browser icon
You are using an insecure version of your web browser. Please update your browser!
Using an outdated browser makes your computer unsafe. For a safer, faster, more enjoyable user experience, please update your browser today or try a newer browser.

Appalachian Trail and Ultralight Backpacking Gear List

If you like this page, please click the “Like” button!

My Gear List and Advice

I have done several long distance hikes, including the Appalachian Trail, a solo Traverse of Alaska, the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail and the The Desert Trail. Following is what I might carry were I to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail again and was just buying gear. Most of this gear is “top-of-the-line.” If you are on a budget, you can sacrifice a little quality to save money.

It’s important to recognize there is no “perfect gear.” Gear selection involves compromise. It’s largely a balance between comfort while walking (a light and comfortable pack) and comfort while in camp (warm bag, good shelter, enough warm clothing and food, etc.) and expense. There are luxuries that would be nice to have but whose weight is not justified in climbing thousands of feet and walking many miles every day. Also, gear beloved by one person may be disliked by another. Combine your own experience with the advice of veteran backpackers to make your decisions. Don’t over-think your gear. Success is mostly mental.

You’ll want to be warm enough, and dry enough, and comfortable enough, and part of being comfortable is having a reasonably light pack. A reasonably light pack will make your hiking more fun and it will be easier on your body, specifically knees and ankles. I would recommend keeping your base pack weight (your pack and everything in it except food, water and fuel) under 20 lbs. 15 lbs or less is an even better target. The “Big 3″ is a good place to start with weight reduction: shelter, pack, sleeping bag. Nowadays my “Big 3″ weigh less than 5 lbs.

If you get cold easily or are starting in late winter, you might want to add a down jacket to the list or otherwise modify it to make sure you stay warm enough.

Now, my packing list. These are examples of what I consider to be good choices.

Pack: A very popular A.T. pack is the Osprey Exos. If you choose the best size and fit for you it might be  a hard pack to beat. I used a ULA CDT  on the Desert Trail and I loved it and would use it on the A.T. (19.7 oz.) but I pack lighter than most with a base weight (everything on my back but food, water and fuel) about 12 pounds. For ULA pack fans, the CATALYST will be a better choice for most. It’s a very popular pack for thru-hikers.

Shelter: Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo (23 oz.) I used one on part of the CDT and in Washington on the PCT and on many other trips. It sheds rain well, and has a built in floor and bug netting. Also outstanding is the Tarptent Contrail (24.5 oz) which also has a built in floor and bug netting. Both these manufacturers make very good shelters. You might also research backpacking hammocks. There are constructed shelters on the trail, but there will be times when they will be full or noisy or you will end up between them. Carry your own shelter.

Sleeping Bag: Hummingbird Nano 20 degree down, a slim mummy bag at (1 lb, 11 oz.) If you need a roomier bag it’s hard to go wrong with roomier models of Feathered Friends or Western Mountaineering bags. I sleep fairly warm, and wear warm clothes in my bag if I need to. This is the bag I’d carry until I was SURE it was going to stay warm, then I’d switch to a Mountain Laurel Designs Spirit 38 deg. Quilt (17 oz.) I line the stuff sack of my sleeping bag with a Mylar turkey roasting bag. I also line my pack with a trash compacter bag. For a budget bag, consider a Kelty Cosmic Bag (2 lb 11 oz.)

Sleeping Pad: Thermarest Prolite Plus , Small (15 oz.) A good night’s sleep without tossing and turning is vital. This mattress is self-inflating and 1.5 inches thick. Younger hikers might need less padding and prefer a closed-cell foam pad. If so, it’s really hard to beat the RidgeRest SOLite at .625 inches thick. A small weighs 9 oz and is 48″ long. A regular is 14 oz. and is 72″ long. 48″ is long enough for most people when they put their pack or other items underneath their feet. Some might want to buy a regular length and cut a piece off one end to use for a “sit pad” for breaks along the trail, and at night to prop up their feet.

Shoes: ASICS Men’s GEL-Kayano (~28 oz.) Few folks need heavy, stiff, leather hiking boots on the AT. I use lightweight running or trail shoes. I’d switch to stiffer soled shoes for rocky Pennsylvania. I would NOT buy several pairs ahead of time because your feet will likely get bigger as you hike. It’s best to try on many models of shoe for yourself to see what feels best for YOU. Doesn’t matter much what shoes other people like.

