Best Size Backpack For The Appalachian Trail

backpack appalachian trail thruhikeThere are two distinct mindsets in my opinion when it comes to gearing up for a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, or any long distance hike for that matter; do I wanna do things on the cheap, or do I wanna hit the trail looking like I just stepped outta the REI catalog.

That’s the mindset I was in when I decided on my backpack for my upcoming hike, and I’m a minimalist so I decided to do things on the cheap and just go with an old Army rucksack I had laying around.

So I cut off all the straps and gutted things like pouches and frames, etc. My goal was to get the thing as light as possible and then use a closed-cell sleeping mattress as a support liner.

It all sounded good in theory but the more I research the issue the more I realize that I’m just gonna have to break down and buy a backpack with about a 50 liter capacity (50L).

That seems to be the most consistent option with my style, which is to stay as light as possible without becoming some sort of ultralight weirdo guy.

That’s really the mindset I needed to channel; how light do I wanna go? What is the best size backpack for a thru hike of the Appalachian trail and where can I buy the perfect pack for myself?

I always start my search with Amazon and there are no shortage of packs available for purchase, so now I just have to find a pack that doesn’t break my bankroll, and also one that doesn’t weigh a ton.

I want to keep my pack weight (empty, of course) to less than 3 pounds. This goes for all my major gear; sleeping bag, tent, backpacking gear, rain gear, trekking poles, etc.

The video also shows the best way to load a backpack so that the weight is dispersed properly for maximum comfort, which means I would like to avoid discomfort. The guy in the video documented a thru hike on YT and I really enjoyed his series. Maybe I’ll link to it if there is any demand for that sort of thing.

Also, the pack in the video is a Z-Pack, which is a brand I’m leaning towards for my purchase. I haven’t ruled out the possibility of using my old Army ruck, but it’s highly unlikely. One thing that is a possibility is to start cheap on all fronts and then just accrue gear as I go. People leave all sorts of stuff on the side of the trail when they quit, which most hikers do once they realize what they got themselves into, but it seems highly unlikely that I would find just the right size backpack for my 2,000 mile thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail just lying on the side of the road!

Appalachian Trail Tent Camping Review

lightheart solo thru hiking tent

There are some pieces of gear that are so absolutely essential for a successful thru hike that people like me stress over them so much that we begin to experience a phenomenon known as “paralysis by analysis,” which is to say we just can’t seem to make up our minds so nothing ever gets done and the gear never gets purchased.

I decided to end my paralysis this very day and commit to a tent for my thru hike. I just hope that the company is still manufacturing these tents by the time I come up with the disposable income required to make the purchase.

When choosing a tent for my upcoming thru hike of the Appalachian Trail there were really only two concerns I had; weight and weather resistance.

Weight is a concern with any piece of gear and while I don’t consider myself an ultra-light hiker I definitely like to keep things as light as humanly possible. The tent I chose comes in at… Weight: 27 oz before seam sealing.

Ok, so here are some of the specs:

  • MADE IN AMERICA.
  • Rain fly comes down to one inch off the ground.
  • Color: Cranberry tent with Pewter floor, or
  • Pewter tent with Cranberry floor
  • 3500 mm Hydrostatic head 1.1 oz sil-nylon.
  • Roomy 1+ person tent.
  • Fully double walled tent.
  • 3-Season usage.
  • 1 large side entry door with 2-way zipper.
  • Small vestibule to store your boots.
  • Requires seam sealing prior to use.
  • Utilizes trekking poles for setup. (optional adjustable aluminum tent poles for those who don’t use 2 trekking poles)
  • Reflective tie out cord.
  • Velcro tabs for ridge pole.
  • Matching stuff sack.
  • Made in America

That’s quick overview of this thing and I think it fits in with my simple lifestyle and mantra of ‘less is more.’ I’ve been cultivating a minimalistic lifestyle for many years now, which is why I don’t anticipate any issues when it comes to pack weight. I won’t be carrying a pack stove for one example of how low-maintenance I can be, especially when it comes to food.

Back on point… This tent/shelter/tarp/whatever seems perfect, all reviews have been positive, and the seam sealing option that the company provides is crucial.

The company is Lightheart and the tent is called the Lightheart Solo. The price comes in just under $300 with the seam sealer option and I am happy to spend the cash on a home that I will be living in for 6 months. I plan to spend as little time as possible in the AT shelters because I’m a private person and I have an aversion to mice crawling all over me when I’m trying to sleep. Also, I’m a snorer at the moment but once I lose some weight on the trail that will dissipate.

