My Summer LT Packing List
My seemingly ever evolving pack list is now on lighterpack.com, which offers a simple solution for maintaining a list of one's gear, building lists for specific hikes, and providing a link to share with others. Like this one:
Click here for my current gear list
In August of '15 I finished a four year section hike of the Appalachian Trail. Between sections I evaluated what I used and what I didn't, and continually looked for opportunities to reduce weight while balancing safety and comfort - without breaking the bank. Most of this blog is about that process.
I didn't make any big changes to my kit that last year. I hiked the sobo section from southern Vermont to Harper's Ferry, and turned in my 2000 Miler application. Over the previous years, I had switched from using a sleeping bag, to a an ultralight 50° backpacking quilt, and from tent-based shelter and sleep systems, to those built around a hammock. Those changes reduced my pack volume enough that I was able to move into a lighter, smaller volume pack.
The Next Hike - I'm planing to hike Vermont's Long Trail "end-to-end" as they say. That's 272 miles from the southern border with Massachusetts, to the Canadian border. At my (slow) pace, an end-to end should take about a month. The AT & LT share the southernmost 105 miles of trail. The Long Trail is also every bit as tough as the toughest sections of the Appalachian Trail. So I'm motivated to go as light as possible.
And try not to sacrifice safety, or too much comfort to do so.
Phylosophical Stuff- While I fully embrace the ultralight (UL) backpacking ethic, I'm also pack differently for long-distance hikes vs shorter trips. On shorter ones, durability is less important to me, and I'm comfortable with a short-range weather forecast to choose the absolute minimal clothing and sleeping systems.
Long-distance hiking does not afford one those opportunities. So I prepare for the range of conditions I might face. East coast hiking means hiking in the rain. So dry clothes one can change into at the end of the day are important to me. I look to building a clothing system that is flexible, with few redundancies, and that works together with my sleep system. Long hikes take their toll on equipment, and I'll sacrifice some weight for for more robust stuff. I am more apt to carry comfort items for a good night's sleep, and what I need to keep myself clean and healthy on long hikes.
Strategery - I consider several factors when choosing clothing and shelter systems. Those first 105 miles can be quite busy with AT northbounders from late July through August, and competition for campsites can be tough. An earlier start would mean dealing with thick mud, swarms of black flies, and potentially lyme-infested ticks. A later start means a dryer trail, fewer insects, and maybe beautiful fall foliage, but also shorter days, less reliable water sources, and colder nights. Tent sites between shelter areas can be few and fare between the farther north one hikes.
With all that, I'm planning for a late August start, walking north into fall. I'll generally stay in shelters, but will carry a light hammock system to give me the flexibility to camp where and when I want. Towards end of September, up near the Canadian border, theres a possibility I could experience freezing overnight temperatures. So I have to have the right mix of cold wx clothing and sleep systems - and make sure the two work well together.
Resupply in towns can be done every 4 days, even at my pace. Water is generally plentiful, but can become an issue in some areas that time of year. I'll need to have the capacity to carry a full day's water if necessary.
Pack - I'm carrying the ULA Ohm-2. It's tough, has an excellent hip-belt with big pockets, carries 30 lbs or less very comfortably, compresses well, and has huge exterior pockets. The main compartment is 34.4 in3. Add in its expansion collar and its pockets, and it's up to 63L. It's pretty light at 29 ozs. Water bottles hang from bungies built in to the shoulder straps. It is completely dorky, but it's really handy. It's easy to keep track of how much water you have, and it helps counterbalance the weight on your back. It comes standard on most ULA packs.
Inner Sanctum-But the pack's not waterproof, so I line it with a trash compacter bag. In it goes my sleep system, dry clothing, sleeping pad, and phone charging stuff. I compress the air out, and roll the top down and pack stuff that can get wet on top.
I have a few ditty bags for first aid, personal hygiene, and for TP, trowel, and baby wipes. A couple of dry bags make damned sure my sleep system and cold wx clothing stay dry. I employ quite a few pint-sized freezer bags to organize stuff and to keep it dry.
Shelter System - I'm swapping out my Hennesy hammock, with it's built-in bug netting, for a simple Warbonnet Traveler Single layer XL 11' x 5'. It's 16 ozs with a whoopy suspension. That's a 9.75 oz weight reduction over the Hennessy. I got a great deal on it at MassDrop. $63 divided by 9.75 oz equals a $6.5/oz cost of weight savings - Probably the beast deal I've made in weight reduction! I always carry a head net that I can employ if the bugs get too bad at night ... I'll top that with my trusty HammockGear cuban fiber tarp. All together my shelter system is down to 1.6 lbs.