Hiking Poles: Yana Poles. (Formerly formerly known as Adjustable Goat Poles, sold by Titanium Goat. 3.5 oz. each) You probably will like hiking poles. They will make your hike safer and easier. Poles help prevent falls and make descents easier on your knees. I use one of my poles every night to hold up my tarp. More inexpensive poles will do if you are on a budget.

Rain Jacket: Helium II Jacket (6.4 oz.) Rain gear is multi-use: rain protection, wind protection, warmth, to wear while doing laundry. Budget Choice: Red Ledge Free Rein Parka (12.5 oz)

Rain Pants: Red Ledge Thunderlight, 8.9 oz. A great value. Use for rain, warmth, wind protection, and wear when you’re doing your laundry. Budget Choice: O2 Rain Pants
(3 oz)

Jacket: Patagonia R2 13.1 oz. A truly great jacket. Light, warm. Your insulation layer should zip all the way down so you can cool off easily. On drier trails I prefer a down jacket for greater warmth per oz. A Montbell Alpine Light Down Jacket would be a good choice on the AT if you get cold easily or start early in the season. Just keep it dry.

Convertible Pants: Mountain Hardwear Mesa . (14.9 oz.) Convertible pants were a good choice for the AT.

Long Underwear Top: Smartwool Midweight Zip T (7 oz) I like a long underwear top that zips down for venting. I’d send long underwear home once I was sure it was summer, then get it back somewhere in New England if it was getting chilly again. This shirt isn’t itchy and smells better than synthetics. But more inexpensive synthetics will do nicely, too.

Long Underwear Bottoms: Patagonia Capiline 2 Bottoms. (5.1 oz) Send these home once I was sure it was summer. Other, cheaper brands will work almost as well.

Balaclava: Turtle Fur. A balaclava might be the most warmth for the weight of any clothing item you can carry. Wear it when it’s cold at night.

Mitten Shells: eVENT Rain Mitts. (1.2 oz) Great when it’s cold and wet. Send home in the summer. Some people may decide not to take them. I like them for those cold rains when I’m using my hiking poles. Also getting good reviews, and with a few more features, are Outdoor Research Revel Shell Mitts

Gloves: Wear extra socks on your hands

Shirt, Short Sleeve Synthetic: Your Choice

Underwear bottoms: Under Armour Boxerjock or similar (4.8 oz.) 2 pair. These can really help prevent chafing. I use the 6″ legs.

Socks: 3 pair. Darn Tough socks are my favorites, specifically the Darn Tough 1/4 Sock Cushion (2.4 oz.) I usually don’t use liner socks, but studies have shown that they help reduce blisters.

Socks, Sleeping: Save one pair of loose-fitting, warm socks to wear only for sleeping They will be warmer and they will keep your bag cleaner. I use Possum fur socks. Do a search on ebay for the best value. Acorn fleece socks are also warm and popular and likely much cheaper.

Cap: Keep the sun off your head and out of your eyes, etc with some kind of hat.

Cotton T-Shirt and Nylon Shorts: Two optional items you might want to start out with then mail home if you feel they aren’t worth it. A cotton t-shirt is nice for a towel, cleaning glasses, or to wear in town. The shorts might be worth it when it’s hot, to have something clean(er) to where when you hitch, etc.

Bandana: Cotton. Washcloth, sweat band, towel etc.

Smart Phone: Smartphones are optional, and a new addition to my gear. I carried one on the Desert Trail and used it to update my journal, as a phone, a clock, to check email, as a GPS, for listening to music, as a star chart, as a camera. An awesome tool. I think it makes sense to carry an external battery. The PowerGen 12000mAh is a great choice. It’s weight per recharge ratio is very good, it has an LED flashlight (practical as a backup) has 3 outputs and a 2 amp input (much faster charging than 1 amp input devices.) Solar chargers don’t work well on the A.T.

Flashlight: Photon II Microlight. (2 of them) .4 oz. I have a dot of velcro on it, and a dot of velcro on the bill of my ballcap so I can use it as a headlamp, hands-free. Usually when it is dark, I am sleeping!

Cord: Parachute aka “550” 25 ft. Hanging up laundry, guying your tent, shoelaces, bear-bagging (something I didn’t do most nights on the A.T.) etc. You can “gut” the cord and use the inner cords too, for emercency thread, dental floss, etc.

Knife: Victorinox Swiss Army Classic. A tiny one with scissors, knife, and tweezers.

