What I Carried: Packing for the Appalachian Trail

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I mentioned in my last post that I was working on a more-detailed piece about my backpacking adventures in “The Whites” during July.

Once I started writing, it was hard to stop. Rather than try to cram everything into one really long post, I thought it would be fun to start with what I carried.

As someone who has been on a quest to pack less when traveling, backpacking requires even more preparation. Unless, of course, you’re Cheryl Strayed in Wild .

If you read the book or watched the movie, you know the scene I’m referring to. Cheryl’s pack weighed close to 70 pounds when she started the PCT (Pacific Crest Trail)! In contrast, my pack weighed 24 pounds at the start of our trip. Fortunately, a few weeks into Cheryl’s hike, a veteran hiker helps her get rid of a ton of stuff and it’s a funny scene reading/watching what she packed and why she thought she needed what she did.

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Brad and I aren’t hard-core ultralight hikers by any mean, but we are careful about our choices.

I watched with fascination the meticulous care and detail he poured into the planning of what went into our packs. Each item was weighed and entered on the master spreadsheet. Every gram, ounce, and pound mattered! Any superfluous weight was cut, such as the handle of my hair brush, which Brad sawed off and then filed to make smooth.

Certain items were non negotiables for me: a coffee mug, for instance. Mind you, it was made of stainless steel and relatively light, but drinking my morning coffee out of a mug was important. I also carried a small journal and a pen.  

I know most of you won’t be heading into the woods for your next vacation, but just in case you ever do or if you’re the curious sort, here’s what I carried for my nine days on the trail.

My wardrobe consisted of two pairs of shorts, two short-sleeve synthetic shirts, two pairs of underwear, two sports bras, a fleece, a rain jacket, a long-sleeve shirt, a pair of tights, a pair of flip flops, known as camp shoes, and three pairs of wool socks. The only piece of cotton clothing I packed was a tank top for sleeping. Fyi, backpackers generally don’t wear cotton.

I wore my flip flops around camp at the end of the day and in the mornings. In terms of socks, I actually only hiked in two pairs, alternating between the two. The third pair was designated as camp socks, which meant I only wore them once my feet were clean. Small luxuries like these make all the difference on the trail.

My entire toiletries fit into a quart-sized Ziploc bag—a hairbrush, my toothbrush and toothpaste, my contact case and cleaner, a tube of mascara that I only used twice, but felt compelled to pack nonetheless, some Chapstick, a travel-sized deodorant, and some face lotion and body lotion. In another Ziploc, I carried baby wipes for cleaning my body.

Instead of feeling sorry for myself about my lack of stuff, I marveled at how little I actually needed while on the trail. Sure, there were moments when I wished for a hairdryer or a different set of clothes, but I treasured the lightness and simplicity of my gear for this trip. In addition to my clothes and toiletries, I carried our food bag and tent poles in my pack.

One funny story I’ll  leave you with.

The day we came off the trail in Lincoln, NH, we stopped at a shopping plaza to pick up some lunch from the grocery store. A Dollar General was in the complex. Walking past, I noticed a clearance rack filled with shorts and tee shirts.

Suddenly, I needed to buy an outfit.

I desperately wanted to wear something other than hiking clothes for our town day and for traveling home. It took a bit of hunting to find the “right” clothes. One pair of shorts that I deemed passable Brad said no way; unless, I was looking for some unwelcome advances. 😦 I settled for a black tee shirt and a pair of blue-striped shorts. The shorts were snug. (I had to do the wiggle-my-hips-back-and-forth-trick to pull them up.) Thankfully, the shirt hung low enough, hiding the tight fit.

For me, I was happy to be wearing clean, non-hiking clothes. Thank you, Dollar General.

_________________

Tomorrow, my school duties resume, starting with faculty meetings. And, that means goodbye to summer.

I’ve still got more backpacking stories to share so keep checking back. I’ll be posting them throughout the fall.

Thanks for reading and enjoy these final weeks of August!

 

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About aliciabrummeler

Writer, teacher, wife and mother. Lover of the good, the true, and the beautiful.
This entry was posted in Appalachian Trail, Back to School, Backpacking, Hiking, Travel and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to What I Carried: Packing for the Appalachian Trail

  1. Joyce says:

    A very fun read for me. I’m trying to go more simple in my travel bag for Greece. After all these years, I continue to learn so many new things about packing and travel. I truly laugh at how ridiculous I was way back when we left for a year in Israel and never having traveled out of the country except for a week in Mexico. I can’t believe the things I packed thinking I would need them. Lots of lessons learned on that trip but many more were to come.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. S Marshall says:

    Your blog piqued my interest, since I’ve hiked three A.T. weekends with my husband and agonize over the packing list each time. We pack an extra bag containing travel-home-clothes which we leave in the car during our hike. I look forward to your next “installment.”

    Like

  3. Thanks, Mom! I know I have packed some ridiculous items over the years that I thought I would need too.

    Like

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