So I know I said the last post would be the last post, but apparently I lied. I’ve had a lot of people ask me about the gear I used and what I liked and disliked, so I figured I’d do a gear review/what’s in my pack for all you wonderful people. Also, I’ll do pretty much anything to talk about the trail at this point, so it’s also for my happiness/sanity. This is basically Oprah’s Favorite Things, if she were to live in the woods for six months.
ULA Catalyst: I loved this pack. It was comfortable, sturdy, and super lightweight. The first few weeks it chaffed my shoulders and back a bit where my tank top didn’t cover, but that stopped when I broke it in. If I were to do the trail again I would probably get the ULA Circuit instead. I just didn’t need nearly as much space as it offered and the Circuit is cheaper and lighter. Though, be aware that it is an ultralight weight pack and does not carry more than about thirty pounds well. Also, I loved the mesh pocket and hip (snack) pockets.
Feathered Friends Hummingbird Nano: Great bag, but very expensive. It was hard for me to put forth that kind of money on a sleeping bag, but I don’t think there’s another option for something this lightweight. I used the 20 degree bag for the whole trip and it worked well. Looking back, maybe I should’ve used a lighter blanket during the summer, but I get cold easily so it wasn’t too bad. There were a few nights in the summer when I just used my sleeping bag liner, but overall I was in the bag. It kept me warm enough in Maine and on the 23 degree nights in the Smokies. My only complaint was that occasionally feathers would come out, but it was never a problem.
Six Moons Design Lunar Solo: I honestly think this is the best tent on the trail. It was insanely light, very easy to set-up, never let in rain, and quite spacious for a one-man tent. One night it fit me, my sister, and her dog. I honestly don’t have a single complaint about it. Truth be told, I don’t think I ever really figured out the best way to set it up, but it still worked amazingly. I saw many other people with the same model and we all set them up differently. All the reviews I read about it said that for years people were finding new and better ways to set it up.
Therm-a-rest Prolite: This is a good product. I refused to spend over $100 on a sleeping pad, so it’s not the very lightest model out there, but still worked very well. The group I was with in Maine was making fun of how bulky and heavy it was, but I was fine with it. Haters gunna hate. Also, I didn’t have a single hole the whole trail and used it every night, so there. Good work, Therm-a-rest.
Brooks Cascadias 10: Okay, I was recommended these shoes by everyone and was super pumped about them, but they kind of let me down. I went through four pairs and each time after about 300 miles they would tear across the toes. I’ve heard that every model except the 10s are like Beyonce-level perfection. Hopefully Brooks gets their act together for their next model. On a positive note, they’re very comfortable and cute.
Leki Jannu Trekking Poles: Good poles, bad customer service. It seemed that the only brand poles that didn’t break on the trail were LEKI and Black Diamond. Unfortunately, mine weren’t that lucky. I’m very rough on them and shocked they didn’t break earlier, but in Maine, after bending one when falling in a stream, it broke while trying to straighten it. I tried for a couple weeks to get them to send a replacement with no avail. Eventually my mom was able to get ahold of customer service and they sent…the wrong parts. About a month after the pole broke I finally got the correct part. That being said, they really are great trekking poles.
Grade: A- for Trekking Poles; D- for Customer Service
SteriPEN Ultra: These do not work. It was awesome for the first couple weeks. I was charging it every chance I got, but it kept dying at random times. I called customer service (who was very helpful) and they said it was probably just a dud. They sent me a new one that ran on batteries right away. It was great for a couple weeks, then it died. It put new batteries in it regularly, but it kept dying. Luckily I was around people who let me borrow their filters, but this is not a good thing when you’re living in the woods. I would not recommend bringing one of these on a long distance hike, however it is probably perfect for a shorter trip. I switched to AquaMira drops about a month in and was happy with them for the rest of the trail. They’re super light, easy, and cheap.
O2 Raincoat: Everyone needs one of these. I got it for $30 on Amazon and truly felt that it worked just as well as everyone’s $300 jackets. In addition, it’s lighter than anything you’ll find. I met someone else who got several tears in theirs, but I never had that problem. Nearly five and a half months with it and not a single rip. Also, it seemed like everyone else’s raincoats still got them wet after a bit, but mine kept me warm and dry all the time. And I think the bright yellow color is fun.