Sleep System - That 50° quilt is real light, and real low volume, but I did wake up shivering a few cold nights in early spring starts - Even while wearing a light merino base layer, fleece socks, down vest, beanie and wool glove liners. So I ordered a new quilt from the great folks at HammockGear. I emailed them with my thoughts, and they built me one rated to 30°. I'll pair it with my 40° under quilt.
Because I'm likely to stay in shelters from time to time, I'll bring my trusty Exped Synmat UL 7 M sleeping pad with an R value of 3.3, and rated to 25°F. It's big, thick, supremely comfortable, and relatively heavy at 420g. I can always add it to my hammock if things get too cold for that 40° UQ.
I carry an Exped Air Pillow UL M. It works equally well in my hammock, or shelter dwelling, and weighs 1.6 ozs!
Hiking.I generally wear a merino t-shirt*, merino underwear, nylon cargo shorts*, Dirty Girl gaiters*, merino socks*, and my Asolo Piuma boots. An extra pair of underwear and socks will be in my pack's inner-sanctum.
*These items were sent to Insect Shield for long-lasting protection from ticks, et. al.
Camp Clothing & Shoes. The dry clothes I change into for sleeping. This is basically a medium merino wool base-layer, and my "sacred socks." Those being the ones I wear only when sleeping, and never, ever allow to get wet. Acorn fleece socks weigh less than wool, and keep my toes warm. I pack them in the the inner sanctum with my down stuff. 1.44 lbs
I've experimented with several variations on camp shoes/sandals. The really light ones all seem to be just shy of 8 ounces. I didn't carry camp shoes on a 640 mile section in 2012, but I learned that I like the idea of letting my shoes air out at the end of the day; having something to wear fording streams; and having something on my feet in those sometimes less than sterile, communal hostel showers. I'm back to my original choice of VivoBarefoot Ultras. At 7 ozs, they're lighter than anything else I've tried, and they work with regular socks.
Inclement WX Clothing - Because of the potential for cold wx as I hike north, I'll pack a relatively light Marmot Nano Goretex Paclight rain shell instead of the featherweight, but not waterproof Patagonia Alpine Houdini I use in warmer weather. A pair of Montbell Dynamo wind pants will be stuffed into the back pocket of my pack. I keep a down vest, a merino buff, and merino glove-liners in a dry bag near the top of my pack to slip on during breaks if needed.
I might swap out that down vest with something warmer ... Something like Patagonia's Nano Puff with synthetic insulation if I can find a good deal on one...
That stuff all works together nicely. If it's raining when I get to camp, I can change into as much, or as little as I need to be warm and dry. If it's cold in camp, I can wear the, gloves, base layer, buff, down vest rain shell and wind pants. I can wear any or all of that while sleeping if I have to. That merino Buff is versatile. It can be worn around the neck or like a hat. It's nice used as a pillow cover on my inflatable pillow.
Water - I filter water with Sawyer's mini squeeze filter. It comes with a 473ml bag that one fills with dirty water. Screw the filter to the top, and squeeze the water through the filter into clean receptacles. I drink out of two recycled 600ml Gatorade bottles. To deal with the potential for dry water sources, I'll carry an empty 900ml Evernew water bag or two. Evernew's threads match Sawyer's better than Platypus. All together that gives me a 2.5 liter capacity, which is generally enough to dry camp, or to get through long hauls between water sources. I have an additional water bag and squeeze bag in my bounce box. Water filtration stuff is stowed in a mesh ditty bag, in my pack's side-pocket.
Cooking - This too has evolved over the years. I've settled on a 700ml titanium pot, a small, lightweight ti canister stove, a long-handled ti spoon, a home-made pot cozy, a Kupilka cup, and a couple of bottles to carry olive oil, and to rehydrate dehydrated veggies as I hike.
Photo Gear - I was a Navy Photographer for most my life. I was determined to document my AT hike, and maybe produce a book outta it. Towards that end, I carried a high quality camera, and associated charging equipment that weighed a lot. Smart phone cameras have improved dramatically in the past five years, and the LG G4 I'm currently carrying produces incredible images considering the tiny sensor inside.
I'll be leaving my fancy camera at home. I carry the phone in my pocket, and carry a 4x7 Aloksak Dry Bag to put it in when it rains, or when I'm forging a river.
Phone charging - I carry an Anker 6400 mAh external battery, a dual-output fast charger & 2 USB cables. That allows me to recharge my phone a couple of times between town visits, and to recharge both my phone and the charger quickly when I have an outlet at my disposal.
Weights & Measures - All totaled, my current base weight is right at 14 lbs. I'll be stepping out with 8 lbs of food, and two 600 ml bottles of water weighing 2.6 lbs. So my total pack weight will be just under 26.5 lbs on day one. Right at the edge of the comfort rating of the ULA Ohm2 backpack.
Feel free to ask any questions!