Here’s my pick of the “big three” gear items I will be using during my second Appalachian Trail thru hike attempt and why.
Like last year, I will be hiking with my husband and we’ll be sharing a shelter. In 2016, we crammed into a Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 2. Although it was a 2-person tent, was lightweight and easy to set up, it was rather snug for the two of us. We’re both on the slender side, but we still felt like we were laying on top of each other every night, and only one of us could really move around at a time. Our packs didn’t fit inside, which wouldn’t have been such a big deal if the vestibule wasn’t so tiny as well. Our packs would get rained on occasionally, and we would have to “de-barricade” ourselves if we had to get out for a bathroom break. This was impossible to do without waking up each other. I truly, highly recommend this tent for one person, but like I said, with two, it gets a bit stuffy.
We were debating the MSR Hubba Hubba, which we had from previous camping trips. We would have to sacrifice weight gain for space in doing so, but after 1,000+ miles on the AT, we realized we wanted more space! Then my husband found the best of both worlds (we hope) for this coming season.
This year we will be using the Z-Packs Triplex Tent (a super awesome holiday gift)! It’s crazy big and crazy lightweight (score)! We’ll have plenty of room to move around, our trekking poles (which we’re bringing anyway) act as tent poles, and our packs can stay inside. The only use of the vestibule would be to keep our shoes and any wet gear out of the tent. My only worry is finding a place big enough to pitch it! I will keep you posted on how well this works out! However, I’m excited to try it out!
Weight: 23.8 oz Cost: $699
In 2016, I used a 6+ year old Osprey Atmos 50 L (specs on site won’t match my older pack). I enjoyed this pack a lot! The problem is, even with un-used straps and un-necessary frame removed, it still weighed a bit too much. I got a pelvic stress fracture last year, and so my plan to prevent injuries this year is to #1 Train, and #2 Get my weight and my pack weight down significantly. I’m aiming for a ~10 lb. base weight (weight of all gear excluding food and water). The other bad part is the Atmos pack is not water resistant, so therefore I felt a rain cover was necessary to help keep my gear dry. My pack with the rain cover was about 3 ½ lb.
This year I’m switching to the Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Windrider. It’s made with Dyneema Composite fabric (aka. Cuben fiber) which is durable, super lightweight and waterproof (no rain cover necessary)! I decided to cut back on size (50-liter pack to a 40-liter), so I will be forced to carry less with me (an injury prevention technique)!
Weight: 28.2 oz Cost: $290
3A) SLEEPING SYSTEM: SLEEPING BAG
I had originally brought an old sleeping bag that I had laying around from previous camping trips which turned out to be a mistake. My original sleeping bag was a red Marmot Womens Teton 15F (specs on site won’t match my older bag). The problem? The bag was SUPER heavy (3 ½ lb.). Not only did I feel like I was carrying a small child with me up and down mountains, the sucker didn’t compress without a fight. Punching a resistant sleeping bag in the bottom of your pack is not exactly what you feel like doing first thing in the morning when you haven’t had coffee in days (more on my stoveless lifestyle later). It was also unnecessarily warm for the AT in my opinion at a 15 degree F temperature rating. Even on cold nights I would be sweating profusely and the only escape was to expose my drenched, sweaty body to the elements (in other words, a never ending battle of discomfort).
The bag I’m carrying now is one I purchased on the trail last year in Hot Springs to ditch my big red burden and all the added stress it had caused me. I’m now using a unisex 35 degree F Western Mountaineering Caribou. It weighs much less (a little over 1 lb.), I don’t feel menopausal every time I use it (on colder nights I just add some additional layers), and it compresses easily. My only complaint is with the Caribou, my toes are rubbing zipper while the Teton had a warm and comfy footbox.
Western Mountaineering Caribou MF 6’0” 35F
Weight: 21 oz Cost: $365
3B) SLEEPING SYSTEM: MAT
I was skeptical about getting an inflatable sleep mat since I was afraid of the likelihood of it popping on the trail (which did happen once, actually). However, I love my NEMO Astro Air Lite! Sure you can get the self-inflating sleep mats so you don’t have to puff into a valve prior to calling it a night, but they tend to weigh a lot more. You can even get the bigger bargain foam pads which only require you to throw it out in front of you to set up shop. I own two, the Therm-a-Rest RidgeRest SOLite and the cheap ol’ Therm-a-Rest blue foam pad. I just find them to be too bulky and less comfortable. I still like the comfort of the blow up sleep mats versus the foam pads, and the lightness of them over the self-inflatables, so blowing it up is a small sacrifice for me. If this mat fails me again, I’ll likely cough up the extra money to try what my husband sleeps on, the Therm-a-Rest NeoAir X-Lite, because it weighs only 12 oz. compared to the 14 oz. of my NEMO (hey, every ounce counts)!
NEMO Astro Air Lite Sleeping Pad
Weight: 14 oz. Cost: $129.95
Curious about what’s inside my pack? Click here to read about more gear I’ll be taking with me on the AT! Thanks for reading!