This backpacking gear list is for a three week Appalachian Trail section hike I’ll be taking from mid-April through early May, starting in northern Virginia and heading north. I’m not exactly sure what how much mileage I’ll cover but it should be somewhere between 300-400 miles.
This gear list doesn’t include the weight of the water, food, fuel and a few other consumables I’ll be carrying. Those items will probably add another 12-14 pounds of weight to my pack, since I plan to carry about a week of food between resupply points.
A couple of notes on my gear for this hike:
- I’m bringing the higher capacity Gossamer Gear Mariposa Ultralight Backpack so I can easily carry a weeks worth of food and minimize my town stops. I’m not going to skimp on my food weight on this trip and plan to carry a full 2 pounds per day, with lots of variety to keep my food interesting.
- My biggest wildlife concern on his section hike are Deer ticks and Lyme disease. Most of the clothing I’ll be wearing is treated with Insect Shield, either by the factory, or as part of a post sale process offered by Insect Shield itself (see below for the link)
- Due to the variability of the weather during April in this region, I’ll be bringing some warmer clothing and sleeping insulation.
- This gear list is on the heavy side for me, topping 14 pounds. I honestly care a lot less about base weight than I used to. This is the gear that I’ve determined I need for these conditions and carrying an extra pound or two above my summer gear list weight won’t make a lick of difference on this trip.
The environmental conditions assessment I researched and wrote before deciding what gear to bring on this section of the AT and in these weather conditions is listed below the gear list. (see My Gear List Philosophy for a rant on why I always create a fresh gear list for every backpacking trip I take.)
Environmental Conditions Assessment
- Locale: Appalachian Trail, Northern Virginia, hiking northbound as far as I can in 3-4 weeks.
- Date: April, 2015
- Planned Route
- Mileage: 300 to 400 miles, depending on conditions
- Terrain: Moderate mountains and forest
- Duration: 3-4 weeks
- Climate/Weather forecast
- Daytime temperatures: average of 66 degrees, down to 45 degrees
- Evening temperatures: average of 40 degrees, down to 20 degrees
- 20 degree sleeping bag
- Wood stove w/ Esbit backup
- Shoulder season clothing
- Facebook – AT Section Hiker Group
- Intel from friends
- Weather Underground: Seasonal averages, factoring in temperature drop for higher elevations
- Water availability
- Generally abundant, possibly some dry stretches
- 2 x 1 liter water bottles
- 3L platypus for camp and dry stretches
- Water purity
- Purification/filter advised
- Aqua Mira purification
- Sawyer Mini filter
- Wildlife Issues
- Ursack Bear Proof Food Sack
- AT Guide
- Trail Journals
- Ticks: April through October is prime Deer Tick season.
- Mosquitos and Black Flies: None.
- Insect Shield treated clothing, including long sleeve shirt and long pants
- Insect Shield treatment for socks and baselayers
- American Lyme Disease Foundation for article about seasonal risks of Deer Ticks and Lyme Disease.
- Sunrise: 6:46 am
- Sunset: 7:55 pm
- Petzl e+Lite headlamp
- Trail conditions
- Some light snow/ice possible at higher elevations
- Trail runners w/ wool socks
- Bring plastic bags as vapor barrier liners in case it gets very cold
- Facebook AT Section Hikers Group
- Intel from friends
- Sun/Snow Glare protection
- They call it the green tunnel for a reason
- Insect Shield wide brim hat
- Obvious treadway and good blazing
- Paper sections of AT Guide
- Intel from friends
- Fairly remote, not near any major towns
- Bring SPOT Gen 3 Satellite Communicator
- Cell phone
- Facebook AT Section Hiker Group
- Mail drops and bounce box to minimize town time and eat well
Thanks for a great post. I’ll be hiking the state of Jersey in April as well. I know you’ve done this section before, any advice?
Early April is fairly chilly. Don’t skimp on your insulation.
I’ll be hiking in NJ in early MAY. 5/2 or 5/9 starting dates depending on weather and conditions. Part one – starting at High Point and hiking to Delaware Water Gap. Then over to Greenwood Lake by bus and hiking from NY/NJ state line to High Point (and my car). Maybe I’ll run into you at some point on that hike!!! Hope so.
