In March of 2021, I’ll be setting out to hike the 2,193 mile Appalachian Trail from Georgia to Maine. While I’ve hiked to Everest Base Camp, Mount Kilimanjaro, and done so many other hikes around the world I’ve never tackled a hike this big before. There are many thoughts swirling about my head, but the big one is gear for the Appalachian Trail.
Right now I’m preparing mentally, physically, and getting my gear together. While I’ll discuss the mental and physical preparation in other posts, today I’m going to break down how to find the right gear for you and how to find a good price.
Gear for the Appalachian Trail
Let me first start off by saying all hikers are different. When it comes to little odds and ends everyone will have a diverse collection of things in their packs. For this reason, I’ll be focusing on the Big 4 in this post.
For this who don’t know the Big 4 are your:
- Sleeping Bag
- Sleeping Pad
- Shelter (Tent/Tarp/Hammock Set up)
First I’ll talk about how to find the best deals on gear. Then I’ll breakdown what I’m bringing with me for my Big 4.
Finding Gear Deals
Gear for the Appalachian Trail can get very expensive, so watching your wallet during purchases is key. If you use the following methods to find gear deals you’ll be able to gear up for less, which means more money to spend on delicious food in trail towns. Because a $10 cheeseburger is better than one from McDonald’s.
My biggest tip is look for online coupons. I know couponing sounds like something your Mom or Grandma does, but using online coupons has saved me over $200 when buying my Big 4.
To help me find coupons I used Slickdeals. They’re a one-stop-shop for all the discounts you could ever want. They helped me find REI coupons and saved me a bundle. In my search for great deals, I found discount codes and coupons for amazing brands like Big Agnes, Sawyer Products, and Salomon.
The key to finding discounts on Slickdeals is to check back regularly. You never know what is going to be listed on the site.
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Sales on Gear for the Appalachian Trail
Watch out for sales at your favorite outdoor gear stores. At the time of writing REI had a huge 40% sale for nearly everything in the store and on their website.
With this you might be watching and waiting for a while, but I did this when I bought my tent and saved over $100!
In some cases you can combine the sale with coupon codes from Slickdeals. Just make sure you check the fine print before purchase.
This might not work all the time, but it totally worth asking! A price match is when one company matches the price of another.
Example: Store A has your sleeping bag for sale at $300 and Store B has it on sale for $275. Ask Store A if they will match the price for Store B. If they do buy it from them.
I know of several local outdoor gear stores that do this so you’ll buy from them instead of the big guys.
In my opinion, your backpack is the most important piece of equipment you’ll buy. It will be strapped to your back 8-12 hours a day, and if it’s not comfortable you’re screwed.
When I did the Long Trail in Vermont over the summer I used my Gregory Amber, and it was pretty amazing. I’ve been using Gregory products for years and as an off the rack pack I can’t recommend them enough.
However, this time around I decided to get a custom pack from ULA Equipment. All their packs are made right in the United States and they’re a small business and let’s be honest small businesses need a little love this year. I ended up getting the 68-liter ULA Circuit which was a little lighter and provided me more room than my Gregory Amber.
Of all the backpacks that ULA Equipment makes they love this one the most. Right on their site they say, “We don’t think there’s a pack out there that can compare to the load carrying capabilities, comfort, and durability of the Circuit.” And since I’ve been hiking with mine for about a month now, I’d have to agree.
I’ve been using Marmot sleeping bags for over 15 years and have no reason to switch because their bags are AMAZING! They’ve been making outdoor gear since 1973 and over the years their products have just gotten better and better.
The sleeping pad I’m bringing on the Appalachian trail has been discontinued by Marmot, but the updated version is the Marmot Angel Fire 25. It has all the same functionality including wider hips for all us pear-shaped ladies and more insulation in the toe box all in the classic mummy shape.
This sleeping bag will keep me warm on cold nights and I can easily open it up when it gets warmer.
If you tend to run cold when camping and backpacking, especially in the winter, check out this article on tips to keep warm.
When it comes to my sleeping pad I never go camping without my Therm-a-Rest women’s ProLite Plus. I’ve had this sleeping pad for years now and have taking it camping on mountains all over the world.
I used to use a smaller sleeping pad that was more compact, but on cold nights it just wasn’t worth it. My big thing on the trail is I HATE being cold. A good quality sleeping pad plays a big part in keeping you warm, especially if you’re sleeping in a tent.
Weighing in at 1 lbs. 6 oz. it’s not the lightest, but it is the most comfortable. If you’re going to be out on the AT for 6 months you might as well sleep well. I strap it to the outside of my backpack for easy carrying.
For my tent I got the MSR Hubba NX 1. MSR makes quality products and I have several friends that use and love this tent. My boyfriend and I have the 2 person version of this tent and love it.
Some thru-hikers will poo-poo it because it weighs in at 2 lbs. 7 oz. and is a free-standing tent. I know myself and what I need in a tent and before purchasing it I thought, “At the end of a long day do I want to fight with a non-freestanding tent?” For me, the answer is no.
The Hubba is easy to set up and you can pack things in your bag around it if you don’t bring the stuff sack. Additionally, as someone who is 5’3″ I have a TON of room inside!
Gear for the Appalachian Trail
I hope this post helps you make your Big 4 purchases and hopefully save a little big of money too. Happy Hiking!