Pen: Ballpoint pen (felt-tips bleed, pencil fades) I kept notes on the margins of my guidebook.

Guidebook: A.T. Guide Make sure you get the latest edition.

Maps: I wouldn’t carry any on the AT. I’d use the GPS on my phone with a compass as a backup. Other places, like the CDT or PCT I carry paper maps as well.

DEET: Repel 100 1 oz.
Carry when you start hitting skeets and/or ticks. I like the spray for even treatment.

Camera: Panasonic Lumix ZS20 . I like the 20X zoom and the GPS to log image location. Back up photos often and take people photos and video! Bring a spare battery, charger, and card. You know what, I’d probably just use my smart phone nowadays.

Duct tape: 10 feet of duct tape wrapped around your water bottle or other smooth surface. Can help prevent hot spots on your feet if you clean and dry them first. Good for many types of repairs.

Needle: Repairing your stuff

Ziplock Bags: Keep your stuff dry and organized

Compass: I have tiny button compass on a wristwatch band or somewhere that it’s always with me.

Credit/ATM Cards

Driver’s License: For ID

Address/Email/Phone # list: Printed out on one sheet of paper and/or on your smartphone.

Toothbrush/Paste: A tiny tube of paste.

Razor: I brought one disposable, and shaved without shaving cream after showering. Most guys will want to grow a cool thru-hiker beard.

Ear Plugs: Loud snorers are common in shelters!

Floss: Works good for thread, too.

Lip Balm: With sun block. Your lips WILL get chapped.

Sunscreen: Small tube, high block factor sunblock. You’ll be hiking in the shade a lot but you will sometimes get a lot of sun at times, including at the start of the trail before leaves are out.

Blister Fixer: Leukotape P tape works well. PREVENT BLISTERS!! Use comfortable shoes, and stop to dry your feet and adjust your socks as needed BEFORE you get a blister.

Ibuprofen: To help with the inevitable pain and inflammation in your knees, etc.

Antibiotic Cream

Cold Medicine

Other Medications

Prescription drugs: If you take any

Toilet Paper

Stove: Alcohol stoves work well on the A.T. I use the Caldera Keg System, but just about any alcohol stove will work. A windscreen is very important for alcohol stoves. If you are starting in wintery conditions, or alcohol stoves aren’t your thing, lots of people like canister stoves. The Optimus Crux Lite with Tera Solo cook Set Is compact and gets great reviews. Check out the Jetboil and Pocket Rocket as well.

Fuel: I carried alcohol fuel in a MARKED empty plastic drink bottle of a different shape from my water bottle. Plus I tie a cord beneath the cap so it feels different when I grab it. I also set it beyond my reach when I’m sleeping. I used several types of alcohol fuels such as HEET (a gas-line de-icer, burns hottest, get the yellow bottle), rubbing alcohol (burns the coolest, I’d get the highest “%” I could find), and denatured alcohol. You should have not trouble finding canister fuel along the trail. Just keep track of home much is left and where your next source of fuel might be. Partial canisters are often found in “Hiker Boxes.”

Lexan Spoon

Pot Gripper Possibly unnecessary depending on your cooking system.

Cooking Pot: MSR Titan Kettle is popular. 1 liter or a little less is a good size. A great value is the Stanco Grease Pot. It’s aluminum, light and cheap According to my research, aluminum is safe. My caldera keg comes with a pot.

Lighter: Small, 2 of them. One in your pocket, one in your cook kit.

Food: Some of my common foods were peanut butter, granola bars, Poptarts, cold cereal, Snickers, those Knorr’s pasta/rice meals (around 5.5 oz.), Idahoan Potatoes, Ramen, nuts, crackers, peanut M&Ms, cheese etc. Just about anything without water in it!

Water Treatment: AquaMira is my choice. The Sawyer Mini is a very popular filter. I treat all surface water. Giardia is NOT a myth. I’ve had it more than once.

Water Bag: A light one of your choice, 2-3 liters. The Nalgene Cantene is popular. I use these mainly for toting water to my evening camp or carrying a little extra water on dry stretches of trail.

Water Bottles: I usually carry two 1-quart Gatorade bottles. I watch the guidebook to keep track of upcoming water sources and rarely carry more than one full quart between sources on the A.T.

Trash Compactor Bag: For keeping clothing and gear dry inside my pack. I used no pack cover with my pack, and had no trouble keeping my stuff dry.