Gordon “Renaissance Man” Ripley
2008 AT Section hiker Completed trail in 2008!
Glad to hear your getting back on the AT. I plan to finish Mass. and start on VT this year. I will be checking your trail reports on those sections.
Thanks for the link to the Insect Shield treatment. Lyme disease is my greatest wildlife fear, bar none, as I know too many people who became severely ill with chronic Lyme. I’m the one who looks like a “dork” with pant legs tucked into Darn Tough socks in the picture of Big Meadows Lodge on your AT4 Guide. Two friends and I will be hiking hut to hut through the Whites in June so I’ve already downloaded AT8 and will send some favorite hiking clothes and socks for treatment.
That’s Guthook’s AT Guide. I follow both of you and commented on your post this morning before a second cup of coffee woke me up enough to realize it was your post not his.
Guthook and I are backpacking this weekend. We’re old friends.
It’s a small world. My BFF and I were pleasantly surprised to meet Guthook in front of Elk Meadows Lodge on our section hike through SNP to Harper’s Ferry last June. We had used his JMT Hiker app the previous year in the Sierra Nevada and like the updates he added to the AT Guide after his hike last summer.
Green tunnel…expect no leaves on trees above the valleys. Have a great trip Phillip. I hope to be on the Benton MacKaye Trail part April.
True, this section has a few hills.
I’ve gotten crazy sunburned in Northern VA that time of year above the valleys. Have fun on this trip.
I’m usually so covered up with hat, LS Shirt, and long pants that I never give any thought to sunburn anymore. But thanks for the warning.
I would suggest, as I learned on Hiking the Pinhoti in Alabama..Do not count on the Trail Shelters being available So now I bring a Sil Nylon Tarp in addition to my single man tent, so I have a front Porch to sit under in the rain where I can dress, undress, put on or take off my muddy boots or just get out of the cramped tent. Campmor sells a nice size one…I bought the 6×8 at 10.2 oz $69.99 and I also bought the 10×12 for $119.99, though when I bought it the price was I think $89.99 but the memory maybe fading fast…I use a Hiking Pole to form the inverted V. I also bring my First Need Deluxe water Purifier which gets rid of the “Leaf” taste and high acid to tannic acid taste in the water since I am allergic to Iodine..
I just looked at the Cirriform SW1 and the guylines on the tent appear to be perfect to support the 6×8 Sil Nylon tarp..
Yeah, I’m planning on avoiding the shelters because I expect they’ll be full this time of year. The nice thing about this tarp is the the inner can be used as a bug bivy in a shelter if I want to sleep in one in really bad weather.
I’m curious what section of NoVa you’re doing – are you starting at the base of Shenandoah NP, or higher up (in which case you’d be coming through MD and into PA)? It should be a nice time of year for either section.
Also, any reason not to take the Trekkertent Stealth on this trip? Or are you just trying out new gear?
I may make it all the way into PA, it’s hard to say. I’d like to, and my wife has given me a few extra days to get as north as possible.
My farthest extent into the south so far is the Delaware Water Gap, but I’ll probably have to come back in Autumn to link a missing stretch with my April hike.
Just trying a new shelter. I like the looks of the inner tent on the Cirriform-DWR 1 since it can be used as a bug bivy standalone in a shelter if needed. Yama also makes nice gear and I want to try it.
I guess I hadn’t absorbed that the inner which comes with the Trekkertent can’t be used as a separate bug tent. You’ll definitely need the bug protection.
Enjoy the new tent! I was going to mention the new Tarptent Protrail as another option, but it’s heavier and doesn’t have the separate bug bivy. Cheaper and simpler to set up however.
The trekker has a separate inner too.
