Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Gear 2: My Big Three (+)

Click here for my first AT gear post.

If you’re a frequent reader of gear lists, you’ll know “the big three” means, but if you’re not, a backpacker’s big three refers to their backpack, shelter, and sleeping bag. They’re “big” because they are both the most important gear items you have and are often the heaviest. For this post, I’ll be focusing on what I call my big three plus, because I’ll be listing my big three items, and all the peripheral items that are connected with them.

Pack Gossamer Gear Gorilla, 32 oz
As with most people, picking my pack was something that I struggled with a lot. My very first backpacking pack was an Osprey Aura, which was very comfy but also very heavy. Two years ago, starting to move into more lightweight territory, I got a Gossamer Gear Mariposa. I still love this pack, but decided on something different for the AT because I wanted something with less volume, as I was finding I was never really filling the Mariposa on the trips I was taking. If I’m ever doing a thru-hike where I need to use a bear canister though, it will be a strong contender.
The first pack I tried was the ULA Ohm 2.0. This was the pack that I really wanted to love. ULA is a brand that is really popular with thru-hikers, and I figured what was good for them would probably be good for me. The Ohm has a smallish capacity (compared to it’s more popular sibling, the Circuit) and came in a nice purple, so when I saw a sale, I pounced. Unfortunately, when I actually started going on training hikes with the pack, it just didn’t feel right. I couldn’t figure out what the problem was until I went on a hike with my Mariposa again. The Ohm just didn’t transfer the weight to my hips as much as I was used to. It could have been how I was wearing it, or my body shape, but whatever the reason, I just did not find the pack and how it carried weight comfortable.
Finally, I did what I should have done in the first place – I went to Gossamer Gear and bought one of their lower volume packs, the Gorilla. It might not come in purple, but as soon as I put it on it felt right to me.
The Gorilla has an even smaller volume than the Ohm, at around 40L, but so far I haven’t had any trouble fitting what I need. I’ve upgraded the back pack that comes with the pack (the GG SitLight campseat) to the Gossamer Gear Air Flow SitLight Campseat, for more air flow. It’s easy to pull out and use as a seat, so I don’t have to bring the Z-seat that so many thru-hikers use. I’ve also added some shock cord to the front of the pack, so I can dry my underwear and socks for all the world to see.

My pack on a recent training hike, sans shock cord.


Pack CoverAyamaya 40L pack cover, 2.15 oz
When I bought my ULA pack, I also got a ULA pack cover. When I got my new pack, the ULA cover worked, but it was really pretty big for it and kind of an overkill. I didn’t what to spend another $30 on a new pack cover, so I looked around on Amazon and found this one for $7. If it fails, I can get another one for cheap, or maybe I’ll be ready to splurge on a cuben fiber pack cover….
I know some people think pack covers aren’t needed, but I put a lot of stuff in the outer pockets of the pack which I don’t want to get completely soaked, so whatever.
Pack Liner – Hefty trash compactor bag, 2.4 L
Is a pack liner, a pack cover, and dry bags all necessary? Probably not. Am I paranoid and going to take all three anyway until it’s obvious to me I don’t need them all? Yes.
Fanny PackHigh Tail Designs Ultralight Fanny Pack, 1.6 oz
Cute, light, lots of space. What more need I say? I’ll be sticking random stuff in here that I want to have immediate access to, like my camera. I’ll probably write a whole post about why I’m bringing a fanny pack.
Shelter: Zpacks Duplex, with 10 stakes, 22.7 oz
The very first Appalachian Trail thru-hiker who I followed was Redbeard on YouTube. Redbeard hiked the AT in 2014 and used the Zpacks Duplex. I have lusted after that tent ever since. And now I have one, and it’s heavenly. I am carrying 2 extra stakes because, again, I’m paranoid.

Sleeping BagEnlightened Equipment Revelation Quilt, 10 degrees, regular width, short length, 850 down, 19.4 oz
I technically bought this back when I thought I was going to be going NOBO. A sleeping bag rated for 10 degrees is probably overkill for most 3 season hiking, but I sleep cold, it’s really nice when it is chilly out, and I like it, so I don’t care. If I wanted to spend another $300 bucks I’d probably get a 30 degree one and get this one sent to me towards the end of my hike, but I don’t so I won’t.
Sleeping Bag LinerCocoon Silk liner, 4 oz
This is another thing that people might say I don’t need, but I’ve always enjoyed having a liner. It keeps the sleeping bag cleaner, it adds a little warmth, and just adds a comfort factor, in my opinion (I’m big into comfort). Now, this liner that I bought is white, which I’m probably going to regret very quickly. But on the other hand it was on sale. I’m not taking the stuff sack that came with it.
Stuff Sack for Sleeping Bag High Tail Designs Medium Bag, 0.95 oz
Dry bag for sleeping bag, sleeping bag liner, and my camp socks. Bonus points for cute bunny.

PillowCocoon HyperLight Air-Core Pillow, 2.75 oz
This pillow was an impulse buy a few years ago with my REI dividend. It’s smaller than other backpacking pillows, but works for me. I’ll probably be using my buff as a faux pillowcase. I’m not taking the stuff sack it came with.
Sleeping PadThermarest NeoAir X-Lite, 8 oz
I bought a regular length X-lite at an REI garage sale right when I was starting to backpack and have used it for car camping and backpacking ever since. I’m a side sleeper, so I really like that 2-3 inches on hip padding it gives. For my thru-hike, I’ve decided to switch to a short length in order to save a few ounces. I’m pretty short, so it still goes down basically to my knees. I’ll just stick my pack under my feet. I’m not bringing the stuff sack that came with it.

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