Now that I’ve completed the trail I wanted to give a brief review of my gear for all current and future hikers. What worked and what was replaced or soon considered to be excessive.
THE BIG 4
Backpack: Osprey Exos 58 – Lasted the entire hike. This pack was great, light and durable. It still has a lot of life left in it with just some damage done to the outer mesh, mainly from trees and thorns tearing at it. Loved the side pockets for snacks and camera access and could easily grab drinks from the pockets without having to take off the pack. I highly recommend it and it was also the most common bag I saw on the trail with the ULA Catalyst a close second.
Tent: Sierra Designs Lightning 2 UL – Replaced when I made it to NYC. The tent was great and I really love the design, it was only replaced when I started to notice wholes in the mesh (which freaked me out since it was the same day I noticed ticks climbing on my tent) and the duct tape wasn’t sticking to it. I plan to repair and use in the future. It was replaced with a Big Agnes UL2. The Big Agnes was a bit smaller but much lighter. I found the Sierra Designs one handled the rain better and you could also set it up and break it down in the rain without the inside getting wet thanks to the attached rainfly. Honsetly, I would say both work very well but the Big Agnes is probably the better option thanks to the huge weight difference.
Sleeping Bag: Therm-A-Rest Saros – Used this until Daleville when the weather had gotten warmer and I decided to get a 45º bag to save weight and space, then switched back to it in the Whites. A very good winter bag.
Sleeping Pad: REI Flash – I do not recommend at all. It worked well for a while but soon the baffles busted leaving a huge bulge in the middle of the pad making it unfixable and unusable. I wasn’t the only hiker with this problem either. It was replaced with a Sea to Summit Comfort Light Insulated Sleeping Pad. The new pad was a bit pricey and a bit heavier but very comfortable and I would definitely recommend.
Stove: Jetboil Minimo – Two thumbs up! This thing is way more efficient than advertised. Boils water so quickly and uses such a small amount of fuel and is so easy to use. Absolutely loved it!
Silverware: Sea to Summit Alpha Utensil Set – Worked very well but really only used the spoon, could have gotten by without the fork and knife (the knife is worthless for anything but spreading Nutella etc., can barely even cut cheese) Is a bit flimsy for things like cold ice cream but pretty much any option you use here would be good.
Water Container: Camelback 100 oz – I could have definitely have gone with a smaller container, since there is so much water along the trail but I didn’t have to fill up as much as most because of the size.
Water Filtration: SteriPEN Classic 3 – I went through a few options here. There is nothing wrong with the SteriPEN but I had trouble trusting it and it was awkward to use with the Camelback (works much better with bottles). I used the Aquamira tabs for a bit but don’t like the chlorine taste (or drinking the chlorine) and then went with the Sawyer Squeeze like everyone else. The Sawyer Squeeze is amazing but make sure to buy the regular one and NOT the mini. They both work great but the mini is so incredibly slow the 1oz difference is worth it for being able to filter water in a quarter of the time.
Bag Liner: Cocoon Mummy Liner – Worked very well and I had zero complaints.
Pack Cover: Sea to Summit UL Packcover Medium – I kept it but not quite sure why. Kept the bag dry when conditions weren’t too bad but in a heavy rain didn’t help much and wore out pretty quickly from rubbing against boulders and thorns. I would suggest just getting a construction garbage bag and using that inside your bag instead, much cheaper and works much better.
Fire Starter: Swedish Firesteel 2.0 – Jettisoned at my first stop, 4 days in. It was unnecessary thanks to the self starter on the Jetboil and even if that managed to fail there are enough people around and enough towns around that it is unlikely that you won’t be able to start a fire any night.
Waterproof/Compression Bags: Sea to Summit – Always recommend these guys as they help keep your gear dry, give you more room in your bag and make it easier to organize the pack weight.
Guidebook: AWOL’s – Pretty much everyone used this and it is so easy to use and know everything you need to know with just a quick glance.
Multitool: Leatherman Wingman – Jettisoned at my first stop as excessive. All you really need is a small blade and maybe scissors. The Leatherman Style CS Multi-tool is perfect. A 1” blade, scissors and a small pair of tweezers (which claimed the lives of a few ticks) in a very small and lightweight package.
Shoes: Winter Vasque Breeze 2.0 GTX/Summer Salomon XA Comp 7 CS WP – I can’t say enough good things about the Vasques. They were incredible but when I switched to the Salomons I was very uncomfortable. They were digging into my Achilles and I started hiking in my camp shoes instead until I could get my hands on another pair of the Vasque boots. 2 pair of Vasque boots carried me all but about 100 miles of the trip and there is still a great deal of life left in that second pair.
Socks: Darn Tough – They worked great but I did switch them out for Injinji socks with the toes. It took a few days to get used to but I did prefer them since they keep the friction down between the toes but either type will work well.
