The trail has led me to some gorgeous parts of this beautiful part of the country and many of them have been difficult to reach. Sure, there are a few places like Clingman's Dome, Newfound Gap, and Hot Springs, NC that are easily accessible by car and/ or a short walk. But the majority of places that are forever etched in my mind - the old pine forest in the Smokies, Max's Patch, and Lover's Leap Rock - take some true effort to reach. But what I have found that can make those treks a little more doable is the right gear.
The Zpacks triplex tent has withstood everything the trail has thrown at us. We've dealt with outrageous wind gusts over 45mph, which has not been a problem for this tent. There's been hard rain and she's kept all three of us comfy and dry. With no rain fly or ground sheet needed the Zpacks simply makes one of the best tents on the market right now. We’ve actually seen quite a few along the trail.
No question, the best item I have with me on the trail is the Sawyer mini water filter. You can fill your bottle from any water source, screw the Sawyer on top, and squeeze fresh potable water straight down your throat. It does work best for personal use as the bladder it comes with breaks easily and the time to squeeze a liter of water can wear you out. This being the case, Andy picked one up as well and we couldn't be happier with them.
Sleeping on the trail can be tough. If you stay near a shelter you will most definitely deal with early risers and the dreaded log cutters. No matter where you sleep you will need your sleeping pad and you better hope it's good enough to shield you from the roots and rocks under your tent as flat lays are tough to come by especially in the first month. My Thermarest Prolite Large is great in theory. It's lightweight and compact but just doesn't give me enough lift off the ground to provide any real comfort at night. Luckily for me, I'm usually exhausted by the end of the day and can manage a decent night's sleep, but as the trail goes on I might need to upgrade.
While the tent has been great, the carbon fiber stakes used to tether the tent have been lacking to say the least. One broke in half and five lost their metal tips making inserting them into the ground that much tougher. The nice people at Zpacks are sending me a new package of stakes at our next stop at no cost, so we’ll see how they hold up.
THE SENT HOME:
A hammock is a nice idea for the trail and if it's your main shelter, then good for you, but if you’re like me and thought it would be nice to take a break mid day and lay in a hammock for a little while - you're dreaming! We used this hammock once in two weeks. Maybe I will get it sent back on the summer months when we have to take siestas mid day for Zoey's sake, but I doubt it.
I sent back a few clothing items including a third pair of socks. One for hiking, one for sleeping, that's all you need. I sent back an extra pair of underwear. Gross, yes, deal with it. I also brought a large knife with me and never used it. I don't know what I thought I'd need that for, if a bear was to attack I surely won't win in close quarter combat with a knife.
The Osprey Atmos 65 has worked wonderfully, and with all these send backs I was able to detach the top "brain" of the bag and still have room for everything in the pack. Overall I dropped over 5lbs in the first week bringing my pack weight to 30lbs with four days worth of food and a liter of water.
The trail certainly has its ups and downs but with the right gear you can make them that much easier.
I'm thru hiking the AT north bound to raise money for the National Multiple Sclerosis Society. If you're interested in finding out more, and contributing to my cause, please visit my HikeFor account. Remember to follow my journey here at HighlandFrog.com and to "like" the HighlandFrog Facebook page to be notified about future articles and updates! Thanks for your support!
One step at a time,
Geoffrey, aka Messiah
More Articles by Geoffrey about his Thru Hike of the AT