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This page just has a few things that didn’t fit in anywhere else, but that I wanted to write down in case they’re helpful for others planning an LT thru hike.


Here I’ll walk through the major gear I used, with some thoughts and reflections on what worked, what didn’t, and what I’d change. This section assumes more familiarity with backpacking gear and lingo; if you’re planning a trip and starting from stratch, I’d first check out Jamie Compos’ gear list, which explains things in more detail and which I used to plan my trip, and then come back here to see how my experience and recommendations differ from his.

Unlike some people who set out to do a thru hike, I wasn’t buying all my gear new for this trip. I still had a bunch leftover from when I backpacked a lot as a teenager in the 2000s. But I didn’t have everything, so my gear ended up being a hodgepodge of heavy but reliable stuff from back then, and much lighter, brand new gear purchased for this trip.

Since this was my first backpacking trip in such a long time, one of my guiding principles in choosing gear was to not go too far outside my comfort zone. Backpacking has changed a lot since the 2000s. Ultralight is now the norm. New UHMWPE fabrics like Dyneema and Ultra, innovations in shelter systems like trekking pole tents/tarps/hammocks, minimalist quilts replacing sleeping bags, etc. all have enabled backpackers to go so much lighter than ever before. But a lot of this stuff was new and unfamiliar to me. So when I had to make a choice between the lighest possible option, and something that was a little heavier but that leveraged my previous experience, I usually chose the later.

My gear was heavier than necessary, but totally functional and I was happy with almost all of it. Given infinite money, I would maybe have gone with lighter versions of a few things. That said, the biggest thing I’d tell a prospective LT thru-hiker is: don’t feel the need to use the lightest possible gear. My pack probably weighed over 40 pounds fully loaded, and I still got through the trail fine and had a great time. Stuff you read online will make you feel like a fool for not having the latest, lightest gear, but you really don’t need to sweat it that much. Upgrade where it makes sense for you and your budget, but don’t go too crazy. People have been hiking this trail for almost 100 years, you certainly don’t need the latest gear to do it.


The centerpiece of any backpacker’s kit. I used my ancient Kelty Redcloud 5600. A 90-liter, 6-pound beast of a pack from the early 2000s.

This pack is total overkill for a solo thru hike like this, and realistically, overkill for anything short of guiding multi-person trips where you have to carry a lot of shared gear. Somehow, packs like this were just the norm back in the day!

If budget weren’t a concern, I would have bought a new, lighter pack. But I already had this one, I knew it fit me comfortably, and packs are expensive, so I went with this and didn’t regret it. Would it have been nicer to have a lighter pack? Yes. 200+ dollars nicer? Maybe not.

For future trips I’m planning on getting something like the ULA Circuit, which seems like a nice compromise between heavy, fully-framed packs like my old Kelty, and ultralight frameless packs (HMG, LiteAF, etc.) which have felt pretty uncomfortable to me when I’ve tested them out.


I had to buy a new tent for this trip, and after way too much research, I settled on the MSR Hubba Hubba 1. It’s not the lightest, but it’s pretty light (a little over 2 lbs). I considered single-wall Dyneema tents, trekking pole tents, etc. but decided they were too big a change for me given my lack of previous experience with them. I also considered lighter Big Agnes tents, but was turned off but what I’d heard about the flimsy zippers. The Hubba Hubba 1 is freestanding, double-walled, and uses traditional tent poles. I appreciated how stupidly easy it was to set up anywhere (even when very tired in the dark or the rain), that it matched my mental model of how tents work, and that it’s sturdy and durable in spite of its low weight. I’m looking forward to using it on many trips to come.

Sleep system

My sleeping bag was an ancient Marmot synthetic fill bag from 2005 (don’t know the model name). Like my pack, a holdover from my teenage years. Same story as the pack basically. It worked totally fine, but was much heavier and bulkier than a more modern alternative would have been. If funds weren’t an issue I would have replaced this with a lighter down bag or quilt, but the slight upgrade was not worth several hundred dollars.