Darn Tough Socks: These’s no other sock on the AT. They’re comfortable, comfy, and darn tough. After not washing them for a couple weeks they get pretty disgusting, but a little wash fixes it. And the best thing about them is the warranty! If they ever get a hole in them (which is inventible when you walk 2000 miles) you can take them to any outfitter that sells them and they’ll give you a brand new pair fo’ free. Some of the outfitters don’t honor this, but sometimes if you’re really sweet they’ll give it to you anyway.
Lululemon tank top and sports bra: So I loved my Lulu stuff. I’ve never owned it before because it’s so expensive, but now I’m officially a fan. My sister bought it for me when my Walmart clothes were breaking down. Immediately after putting it on I felt super stylish and was so comfortable. The clothes are excellent quality and lasted through some of the worst conditions you can imagine. There were some really hard days on the trail, but my clothes always made me feel great. It’s the little things. Someone seriously needs to hire me to be their rep or something, because I swear I could sell their stuff like crazy.
MSR Pocket Rocket and Snow Peak Titanium Mini Solo Cookset: Both of these worked great. They are lightweight and do their job. But to be honest, I didn’t use them a whole lot. I hate cooking and wasn’t using them much, so I sent both of them home when I got my winter gear in Vermont. They don’t weigh much, but every ounce counts and I wanted to lose a few. I get a lot of crap for this, but I ate dry ramen for dinner every night for several months. For some people it’s not worth the sacrifice, but I don’t mind it that much. That being said, if I were to do it again and use my stove and pot regularly I’d buy the same thing.
Diva Cup: WARNING! I’M TALKING ABOUT LADY STUFF. This is such a great way to handle your period on the trail. Don’t get me wrong, it still sucks, but this is probably the best way to deal with it. You can’t feel the cup while you’re hiking and only have to change it every 12 hours. I didn’t even change it that much. Also, be sure to test it out before you start your hike! My college roommates can attest to the fact that I had a lot of trouble getting it in and out the first couple months. It was very stressful, but eventually I figured it out and it became simple.
Freshette: MORE GIRL STUFF. This is so cool. It’s basically a little funnel you stick down there, so girls can pee standing up. It saves a bunch of time and is super easy to use. It really freaks guys out when they walk up on you using it, but there are worse things. I think all girls should get this! I used it everyday.
SPOT Gen3 GPS Tracker: It was kind of annoying to carry, but made my family 1000% happier, so was worth it. The GPS tracks your coordinates to six decimal points. Every morning and night I pushed a button that said I was okay and went on my way. It would send my coordinates every hour. I never had to use it, but there were a couple buttons to press if I was ever in danger or hurt. It’s a small sacrifice for the peace of mind it gives to loved ones.
My grade: B
Mom’s grade: A+++++++++
Everything else in my pack:
• REI Caccoon Silk Mummy Liner
• 2- 32 fl. oz. Gatorade bottles
• Rite Aid flip flops
• Toilet paper
• Travel size tooth brush
• Compact hair brush
• Disposable razor
• Hand sanitizer
• DEET bug spray
• Lighter (became obsolete when I got rid of my stove)
• Victorinox pocket knife
• Ear plugs
• Black Diamond headlamp
• iPod Nano and headphones
• iPhone and charger
• AWOL Guidebook
• Pepper spray
• Crystal Light Liquid
• 5 feet Duct Tape
• Synthroid (Thyroid replacement pill)
• Pack cover
• 2 pairs ExOfficio undies
• Columbia Omni Heat long sleeve
• Target athletic shorts (will want compression shorts under or built in to prevent chaffing)
• Northface Osito Jacket (everyone thought I was crazy for carrying, but I loved it)
• Marmot Jena Jacket (given to me after Dirty Peanut summited Katahdin)
• REI Dry sack 5L
• Sea to Summit 8L eVac (food bag)
• REI Pillow stuff sack
• REI Compression sack
I hope this is helpful to any future thru hikers! If I can do it, so can you. Truly all it takes is determination, stubbornness, and deciding you can. Good luck! Feel free to send me a message at KimberlyLMaxwell16@gmail.com with any questions.
I dedicated this hike to the orphaned children at Heart For Africa in Swaziland. For more information, I hope you visit my fund raising page at