Joining a friend for a week on the AT, what do I need to bring? Tips?
March 5, 2013 7:10 AM   Subscribe

A close friend has decided to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail starting in about 10 days at Springer Mountain in Georgia. It just so happens that I have a week off with nothing to do, and he asked if I wanted to start out with him, and I said yes. Help me make sure I'm not forgetting anything (and/or shed inessentials). Any tips/tricks would also be appreciated for this AT newb!

I've backpacked before, but this will be the longest/fastest hiking winter trip I've been on. I should be on the trail for about 7-days, and around 85 miles total. Temps at night will be below 30, and during the day around 40 or 50. He's planning to cover a fairly conservative 8-12 miles a day to begin (before he ramps up in the third and fourth week). I'm 26 and athletic enough that I think I can do that comfortably (I play racquetball three or four times a week, can run a 5K in around 27 minutes (and have run half marathons in the past). I'm also a Wilderness EMT, so I will be carrying a lightweight med kit, and know my way around a sprain, etc.

I know pack weight is the number one issue on the AT, and I've actually been collecting lightweight gear for ages for my many weekend trips. My friend is packing in a two person tarptent from Henry Shires (which I've seen set up and is large enough for the both of us). So far my packing list of things I own is:

A 15F down bag from Feathered Friends (this is probably overkill, but I hate sleeping cold, and am willing to carry an extra 10 ounces of down to stay warm at night)
Thermarest 3/4 length ProLite Pad
GoLite Jam Backpack
Patagonia Ultralight Down Hoody
Patagonia stretch ascent shell (waterproof)
Carbon Fiber hiking poles
Snowpeak Gigapower stove (and butane)
Titanium cookwear
Smartwool base layers (long sleeve shirt and long underwear) and socks
Inov8 Teroc 345 hiking shoes (I can't stand heavy hiking boots, and i've worn these on long hikes before)
Cloudveil Hiking Pants
Windproof convertible gloves, and OR waterproof mittens
Brunton compass
Bic lighter
Aqua Mira water purifying drops
Evernew foldable water bottles
zip locs
a bear bag with 550 rope

What essentials am I forgetting? I know I'm going to need to order stuff, and I'd rather order online to save on costs in the next few days. What about food and trail snacks? On previous trips I've never been the meal planner. I'm thinking about ordering Mountain House Freeze Dried meals as I don't have the time or expertise to make my own in the next 10 days.

Do you have any tips for an AT newbie? I'm pretty sure that the trail is going to packed with thru hikers just starting, so we're planning on avoiding what will likely be over crowded shelters, and just sticking to the tent. Forums also seem to be indicating that it might be a bit wet the first week, and I'm worried about not having waterproof boots. Any ideas? Do I need rain pants?
posted by ghostpony to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (13 answers total) 17 users marked this as a favorite
YES you need rain pants. Buy them now! (, you can return them later if you find you don't care for them)
posted by teragram at 7:13 AM on March 5, 2013

I was going to recommend the Mountain House meals. They're light and I personally think they're tasty (they don't taste good inside city limits though). Consider seasoning (Sriracha, cayenne, Tabasco, whatever).

Please don't use rain pants for a week and then return them. That's not what the satisfaction guarantee is for.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:16 AM on March 5, 2013 [2 favorites]

Moleskin and tape.

Nothing sucks more when hiking than a blistered foot. Even if your boots fit well and are broken in, blisters are always a possibility. Especially if it's wet outside. Moleskin and tape can be a godsend, and if you end up not needing them it's no big deal - they weigh next to nothing.

An ounce of prevention...
posted by Benny Andajetz at 7:25 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

posted by TrixieRamble at 7:58 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

OK, so I just hiked part of the AT in Shenandoah last week, and I have my complete gear list for you below. (The gear list includes all group gear necessary plus all my personal stuff, so it really is complete.) On this last trip I was responsible for planning the food so I'm including food ideas for you too.

However, in response to your specific questions:
-You definitely need waterproof pants.
-Not having waterproof boots could be really annoying, but it depends on how "non-waterproof" your current boots are. If they are sneaker-like and full of ventilation holes, you have a problem. If they are pretty close to waterproof but not seam-sealed or something like that, and you have wool socks, you're probably OK.

When I was on the trail last week in Virginia, IT. WAS. COLD. Your 15F bag is not overkill. We had some extremely chilly nights at around 15F and we hiked through an ice storm, which made getting warm almost impossible unless we were going uphill. My husband was in a 22F bag and he was COLD. I was in a 40F bag with a 10F liner and I wore a down parka and many layers to sleep and I was COLD. Only our friend with the 15F bag and the heavy duty long underwear and huge fleece jacket was comfy.

I'm glad to see you are bringing hiking poles. I too am in pretty good shape and covering 10-11 hilly miles a day was no problem in terms of overall fitness (didn't feel very tired, not out of breath, muscles did not ache, etc.), but it was hell for my knees. After about 3 days on the trail the downhill pounding can reaaaaaaaaaally hurt even when you otherwise feel great.

Oh, and we got sunburned even when it was 30F and ice was falling.

