Appalachian Trail Gear Review

Appalachian Trail Gear Review

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This is my Lightweight Appalachian Trail Gear review. Thru Hiking is incredibly demanding on both the hiker and equipment. A hiker using good, lightweight equipment has a better chance of finishing a hike than one overloaded with poor gear.

The total base weight of the gear in this Appalachian Trail Gear Review is around 7kg (15lb). This is significantly lighter than most hikers on the Appalachian Trail.

Appalachian Trail Gear Review

The base weight of my hiking gear could be much lighter if I didn’t take luxury items such as a pillow, stove, cooking gear or cameras. If I only carried the necessary items my base weight could be around 5.5kg (12lb).

I could have used my iPhone as my camera and eaten food that didn’t need to be cooked or heated. I love taking photos and eating a hot meal, so for me a quality camera and stove are necessary luxury items.

Nevertheless, I was able to successfully hike the trail with no injuries and cover more miles per day than most hikers before my body became fatigued.

The gear I used on the my Appalachian Trail hike is a great balance between cost, durability and great outdoor companies with great warranties.

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Appalachian Trail Sleep System Review

Nemo Hornet 1 Person Tent – 30oz – 850 Grams

Overview – I started using this tent on my last thru hike on the CDT. I think it is one if the lightest freestanding tents on the market. It is a small one person tent but big enough to allow me to bring all my gear inside the tent.

I love that it had a side entrance which allowed me to lay in my sleeping bag while cooking meals in the vestibule, great on a rainy evening or morning. After more than 350 nights of use I retired the tent in favour of their 2 person version which is a very tight fit when two hikers are inside the tent.

Pros – Very Lightweight. Quite large for a 1 person tent. I loved the side entry and vestibule. Easy to set up.
Cons – Tent pegs are easily bent when hammering them into hard ground.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Very Highly recommended.

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For more information read:
Best Lightweight Hiking Tents

Osprey Exos 48 – 32oz – 900 grams (minus the brain lid)

Overview –  This is the second year I have used the Osprey Exos 48, it was used on the CDT last year. Like last year the pack was very comfortable with the kind of loads I carry.

While hiking the Appalachian Trail I noticed that several hikers started their hike with other well known lightweight hiking packs but swapped them out for the Osprey Exos part way along their hike.

I suspect that backpacks were one of the most changed items by hikers. Comfort was the main reason for the change. Of note, the side panels on the pack which house my water bottle and tent poles have seen a lot of wear and tear and they started to rip.

I received a new pack from Osprey as they have a lifetime warranty on their packs. With a warranty like that it is no wonder this is one of the most common packs on the trail. Although, I wish they would use a stronger material on the side pockets.

Pros – Super comfortable. Lightweight. Great for carrying heavy loads when needed. Lifetime guarantee from Osprey.
Cons  – Outside mesh pockets are prone to ripping.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Very Highly recommended.
Check Prices – REI | Amazon

For more information read:
Best Lightweight Hiking Backpacks

Nemo Nocturne Sleeping Bag – 37oz (1060grams)

Overview – Again this is the second thru hike I have used this sleeping bag. With a rating of 15F / -9C I had little need for such a cold rated sleeping bag. It is a very spacious sleeping bag and more than sufficient for a cold sleeper like myself. It is also a larger style bag which allows me to stretch out while sleeping, something that is very welcome for a side sleeper like myself.

I am a cold sleeper, I think the bag is closer to 20F / -6C for a person like me. The bag is a little heavy and I might have been better served by one of the quilt style sleeping bags. I might consider an upgrade to one of these in the future.

Pros – It is a wide bag with plenty of room inside to stretch out. Material is resistant to the damp. Lots of loft. Flap for a pillow inside the hood.
Cons – Slightly heavy compared to the new range of lightweight quilts on the market.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Recommended.
Check Prices –REIAmazon

For More Information Read:
Best Lightweight Sleeping Bags and Quilts

Sleeping Mat – 355 grams – I was testing a sleeping mat for a well known outdoor company while hiking the Appalachian Trail. I am not in a position to comment on the mattress, it was a prototype after all.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – There are great lightweight options such as the Nemo Tensor or Thermarest NeoAir XLite.

