This is the basic hiking gear you need for during the actual hiking portion of your journey on the Appalachian Trail. For hiking clothing, see <Clothing>
1. Backpack ($170-200) The backpack will be one of the heaviest and most expensive pieces of equipment you’ll carry. Most thru-hikers use a lightweight backpack (around 3 lbs) that can hold around 30 lbs of weight. As a goal, try to keep the total weight, including food and water, around 30 lbs or less. For more information and to see some examples, click <HERE>.
2. Backpack cover OR liner: ($30) To protect your things from rain, you need either a backpack cover to place over the pack OR a backpack liner that goes inside of the pack. There are advantages and disadvantages of each one.
3. Hiking poles: ($100) Hiking poles are extremely useful for a thru-hiker and most hikers carry them. They help to stabilize you over river crossings and when hiking down slick rocks. You don’t want to go cheap on these poles. Look for poles with “anti-shock” and carbide tips. Leki poles are a reliable brand and include a lifetime guarantee.
4. Headlamp – You need a bright LED headlamp for camp and if you are hiking past dark. Get a headlamp with a red guard or a red bulb so that you can use it in the shelter without disturbing others. Petzl is a reliable brand.
5. Watch – A watch is very helpful when clocking your pace and when trying to determine how long it will take you to get to your next stop. This watch doesn’t have to be fancy. Just get a simple water-resistant watch that has an alarm. Don’t rely on your mobile phone to track your time as they die quickly on the trail.
6. Bandana or Buff – Everyone can benefit from a bandana during hiking and at camp. A bandana is a multi-functional item. Among its many uses are wiping your face, covering your messy hair, warmth around the neck, an oven mitt, and a face guard. You can get a plain square one or a fancy Buff.
7. Cap – Most thru-hikers wear a cap to protect their face from the sun and to shield their face from the rain. Avoid cotton. Look for lightweight, breathable materials that will be quick to dry. Some caps have mesh sides for extra ventilation.
8. Sunglasses – A lot of thru-hikers carry a pair of sunglasses. They can be the cheap drugstore variety or nice sports glasses. In either case, get a pair with 100% UVA/UVB protection.
9. Compass (Optional) ($1-40) A few thru-hikers carry a compass. If you choose to carry one, get a small lightweight compass. Some hiking poles or watches come equipped with a built-in compass.
10. Camera ($4-150) A lot of hikers carry a small lightweight digital camera that fits into the backpack’s hip belt or a pocket. Some hikers choose to carry a disposable camera and ship it home after they have used it. Hikers can use a smartphone, but the battery will not stay charged long enough if you want to take lots of snapshots.
11. iPod (Optional) Several hikers carry iPods or other mp3 devices. If you feel like you need a little pick-me-up on the trail, an iPod can be a nice addition. You will need to load it with hundreds of tunes or you will get sick of them pretty quickly. Additionally, you need to purchase a charger or find a computer in town in which to charge it.
12. GPS (Optional) Very few thru-hikers carry a GPS device to track their miles. Some technically knowledgeable hikers use it so that family members can track them. There are some disadvantages. The batteries wear down quickly, it requires additional chargers, and it doesn’t always work when you want it to.
For hiking clothing, see <Clothing>