Sleeping bag (and liner)
Sleeping pad
Tent (check for body, fly, stakes, frame)
Tent footprint
Headlamp and tiny flashlight
Platypus bottle (at least 1 person should carry a wide-mouth bottle for use with SteriPEN)
Pen and few sheets of paper
Cash, IDs, credit card, keys
Cell phone

Camp towel
Contact lens solution
Contact lens case
Toilet paper/wet wipes
Tampons or menstrual cup

CLOTHES (including clothes worn)
Rain pants and rain coat
Windproof and liner gloves
Buff, ear warmer and/or hat
Insulating jacket
Wool socks (at least 3)
Hiking boots
Hiking pants
T-shirts (2, wool and synthetic)
Wool or synthetic long-sleeve t-shirt
Wool or fleece sweater
Long underwear (top and bottom)
Non-chafing bra
Small stuff sack
Underwear, non-cotton (at least 2)

Stove and fuel
Cooking set (pot, bowls, cups, sporks, "sink" carrier)
Paring knife
¾ gallon canteen
Bear bell
Leatherman micra
Campsuds and mini scrubbie
Plastic ziplock bags for trash
Dry bag for food
Cathole trowel
Alcohol gel
Sun block

First aid kit* (see contents below)
Survival kit*
Emergency repair kit*
Chlorine dioxide tabs
Extra batteries for SteriPEN and at least one light source
Emergency blanket
Extra lighter
Solar flashlight
Large trash bag

Camp chair (super light folding chair, only 1 for the whole group, feels like a major luxury when the ground is soggy and/or frozen)
Solar charger and cord (we have this for communication and because we have USGS topo maps on an iPhone with us in case we have map issues or need GPS)

SURVIVAL KIT CONTENTS (bought the kit, didn't make it)
duct tape
mini pencil
safety pins
sewing needle and thread
survival instructions
heavy-duty aluminum foil
mini compass
fish hook
fresnel lens
nylon cord
fire starter
waterproof paper

band aids (regular, knuckle, butterfly)
various gauze pads
elastic bandage
safety pins
after-bite pads
alcohol pads
benzoin tincture
antibiotic ointment
sleep aid
anti-nausea (prescription, related to my specific condition, not generally necessary)
rehydration salts

needle holder
various needles and pins
nylon thread
needle threader
fresnel lens
kevlar thread
brass wire
nylon cord
duct tape
waterproof patch
cable ties
small blade
posted by Cygnet at 8:09 AM on March 5, 2013 [9 favorites]

There's a mefi who's going to hike the entire AT who has started a blog and has posted her entire pack list.
posted by Flamingo at 8:11 AM on March 5, 2013 [4 favorites]

And, food examples, amounts per person, followed by calories per person. I aimed for 3 meals, 2 snacks and a piece of candy for every person every day. It was really quite difficult to reach 2,500 calories per person per day, honestly. Even with dry, calorie-dense stuff like ramen, Nutella, cheese and butter. Easiest way to boost calories? Include chocolate bars.

Because it was so cold while we were hiking, it would have been unpleasant/impossible to, for example, make 2 sandwiches for breakfast instead of 1, even if we could have used the calories. We got so cold and our fingers got so useless when we weren't moving that it was a lot easier to munch along the way.

In my experience, no matter how hard you try, you can't eat enough on the trail and you'll be EXTREMELY HUNGRY for a few days after you stop.

Breakfast 1 2 slices bread, 1 packet peanut butter, 1 packet cocoa 460
Breakfast 2 1 sweetened oatmeal packet, 1 cocoa packet 260
Lunch 1 2 oz parmesan cheese, 1 vegetarian jerky ("Primal Strips"), crackers 470
Lunch 3 home-made granola bars with lots of nuts and dried fruit 500
Dinner 1 2 servings dried mashed potatoes, 1 small onion, 1 bullion cube, 1 tablespoon butter 250
Dinner 2 kimchi flavored Korean ramen 470
Dinner 3 1 box pine nut flavor couscous 450
Snack 1 2.5 oz pumpkin seeds 480
Snack 2 several tablespoons Nutella 500
Snack 3 Luna bars 200
Snack 4 3-4 ounces dried cherries 300
Snack 5 3-4 ounces dried apples 150
Candy chocolate bar 500
Candy stroopwaffels 300
Extra salt and pepper
Extra sour candies
posted by Cygnet at 8:19 AM on March 5, 2013 [6 favorites]

chocolate bars, other candy bars
a small thingy of baby powder for chafing
personal amulet or talisman or mojo
extra plastic ziplocs
posted by lakersfan1222 at 8:46 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

a good stock of emergen-c is also advised
posted by lakersfan1222 at 9:15 AM on March 5, 2013

8-12 miles isn't very far, I'd bring a book. Actually I'd bring my Nook with several books on it but ymmv.

Also Starbucks Via instant coffee! Backpacking essential.
posted by fshgrl at 10:49 AM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

headlamp. book. sunglasses.
posted by zombieApoc at 12:26 PM on March 5, 2013 [1 favorite]

seconding the Starbucks Via. best damn tasting instant coffee out there!!

I'd personally bring a jetboil rather than the other stove, but that's just me.
posted by zombieApoc at 12:29 PM on March 5, 2013

I would add a tri-fold bandage to the first aid kit. They are useful for a number of different situations, including improvised splints and such. I used to teach a Wilderness EMT class and the negligible weight is worth it. If you have any first aid questions, hit me up.
posted by kamikazegopher at 5:54 PM on March 5, 2013

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