I hope that helps you to get going on finding the right tent for your adventure. The reason I didn’t focus at all on the hammock option is because it is not an option for me at all. I sleep on my side and I move around a lot during the night so a hammock on the Appalachian Trail would be a living nightmare for me!

Here’s a bit about tent repair from the site… “If you are on a long Thru hike, and your tent needs to be repaired, we can ship a loaner tent to you (for a $200.00 refundable deposit).  Once you get the loaner tent, ship your tent to us, we will repair it and then ship it back.  Once you receive your tent back, you must then return the loaner within 2 weeks of when your tent was returned to you for a refund (minus the cost of shipping only).   If you hold on to the loaner for a longer period of time, you will be charged a rental fee of $15.00/ week.   If we are repairing a cuben fiber tent, your loaner tent will be a silnylon tent.  Loaner tents are slightly used tents, but will be clean when shipped out.”

Why Trash Compactor Bags For Backpacking Are Your Best Option For Waterproofing

trash compactor bags for hiking

How to keep your backpacking gear dry with trash compactor bags (or heavy-duty garbage bags if that’s your thing)…

In the “pack liner vs pack cover” debate that exists in the thru hiking sphere, there is no question that using a pack liner is a more essential consideration.

For me, I’ll be adding trash compactor bags to my thru hiking gear list and I consider this to be one of the most crucial items on my list after all the major components, like shelter, sleeping bag, shoes, trekking poles, etc.

The great thing about using trash compactor bags for backpacking is the lightweight aspect coupled with the cost. These things are cheap and they weigh next to nothing, and compared to the heavy pack liner that I have in my closet that I bought from a military supply store that weighs way too much… well, this option is a huge upgrade.

They are durable as well and that is because they are made to be more durable than regular trash bags, which would be a viable option for shorter hikes.

I’ve also used x-large and xxx-large ziplock bags as pack liners and they work very well, but I can get a package of trash compactor bags that will last me for many years for a better price point.

Keeping your backpacking gear dry on the Appalachian Trail is of the utmost importance because comfort in camp is the one thing that will help a thru hiker to recover from a tough day’s hike and recoup for the next stage of the journey.

What would be more annoying than setting up a wet tent and climbing inside to change into fresh clothing, only to find that everything you thought would be dry is now soaking wet because you settled for some flimsy pack cover that didn’t keep anything dry?

I don’t mind hiking in the rain, never have. but when it’s time to settle in for some quality lay-around time I certainly don’t want to be lounging around in wet stuff!

If you have any other ideas for pack liners or just keeping your backpacking gear dry in general then feel free to leave a comment.

Hey, after watching that video it is clear that the compactor bags now fit into the category of gear that will serve a multi-purpose. Bonus!

Or you can throw money at the problem and pay full price for a pack liner…

*Update – I went to the grocery store today and researched the trash compactor bag situation. I found one brand, and it was store brand, so I bought it. I almost bought the “contractor bags” by accident which were 45 gallon, so that would have been a disaster because the 18 gallon bags I brought home are perfect. There were 4 bags for $3.69 and these should last me many years to come.

Very happy with my purchase…

DIY Walking Sticks VS Trekking Poles For Thru Hiking The AT

appalachian trail trekking poles

DIY Trekking Pole

One of the most controversial topics among thru hikers on the AT is whether or not to use hiking poles (often called trekking poles) or walking sticks for the journey. Many hikers try to go the distance without the aid of any kind in this area and they often fail miserably?

So which is a better choice for a thru hike and how much will they cost me?

First, should I use one pole or two? This is entirely up to each individual hiker, but I plan to start with one walking stick and see where that takes me. The tent I plan to use utilizes trekking poles for the setup so I may opt to use two in the event that I don’t want to carry the extra weight that the tent poles would add to my pack.

My DIY walking stick would consist of a lightweight broom handle that can be purchased at any home goods DIY store or even the local Walmart. I would use an epoxy to seal a rubber cane tip on the end so as to not offend any purists on the trail who often claim that hiking poles tend to do damage to the Appalachian trail. Some people are just looking for a reason to get in your face, if ya know what I mean.

Heck, even a pool cue or billiards stick would work well as the base of a DIY walking stick for hiking the AT, and I’ve even crafted my own from larger sticks I’ve found laying around on the ground on various trails in the Wilmington, DE hiking areas, but they often dried out and invariably snapped at some point because I didn’t treat them and seal them quickly enough, or at all if I’m being honest.

Trekking poles come in a wide price range and I think a decent pair can be had for less than a hundred bucks, but the DIY walking stick I mentioned above would cost less than twenty, even if I decided to craft two for my thru hiking journey.

diy walking sticks appalachian trail

There are plenty of videos on the subject over at YT and they certainly vary in quality and labor intensiveness..