Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Gear & Equipment

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Appalachian Trail Equipment

Learn more about the guys.

Mission of gear selection for the:   Appalachian Trail

The gear selected for the hike (April to September of '03) was based solely on weight and function.  The only changes that occurred with the equipment on the trail was based on weight reduction, or we had found something better. 

Note:  Tables labeled as follows:
First Row:
Defines function on Appalachian Trail Thru hike
Second Row:
Description of product, Distance product was carried, and Owner (Ben or Billy)
Third Row:
Picture of Product
Fourth Row:
Comments Ben and Billy have about the product's ability on an Appalachian Trail Thru hike.

Appalachian Trail Shelter:

Shelter #1: Homemade Silicone Tarp-Tent.  (Springer to Troutdale)

Shelter #2: Silicone Tarp 10 x 12 (Troutdale to Katahdin)

Shelter: Integral Designs 5'x8' sil nylon tarp (Ben's - Springer to N.O.C)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Homemade Tarp

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Tarp

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Tarp

Homemade.  I was impressed with it's construction.  It was surprisingly warm inside at nite.  I started off using my hiking poles to hold this tarp up.  But after meeting Ben, we would enjoy more room without the hiking poles.  I dumped the poles in Hot Springs.  It had the ability to have a porch for cooking in the rain; or muggy weather.

Bought this at a local camping store.  I sewed on tie-outs for versatility and to pull the weight of the side walls away, which greatly increased the room.  This one was about the same weight as Shelter #1, but loads more room, more than we could ever use.

A friend helped me to add beaks.  I only used it in anger a few times before teaming up with Billy and moving into his luxurious accommodation (Shelter #1).  It seemed promising though and weighed in at a miserly 8oz.


Shelter Extensions/Additions:

Insert: Homemade Bug netting and groundsheet (Billy's- Springer to Katahdin)

Groundsheet(2) (Ben's - Springer to Katahdin)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Homemade Bug Netting

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Tyvek

Homemade groundsheet with bug netting.  Absolutely treasure this "one-of-a-kind" homemade product.  Still use it today.

Used a a space-blanket groundsheet until that failed and I got a more durable Tyvek one from the outfitters in Damascus.


Appalachian Trail Shirts:

T-Shirt:  Mountain Hardwear (Billy's- Springer to Katahdin) & Mountain Hardwear Long Sleeve (50% of the way)

Polyester Shirts #1: (Ben's - Springer to Harpers Ferry)

T-shirt #2: New Balance (Ben's - Harpers Ferry to Katahdin)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Mountain Hardwear T-shirt  Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Mountain Hardwear Long Sleeve shirt

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike long sleeve shirt

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike New Balance T-shirt

The short sleeve was a $70 shirt when I bought it.  I thought it was worth every penny, and I still use the shirt today.  Long sleeve was comfortable and warm.

I got fed up with the long sleeve and eventually moved to carrying just the one shirt.

Pretty much the same as most other polyester shirts on the market. The material was less scratchy on the skin than some and light colours don't seem to attract the bugs quite so badly - it's certainly easier to see them on you. 


Appalachian Trail Shorts:

Shorts #1: Mountain Hardwear Short/Pants (Billy's- Springer to New England)

Shorts #2: Fitness Gear (Billy's - New England to Katahdin)

Shorts #1: (Ben's - Springer to Harpers Ferry)

Shorts #2: New Balance 2" leg running shorts (Ben's - Harpers Ferry to Katahdin)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Mountain Hardwear shorts

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Fitness Gear shorts

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike shorts

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike New Balance running shorts

Great product, shorts a little heavy.  Dumped the pant legs in Hot Springs, because had Frogg Togg pants as well.

Loved 'em.  Ladies Luv 'Em style.  Felt like nothing on, and dried super fast.  Still my shorts of choice.

I tried a variety of different sets of shorts and generally carried two pairs to make doing laundry in town easier.   Some were more prone to chaffing than others - the Speedo swim shorts I had carried over from 2002's trip were the best of this bunch, until a dog bit me on the arse and tore the seat out of them.