I didn’t have a sleeping pad though, so had to get a new one. The big choice here is between foam pads and inflatable pads. I was convinced by this Jamie Compos article to go with a foam pad, the Nemo Switchback. This was my single biggest gear mistake. Sleeping with so little support gave me horrible back pain throughout the first leg of the trip, bad enough that it kept me from sleeping through the night. I switched to an inflatable pad, the Nemo Tensor, after my first town stop, which was dramatically more comfortable and immediately resolved my back issues. It’s also worth noting that almost everyone I hiked with had an inflatable pad; foam pads were quite rare.

I went with the Tensor just because it was the only inflatable pad they had at the outfitter when I needed to buy one, so I had no choice. I appreciated that it’s rectangular as opposed to mummy-shaped, since I’m a pretty active sleeper and like room to spread my legs out. Nemo also makes a wide version of this pad, which my hiking buddy Mooch used. We swapped pads one night so I could try it out, and it was definitely nicer to have the extra room. I think with perfect hindsight, I might have gone with the wide version, but now that I already have the regular it’s certainly not worth the cost to upgrade.

I’ve never used a dedicated backpacking pillow, and didn’t on this trip. I went with the tried-and-true method of stuffing all your extra clothes into a stuffsack to use as a pillow, and that was fine.


The big choice here is between boots and trail runners. Almost everyone uses trail runners these days, but I started out with my trusty old pair of high-top, Gore-Tex Lowa boots (Don’t know the exact model). These were totally fine at first, but one of the soles fell off after about a week (I think just due to age and disuse; no complaints, I’d had them for years). I replaced them with trail runners—Hoka Speedgoats—which were a revelation.

I still think I made the right choice to start out with my old boots. I knew they were comfortable and fit me, and given how important and idiosyncratic shoe fit is, it’s not the kind of thing you want to mess around with right before a trip. That said, I’m almost glad they fell apart on me and forced me to make the switch to trail runners. They’re just so much lighter, more comfortable, and easier to hike in.

Trekking poles

A small note here, but I chose to hike with just one trekking pole rather than two. Partially this was practical: my dad had an old pair that he’d lost one of, so he was happy to give me the extra. Partially it was a compromise: I’d never used trekking poles before, but everyone recommends them for thru-hiking, especially on a mountainous hike like the LT. Going with just one seemed like a nice way to split the difference.

Overall, this was a a fine choice. I’m definitely glad to have had at least one pole, it was absolutely necessary and I wouldn’t have wanted to do the hike without it. There were moments on some descents where having two poles would have been nice, but this didn’t come up that often. I think if I could go back and do it again I would bring two, but I don’t feel super strongly about it either way.

Food storage and cooking

For a stove and cookpot I borrowed a Soto kit from my friend Rachel. No complaints, it worked fine and was pretty light, not much else to say. I don’t think there’s really much difference between this and an MSR Pocket Rocket or whatever other stove you could choose. The real alternative here is not bringing a stove at all and just cold soaking all your food, which Mooch did. Obviously it works, he made it through the hike, but it wouldn’t have been very pleasant for me at least. A hot meal at night is easily worth the extra weight.

Storage-wise, technically everyone on the Long Trail is required to either properly bear-hang their food (a real pain in the ass, and not even possible at many sites) or store it in a hard-sided bear canister. This is a pain because a bear can is heavy (2.5 pounds!) but I did it anyway because I’m an anxious rule-follower. In practice, this regulation was somewhat loosely followed. For every hiker with a hard-sided canister, there was someone keeping their food in an Ursack, a poorly-hung bear bag, or just sleping with it in their tent.

I used a BearVault BV500. I’m honestly still a bit torn on this one. Part of me thinks I should have said to hell with the rules and saved a bunch of weight with an Ursack. Part of me thinks I should have gone with the slightly smaller BV475 to force myself to not buy too much food at every resupply point. Regardless, the BV500 certainly worked fine, and I can recommend it to my fellow goody two-shoes who want to follow the rules.