My total pack weight when I started out was 20 lbs., including 1 quart of water and about 3 days worth of food. My pack weight probably averaged around 23 lbs., because I began carrying more food later on. I figure 2 lbs of food per day.

Gear and clothing choices are highly subjective. No matter what you decide to bring, you’ll be making some changes along the way. Try out all your stuff BEFORE you hit the trail!

Remember, there is no “best gear” for everyone. The best gear for you will be what works best for you style of hiking. Do your research and make up a list then ask experienced hikers to look it over. No matter what you choose they will suggest changes!

If you like this page, please click the “Like” button at the top!

A.T. Guidebook
The Best A.T. Guidebook
A.T. Guide
AWOL on the A.T.
The Best A.T. Book
AWOL on the Appalachian Trail
Appalachian Impressions
The Best A.T.DVD
Appalachian Impressions DVD
Alone Across Alaska
My Adventure
Alone Across Alaska DVD


56 Responses to Appalachian Trail and Ultralight Backpacking Gear List

  1. Blydenburgh

    Took your advice for a georgia section hike. Spot ON! Thanks for the advice

  2. Jason

    Thank you for gear list. I have based my gear set up on this for my planned ’15 thru hike, with a few minor changes. I was wondering when you started, as I am planning mid February. how would you adjust for colder weather other than a down jacket? Specifically shoes and use of gators. Also what advantages do you see from the alcohol stove over canisters?

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      I started later so I wouldn’t have to deal with weather that cold, but if I did start in mid-February I would definitely add a down jacket and second set of long underwear, a heavy weight set for sleeping. I’d probably still wear running shoes but would use gators for snow. In February most people would probably want to start with some kind of light hiking boot for the greater warmth. I have hiked hundreds of miles in snow in running shoes in more moderate conditions, though. I normally don’t use gators or carry camp shoes, but I’d probably carry a lightweight pair of camp shoes as well.

      Another item I’d add is Kahtoola microspikes.

      Alcohol stove systems tend to be lighter than a canister stove system, and it’s easier to carry only as much fuel as needed and fuel is probably easier to find. A good windscreen is vital. Canister stoves also work well, of course and there is little doubt they are faster and hotter.

  3. Tannon Hedges

    I am planning a thru hike with a buddy next year(2015) and we want to start from Georgia and around May 5. I keep looking at boots but you used tennis shoes. What made you use tennis shoes over a move high top boot?

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Most thru-hikers on established trails during the normal thru-hiking season are wearing running/hiking shoes nowadays. They tend to be lighter and more comfortable footwear and require little or no break-in time.

      • Tannon Hedges

        Thanks!! and i am looking at packs. You used a 58L or around that size right? I have heard that I need a 70 to 80 capacity pack. I have a good offer on a 85L pack but I feel for how light I pack( about 24 pounds with water for 2 week trips) that would be a lot of extra or wasted space. Is that a big of a pack necessary?

        • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

          Yes, the ULA CDT has 50-some liters. A frameless pack like that one SHOULD be full to stay stiff and carry right. I find I have plenty of room for thru-hiking with that size pack.

          Often times an experienced thru-hiker can be identified by their small packs (as well as faded clothing, whiskers, muddy shoes etc.) For how light you pack I see no need for a 70 liter-plus pack.

  4. reef

    i am also attempting an AT thru hike for 2015, my only question to you would be pertaining to water treatment. is there any factors that played into your choice over iodine tablets to chlorine dioxide drops besides taste. and do you know of a good ultralight pre filter if planned to use with the chemical treatment

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Hi Reef,
      Besides the much better taste of water with Chlorine Dioxide drops (not the same as chlorine, or bleach) it is also a healthier choice for long term use and is more effective against pathogens. Aquamira is my standard water treatment and like most hikers using Aquamira I don’t use a filter in conjunction with it except, perhaps, a bandana to strain out the biggest debris. That said, the ultralight Sawyer filters get rave reviews from most people and, with Aquamira, they are so light it’s not a bad idea to carry both as a backup.

      Good luck on your hike!

  5. Jason


    You said no maps are necessary, but I’ve read that some of the shelters and campsites are off the trail or on a side trail. Are there signs at all of these junctions? My wife and I are planning to do about 100 miles in July in the New England area. Thanks for your help.

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      There are some people who think maps ARE necessary on the A.T. They weren’t for me. Many shelters are off on “blue-blaze” trails and there may or may not be signs, but it’s usually very easy to find them if you know about where they are. I carried a small compass and a guidebook. Right now the A.T. Guide is the best one.

