latest and greatest gear. It doesn’t matter if you’re young or old, male or female. All you have to do is get out and hike, and have the right attitude and mental fortitude, and you can do it! The kinks work themselves out along the way. But the lighter your load, the more enjoyable and easier your hike will be.

Visit Megan McGowan’s website


Lilian Cheung

I’m Lilian, a junior data scientist and occasional statistical consultant based in Massachusetts. For me, hiking is an adventure. When I hike, I’m experiencing the world in all its raw and ruthless beauty. Hiking pushes me to the limits of what I can sustain, physically and emotionally. I enjoy that process of pushing past my comfort zone to grow as a person. The experience can be, by turns, breathtakingly beautiful, utterly monotonous, and incredibly eye-opening. On the Appalachian Trail, we’d get weeks of relentless rain where the last thing any of us wanted to do was to pull on our sole pair of soaking wet socks and keep on hiking through the storm. There were other times when I’d get up early, hike to the summit of a mountain, and witness the most stunning sunrises I’d seen in my life. I met people from all walks of life, many of whom are friends to this day. The good times made the hard times worth it.


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

My ‘luxury items’ included a golf-sized massage ball, a journal, and a power bank. The massage ball did wonders for keeping my plantar fasciitis at bay during the second leg of my hike. I don’t think the journal was that useful, since I switched to journaling on my phone after a couple months. Of all the items I brought on my hike, the power bank is probably the most useful in my day-to-day life. My power bank can charge my phone seven times, and I still find myself bringing it with me wherever I go. It’s convenient to be able to charge my phone whenever and wherever I need to!

How do you bring things with you?

I carry an Osprey Aura 65 pack. It gives me more than enough room to carry all my backpacking necessities. All my gear is organized in a variety of stuff sacks, some waterproof, some not: I have a bag for food, one for toiletries and first aid, one for clothes, one for cooking gear, and one for miscellaneous items. I generally pack my sleeping bag in the bottom of my pack, followed by my food bag and toiletries bag. My tent goes on the side, as do miscellaneous items. Clothes go on the top. People have different ways of packing. The general idea is to have the heavier items (food, water, cooking gear) near the core.

For water storage, I use a Camelbak with an inline Sawyer filter. It’s held up well over the months, and I never had an issue with leaking. I also have an Ursack as a food bag, which is a bear resistant food bag that can be tied around a tree. People without a bear canister or Ursack typically hang bear bags, which can be a long a drawn out process if the rope gets tangled in tree branches!

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

Some hikers go for ultralight gear, while others go for the traditional backpacking gear. I’ve seen homemade gear on the trail, too. I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to pack. Just get out there and hike! You’ll figure it out as you go!

Visit Lilian Cheung’s website


Janel Healy

I’m from the San Francisco Bay Area and I am currently thruhiking the Pacific Crest Trail as a fundraiser hike for three inspiring girl empowerment nonprofits. I first heard of thruhiking long trails when I lived on an intentional community called, Twin Oaks in Virginia. Because many of the people who live there are adventurous, anti-status-quo types, I knew three folks who had hiked the Appalachian Trail. But it wasn’t until I read Cheryl Strayed’s “Wild” that I knew I had to try a thruhike, too. Some people within the hiking community hate that book, but it inspired many single women by giving us faith that we, too, could hike thousands of miles alone. Thruhiking as a solo female has liberated me from fear and given me a new kind of confidence and intuition I didn’t previously know existed. That’s why I am currently hiking to help more young women, especially underprivileged girls, get outside. Learn more and join me


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

The top three things I bring that aren’t the obvious stuff are:

  • Peptobismol tablets (the chewable ones) and Immodium. You never know when that cheese you’ve had in your pack for days or some tainted water will mess with your digestive system. In my opinion, these two items are mandatory for your first aid kit—but no one told me about them. I had to figure it out the hard way. I’ll spare you details!
  • A nice camera—specifically, a Sony A6300 that is strapped to my pack with a Peak Designs camera mount. This has been especially useful on the PCT, as the views are absolutely stunning. Your smartphone camera is just not going to cut it if you really want to take great photos and/or make good videos for a vlog. I also carry a tiny Joby Gorillapod tripod for self portraits.
  • A tiny scissors. A little knife is basically only useful for cutting cheese and salami. I can’t even count the number of times I’ve used my little scissors just in the last month alone. I don’t even bring a nail clipper because the scissors are good enough. I have a Victorinox Manager, which is a Swiss Army knife that has a small knife, scissors and file. It’s the perfect thruhiking companion.

How do you bring things with you?

My current pack is an Osprey Eja 58. I kept the brain because I like putting small items like hand sanitizer and snacks in the top zippered compartment and the inside compartment on the underside of the brain. My food is in a 13L Sea to Summit dry sack, which is just big enough for five days of food. My sleeping bag is in a waterproof stuff sack by Zpacks, which I love because the inside is lined with fleece so you can use it as a pillow. Pretty much everything else is organized into ziploc bags (i.e. wallet, electronics/cables, toiletries). Some people like to organize their clothes into little stuff sacks, but I don’t see the point of that because clothes make great filler around the big stuff in your pack. I don’t feel like I need any more room for my stuff; in fact, the 58L pack was overkill.