For more info on all the best lightweight sleeping pads:
Best Sleeping Pads Review

Therma Rest Stuff Sack Pillow – 2.7oz – 77 Grams

Overview – I started hiking the trail with this reversible stuff sack as my pillow and sleeping bag stuff sack. I used my down jacket and/or spare clothes to fill it up and make it comfortable for use as a pillow. During the day it would house my sleeping bag.

Some pillows are horrible for guys as their beards or stubble rub up against the material and makes for a loud sleepless night, not so with this stuff sack pillow. This has served me well for over 600 nights of use but it finally started to show its age and it was replaced by a dedicated Pillow and a dedicated stuff sack (see reviews below).

Pros – When stuffed with a down jacket it makes for a very comfortable pillow. Doubles as my sleeping bag stuff sac, or spare clothes stuff sac during the day. Great multi-use item.
Cons – A luxury Item. A little heavier than other stuff sacs. Not 100% waterproof.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Recommended luxury item.
Check Prices –REIAmazon

Nemo Elite Pillow – 2.5oz – 2.7oz – 78 grams

Overview – My Therm-a-Rest Stuff Sack Pillow– started to show its age and needed replacing after 600+ nights of use. When I was at Trail Days in Damascus I visited the Nemo Stand and had a look at their Elite Pillow and knew I had to have one.

This dedicated pillow is inflatable, soft to the touch, lightweight and most of all silent when I rub my beard or stubble on the soft fabric. I was so impressed I bought one and found it to be a real winner as a pillow.

Pros – Light, soft to the touch and silent.
Cons – Nil, although it is a luxury Item.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Highly Recommended luxury item.
Check Prices –REIAmazon

Sea to Summit Sack – 2.7oz – 78 grams

Overview – I bought this when my Therm-a-Rest Stuff Sack Pillow needed to be replaced. It is light, waterproof and a perfect fit for my sleeping bag. If I ever fell over while crossing a river or water leaked into my backpack during a big rain storm, I am confident my sleeping bag would stay dry.

Pros – Light and waterproof
– A luxury Item. I could have used the supplied stuff sack for my sleeping bag or a trash compactor bag.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Recommended luxury item.
Check Prices – REIAmazon

Vasque Breeze III Shoes – 982 grams

Overview – The perfect hiking shoe for the Appalachian Trail. I have become a big fan of Vasque hiking shoes since using them on the Continental Divide Trail last year. This year I used the new Breeze III shoe. They were super comfortable right out of the box with no need to ‘wear them in‘.

For the first time ever I had no blisters for the whole trail. Each pair of shoes lasted more than 1000 miles of hiking which meant I only needed 2 pair of shoes for the whole of the Appalachian Trail which represented great value for money.

They are available in normal and wide fit sizes, perfect for a wide foot person like myself. A great fitting, comfortable, long lasting shoe.

Pros – Comfortable. Waterproof. Strong. Very long wear life. Available in normal and wide sizes.
Cons – I found these shoes to be about 1/4 size smaller than other brands.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Very Highly recommended.
Check Prices –REIAmazon

Darn Tough Socks

Overview – The perfect hiking sock. These are the most popular socks on the Appalachian Trail. The merino wool blend resists the funky foot smells quite well. They are comfortable and super tough. Great lifetime warranty from Darn Tough.

Pros – Comfortable. Lightweight. Tough. Lifetime Warranty.
Cons – Nil
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Very Highly recommended.
Best Prices: REI | Amazon
| Backcountry | Moosejaw

Appalachian Trail Clothing Review

Outdoor Research Filament Jacket

Overview – This jacket was the perfect balance of lightweight, comfort and warmth. I am a fan of Outdoor Research. I started using their gear on the PCT several years ago and decided to give this jacket a try. It is ultra lightweight and warm enough for temperatures around freezing. A perfect jacket for those cold nights and mornings on the Appalachian Trail. Hikers starting earlier than April or finishing late might need something more for the colder weather or more layers. I love the lifetime warranty of this company.

Pros – Lightweight. Warm. Lifetime warranty.
Cons –
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Highly Recommend.

Check Prices –REIAmazon

Guide to the Best Lightweight Down Jackets

PrAna Stretch Zion Convertable Pants – 15oz – 430 grams

Overview – I bought these convertible pants while hiking the CDT last year, they joined me on the Appalachian Trail. They are a great fit and have a slight bit of stretchy material which adds to the comfort. I only used them early on in the trail during the cooler weather and they served me well. I added Permethrin to the pants to prevent against tick bites.