      If you are just hiking for a week you might be able to get by with the information on this Appalachian Trail Mileage Chart.

      Have a great hike!

  6. Todd

    Thanks for the info. I am planning a 1 week hike in October 2014. My experience on the trail has been day hikes. Any advice for the week through hiker on equipment needs? We are starting in south central PA and heading south.

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Hi Todd,
      I’d carry similar equipment to that on my list. Instead of running shoes I’d probably wear some light boots with stiff soles.
      Have fun!

  7. bob becker

    Bruce, I’m planning a 2015 thru hike. I hike about 6 miles a day. What would you suggest I hike a day or weekly?

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Hi Bob

      That will vary a lot depending on fitness levels, local trail difficulty, etc.

      Starting out, play it by ear and avoid injury like bad blisters. Increase your mileage when you safely can. This year you should definitely go out and hike some longer miles just to get a feel for what those 15-20+ mile days are like.

      Good luck!


  8. John Bliley

    Hey Bruce, great page and a lot of help for myself. I am just beginning to figure stuff out and I had one question, my wife and I are going to be doing the trail in sections starting around the Maryland area. What I am wondering is since we are going to have 2 people to split the carry load what would you recommend for equipment. I would guess our trips all wouldn’t be over 5 days.

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Hi John

      One advantage is that you’ll be able to tweak your gear between trips. I’d use my list as a general guideline but get a two person tent and a canister stove instead of an alcohol stove.

      Have fun!


  9. Tom Osborne

    I too am planning a 2015 thru hike.Concerning the Lunar Solo Shelter,It looks a little complicated to set up at first look and was wondering if it is quick once the learning curve is experienced? Will it hold up for hike?

    Thanks,Tom O.

  10. megan

    How did you dry out your asics at night when they got wet? Seems like most suggest boots that are waterproof but the asics seem more comfortable.

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Hi Megan,

      The truth is I didn’t dry my shoes at night. Most experienced thru-hikers just accept that their feet are going to get wet sometimes. If they are wet in the evening they will put on wet shoes and socks (and often wet pants and shirt) in the morning. Waterproof boots usually get wet sooner or later by sweat or by stepping in a deep puddle. When they do, they are much harder to dry out. Most veteran long distance hikers seem to feel that the lighter weight and faster drying and (usually) greater comfort of lightweight shoes more than compensates for lack of waterproofing.

      Good luck!

      • megan

        Bear canister? Hang the food? Ap trail, what do u suggest

        • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

          On the Appalachian Trail, I definitely wouldn’t carry a canister. I WOULD follow established rules. For example, there are a handful of places where hanging food is required because there have been food raiding bears.

          Beyond that, I did not, and personally would not, hang my food. Except for food sitting at picnic tables or on the ground, few things result in more stolen food than poorly hung food. People get lazy and it’s too low, too close to the tree, etc, and the bear gets it. On the AT, I slept with my food when camping almost every time and that’s what I’d do again. You will not find a single case on the AT of a hiker being killed by a bear after food. The worst choice of all would be to stash your food on the ground away from your tent where any animal, including bears, is free to take it.

          In shelters, I would hang my food by the existing hangers (with “mouse cans”,) because mice are the real food thieves on the AT. I would try to avoid setting up a tent near shelters because shelters are mouse magnets.

          Make your own call, of course, but people tend to start out very concerned by bears and by the end hardly think about them.

  11. ashgreen

    You forgot a very important piece of equipment: a whistle! Everyone should carry a whistle around their neck so they can signal for help should they encounter an emergency (injuries, frightening off a black bear, female hiker safety, etc). They’re super cheap and can be heard for some good distances when cellphones are not in service.

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Hi ashgreen,

      Whistles are commonly on lists for the reasons you mention. They are not on my personal A.T. backpacking list, though.

      I appreciate your comment. It’s something people might consider.


    • Greg Ward

      That’s funny! Bears are not deterred by noise. Sometimes it attracts them! They are the most curious animals on the planet! Please, carry bear spray and leave your whistle at home!

  12. Fred Deegen

    Is that Pickens’ Nose (in Standing Indian Basin) on your front page?

  13. David Keith "Hooter" Meadows

    Uneasy about going with trail runners, and wore a mid weight boot on my hikes. Those very people (some of them anyway) who swore by trail runners complained about their feet for weeks. Of course, I’m apt to try it on my next hike, lol.