Excellent.  The material is great and they prevented chaffing and massively improved my hiking comfort.  The only downside is the slightly revealing cut (Ladies Luv 'Em style) that looks a little out of place in some town situations - especially if they're all you have to wear around NYC.


Appalachian Trail Clothing Extras:

Hat: (Billy's - couple weeks, Mid-Atlantic)

Sun hat: Mountain Hardwear Big Shade (Ben's - Springer to Katahdin)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike cap

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Mountain Hardwear sun hat

Not a hat fan.  Carried this for only a couple weeks to block the treeless ridge tops in Mid-Atlantic.

Also carried over from 2002, this did the job well enough.


Appalachian Trail Rain Gear:

Rain Gear: Frogg Toggs (Billy's - Springer to Katahdin)

Other: Umbrellas (Ben's),  Homemade umbrella (Billy's) -- (We carried umbrellas from Springer to Mid-Atlantic)

Rain Gear:  Frogg Toggs Jacket (Ben's - N.C. to New England)

Rain Skirt: Sil nylon (Ben's - N.C. to Katahdin)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Frogg Toggs

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Homemade umbrella

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Frogg Toggs Jacket

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Homemade sil nylon skirt

The Frogg Toggs provide great warmth, rain protection, and next-to-skin comfort.  The only downside is their bulkiness.  Cheap, not so attractive looking in town when laundering.  At one point, found a 3M jacket ($80, bright yellow) for $5 on a Walmart closeout shelf.   Reduced weight and size.  Similar properties to Frogg Toggs.

Ben:  The one I set out with was good and light, but didn't give enough coverage.  Later this was replaced with a full size dollar store model that Billy helped me to modify by removing the mechanism.

Billy:  Homemade from the $1 store.  Still works.  I dumped it because of the weight.  In the Mid-Atlantic it was hot, so I was sweating and getting wet anyway.

Worked well until the material delaminated in a couple of spots.  Next-to-skin comfort is much better than the competition, which is handy when you only have one shirt and want to do laundry in town.

Homemade (well, hotel-room made) from a dollar store laundry bag.  Full rain pants are uncomfortable and I only really want to keep my shorts dry anyway so this made sense to me.  Also proved useful when badly chaffed as a welcome relief to shorts altogether.


Appalachian Trail Cold Weather Gear:

Insulation #1: Feathered Friends Down Jacket (Billy's - Springer to Hot Springs)

Insulation #2: wool sweater w/ hood (Billy's - Whites to Katahdin)

Insulation: Rab Jacket smock (Ben's - excluding Mid-Atlantic)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Feathered Friends Volant

Not Available

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Rab jacket, smock

Super warm jacket.  A little bit much once I became confident by N.C. that I was not going to die of hypothermia.

Found in closet.  Weighs about 11 oz.  Did not wear much, but brought me security.

Pertex and Primaloft smock - 10oz.  Proved warm enough for me the entire trip, only 10oz and easier to launder than a down vest.


Appalachian Trail Cold Weather Extremities Gear:  (Carried from Springer to Troutdale, and again from Whites to Katahdin)

Gloves: Patagonia Liners (Billy's)

Headwear: Mountain Hardwear cap (Billy's)

Gloves: Mittens (Ben's)

Headwear: Fleece/woolen hat (Ben's)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Patagonia Gloves

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Mountain Hardwear beanie

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike fleece mitten

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike fleece/wool cap

Great comfort.  Expensive, but worth the money.  Can wear all day without really noticing them.

It's Mountain Hardwear.  Windstopper, not too itchy.  Did it's job.

Cheap fleece mittens.

I carried a fleece cap for the first few hundred miles before sending it back with the rest of my cold weather gear.  I wanted a new one for the Whites, but couldn't find a store that had one.  I purchased this woolen one in the first hut we reached in the Whites.  It wasn't too expensive and worked fine.