Pros – I like the convertible option. Comfortable stretch material. Strong.
Cons – A little heavy.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Highly recommended
Check Prices –REIAmazon

Smartwool Thermal Pants – 250grams

Overview – I wore these comfortable, lightweight pants to bed almost every night. This helped keep me warm and prevent my sleeping bag from getting dirty. I also wore them on cold mornings as part of my clothing layers.

Pros – Lightweight. Comfortable. More practical than a sleeping bag liner.
Cons –
My Appalachian Trail Gear review – Highly recommended

Check Prices –REI | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry

Smartwool LS Shirt

Overview – I’ve been using these shirts for 3 thru hikes. They are lightweight, reduce body smell and work well in both hot weather and cold weather. I only used this shirt for sleeping in while on the Appalachian Trail. Past experience told me they do not stand up well to being worn as a hiking shirt, they wear out too quickly.

Pros – Lightweight. Worked well in both Hot and Cold weather.
Cons – The material doesn’t have a long wear life when used a s hiking shirt. Expensive.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Recommended but I’m going to look for a harder wearing thermal hiking shirt. Any recommendation?
Check Prices  –REIAmazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry

Reebok Lycra Shorts

Overview – I only used one pair of underwear while hiking and it was these lycra / polyester blend stretch underwear. One pair of underwear lasted me the over 5000 miles of hiking! Nothing more to be said, they worked great! They are now worn out and I need to buy another pair.
Pros –
Lightweight. Comfortable. Strong
Cons –
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Highly recommended

Check Prices –REIAmazon

Cheap (no name) hiking shorts – 100grams –
Instead of using a pair of expensive brand name hiking shorts I bought a pair of no name running shorts from a discount retailer. They served me fine and were throw out after the hike.

PCT Sunhat 55 grams – A great lightweight sunhat that lasted 2 thru hikes. Recommended and profits go to a good cause.

Sunglasses – 50 grams – Cheap pair from a Gas Station. Wish I could afford a better pair.

Appalachian Trail Rain Gear review

Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket

Overview – This jacket is my ‘Triple Crown’ rain jacket. I first started using it on the PCT many years ago. It has lasted me on over 7500 miles of hiking and 10000 miles of cycle touring.

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The jacket is very light, folds up very small into its own pocket, it’s waterproof and windproof. When worn inside the sleeping bag at night it traps heat very well.

After extensive use the jacket finally started to show its age and was replaced free of charge by Outdoor Research who have one of the best Lifetime Warranties in the business.

Pros – Lightweight. Packs to a small size. Waterproof. Windproof. Lifetime warranty.
Cons – Not as breathable as GoreTex but sufficient for lightweight hiking.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Very Highly recommended.
Check Prices –REIAmazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry

Outdoor Research Hellium Rain Pants

Overview – Again these pants have been used on all three longs trail and many more miles of cycle touring. I only used these pants early on in the trail when the potential for cold rain and snow were high. Later on in the trail I didn’t use any rain pants at all.

Pros – Lightweight. Packs to a small size. Waterproof. Windproof. Lifetime warranty.
Cons – Not as breathable as GoreTex but sufficient for lightweight hiking.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Very Highly recommended.
Check Prices | REI | Amazon | Moosejaw | Backcountry

Six Moon Design Hiking Umbrella – 8oz – 227 grams

Overview – Quite the surprise. I have never used a lightweight hiking umbrella until now. I was the envy of every hiker in the wet weather as I stayed dry while they sweated in their rain jackets.

The umbrella allowed me to hike when other hikers decided it was too wet or too uncomfortable to be hiking. It did rub up against branches from time to time but did not suffer any damage.

I rigged a system to allow the umbrella to be attached to my pack and allow for hands free hiking. Unfortunately I lost the umbrella at a campsite in New Jersey, I was very unhappy. Now I need another one for future hikes.

Pros – Lightweight. Kept me dry. Would also work to protect against strong sunlight.
Cons – Not great in very strong wind.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Highly recommended.
Check Prices – Amazon

Trekking Poles and Camping Gear for the Appalachian Trail

Leki Micro Vario Carbon Fibre Trekking Poles – 14.5oz – 413 grams

Overview – These are some of the lightest, highest quality trekking poles on the market. They are comfortable to use. Probably the best feature for me is the small folding size. As somebody who travels with their hiking poles this is a very necessary option.

