One of the things I enjoy most about hosting multi-day hiking trips is witnessing others in their experience of being out in the wilderness. Especially if it is their first time! And don’t get me wrong – experienced hikers are just as exciting to hang out with, as there is so much to learn, always.
As I prepare for any overnighter with a group, I make a packing list to post so that others can get and idea of what they should plan for. This is mainly for new hikers as they gather their gear together, but I enjoy seeing what everyone in the group is bringing. As any hiker knows, we love talking gear! We want to know what others have and how we can improve our own experience. Plus, if you are brand new, it helps tremendously with anxieties when you know what the other people are packing as you plan out your own list of what to bring.
When you are planning on hiking distance while carrying your life supply, it is important to consider things you may not think about in advance when you are shopping around for that tent or sleeping bag. Price is normally the first thought. Then where to purchase stuff. How to carry it. Do I have everything? What are the others bringing?
You know the feeling, don’t you?
This year some of my gear has begun to wear out, while some of it stays strong for me. I’ve composed a total list of my gear, down to the comforts, and offer you my thoughts on how it worked (or didn’t). I hope it helps you while you research the stuff you are thinking of taking on your next ‘venture. I hear those mountains calling!
The comments below are my opinion only, based on my own personal experience. Please leave your thoughts and subscribe if you like my post!
All gear was bought new in late 2016 and used March 2017 – present.
- Tent: Big Agnes UL Copper Spur II.
I admit I am not the most diligent person when it comes to caring for my gear. After section hiking along the Appalachian Trail in the rain, it is not uncommon for my tent to sit for a week before I get around to hosing it down and airing it out.
The 2 person tent is like an apartment!! Super light weight (2lbs 12oz). Very easy to assemble. 4 net pouches to keep stuff off the ground. Ample head room when sitting up. Can easily fit 2 people with packs inside. 2 vestibules (great for escaping out the back door if a bear comes to the front – or midnight peeing behind your tent). Air vent so you don’t wake up to condensation from your breath all night.
Takes up a lot of space once all the guy lines are pulled out (only bad if you are sharing a small campsite with others). Beginning April 2018 (About 15-20 uses later) my rainfly has begun leaking. I can’t find any holes, and the water is significant enough to make puddles within an hour. I now toss a piece of shower curtain over the top to prevent water from coming in. Also it comes up from the bottom quite a bit. I’ve talked with other BA users of this model and I seem to be the only one having these issues just after a year of use.
2. Sleeping Bag: Marmot Helium All Down 800 Fill 15 Degree Bag. Mummy style. Long.
In cold dry weather it is wonderful. What I heard the salesman tell me, but didn’t register at the time because I didn’t think it would rain EVERY SINGLE TIME I HIKED THE A.T. (believe me, it does), was that this bag was good as long as it didn’t get wet. Also the weight.. 2 lbs and 4.5 ounces.
Personally, I hate the side zipper. I suppose if the zipper was in the middle and I zipped it up to my forehead (as we do in cold weather), I would not want it laying across my lips either, sooooo I remind myself of that while I am struggling with that side zip.
I have the man version of this bag. I am not a cold sleeper. I was good down to 23 degrees, and I truly felt that was the limit of my comfort zone. I wore my puffy jacket and wrapped my fleece around my waist to keep my butt warm, but I don’t like going below 25 degrees.
I tried my friend’s REI Co-op Helio 30 which was lighter than mine and had a synthetic bottom and a goose down top. I love it. It takes some of the mental stress out when a heavy rain comes and I am diligently soaking up the water that seeps up through the bottom, praying no part of my sleep bag falls off the sleeping pad. I guess that water gets between my rain fly and tent… I digress. I’ll be purchasing a Helio of my own.
I started with the Z Lite Sol, which is that yellow spongy looking accordion pad that every hiker probably owns. It’s fine, but I weigh over 200lbs (big sigh) and it does not provide the best cushion for my hips when I side sleep. I’ll be a bigger fan when I lose 30lbs. It’s quiet. I don’t care if it gets dirty, and I don’t have to worry about it popping when I have a dog sleepover.