My clothes consisted of:

  • One pair of cargo hiking pants that zip off to become shorts
  • Two pairs of synthetic underwear
  • Two pairs of Darn Tough hiking socks
  • One pair of cheaper wool socks to have as dry camp socks
  • Two synthetic t-shirts, bought secondhand from my local Goodwill
  • Long-sleeve North Face thermal shirt
  • Patagonia long underwear
  • MEC rain jacket
  • Marmot down puffy jacket
  • Wool beanie
  • Smartwool gloves

Overall I was really happy with this stuff and wouldn’t change it. The only big question I had before the hike was whether to bring the thermal shirt or a warmer mid-layer, like a fleece or a sun hoodie. I was pretty unsure since I expected to encounter a wide variety of temperatures on the trip and wanted to be prepared, but not over-prepared at the expense of too much weight. I think just the thermal was the right choice. I was a little cold and had to do some awkward layering (e.g. using rain jacket for warmth) at times, but it was worth it to save the weight (and money, I would have had to buy a fleece).

Everything else was fine. I suppose I wish I had crew height socks given that I eventually ended up with low-top shoes, but it doesn’t really matter and there was no way to know that when starting out. I will say that I considered going with cheaper socks I already had instead of shelling out for Darn Toughs, and I’m so glad I bought the Darn Toughs. They’re expensive, but worth every penny. My cheap socks would have been shredded within a week on the trail. Just buy them; your feet will thank you.

Water treatment and storage

For water storage I used “disposable” plastic Smartwater bottles, like most backpackers do these days. Nothing to say there, they work great.

For water treatment, again convinced by a Jamie Compos article, I went with Aquamira droplets rather than a traditional filter. This worked out OK, but basically everyone else on the trail was using a Sawyer Squeeze filter, and in hindsight I wish I had been too.

I think Aquamira makes sense in the western settings that Jamie usually hikes in. Water is sparse and you have to do longer carries there, so taking an extra 30 minutes to treat it isn’t really a big deal. On the LT, especially in this summer of floods, water was everywhere. Someone joked that water is so frequent you don’t really even need to carry it, and that’s true! When you’re carrying little-to-no water because you know you’re approaching another source, it’s annoying to have to wait 30 minutes to drink from it after you get there. So many times I found myself thirsty upon reaching a stream, and having to wait while everyone else just squeezed and had water in seconds was frustrating.

In this sort of stream-hopping terrain, I’d go with the Sawyer Squeeze.


A non-exhaustive list of other gear I carried when starting out:

  • Power brick and charging cables for that and my phone
  • Swiss army knife
  • Compass
  • Wide-brimmed sun hat
  • Lighter
  • Earplugs for sleeping
  • Plastic spork
  • Headlamp
  • Some extra rope
  • Bug repellant
  • Waterproof pack cover

This was all fine. I ended up sending the bug repellent, compass, and sun hat home since I wasn’t using them. In hindsight I wish I kept the sun hat; I got a little burned on the more exposed trails of the northern section.

Other advice and things I’d do differently

Were I to do it again, I would spend less time planning beforehand. I’m an anxious type so tend to overplan, but that’s not an instinct that will serve you well on a thru hike. Typically, your plans will change pretty quickly once you actually get on the trail. Sometimes because something goes wrong, or because an exciting but different possibility crops up (e.g. you change your plans to accommodate people you meet on the trail and start hiking with). It’s best to have an outline of the big picture before you go, but don’t sweat the details until you’re actually out there.

This might sound like a small thing, but I would take more pictures of people (including myself!) and less of scenery. It’s natural to want to take photos of beautiful sunsets, views, etc. But the majesty of being there doesn’t really come through in a photo. It can be awkward to ask someone you meet if you can take their photo, but it’s totally worth it. Looking back after the hike, the photos I’m the most glad to have are selfies and pictures of people I hiked with. I wish I had more of them. I also wish I had more photos of just my day-to-day life on the trail (e.g. my stuff set up in a shelter, dinner making set up, etc.).

I also wish I had taken more videos. They just give a more intimate sense of what it’s like to be there than a photo does. You can sort of see in my journal how I’d figured this out by the end of the hike, but I wish I’d started sooner.