Pros – Lightweight. Folds to a small size. Great for the traveling hiker.
Cons –
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Recommended. Highly recommended for the traveling hiker who needs a trekking pole that folds to a small size.

Check Prices –REIAmazon | Backcountry | Moosejaw

Petzl Tikka Headlamp – 3oz – 85 grams

Overview – I only carried this later on in the trail when the nights got longer. Rarely did I hike at night. The light on my phone was all I needed most of the time.

Pros – Lightweight. UBS Rechargeable battery.
Cons – I rarely hiked at night so most of the time it was a wasted luxury item.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Recommended. Worked great when I did use it.
Check Prices –REIAmazon | Backcountry | Moosejaw

Evernew Ti DX Titanium Stove – 3oz – 86 grams

Overview – A good lightweight, Titanium stove. It works great but can take 5-7 minutes (or more) to boil water. At times I wish I had a Jetboil so I didn’t have to wait so long for water to boil.
I hiked ‘stoveless‘ for a couple of hundred miles of the Appalachian Trail to see what it was like. I must admit that I missed my hot coffee in the morning and hot meal at night.

Pros – Lightweight. Simple to use. Easy access to alcohol fuel in the trail towns.
Cons – Slow to boil water, 5-7 minutes.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Recommended as an alcohol stove and lighter than a Jetboil.
Check Prices – Amazon

Snow Peak Titanium Pot 0.9 L – 4oz -114grams

Overview – A good reliable titanium pot that has served me well for many years of hiking and cycle touring. I use the lid when cycle touring but make a lightweight lid from Aluminum foil when hiking to save weight.

Pros – Lightweight. Titanium. Simple cooking pot.
Cons – Food can burn easily and stick to the inside of the pot.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Recommended.
Check Prices – Amazon

Sea to Summit X-Mug – 2.75oz – 78 grams

Overview – In many ways this is a luxury item. I could have dispensed with this item and used my cooking pot as a cup or even a Starbucks disposable coffee cup.  I loved how it folds up into a small, flat profile for easy storage.

Pros – Packs up small.
Cons – A heavy luxury item.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review, Recommended luxury item.
Check Prices – Amazon

Opsac Smellproof Food Bag – 1oz – 25 grams

Overview- Bears are a real problem for hikers on the Appalachian Trail. I heard of several hikers who had their food stolen by bears when they hung their food overnight in trees.

Most problems were caused by human error, not skillful bears. I slept with my food every night and felt very safe doing so. To mitigate the risk I used a smell proof bag to store my food.

Some may consider this risky but almost all experienced long distance hikers use this method. I had no problems with bears or mice getting to my food.

The bags only lasted about 1000 miles which meant 2 of them lasted the whole length of the Appalachian Trail.

Pros – Lightweight. No food smell to attract bears. Great piece of mind in bear country.
Cons – Only lasted about 6-8 weeks of use before failing.
Check Prices –REI

Titanium Spoon 12 Grams  I simple, lightweight spoon. Recommended.

Gerber STL 2.0 Knife 28 Grams – Lightweight and functional. I rarely used my knife, I almost question if I needed it. Recommended.

Bic Lighter – 20 Grams –
A necessary item, obviously.

600ml Coke Bottle to store alcohol for stove – 27 grams – Lighter and cheaper than any item available at a gear store.

Water Filter and Storage

Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter – 3oz – 85 grams

Overview – The Sawyer Filter is the most common method for filtering water among Thru Hikers. It is lightweight and simple to use. The squeeze bag that comes with the filter is fragile and didn’t last long before developing a massive hole.

Luckily, the filter thread fits nicely onto a Smart Water Bottle which is available in most Gas Stations and Grocery Stores in USA.

If the filter freezes it will break and the hiker will not know it is broken until they get sick. To prevent this I would pack it in a zip lock bag and place it in my sleeping bag at night if temperatures below freezing were predicted.

I also back flushed it regularly to remove the dirt and debris from the filter with the syringe that was supplied when I bought the filter.

Pro – Lightweight. Effectively filters debris and all the nasty waterborne diseases.
Cons – The squeeze bag that comes with the filter is poor quality and breaks way too easily. The filter can break without the hiker knowing about it if it freezes overnight. It is easy to loose the rubber washer on the thread.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Highly Recommended.
Check Prices –REIAmazon

Katadyn Micropur Purification 20 Tablets

Overview – I carried them as a backup and didn’t use them on this hike. Bleach also makes a great backup for water treatment.

