Gear to Hike the Appalachian Trail

This is a food scale that I already own, but a digital scale would allow me to be more precise.
This is a food scale that I already own, but a digital scale would allow me to be more precise.

I’m preparing for an Appalachian Trail thru-hike. In addition to physical and mental preparation, I’m working through what gear to carry. My goal is to have less than 25 total pounds for a week’s hike, including food, water and fuel. This is called Ultralight Backpacking. I’ve been interested in it for years, and it’s the best way to keep hiking into middle age and beyond. Here’s what’s included on gear list. I need to keep the weight of the top 4 items on this list under 10 pounds to make my goal :

  • Backpack
  • Sleep system
  • Shelter system
  • Cooking gear
  • Water purifying system
  • Clothing
  • First aid
  • Emergency items
  • Food
  • Fuel

Based on the recommendations of Mike Clelland‘s book, Ultralight Backpackin’ Tips, I‘m weighing each piece of equipment. I’m using a food scale I already owned, but if I had to buy new, I’d get a digital one. It’s far more accurate.

This is how Mike C. sees Ultralight Backpacking:

Physical preparations

I’m also preparing myself physically. Part of me thinks that it might not be possible to really get in shape for the challenge. Nothing will be enough! But I have to do what I can. At my age and fitness level it’s important that I don’t move too quickly and try to do too much. Currently this is my workout routine.

Monday-Friday, at least 3 days a week:

  • Walk 2 miles. The walk can be outside (with my pack) or on my treadmill (at an incline that will increase each week).

Saturday and Sunday:

  • Minimum 3 miles, outside, with 25 pound pack
  • Additionally, stretching, sit-ups, incline push-ups, and a couple upper body exercises with weight, at least 3 times a week.

Once a month, I will go on a test hike—Putting in 6-8 miles in the mountains with a pack each day. I’ll also use these trips to test equipment and new techniques.

Obviously, I’ll need to increase the mileage as time goes on, but frankly, with a fulltime job it will be hard to increase the weekday exercise a lot more.


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I’m a professional vagabond. I quit my cubical job in January 2014. Since then, I’ve hiked the Appalachian Trail, The Camino, and taught English in Vietnam, Turkey, Russia, Spain, Mexico and Peru. I’m exploring the world and you can come too!

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