My wife & I are heading northbound from Harper’s Ferry on 4/6 for 4 weeks. She uses her 4 week vacation time from the AMC to section hike. We are hoping to average 15 a day & make it into New Jersey. We take the Bus from North Conway & the Train to Harper’s, part of the planning involves getting home without knowing how far we will get. Our gear list is similar to yours, about 12-13 lbs base each. Resupplies should be easy & we only plan to carry 3-5 days food. Most people posting gear lists tend to leave out personal items & small items to make their base weights look lower. You are one of the few I have seen include everything. It would be fun to compare sometime. You mention that you are backpacking this weekend with Guthook who I thought lived north of the Notches. It would be fun to get together sometime. My wife Elizabeth (Wingwing) works at Joe Dodge Lodge, look her up next time you pass though Pinkham.
I’m taking the train south too. Better than fussing around with a car and I like the freedom of winging my transportation when I hike.
I put everything on my lists so I don’t forget it and to help people getting into lightweight backpacking see what I “really” carry.
Guthook lives in Maine, but real close. We’re off to practice winter survival skills this weekend and climb Moriah on the way out.
Have a great section hike with your wife! I’d love to get together sometime. Joined a ski club in Bartlett and I’m around for a few days every week.
Ski Club on 302 past Atticrash? I’m not real mobile right now, foot surgery last Thursday. Boot goes away on the 17th but no XC until March. Should be able to snowshoe sooner. We live off of Glen Ledge road, you can see our house on the top of the ridge when you look west passing Storyland. We can do dinner here one night or maybe the Moat or Red Parka?
It’s interesting to see how your gear philosophy and strategy has changed and evolved over the years. Going from heavy leather boots to trail runners, going from ultra-light to adding a couple of pounds in the name of luxury, and so on. Either way, you have a good system that works for you and that’s what matters. That should be a fun trip though! Can’t wait to hear the trip reports.
Great article. Pairing a very specific Conditions Assessment with the Gear List makes the information a thousand times more useful.
If I could still bother your for more info…
It looks like wood will be your primary fuel source…Could you talk a little bit about the decision to leave behind your Silky Gomboy? Only using the Mora seems work intensive to me…
Also, The QiWiz over the Solo? Maybe that plays into the following…
I assume you will do a separate article about your food for the trip. If so, please include your considerations for overnight storage. Given your willingness to carry 2lbs/day of varied and enjoyable nutrition (hell yeah!), how will the volume of the Ursack play into your max distances between resupply? Please expound on that calculation, including whatever else besides food that has to go in the Ursack.
(Also, since I’ve not yet had the opportunity: Congrats on your recent career adjustments. The benefits to your readers are already obvious– Thanks!)
The QiWiz with a fireport is very convenient because you can use longer sticks without having to cut them up, and it’s super lightweight.
I thought about bringing the Silky, but I just need enough tinder to get a fire started and I can do that by picking up sticks from the ground. The Silky is really good if you plan on building campfires, but overkill otherwise. If I need to process wet wood, I can baton it with the Mora into fine enough pieces that I can snap by hand.
I will carry a few cubes of Esbit as backup.
Haven’t done my food list yet. But can get about 7 days of food into an Ursack.
Ursacks with the Opsacks have quite a bit of capacity. My wife & I use one ursack & one older Z-Pack food bag between us. One carries breakfest/dinner, the other lunch. That way we only have to pull one bag out at stops plus less sorting. We figure that having one Ursack we would only lose part of our food to a bear. Always use the opsacks in both & put in new ones as needed. We have carried 7 plus days of food though the Smokies & Shenedoah using this system. Also would like to mention water systems. Used Aquamira on a Springer to Damasus hike 3 years ago. Have developed a thyroid problem. I suspect that the Aquamira caused it but can not prove it. Have switched to the Sawyer Mini’s used inline with the drinking hose. Weighed them at 2 ounces but carry the squezze bag & backflush which adds a little weight.
I like the way the Environmental Conditions Assessment details the rational behind each gear choice.
Its a good habit to get into.
Very much like my gear list for a similar trip I am planning, starting in Harpers Ferry. Interesting that you are relying solely on a wood burning stove, no alcohol or gas backup? You can expect the weather to be pretty wet that time of year. Also, don’t plan on doing much trail hiking in the dark with the Petzl elite. I carry an one as a backup but rely on a Tikka as my main headlamp. Good hiking!
I don’t hike in the dark. I just get up early and keep going all day.
I’ll be carrying a few esbit cubes as backup for really wet weather.