The Therm-a-Rest is really great, light, and compact. It does a great job at keeping my fat a…er, big rear end off the ground. However, it is LOUD. It pops away from me when I roll over, and it is never at the same inflation in the morning as it was when I went to bed. I often find myself adding more air in the middle of the night. Not sure if a slow leak or just how air does when the temps drop (like a car tire), but it’s not enough for me to give much thought. Sometimes I feel too lazy to blow it up, but I am grateful for the bag that comes with it so I don’t have to use my lungs to fill it with air.
All in all, I am mostly happy with this purchase, but I’d like to try some others. I did see a video comparison review and on this one it was picked to be the best out of the others being sampled. I purchased this particular one because of the R value. I need to be confident that I will be protected in cold weather. This one has held up to its promise.
4. Backpack: Osprey Atmos AG 50 L (men’s)
This is the only pack I have owned or used. I have a little arthritis on my spine, so standing in one place is difficult. My back stiffens easily. The mesh backing and design of this bag provides a nice lumbar support type thing for me, and with the way the hip belts wrap around my waist, I can honestly say that when I wear this thing I do not experience back pain. I wish I could say the same for my knees!
I went with the men’s version only because they didn’t have a female pack and after trying on the other brands, this one felt normal. For the longest time I wished I had gotten the 65L pack, because I absolutely hate a tightly stuffed back pack. After the Army made us panic over packing our ruck sacks, I still get a tinge of anxiety when my pack starts filling up and I still have more stuff to put in. It’s not the gear that fills my pack up but food. After asking several thru hikers how much food they carry at a time, 3-5 days worth seems to be average, which is essentially what I carry, so the 50L is working out after all. Also at an REI backpack class (awesome), they said a lot of women feel better with the straps on a man’s pack as they don’t cut into their armpits as much.
My only complaint is the model on the year I bought mine (2016) did not come with straps on the bottom for hanging a sleeping pad, so my Z Lite Sol gets rigged on there when I use it. Also, I wish they’d come up with some attractive colors. Even their blues and reds look like bad car colors. Also, it’s a little heavy. I’d like to try the REI Flash 65L next.
- Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket: Lightweight, durable. The o-ring seems to be wearing after a year, and is noticeably not getting a good seal on some gas canisters. I’m happy with it. I beat it up and it’s stayed usable.
- Cookware: Pinnacle Dualist (by GSI): I got this set for 2 that comes with 4 vessels to eat or drink from and a 750L pot, and some cheap sporks. I love the pot, hate the bowls. Don’t need the bowls. And I saw an identical set at Walmart for 15$ after paying over $60 for mine. I also got a 450L mug from Toaks which I love size-wise. Again, spent too much. I also got a long handled spork by Toaks. It works well. I don’t cook directly in my pot to avoid having to clean it on the trail.
- Fire: A lighter. Well, three lighters, because I usually lose one and one gets wet and quits working.
I’ve gone through 3 different types of filters, so I will list them each.
- Sawyer Mini Filtration System: Love! Small! Convenient! This is my backup filtration, and is also my main when I am too lazy to do my main filtering. I love this because I can literally screw it to my Smart water bottles and drink straight from it. The cons are that is very slow to filter through, so if you take your bottle and screw the filter on it and flip it over and put it in your pot, it is going to take some time for the water to run through the filter. You can squeeze it through. Some people find it annoying. I have at times, while other times I don’t care. Also if you are in dyer thirst, and you try sucking from the filter, it doesn’t pour into your mouth like an open bottle would, but if you sort of hang it over your mouth you will bet a better flow.
- Platypus Gravity Filtration: I love this the most, however, it easily clogs and they don’t provide a back flushing device (the sawyer mini does) so you are kind of screwed. I did watch a video on manually back flushing with the bladder and it looks like it works, but I haven’t tried it yet. Mine clogged after 3 trips and it’s just been sitting on the shelf since. I do love how you can just put dirty water in one bag and hang it and let the water flow thru the filter into the clean water bag (or bottle) and you are good to go in a few minutes. UNLESS – yours clogged, then it takes 20 minutes.
- Aqua Mira Droplets: At first these were my new bff. Today, I feel on the fence about it. I love how they protect against viruses and bacteria both (the other 2 don’t) but I have a problem with the taste. I don’t know if I am doing it wrong, but there is this tangy taste to the water that bothers me. If I can get past that, I have to say that this is the greatest thing ever. Droplets that purify water. Easy peasy! No unpacking the anti gravity system of the Platypus, or waiting on water to drip from the Sawyer.