    Hooter (2000 miler) 99 & 2001

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Gear is a personal choice. I do think, however, if you look at the feet of thru-hikers at the end of the trail, trail runners or hiking shoes are the most popular choice for those with relatively light packs.

      People should definitely use what works best for them and there are people who prefer boots. I’m not one of them. :)

  14. David Keith "Hooter" Meadows

    Excellent list, of course.

  15. Calvin

    I’m in the beginning stages of planning a thru hike on at AT in 2016. I got a couple of questions, my buddy and I are trying to figure out if you should go nobo or sobo. We like the idea of starting sobo in May so we can finish out that year of school, (we will only be 20 when we leave.) how much more difficult is sobo than nobo, and when should I start it sobo? How bad could the weather get on the whites in May-June? Should I carry a fleece jacket or down jacket? And lastly, I’m very attached to my chacos and would like to make them my only footwear for the whole trip, with Injini toe socks and goretex socks, is that wise? Thanks

    Big Daddy Wombo, Aspiring Thru Hiker 2016

  16. Woof Shaven

    Love your blog. I study it daily. I am planning a 250mile or so AT section hike NOBO from the Southern terminus in mid April.

    I just ordered a “Rubbermaid Pelouze 7750 50 lb. Digital Hanging Scale” which weighs up to 50lb in 1oz or 10gram increments.

    I am gearing up from scratch. I have a pair of heavy Vasque class “D” hiking boots from the 1980s that are built like a tank that I never was actually able to break in. I also have a pair of class “C” Belleville MCB 950 cold weather boots purchased recently too. The 990 MCB variant which I don’t have would be for hot weather. Looks like the world has changed while I was sleeping and everyone is recommending something between a class “A” and a class “B”. It’s going to take a while to wrap my mind around that.

    What are your thoughts on hiking in any type of camouflage clothing? Easily obtainable and reasonable pricing is the current issue ECWCS GEN III (extended cold weather clothing system generation III). Its a (7) layer clothing system. Level-1 top/bottom is silk weight base layer. Level-2 top/bottom is a thermal base layer. Level-3 top only is fleece. Level-4 top only is the wind breaker, Level-5 top and bottom is the fire resistant Nomex/Kevlar (soft shell), Level-6 top and bottom is Gortex rain layer. Level-7 top and bottom is the parka layer, but that layer is really meant for cold dry stationary positions only,

    In your clothing system which tops and bottoms of your layers might correspond to ECWS GEN III? Which layers do you consider important. Which ECWS GEN III layers or civilian counterparts should I seek out and which could be omitted ? A cross-reference to your layering approach would be appreciated.

    Last question. How bad is cellar coverage on the AT Southern Region and would you consider a sattelite phone with pre-paid minutes (either purchased or rented)?

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Hi Woof,

      Hiking equipment has changed considerably! The trend towards lighter packs is a good one, taken to a reasonable degree. Lighter footwear is also a good idea for most people on established trails, I think.

      Certainly people do hike in some military clothing, but it’s generally not “the style.” One reason is a lot of military gear is relatively heavy, (and likely tougher as well.)

      I guess my list would correspond to Level 1 for a standard start from April on, level 2 for an earlier season start; Level III for the fleece, and Level VI for the shell. I’d take a look at the weights. The first two would likely be fine, I suspect the shell might be pretty heavy.

      I definitely wouldn’t get a sat. phone for the AT. You’ll find cell phone coverage many places along the southern AT, but it won’t be continuous.

      Have a good hike!


  17. Robert "Nuggets" Smith

    Great list! I am currently planning a nobo thru – hike starting March 7. I know it’s going to be cold so the fleece is going to be a necessary burden for my back. My question however is: what’s a popular way to keep a cellphone charged while hiking? You mentioned solar chargers didn’t really work on the AT. what did you use? Thanks in advance and I’ll probably have more questions soon!

  18. Jacques Despatis

    I would like to hike for 15-20 days with my 15 year old son. We are experienced day hikers but it would be our first experience on a longer trail. Which section of the trail would you recommend that would be both beautiful and challenging. We would probably hike sometime during the months of July to mid-august.

