Appalachian Trail Equipment recommendations.
November 8, 2014 8:40 PM   Subscribe

A friend and I are thinking of doing a portion of the Appalachian trail, from the northwest corner of NJ down to Harper's Ferry.

We've never done this before and are looking for recommendations for equipment. What's a good walking stick (sticks), stove, tent, etc.
Any and all suggestions will be appreciated.
posted by JohnE to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (10 answers total) 13 users marked this as a favorite
Response by poster: We plan on doing this in May 2015, BTW.
posted by JohnE at 8:43 PM on November 8, 2014

Practice with your equipment before you commit to the trail.
Try a ten-miler before you commit to a hundred miles.

I like the MSR Whisperlite stove: it's hard to beat white gas for energy density.
I use a Thermarest for an air mattress, full length: the shorties make my knees hurt.
Boots don't "break in": if they're not comfortable in the store, they're not good.
Carrying and cooking real food is good, compared to prepackaged meals in a bag.
posted by the Real Dan at 9:09 PM on November 8, 2014 [3 favorites]

I have a Whisperlite that I use for cold weather camping, but if you're new to this and don't want to futz with priming, liquid fuel and tiny fiddly parts, just get a canister stove- a Pocket Rocket or Jetboil or similar. They're lightweight and very reliable in most situations.

Tent- I love my REI Half Dome. Super easy to set up, and they're on sale right now. Practice setup before you leave! Similarly, do some 10+ mile dry runs with a full pack before you go to make sure you're up for it.
posted by charmedimsure at 11:12 PM on November 8, 2014 [1 favorite]

Go over to backpackinglight and peruse the forums. They will have much more up to date recommendations for lightweight gear. You wont sacrifice safety or comfort and you'll be much happier with a light pack. So much happier.

Off the top of my head I'd get a tarp tent, inflatable pad, quilt or superlight bag and whatever stove you can readily find fuel for on the section you want to do, a jetboil is the easiest one imho.
posted by fshgrl at 1:05 AM on November 9, 2014

On a 28 day Outward Bound course, we used hammocks and tarps with in thinsulate pad that fit in the hammock. It was nice to be off the ground.

I had a good pair of Arcoroc boots and didn't get blisters.
posted by Mr. Yuck at 4:04 AM on November 9, 2014

In addition to backpacking light, there are tons of gear lists on and the AT subreddit that are more specific to the AT.

Focus most of your effort at getting light versions on your Big 3: Shelter, Sleeping Bag/Pad, and Pack (however, if possible, wait to buy your pack after you get most of your other gear figured out so you can get the right volume). I'm a lightweight, but not ultralight, backpacker. I take advantage of some ultralight gear so I can save some money and weight on other items and carry a few luxury items. I'll keep moving to ultralight versions of other pieces of kit as the stuff I already own wears out.

Your gear is pretty personal, so see what you like. One of the biggest places to save weight is with your clothing. People generally pack way too much. See how much you can leave behind. Check places like Camp Saver and Sierra Trading Post to get things on sale when possible. For other equipment, here's what I'm currently using for spring trips.

Shelter (biggest $$$ and weight upgrade recently): ZPacks Duplex (Note: Do not go to this site if you are on a budget. Your allowance will disappear very, very quickly...). I also purchased a Bear Bagging Kit, backpack shoulder pouches, and rain kilt from this company.

I have a 15 degree down sleeping bag from Montbell (Spiral Down Hugger) and an inflatable sleeping pad from Exped (UL 7). Neither were cheap, but I'm happy with both. I use a dry sack from Exped to keep the sleeping bag dry. The sack doubles as bellows to inflate the sleeping pad. The system would be a bit unwieldy in a one-person tent, especially since the pad is so thick (more than 2"). One reason I went with a 2-person tent was so if it was raining, I could be in the tent while inflating this pad. I also have an inflatable pillow because I sleep much better with it, and it's worth the 3 oz. to me. I also use a big plastic bag inside my pack as extra insurance to keep the bag and my down jacket dry.

Poles: My hiking poles are my tent poles. I like the flick-lock style (not twist style) for easy adjustment and went with Black Diamond Ergo Corks. Really happy with them.

Stove: Jetboil Sol Ti. I wish I were one of those people who could go stoveless and enjoy it, but I like my hot coffee/tea and hot dinners. This thing is so efficient that I even used it to warm up water to clean myself at the end of cold days.

Water treatment: Sawyer Mini. Like it. No issues. I carry a few water treatment tablets for backup but have never used them (though I've given them to others who had filter failures). I use two 1-liter SmartWater water bottles for dirty water and squeeze the clean water into a Gatorade bottle.

Shoes: Very personal, but I'm happy with the transition to trail runners. Brooks Cascadia are popular, but I use Saucony Peregrines about a half size larger than my normal size. I paired them with Darn Tough socks and have never had a blister despite using them for 20+ days in a row in wet, muddy conditions. I have about 500 miles on the socks and shoes. The shoes are probably getting close to the end of their lifespan, but the socks (yes, one pair) are still going strong.
posted by BlooPen at 5:35 AM on November 9, 2014

I like the looks of that MSR Pocket Rocket. Simple, light and cheap.

You also might consider paying the one-time REI membership fee of $20, and buying your equipment there. You'll get a credit of 10% of your yearly purchases, once a year.
posted by the Real Dan at 10:59 AM on November 9, 2014

The MSR Superfly is awesome and tiny. You shouldn't have trouble finding fuel that fits along the way. I usually find Patagonia products too expensive and fancy, but I can not recommend their long underwear enough. It's worth the expense. Otherwise REI brand everything else (tents, sleeping bags etc.) are all great. Last, be sure to have a jar of peanut butter and a spoon to eat as you hike - you are going to drop weight fast and need the sustenance.
posted by Toddles at 11:52 AM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

Also Katadyn water filters are the best - I've taken them hiking globally and they hold up really well!
posted by Toddles at 11:55 AM on November 9, 2014

Response by poster: I appreciate all the replies. You are all "best answers."

Thanks, John
posted by JohnE at 3:05 PM on November 9, 2014 [1 favorite]

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