Pros – Effective water treatment
Cons – Expensive. Does not remove debris from water.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Recommended as a back up, but consider cheaper options such as bleach.
Check Prices  –REIAmazon

Platypus Bottle 2l – 1.20z – 36 grams

Overview – Only used when I was at camp to carry excess water for dinner and breakfast. A great, lightweight option.

Pros – Lightweight. Collapsible.
Cons – Not the same thread as a Sawyer water filter but with care it can be threaded onto the filter.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Recommended
Check Prices –REIAmazon

Electronics and Camera

Apple iPhone SE 32G – 4oz – 114grams

Overview – My phone was possibly the most important item in my gear list. I downloaded maps onto the phone and used the iPhone GPS for navigation. I also used it to write my blog, listen to music, audiobooks, podcasts and more. My old iPhone died on the Appalachian Trail and I replaced it with this phone. For protection it was housed in a LifeProof Case

Pros – A necessity for the modern lightweight hiker.
Cons –
My old iPhone died on the trail and left me without maps or GPS, luckily it was replaced easily.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Highly recommended to have the smartphone and Lifeproof case.

Check Prices – Amazon

Sony Rx100 – 10.5oz – 299grams

Overview – I upgraded from my Canon G16 to this top of the line compact camera. Extremely high quality photos and 4K video from this ultra lightweight camera.

The camera has a great auto mode and allows a competent photographer to use the manual controls to manipulate the exposure as desired. I wish I bought this camera long ago.

To see it in action, check out my YouTube Documentary below.

Pros – Great photo and video quality. Lightweight. Batteries charge via USB. Lots of control with full manual functions for the experienced photographer.
Cons – Expensive.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Very Highly recommended.
Check Prices   Amazon

GoPro Hero – 4oz – 110 grams

Overview – The best lightweight action camera on the market. Great photos and 4K video from this lightweight, waterproof and almost unbreakable camera. Great time lapse and slow motion mode for videos. It has a short battery life but can be charged on the trail via the USB cable. This is my go to camera in extreme weather. The Newest version is so much better than the one I used.

Pros – Great Photos and 4K video quality. Can be used in any weather. Great time lapse video and slow motion mode. Charges via USB
Cons –
Expensive. Short battery life.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Highly Recommended.

Check Prices Amazon

Anker 21000mAh Battery – 12.5oz – 354 grams

Overview – I started the hike with a cheap very lightweight battery which only lasted about 1 week before it started to have problems. I upgraded to this large capacity, lightweight battery to charge my GoPro, Sony Rx100 camera, iPhone and Headlamp.

This battery is big enough to keep all of them charged for a week of heavy use while hiking, much longer if I am careful. The GPS on the phone is the biggest user of batteries and I was glad to have this big battery which meant I didn’t need to worry about conserving batteries on any of my electronics. If my phone ran out of battery I would loose my maps, GPS and more.

Pro – Reliable. Cheap. Lightweight for it’s capacity.
Cons – Maybe I could have made do with a smaller capacity, lighter battery.
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Highly Recommended
Check Prices – Amazon

Anker Dual USB Wall Charger

Overview – Provided  a quick charge to my phone and External battery while I was in town.

Pros – Lightweight. Reliable. Fast charging.
Cons – Nil
My Appalachian Trail Gear Review – Highly recommended.
Check Prices – Amazon

If you have any questions about the gear I used, let me know in the comments section below.

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    1. Thanks Anna. I’ve been relaxing a lot and preparing for the next year of travel. Also making some upgrades to the website (behind the scenes, I’ve outgrown the basic blog packages) and also doing a lot of video editing. It is a steep learning curve to edit all my videos from the last 4 years. I just added a new tab in the menu that links to my videos on YouTube, or check them out here, many more to come.

  1. Hi Brad. You suggest that the GoPro is the best lightweight action camera on the market, but then say that it has poor design.

    Whats wrong with it?

    Cheers Ross in NZ

    1. Hi Ross, now I’m really embarrassed. It’s a great camera, I loved it.
      When formatting the blog post I cut and pasted the review from a previous posts, in this case the Canon G16. I neglected to change the review.
      Poor proof reading on my part.
      I’ve amended the post, thanks for pointing it out.

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