Appalachian Trail Sleeping Bag:

Sleeping Bag #1: North Face Cat's Meow 3D (Billy's - Springer to Troutdale)

Sleeping Bag #2: Sierra Designs Top Bag (Billy's - Troutdale to Katahdin)

Sleeping Bag: Marmot Hydrogen (Ben's - Springer to Katahdin)

Not Available

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Sleeping Bag- Marmot Hydrogen, Sierra Designs Top Bag

I do not like this bag.  It is heavy, and bulky, but it's what I had to start the trail.  I altered the bag prior to starting the A.T.  I removed the zipper, the head section (mummy part), and turned it into a quilt to reduce weight and useless features for me.

Scared at first that this bag would not be warm enough, but I was sick of my Cat's Meow (Bag #1).  This bag is rated to 45F, but I had it near 30F and was not uncomfortable at all.  The bag has no insulated bottom, and I used it mostly as a quilt.

32F rated bag proved just about warm enough for the entire trip.  I cut out the zipper early into the trip and used the bag as a quilt.


Appalachian Trail Sleeping Pad:

Pad: Ridge Rest 3/4 (Billy's)

Pad #1:  ThermaRest Z-rest (Ben's - Springer to Troutdale)

Pad #2:  ThermaRest Ultralite 3/4 (Ben's - Harpers Ferry to Katahdin)

Works for me.  Replaced the pad (which was pancaked) with another Ridge Rest (long) I found in an Army/Navy store in Rutland for $5.

I liked, but lent it to another hiker and never saw it again.

I went without for a while, until I had problems with my back. I found the Z-rest to be more comfortable and versatile ( you could kneel on it comfortably to cook).


Appalachian Trail Backpack:

Backpack #1:  Golite Gust (Billy's - Springer to Troutdale)

Backpack #2:  Golite Breeze (Billy's - Troutdale to Katahdin)

Backpack #1: Mountainsmith Ghost (Ben's - Springer to Damascus)

Backpack #2: Golite Breeze (Ben's - Damascus to Katahdin)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Golite Gust backpack

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Golite Breeze backpack

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Mountainsmith Ghost backpack

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Golite Breeze backpack

I added outside pockets.  With all the extra crap I had at the beginning of the trip, it worked well.  But very quickly became to large.

I think it is still the best bag on the market for it's price and durability.  It's a common sense bag, with no frills, except for those ice loops.

Did the job pretty well, but became overkill once I had trimmed down my load and no longer needed the space or wanted even a lightweight frame.

I found it to be very comfortable even when loaded with four days of food and the freedom from a belt felt great.  Nicely designed with plenty of mesh on the outside and easy to launder too. 


Appalachian Trail Footwear:

Shoe: 3 pairs of New Balance 806 (Billy's), 1 pair (Ben's - Troutdale to Harpers Ferry)

Shoe: 1 pair Asics (Billy's - Harpers Ferry to Manchester Center)

Shoe: Brasher trail running shoes (Ben's - Springer to Troutdale)

Shoe: New Balance 705 (Ben's - Harpers Ferry to Manchester Centre)

Shoe: Montrail trailrunners (Ben's - Manchester Centre to Katahdin)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike New Balanace 806s

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Asics

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Brasher shoe

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike New Balance 705s

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Montrail trailrunners

Billy:  Worked for 500 miles a pair.  Expensive, and never failed.

Ben:  Pretty much indestructible (I still wear this pair to the gym).  A good balance of weight, cushioning and sturdiness.  The only problems that I think we experienced were to do with the padding at the back of the shoes wearing thin after a few hundred miles and rubbing our ankles raw.

Even more expensive.  Felt a little more comfortable, but didn't do the 500 miles as well over PA rocks.

Very lightweight, with less cushioning than the other shoes I used.  I'm not sure they make these anymore and don't think they were ever sold in the US.

Similar to the 806.  I just fancied a change I guess.  Got beaten up a lot more and don't look so pretty now, but that has to do more with the terrain they were used over (the PA rocks).

