What to pack for the Appalachian Trail

Packing for a thru-hike can seem like an overwhelming task, especially if you haven't been on a long distance walk before or you're heading somewhere with a different climate than you're used to. The first thing to consider is your pack size. Don't carry a huge bag if you can't manage the weight. My pack is smaller than Chris's as I'm a lot smaller and weaker than him, but we'll weigh our equipment and share it out so that our packs are relative to our body weight.

We also need to make sure we leave enough space in our bags for food. We're aiming to carry about 4 days worth of food at a time. Luckily we'll be able to get water every day from springs near campsites and shelters, so we're going to just carry 2 litres each a day to save on weight.

We've accepted the fact that we're going to smell when we're on the trail because there won't be showers and we'll be sweating a lot. Some people don't bother taking any toiletries at all, but I can't cope with that idea, so I'm going to carry the basics, at least at the start! We're aiming to stay in towns once a fortnight, so I guess that's how often we'll have decent showers. 

What to pack for the Appalachian Trail


What to pack for the Appalachian Trail

What we're taking for 6 months

  • Tent - We have an ultralight Terranova Laser 2 tent. It's very cosy, but incredibly light and tough.

  • Sleeping pads - I have an ultralight Sea to Summit pad and Chris has a Thermarest one. Mine is lighter and packs up smaller, but makes a lot more noise when I roll over because of the material.

  • Sleeping bags - I have a Kelty Cosmic Down, Chris has a Robens Caucasus 300.

  • Hiking poles

  • Underwear - 3 pairs of pants (Merino wool so they don't smell for ages), 2x sports bras, 2x hiking socks (one medium thickness to wear in the day and 1 thick pair to keep my feet warm at night). I'm going to make sure my night time socks stay dry as I get very cold feet and there's nothing worse than wet socks at night. If my day socks are wet, I will just wear wet socks again the next day; they'll soon dry as my feet heat up.

  • Base layer clothes - 1 pair of thermal leggings for sleeping or underneath clothing in cold conditions, 1 quick-dry t-shirt, 1 quick-dry vest top.

  • Mid layer clothes - 1 long sleeve Merino wool top, 1 fleece jumper, hiking leggings, hiking trousers (for colder days to go over my thermal leggings), shorts.

  • Waterproof layers - waterproof trousers, rain shell (I have a North Face one, Chris has a Marmot one).

  • Insulated jacket - Mines a North Face Quest and Chris has a North Face Thermoball.

  • Shoes - 1 pair of hiking boots (I have Salomon and Chris has Berghaus) and 1 pair of lightweight camp shoes (I'm taking Adidas trail running trainers as they're lightweight and I'll be able to wear them hiking when my boots wear out).

  • Neck scarf - cheap one to keep ourselves warm and can be used as a sling for first aid if required.

  • Bandana - Cheap ones again. Good for hiding greasy hair. Can also be used as a sling.

  • Wooly hat

  • Cap to keep sun off face

  • Waterproof mittens for my cold hands

  • Contact lenses - I wear dailys and will be posting some boxes ahead so I don't have to carry 6 months worth with me.

  • Glasses - I only wear them when my eyes are stinging. Chris wears his all the time.

  • Toiletries - bar of soap (can be used for body, hair and clothes), toothbrush and toothpaste

  • 1 small pack of sanitary towels

  • Thin travel towel

  • Toilet roll - 1 roll each. We're not into using leaves. Nope.

  • Poo trowel - 1 ultralight fold-up one to dig our toilet hole with

  • Hand sanitiser - I small bottle between us

  • First aid kit - blister plasters, standard plasters, Ibuprofen, Paracetamol, Imodium, 1x bandage, Savlon, 2x non-adhesive wound dressings, 2x safety pins, small pair of scissors, 1x gloves, wound closure strips, duct tape

  • Mini sewing kit - 1 reel of thread and 1 needle

  • Entertainment - We're taking our Kindles as they store hundreds of books, and we've bought cheap MP3 players so we can listen to music as we walk. We are also taking an awesome game called Numenera (similar to Dungeons and Dragons) as we've downloaded the user manuals to our Kindles so only need the Character sheets, pens and dice. We are so cool.

  • Camera equipment - I have a Panasonic DMC-TZ100, Chris has a GoPro Hero+ with chest strap harness and tripod, but if you want the better version find it here.

  • Mobile phones - Chris has dual-sim, so we may buy an American sim card when we get to Atlanta

  • Battery pack

  • Cables to charge everything, 2x plugs and adapters

  • Cooking equipment - We have a Jetboil stove and a Sea to Summit cooking set which includes two ultralight, foldable cooking pots. They're great! We also have 1 titanium spork each and 1 ultralight mug each. We will buy gas canisters when we get to America.

  • 2x lighters (in case we lose one)

  • Water bottles - We each one 2x Nalgene bottles. They each fit 1 litre of water and can be used as hot water bottles if it's really cold.

  • Water filtration system - We're taking a Sawyer Mini Filter system with 2x extra bags to speed up the water filtering process.

  • Maps - We are taking the Appalachian Trail guide and data books, which include maps and info about resupplies, springs, campgrounds etc.

  • Compass

  • Hunting knife - Comes in handy if we need to chop branches, cut paracord etc. Don't worry - we won't be hunting! We're both Vegetarian.

  • Head torches - we both have tiny, ultralight LED ones.

  • Money

  • Card reader for online banking

  • ID - passports and my driving licence

  • Extra ziplock bags to keep things dry


If you'd like to watch our behind-the-scenes gear video, you can check it out here. We have also written some reviews our our equipment, which can be found in our Reviews page. If you have any comments or questions about packing for the Appalachian Trail, please use the comments section below!

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The ultimate packing guide for your Appalachian Trail thru-hike.