I’m a little surprised you chose the section starting in Northern VA going north considering the less mountainous scenery and sheer amount of rocks in PA. Was it more a logistical and financial challenge to come farther south or did you want to cover more miles in less time?
By the way, if you haven’t seen this recent article you’d enjoy it. But I’m assuming you probably read it already. https://www.guthookhikes.com/2015/02/slope-analysis-of-at-pct-cdt.html
I have to hike to sooner or later. Might as well be now. I also want to avoid hiking in a mob of thru-hikers. Starting further up north can only help.
That makes sense, they’ll all be down in NC in April. The best way to do it is either in reverse in the Spring or late fall/early winter.
Exactly. I like a less crowed trail.
Good luck. I’m watching the sunset over the AT in Maryland as I type this. I just used your blog as an example in a media class I teach. I even used the line “What will happen to Phillip Werner”.
Scarey. And here I thought I’d escaped higher education!
Sounds like you’ll be starting just as I’m ending! I hope to do a 10-day trip in early April of 190 miles S -> N to end in Waynesboro, VA (my final miles south of the Mason-Dixon line :-). I think it’s a smart idea to hike in PA before the water sources dry up during the summer. And the rocks really aren’t that bad, especially if you’ve done any hiking in the Catskills :)
I might actually run into you. I think Waynesboro is one of my resupply stops. I haven’t seen you since 2008 or 2009 so make sure you stop me if you recognize me first!
I think I saw you’re heading down by train(?). Not sure if your train is headed to Harpers Ferry, but if you’re headed to Washington DC instead then I would be happy to extend some magic. I live in Northern VA just outside of DC and would be glad to give you a ride out to the trail. I’m about an hour and change from either Front Royal or the Bears Den hostel if either of those would be close to your stepping on point.
Appreciate the offer, but I am headed farther down south.
As stated earlier, I dread ticks and Lyme disease. I’ll be hiking hut to hut in the Whites in mid-June, from Franconia Notch to Gorham, NH, camping one night at the shelter at IMP campground. I know the risk and tick season south of the Mason-Dixon Line, but am not sure what to expect in NH. What can you tell me about this area in June? Does Insect Shield repel blackflies?
I see you’ve had some wool, or partial wool, clothing treated with Insect Shield. Any problems with their high heat process? I’ve had synthetics treated, but not any natural fibers.
Could you elaborate on your reasoning for the mont bell synthetic thermawrap jacket? My hiking conditions are pretty similar to these (probably moist) and I have used primaloft in the past and loved it. Never the less, I am in need of a new puffy layer. I could probably guess why you made the synthetic decision, but with the new treated down on the market… I would be interested to hear your rationale. Thanks for all your hard work.
Love your “Environmental Conditions Assessment”.
Just one comment … “average” temperatures are not so useful for planning clothing/insulation. Much too much variation in actual temps.
I’m big fan of percentile temperature values, quartiles are OK, deciles much better. They are easy to compute using almost all popular spreadsheet programs. Getting the needed data (historical daily highs/lows) can sometimes be tough though.
Hey Philip I bet your looking forward to your hike!
I live in Vermont and I have 16 days off this April mid to be exact.
I was thinking of hiking from 25c or glencliffe, I have never done winter hiking that much and the long term weather forecast says its really not suppose to warm up in this neck of the woods untill April 9 th , should I prepare for a winter hike, or just start in Williamstown mass and just go south?
I didn’t see any gaiters in your list – maybe something like these? https://www.amazon.com/Outdoor-Research-Mens-Gaiters-Large/dp/B009Q1DKAG/ref=sr_1_7?s=outdoor-recreation&ie=UTF8&qid=1427335579&sr=1-7&keywords=outdoor+research+gaiters
I was waiting fro someone to notice that. I don’t like wearing gaiters for 3 season hiking. My pants are long enough that it keeps the crud out of my shoes and my lower legs stay cooler.
Where do you get a 1.1 ounce platypus?
The model I use isn’t made anymore. I own a couple of them and they are priceless!
What do you eat on such long hikes?
Mostly regular food and Outdoor Herbivore dinners.