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

I am a huge fan of flip-flopping and I would like to see more hikers do it. I have flip-flopped both the AT and the PCT and it works great for me because I like doing things my way. The cons are that it costs money to come and go from the trail, it can hurt your momentum, and it can make you feel removed from other single-direction thruhikers. But there are so many pros! You can take more time because your hike will be less constrained by the season. You can skip around to sections that aren’t on fire or covered in snow. You can avoid “the herd” of NOBOs and enjoy more solitude. If you want to learn more, I wrote a blogpost about flip-flopping for The Trek.

Visit Janel Healy’s website


Fred Beck “3_Mile”
Born and raised in Cincinnati, Ohio, I now reside in Kansas City with my wife of 34 years and by far my favorite hiking partner and my biggest fan. I always like when someone ask how I became a hiker because I have no solid answer for them — it just happens. I have traveled the world and saw some amazing things and been to some amazing places that so many people dream about. Those travels have helped me understand the freedom that hiking provides you. I became hooked on the Appalachian trail about 10 years ago and just never let it go. I have hiked over 3200 miles of the trail and have yet to make it to Baxter State Park I am ok with that now because the trail is therapy to me now. I suffer from fibromyalgia chronic pain disorder and Depression all relating to Gulf War Illness. I realized that so much of my healing is now found in my hiking. I learned that I can take charge of my happiness. I don’t have to be a slave to my pain or a prisoner of my own mind. Hiking has helped me fight the war inside, now I want to help others do the same.

Being suicidal for the last few years were hard on me and those around me. I have come to grips with that I and I alone had to find something little did I realize it was right in front of me HIKING it was the one thing that put me in my happy place. I hurt every day of my life but I am not going to allow a couple screwed up issues control me.

So with all that I guess I did not find hiking, it found me and I will always be thankful.


What top 3 things do you bring besides the common stuff all Appalachian Trail hikers bring?

  • Pillow, I laughed at my wife when she wanted one no I do not leave home without it. It helps with the best night of SLEEP!!!!!
  • Extra ear buds they never last. I do listen to music while walking. You either lose them or they get wet.
  • Roller, like to roll out my calves and feet at the end of the day. This is a newer item to me but will never leave home without it in my pack.

The most useless thing I have seen is people that bring a tent way too big for what they need. I have known and seen hikers set up a three-person tent for themselves then complain about the weight of it. Go figure.

Flashlights on top of there headlamps because they have to see in the tent or when they go to the bathroom.

How do you bring things with you?

I am a stuffer for the most part everything gets stuffed into my pack, which is an Osprey Levity 45 when I do have stuff sacks they are Osprey, Sea to Summit, with some Dyneema bags thrown in there.

I usually stuff everything into a 35-40 liter stuff sack then place that into my pack. There are certain items that like food, personal hygiene, electronics that get placed into smaller bags. If hiking in the winter all of my camp gear goes into an additional waterproof bag nothing worse than being cold and wet.

What are your top tips for other Appalachian Trail hikers?

Wow, tips for an Appalachian trail hiker.

The trail is supposed to be fun, don’t make it something that it’s not. What one person fun is not another person fun, so be true to yourself and do the trail. The trail will take care of you and at the same time remind you from time to time that it is the boss.

Packing lighter is totally up to you and how much money you want to spend cut and dry. You will find people on the trail that spent thousands of dollars I mean thousands of dollars and do not make it out 500 miles. Then others that have twice as much gear and spent half of what lightweight packers carry and make it 2189.3 miles. But keep in mind, light is better for your body and mind. One of the biggest things I see and hear is why to carry that or that, do not get into a mindset that you have to have something because the other hiker has it — once again it might not work for you. You have to get out into the woods even for a weekend to see how everything works. I still to this day keep trying to get lighter. I will never be an ultra light but a lightweight packer I will be.

Now for all those dreaming about hiking the Appalachian Trail, get off the merry-go-round of life and start riding the roller coaster of life. See, we as people generally do what society tells us to do. From the first time we meet with your high school counselor were told we have to go to college. Then it is get an internship with that company that needs a body and does not truly care about you. We find that company then we get a new car, married have kids then get a house. We do all this because society says that’s what we should do, me I say be that person and stop watching youtube videos (except mine) looking at Instagram pictures of people hiking the AT and become that person.

I could go on and on but you get the picture just get up and do it. The old saying: Life is too short — it really is I know that for a fact now. Don’t be that person that grows old and talks to people and says I should have hiked the trail but never found the time. That’s true BS! Instead, be the person that talks about how you did hike the Appalachian Trail and others

Visit Fred Beck “3_Mile”‘s website


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