We asked Chris Walker to detail the items that proved to be most essential during his 2,190-mile journey.
We asked Chris Walker to detail the items that proved to be most essential during his 2,190-mile journey. (Photo: Courtesy Chris Walker)

The Best Gifts for Thru-Hikers

We asked a recent Appalachian Trail north-bounder to detail the most essential items during his 2,190-mile journey

We asked Chris Walker to detail the items that proved to be most essential during his 2,190-mile journey.

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So your nephew wants to drop out of law school and hike the whole Pacific Crest Trail next year. Awesome. Let his parents worry about responsible life choices—it’s your job to make sure he has the proper gear to get him through the long haul.

Not all backpacking gear is meant to handle the rigors of thru-hiking, so we asked Chris Walker, a recent Appalachian Trail north-bounder, to detail the items that proved most essential during his 2,190-mile journey. His advice for buying gear meant to last? Don’t skimp. “A lot of people I know went pretty cheap on some gear choices and ended up paying for replacements along the trail because the cheaper pieces weren’t performing well,” Walker says. “It’s best to invest up front.”

Zpacks Arc Haul Pack ($299)

(Courtesy Zpacks)

It’s ultralight, exceptionally adjustable, and customizable, with all sorts of add-on options: shoulder pouches, lumbar pads, water bottle holders, and so on. It carried very well even when pushing its suggested weight limit of 40 pounds.

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Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite Regular Sleeping Pad ($130)

(Courtesy Thermarest)

This is one of the lightest inflatable pads on the market—the regular version weighs just 12 ounces. It’s a little noisy at first but gets much quieter with frequent use. I found it very comfortable.

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Enlightened Equipment 20 Revelation Down Quilt ($285)

(Courtesy Enlightened Equipment)

This quilt is ultralight and can be used as a blanket or zipped up to serve as a sleeping bag.

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Zpacks Solplex Shelter ($555)

(Courtesy Zpacks)

Like everything Zpacks makes, this shelter is ultralight (made of Dyneema Composite Fabrics), but it has a decent amount of room for a single person (seven feet long, three feet wide, and four feet high at its center). It’s extremely compact and easy to set up in tight spaces.

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Zpacks Rain Kilt ($59)

(Courtesy Zpacks)

This ultralight rain gear keeps your lower half dry and makes you look extremely fashionable. I also used it sometimes as a tablecloth or a cover to sit on rocks and such, and I wrapped my backpack in it when it was raining at camp.

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Altra Lone Peak 3.0 NeoShell Low Shoes ($150)

(Courtesy Altra)

I tried three different pairs of shoes that didn’t work for my feet before I discovered Altra. The Lone Peak was perfect for me. A legit hike saver. You can go mid if you want more ankle support.

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Sawyer Squeeze Filter ($40)

(Courtesy Sawyer)

There are plenty of water filters out there, but the Sawyer Squeeze is easy to use and clean in the field, and it’s compatible with various bottle types.

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Body Glide Balm ($10)

(Courtesy REI)

This anti-chafe balm saved my hike during an incredibly hot stretch through Vermont.

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BRS 3000T Stove ($15)

(Courtesy BRS)

This tiny butane stove is available for less than $20 and weighs less than an ounce. I used it before I got on the trail and for the entirety of the AT, and it’s still working flawlessly.

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Black UV Buff ($25)

(Courtesy Buff)

As a man with no hair, I wanted to keep my head as protected as possible. I used my Buff every single day on the trail. It’s also useful for wiping down condensation from your tent in the morning.

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Lead Photo: Courtesy Chris Walker

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