This is a complete Appalachian Trail Gear List. Below is a list of the best to take when thru hiking or section hiking the Appalachian Trail. A Lightweight or Ultralight Appalachian Trail packing list will keep your base weight around 15lb or less.
This Appalachian Trail thru hike gear list is my personal recommendations on what gear to take thru hiking the AT. The biggest financial investment will be in the big four. The Backpack, Tent, Sleeping Bag and Sleeping Mat.
A wise choice on these items will ensure a lightweight Appalachian Trail Packing List. These important considerations will lead to a comfortable nights sleep and less stress on the body. The Appalachian Trail is already a very tough hike, make it a little easier with good gear selection. What to pack on the Appalachian Trail is an important thing to invest both time and money.
The Appalachian Trail is tougher than many other thru hiking trails in many ways. Early and late season snow and extreme cold or in complete contrast to the extreme heat and suffocating humidity in July.
Add to that the constant rain and the potential of former hurricane moving over the trail to drop biblical levels of rain causing localized flooding.
Yes, the Appalachian Trail is tough on gear. This Appalachian Trail packing list should give the thru hiker and section hiker the chance to take some of the best ultralight gear for the Appalachian Trail.
Then there are the long rocky sections of trail, overgrown sharp thickets and exposed ridges which make for varied terrain that is tough on gear. Below are my selections of the what to pack for the Appalachian Trail.
Best Lightweight Tent for the Appalachian Trail
The Appalachian Trail will be wet and for the early starters and late finishers it will be cold. There will be few times when thru hikers will be camping above the treeline so a full on mountain tent is not necessary. The best lightweight tent for the Appalachian Trail will be lightweight, waterproof and big enough.
The best backpack for the Appalachian Trail is ultra lightweight, comfortable and durable enough to withstand months of abuse. There will be lots of rain on the AT so ensure that everything is packed inside some sort of waterproof bag. I like to use a large compactor trash bag. Of all the backpacks on the list below, only the backpacks from Hyperlite Mountain Gear are waterproof.
What size Backpack for the Appalachian Trail
The best size backpack for the Appalachian Trail is around 50 liters. Some people think it is a great idea to take a 70 liter rucksack but there are ample places to resupply with food and water on the trail and a large backpack will encourage thru hikers to take too much gear. A 50 liter backpack for the Appalachian Trail is the best.
Best Ultralight Backpacks for on the Appalachian Trail
Best Sleeping Bag for Hiking the Appalachian Trail
The best sleeping bag for hiking the Appalachian Trail is a degree rated sleeping bag around 20F. For those starting earlier or finishing later you could get a sleeping bag rated to 10F. For some one section hiking in June or July a bag rated to 30F or 40F would be OK.
The months of June and July are awfully hot and humid. It would be great to have 2 sleeping bags. Take one for the colder months on the trail and then send it home for June and July and replace it with an ultralight summer sleeping bag. As this is not practical for most thru hikers, a 20F bag is best.
Here are a list of very highly recommended ultralight Sleeping Bags for the Appalachian Trail.
Ultralight Sleeping Quilts are popular and a better lightweight alternative to a heavier sleeping bag. But they have limitations in really cold weather. In fact, I would only recommend an ultralight quilt in temperatures above 30F. Anything below that temperature and a sleeping bag is more efficient at keeping you warm. Here are a list of very highly recommended ultralight quilts for the Appalachian Trail.
Being comfortable at night leads to a good nights sleep. Nothing contributes more to a good nights sleep than a comfortable sleeping pad. It is preferable to use an ultralight air mattress but lightweight foam make a great option for the budget conscience sleeper who mostly sleeps on their back. Side sleeper will certainly need an air mat.
Here are a list of all the best ultralight Sleeping mats for the Appalachian Trail.
Footwear is a personal choice and what works perfectly for one person will not work with another. Be wary of any hiking footwear gear review that suggests this show or that shoe is best. Everyones feet are different.
There are several things that are certain about footwear for hiking the Appalachian Trail. They should be lightweight, fit properly and not cause blisters or hotspots.
I’ve been a long time fan of both Vasque and Merrel shoes as they fit my foot perfectly. I also use Altra Trail running shoes as my lightweight shoe option. But all these options work best for people with wider feet.
For narrow feet the better options are Soloman and Brooks.
Here are my 3 recommendations for the best shoes and boots for the Appalachian Trail hikers with wide feet.
The best clothing for thru hiking the Appalachian Trail is something that involves layers. There will be extreme heat and humidity in mid summer and extreme cold and early or late season snow. Layers include a good rain jacket, puffy down jacket, mid layer and baselayer.
Appalachian Trail hikers are especially prone to reeking of very bad body odour. This can be reduced by using Merino Wool Baselayer but they are not recommended for areas with high humidity. All layers including down jackets should have some degree of weather protection for the certain rain that will be encountered.
The Best Down Jackets for the AT
All the down jackets below have a degree of weather resistance that ensures they are the best down jackets for the AT.
Bic Lighter – 20 Grams – A necessary item, obviously.
600ml Coke Bottle to store alcohol for stove – 27 grams
During the hot sections of the Appalachian Trail went ‘Stoveless’, using a small plastic peanut butter jar to rehydrate food.
This saved about 7oz of weight in the stove alone. The weight of the stove fuel that I didn’t need to carry added up to another 7oz.
Going stoveless on the Appalachian Trail and cold soaking food is not for everyone. I have tried it and don’t like it. Personally, there is something special about a warm meal after a hard days hiking. But give it a go and see if it works for you.