On special offer at the outfitter's.  Were equipped with a scree collar, which I don't recommend - stuff still gets in, it's just harder to put your shoes on in the morning.  The sole construction of this particular model was flimsy too and much of the tread tore off by the time we finished.


Appalachian Trail Socks:

Socks: Wright Socks (Billy's)

Socks: Wigwam brand nylon ankle socks (Ben's)

My favorite socks as of date.  They do not last as long as I would like, but they are comfortable.  Thicker socks never dry.  Between the rain and sweat, thicker socks will not dry, and that does not work day after day for me.

Quick drying and lightweight.  Longer socks seem unnecessary (unless your ankles are being rubbed raw by failing shoes) and anything cushioned seems to take forever too dry.


Appalachian Trail Cooking Equipment:

Pot: Walmart Grease Pot (Ben & Billy)

Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket (Ben & Billy)

Utensil: Lexan (Ben & Billy)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Wal-Mart Grease Pot

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike MSR Pocket Rocket

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Leaxn Spoon

Billy:  Cheap.  Can easily be replaced (not necessary, just a possibility).  Lite.  Collects food under the brim of the pot.

Ben:  As good a bargain as you will ever find. Lighter than the most expensive titanium model, perfectly effective and you don't get the fear about losing it somewhere. We modified ours by removing the heavy handle from the lid and sealing the hole with heatproof tape.

Billy:  I started with a homemade alcohol stove.  In N.C. I had a little backdraft that lead to my hand and nearby plants being singed.  I dropped the alcohol stove soon after.

Billy:  Lasted the whole trip.


Appalachian Trail Light:

Light: Petzl Tikka (Billy's)

Light:  Petxl Zipka (Ben's)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Petxl Tikka headlamp

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Petzl Zipka headlamp

Carried most of the trip.  Has good battery life.  We tried to reduce the weight, with a $1 store key chain lite...Not a good idea for the Maryland Challenge.  I soon had my Tikka mailed back to me.

Bright enough to hike by and the batteries are easy enough to find. Could probably get away with something lighter, but this is a solid enough model. 


Appalachian Trail Water Treatment:

Treatment #1: MSR Filter (Billy's)

Treatment #2:  Aqua Mira (Ben & Billy)

Treatment #3:  Gravity Filter (Billy's)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike MSR Mini Works

I had the Black (older model)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Aqua Mira treatment

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Gravity Filter

Heavy, but works year round. After meeting Ben, I dumped this extra work.

Billy:  Lightweight.  Can easily be found on the A.T.  I just do not like using chemicals, even though, this is in our household water supply.  Does it job.  Ben's first choice.

Ben:  Learned to hate the taste after a few months, easily camoflaged with a little Kool Aid mix (unsweetened or with artificial sweeter are the lighter options in every sense). 

Billy:  My personal favorite.  Cannot be easily replaced along the trail.  Ben is not with me on it's effectiveness.

Ben:  I love the idea, but we fashioned these out of parts that were less robust than was sensible. The failure of mine in West Virginia may have been the cause of my problems in Harper's Ferry.


Appalachian Trail Water Container:

Water Bottle: Gatorade (1 liter) (Billy & Ben) (Springer to Katahdin)

Canteen: Nalgene 1.5 liter Canteen (Billy - Troutdale to New England)

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Water Container - Gatorade Bottle

Appalachian Trail Thru Hike Water Container - Nalgene Canteen

Billy: Carried two Gatorade bottles. Works great with large mouth for mixing drinks; and replacing them in town gets you a free drink with the purchase of a new water bottle. Never leaked, won't break when dropped, never cracked when frozen.  Best bottle for weight and the ability to replace in every town stop.  Any 1 liter plastic bottle worked for Ben and's just Gatorade bottles have a wide mouth.

Billy: Canteen is lightest water container that maintains a manageable form.  Collapses paper thin and you could carry numerous canteens for large amounts of water.