- Platypus 3L Bladder: I use this to keep clean water in. Love it
Lately I have been taking the Aqua Mira drops along with the Sawyer as a backup. Timewise, if you weigh the time it takes to do the gravity system vs. the time it takes to suck water from the Sawyer vs the time it takes to sit and mix droplets and wait for it to activate properly, one doesn’t seem to save much more time than the other. I guess the big divisive decision is do you want to have to take your pack off or not?
Hiking Poles: Mountain Smith Pyrite 7075
I enjoyed mine. They lasted a whole year and pretty much quit working on the anniversary that I bought them. Let me tell you, though, I never went easy on them. For the price (on sale $40) I would buy them again. They are the twist lock type, which is what gave out simultaneously while on the trail. I will probably replace them with the same brand since they are affordable. I might try a different locking system this time, although their shock absorbing mechanism was wonderful.
Hiking Shoes: Keen Targhee II Mid Ankle
I have one word: L -O-V-E. Water resistant, comfortable as heck, spacious, sturdy, supportive. I have weak ankles and zero balance, so I need the mid ankles. I have stepped funny numerous times on the trail and feel these shoes have saved me from a sprain each time. I also have the below the ankle in the same style that I use for work and every day stuff. I consider these winter boots because of the leather, but I wear them all season. Incidentally, they protected me well during the snow season.
My biggest love of them is that I feel secure and stable in my footing. I am way overweight and have lost a good amount of my sense of balance, so I chose these shoes over my also well loved Merrells. They keep me feeling secure when I am going up and down wet rocks and uneven terrain.
I’d say the only down for me is the price, and the cushiony insoles lost their cushion too soon. Some people find them ugly or unfeminine, but I think they are sexy and smart.
Bear Bag/Dry Bag: Sea to Summit 13L
It’s perfect. Fits all my food plus I can toss in my cookware and smellables at night to hang. I totally want to buy the URSAK bear bag. I was so jealous of those who just tied their bags to the trees when there were no branches to toss a rope over.
Food: Mountain House
I’ve pretty much just used the Mountain House freeze dried meals. I love their spaghetti and their stroganoff… but I digress. I’d like to get away from the salt and the acid producing stuff, but finding time to dehydrate my own meals is a challenge. I’ll buy a can of Mountain House and add ramen noodles or mashed potato spuds to them and I am good to go. Salt is good for hikers, but I get some hell-acid reflux at night. I would like to see what else is out there.
I own three pairs and I have zero complaints. Love, love, love.
The following is a list of stuff I bring for comfort.
- Kindle by Amazon (the fire one) – This thing is like my blankey. At night when I am terrified of what lurks on the other side of my tent I plug in an audio book and/or play with a puzzle until I conk out.
- Coghlan’s Snake Bite Kit – It’s one of the suction cup things. I just feel safer having it.
- Phone – yes.
- Earphones for Kindle – Walmart $5 kind. They always get ruined.
- Mini Air Horn – For keeping bears away. Haven’t had to use it yet.
- Headlamp – I bought an expensive one that quit when it got wet, so now I buy the $1 LED headlamps from Walmart. I keep one in my tent and one in my pack. Light and efficient. Even though this is listed under ‘comforts’, it is really a necessity. Never get caught without one on the trail.
- PStyle – Y E S. What woman does not want to stand up and pee? I love this thing. My only down side is that when my friends want to watch this thing in action, I freeze up and can’t go. Also, not good if you have been holding it too long. It will splash out. Otherwise, it fits well, seals well, is easy to use. And fun.
And there it all is. All of that fits into my 50L Osprey Atmos at 16lbs +/- (not including food, water, and clothing). After clothing, all food, and 4L of water, my pack comes in around 32-33lbs for 4 days worth of hiking. Keep in mind, each day you hike you drink a lot of the water weight away (though it starts again the next day), as well as eat a good pound or more of food, and that doesn’t come back unless you are hiking longer and buy more food as you go.
The right pack can make all the difference in whether you feel it in your shoulders or back. I can honestly say I don’t feel a thing, in fact my otherwise stiff back feels supported and relieved.
I hope this helps you as you think about items you want to obtain for your first or next trip. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these and what gear works for you!