2004 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike
What is it:
The Appalachian Trail spans roughly 2,174 miles across 13 states from Georgia to Maine.
Most people who hike Northbound start the AT in March or April and take 5 to 6+ months to hike it. It is best to finish before
mid-October when the snow starts in New Hampshire and Maine.
I started late, May 17th due to having just graduated college that year. I finished in about 5 months, October 7th 2004.
What is it like:
The AT is notoriously wet and can be muddy and rocky in some sections.
Some hikers get sub-freezing temperatures and snow near the beginning if they start early.
Others get snow at the end if they finish late. The middle states are hot and humid in the summer.
Trail towns and resupply are generally about 3-5 days apart. The longest section, the "100 mile wilderness" in Maine can be done in 6 or 7 days.
Logistically the AT is one of the easiest trails because there are many other people around to help, and resources are not far apart.
The AT has lean-to style shelters every 5-10 miles so you don't always have to camp, and water sources are generally plentiful.
The AT is a very well established trail, most of it is well marked and easy to follow. You can get by without a map or compass.
Physically the AT is quite challenging. It can be steep and rugged, and it constantly climbs up and down hills and mountains, often for no reason at all.
Most of the trail is under tree cover but there are some sections that are above tree-line.
It can be mentally wearing. You can walk for days under trees without much of a view, or be wet for days at a time.
What I actually carried in 2004:
When I did the AT I was a broke kid just out of school. I was into making my own gear but had not started ZPacks yet.
I carried a homemade backpack and tarp-tent made of Sil-nylon. My tent was a little bit too short for me and my pack often needed repairs.
I had a homemade 20F down quilt that was a little bit too narrow, with no closure on the bottom.
My rain gear was a homemade nylon wind shirt worn under a trash bag with holes at the arms and neck.
I hiked in board shorts and when it rained I got wet.
My gear may not have been particularly good, but my base weight (all gear not including food and water)
of about 8 lbs was incredible at the time. I picked up the trail name
"Lightweight Joe" for the AT. I could have hiked much more comfortably, and even lighter with modern ultralight gear!
What I would carry if I were to do it again today:
On the AT you need to be prepared for temperatures from a bit below freezing to hot and humid. You could get light snow.
It probably will rain every other day. Some people send home their cold weather gear during the summer, and pick it up again up North.
My updated gear list could be used for the full trip without substitutions. If I were to do it again I would start at the beginning of May
and plan to finish in September, to avoid most of the freezing weather.
I feel that this list is *pretty light* without making many compromises in comfort.
Updated Applachian Trail Gear List:
|21||52L Arc Blast Backpack|
|1||Pair Shoulder Pouches|
|1.5||Pair Belt Pouches|
|14.3||Hexamid Solo Tent w/ solo groundsheet|
|2.2||8x Carbon Tent
Stakes w/ stake sack|
|18||ZPacks 20F Reg, Long Down Sleeping Bag|
|.9||Medium Dry Bag|
|8||Neoair Xlite Pad, size small|
|3.3||.6L Evernew Pot|
|.2||Titanium short handle spoon|
|.2||Homemade Alcohol Stove|
|.5||8 oz fuel bottle|
|1.4||Roll top Blast Food Bag|
|1.5||1 Quart Powerade Bottle|
|1.5||1 Quart Powerade Bottle|
|1.3||2L Sawyer Bladder|
|1.3||Sawyer Mini Filter|
|5||Pentax W60 Waterproof Camera|
|1||2x Spare Camera Battery|
|1.5||Pak-Light w/ homemade headband|
|.7||Wenger Esquire Pocket Knife|
|.5||Silva Compass / Thermometer|
|.3||ZPacks Travel Toothbrush|
|.8||Travel size toothpaste tube.|
|.3||Credit Card, License, Cash in Wallet pouch|
|.9||50ft 1.75mm Z-Line cord (repairs, bear bag)|
|.4||4x Mini-D Carabiners|
|.2||Mechanical pencil, paper for notes|
|.6||3x strips of Cuben Fiber Repair Tape|
|.1||6x Large safety pins|
|.1||Sewing Needles, dental floss thread|
|4.5||Challenger Rain Jacket|
|1.9||ZPacks Rain Kilt|
|1.0||Challenger Rain Mitts|
|.9||ZPacks Fleece Hat|
|1.9||ZPacks Wind Shell Jacket|
|8.9||ZPacks Climashield insulated Jacket (coming soon)|
|1.7||Medium Pillow Dry Bag|
|Ounces||Worn Items (Not part of base weight)|
|10.2||Columbia Silver Ridge II Zip off pants|
|7.3||Champion long sleeve, breathable shirt|
|.9||Ultamax Triathlete low cut socks|
|3.9||ZPacks Pointy Hat|
|23||Teva Grecko Sandals|
|7.3||ZPacks Carbon Fiber Staff|
|Ounces||Total Base Weight|
|112.4||7 lbs .4 ounces (3.1 kg)||
The 52L Arc Blast backpack is large enough to hold 5-6 days of food in addition to this gear list. On a longer section I would lash
my tent to the top of the pack to free up more space inside for food. The pack's frame helps it comfortably carry up to 25-30 lbs,
which is more than I would ever need on the AT. I store most of my small miscellaneous items in the shoulder pouches and belt pouches.
I chose the Hexamid Solo tent because it is the lightest option. The AT has shelters every 5-10 miles and I would likely use
those some of the time, especially when the weather was the worst. The
removable floor on the Hexamid tent would be useful for sleeping
on dirty shelter floors, garage floors, under park pavilions and other odd places that you may end up sleeping on the AT.
The Solplex, Altaplex, or Duplex tents would also be good choices.
I chose a 20F sleeping bag because it can occasionally get below freezing or snow. There are also nights when you are soaked,
or when the air is saturated with water and it feels colder than it is. On hot nights I would just partially cover myself or sleep
in my jacket alone.
I chose a rain kilt over pants because it is warm more often than it is cold on the AT, and it is never bitter cold during the summer months.
I chose a rain jacket over a poncho because it is more comfortable, and it rains all the time on the AT. It can also be worn on laundry day.
I chose an alcohol stove because it is lightweight and fuel (Heat gas line antifreeze) is easy to come by at most gas stations.
I mainly cook simple things like instant noodles, mashed potatoes, and the occasional cook-in-the-bag meal.
I normally don't use any water filtration or treatment at all, but the Sawyer Mini is so light it is worth having for the nastiest
water sources. I did get sick a few times on my thru-hikes due to not treating any water.
My clothing system is arranged such that I can and would wear every item at once when needed. All my clothing is synthetic, quick
drying, and stays warm when wet. I do not carry any "change" of clothes and I sleep in the same clothes I hike in.
Some people like to add sleep clothes or town clothes but that is more weight.
I hiked all of my thru-hikes 100% in sandals. Sandals aren't for everyone, but they keep my feet cool, dry and comfortable. You do
have to be a little more careful and light on your feet.