Outer Jacket: REI Co-op Down – Worked very well, light weight and kept me nice and warm.
Rain Coat: Patagonia Alpine Houdini – Worked as well as any other rain gear, works great in mild conditions, helps none in heavy rain and in the summer makes you sweat through anyway. Comes in handy more for a wind breaker than anything else.
Rain Pants: Frogg Toggs – I went out without any rain pants but decided to get a pair for windbreakers, a little added warmth and something to wear when doing laundry. These work great and are very inexpensive but also tear easily (mine tore from the seam on the first day but easily fixed with duct tape.) The material this stuff was made from worked even better then my rain jacket. Highly recommend.
Inner Jacket: Patagonia R2 – This was a very comfortable jacket and was glad to have it on those early cold days but sent it home when the weather got warmer. It will definitely see more use in the future though, on trail or off.
Underlayers: Smartwool NTS 250 Long-sleeve top and Midweight bottoms – “Smartwool is amazing…’nuff said. If you live in a cold area, buy this stuff. It even manages to keep Maria warm in the winter…that is a miracle.” This was what I originally wrote andmy feelings have not changed. I think pretty much everyone out there had some Smartwool gear. Even kept it in the warmer weather to sleep in when chilly.
Cold Weather Accessories: Smartwool Balaclava/Beanie/Glove Liner – Balaclave only got used a few times and was sent home when the weather got warmer, the rest I kept just in case and they all worked very well.
Underwear: Exofficio – Everyone that chooses to wear underwear swears by them and they are very, very comfortable.
Pants: Columbia Convertible – Went through a few pair of pants due to wear but the convertible choice came in very handy
Shirts: Various – Any wicking shirts will work. I went out with 3 and lost one but 2 was definitely enough.
Chamois Butt’r – This stuff quite literally saved my ass. The best stuff to prevent chaffing.
Towel – I kept one and it came in handy on cold rainy days to dry myself off in camp before changing to dry clothes but pretty useless in the summer.
First Aid – Honestly, make sure to have band-aids, NSAIDs, Neosporin a small mirror (to help you when you need to get bugs out of your eyes which happened way too often) and maybe some Pepto pills. Anything else (aside from prescription stuff of course) is excessive.
Duct Tape and Toilet Paper – Hiker musts
iPhone w/Otterbox – Switched the Otterbox for a lifeproof case to deal with the rain better and had no problems with it but if you have any service other than Verizon I would think about changing that before heading out.
Kindle w/Case – Many people said that this was excessive and that I would be too tired to read but it was an absolute must for me. I made it through a number of books and read just about every night.
Canon Powershot SX510 – Shipped back home first chance I had. I love this camera, and it is amazing but it was just too much. There were definitely times I wished I had kept this camera with me for better pictures but the iPhone did a pretty good job
GoPro Hero 3 – Used this the whole way for a time-lapse video but it is unnecessary, a smartphone and a waterproof case is more than enough for your picture taking needs.
Spot Gen 3 – It worked well enough and it is cool to see the map of the journey. There were a few times, up on ridges in bad lightning storms, where I was glad to have it but this item is more for the peace of mind of those at home than anything.
Goal Zero Torch 250 – This was sent home first chance I got and replaced with a backup battery instead. It is unnecessary with how often you are in town to recharge your electronics as long as you are smart with the battery use and keep your phone on airplane mode most of the time.
Platy Preserve – This came in very handy but not for the wine that was supposed to be placed in it. This came in handy on those very cold nights when I didn’t want to leave the warmth of the tent but needed to take care of certain biological functions. I’ll let you figure that out but I know I certainly wasn’t the only one that took that approach out there.
GorillaPod Action Tripod – Sent home with the camera. Excessive.
Therm-A-Rest Z Seat – This actually was used all the time. It not only served as a comfortable seat but I would also use it under my hips when I slept to add a bit more cushion. Glad I bought this.
Sea to Summit Trowel – Kept this pretty much until the end, not necessary but it does make proper wilderness pooping situations a bit easier
Sea to Summit Aeros Pillow – Glad I decided to bring this. Many people use their clothing bag and a water bladder works great well but this thing was very comfortable but definitely a bit excessive.
Crocs Stretch Sole Loafer – I was glad to have these and most people that decided against having camp shoes wish they had brought something, even a cheap pair of flip-flops. These shoes were very comfy and I even hiked about 30 rough miles in them when I had gotten fed up with my Salomon’s.
Belkin USB Charger – Switched out for a small duel USB charger…not sure what I was thinking when I bought this excessive thing.
In the end, this is what worked for me. If you asked every hiker about gear choices, every single one will have different answers. Just pick what is comfortable for you, the only way you’ll find out what works best is to get out and use it.