    Jacques & Olivier

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Hi Jacques and Olivier,
      That can be a hot time of year on much of the trail so if it were me I’d probably start at the north end, Katahdin, and hike south. You should miss the worst black flies and have cooler weather and see some of the most beautiful parts of the trail. If you hiked to Caratunk I believe that would be something like 150 miles and you’d have walked the 100 Mile Wilderness.
      Have fun!

  19. Scott

    Is there a place in the southern part of the AT where I can plan a five day hike with my son that involves rafting back to our starting point?

    We’re going the first of June.

    Love your site.


  20. Caleb

    Hello, awesome list, I’m planning a 2016 NoBo through hike. This will be my first long hike with shoes rather then boots. Are there plenty of good places to find replacement shoes on the trail, specifically the more sparse regions in the middle?
    Also when did you set out and how long did it take? What where the coldest temps you experienced in the north and south? About how long did you need your winter gear at either end?
    Thank you for all of the helpful information

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Thanks Caleb. There are many places to buy shoes along the trail. Just keep track of the condition of your shoes and when they are getting worn have an idea where you can buy the next pair.

      I started March 31 and finished August 3. That is a few weeks faster than most hikes. That meant I got no really cold weather at the end of my hike. There was a little snow and cold at the beginning, but I’d guess it never got below about 20 degrees, usually quite a bit warmer. The list I have posted will be plenty for most people starting that time of year, except for people who get cold especially easily. Lots of people say to hang onto your winter gear until after Mt. Rogers. No use to carry something you don’t need, but many people run into nice weather, think it will stay, and get rid of their winter stuff too early!

  21. Jasper "Afro" Yoke

    Hey Buck,
    Thank you so much for your amazing list. I am planning a thru-hike when I graduate high-school in 2017. As it’s the end of the school year, I don’t let out until June. I may leave after my AP exams around May. Do you know if I should start later in the trail (Virginia), or should I start in Springer Mountain?
    Also, if I am starting late, should I pack as much winter gear?
    Thanks in advance, Afro

  22. Dan G

    Just decided that I want to do a thru NOBO Hike in 2016 after I graduate college the previous fall. I am trying to figure out the general price range of the whole trip to see if it is even logistically possible. What is your general idea on how much the trip would cost? I am not a frugal person but also don’t want to to be super cheap and take close to no zero days at all.


    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Hi Dan,
      That is one of the toughest questions to answer because it’s so very subjective. It’s POSSIBLE to do a thru fairly inexpensively if someone wants to forgo hostel and hotel stays, restaurant meals, etc. It’s possible to spend huge amounts if someone parties and hangs out in towns and eats like a king there! A good rule of thumb for many people is $1,000 a month. A longer hike tends to cost considerably more than a fast hike. Think about your standard of living compared to other people, and how much you’re willing to rough it, and that might give you an idea on how to adjust that estimate.

      Cost is an important, often discussed topic on the forums. Check out some of these threads.

      Have a great hike!


  23. Bill Jack

    Thanks Colter for all the info. I plan on starting a thru-hike the end of Feb or first of March from the South. Plan on alternating 7 to 9 mile hike one day and 15 to 20 the next to start with. Roughly with this schedule, when should I request the thru-hike permit for Smoky Mt National Park?

  24. Chris

    Colter, My Daughter of 21 and I are planning an AT hike for her spring break the second week in March. My info gathering tells me to stay out of the higher elevations so I was looking at the Harpers Ferry north to Pennsylvania hike. 40 miles or so it looks to be. What are your thoughts on that Idea, I want to pick the best climate conditions for this time of year. Thanks Chris

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Hi Chris,

      I’m sorry, I can’t really answer that question, I’ve never been on the AT that early. I’d suggesting asking on There are many people on Whiteblaze who live near the trail and are familiar with the typical weather patterns of particular areas.

      Have a great hike!


  25. Andrew

    I have a jetboil camping stove and I use the small propane fuel tank (3.53oz) typically when I pack because it fits right inside for easy storage. I can boil about 40 cups of water with one canister and I estimate I will need around 15-20 of these canisters to complete the entire AT. Do you know if this canister can be purchased along the way or should I plan to have all I need through my mail drops?

    • Bruce "Buck" Nelson

      Hi Andrew,

      I think you’ll be able to buy along the way without a serious problem as long as you plan ahead and stay flexible. Jetboils are commonly used on the A.T. so most outfitters will carry them. Often partial canisters can be found in “hiker boxes.” If you need to you could use a larger canister for a while. Many people find that their canister fuel lasts longer than they expect, as well.

      Have fun!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>