Gregory Palisade 80 Backpack
Gregory Palisade 80 Backpack (courtesy, REI)

Which light-weight gear will work best on the Appalachian Trail?

I’m an avid day-hiker, and now I want to do weekend and longer hikes. I have thought about doing the Appalachian Trail but need tips on light-weight gear. I was in the infantry in the army and spent time in the mountains of Afghanistan, so I know weight is crucial. Any help? Jeremy Carrollton, Georgia

Gregory Palisade 80 Backpack

Here’s a tip: Go lie down for an hour. Perhaps by then the urge to do the Appalachian Trail will go away. Hey, I am all for Feats of Strength, but some things border on insanity…like running marathons (I ran ten and then reformed), climbing Everest (um, it has been done before!)…you get the idea.

Gregory Palisade 80 Backpack

Gregory Palisade 80 Backpack Gregory Palisade 80 Backpack

Then there is the Appalachian Trail. Exactly 2,175 miles of up, then down. Then up, then down again. And…up! And down. Much of it in the woods (West Coast bias alert: We hike uphill and have expansive views).

Anyway, I can tell that you are persuaded to do this. So here is another tip: pack light. You can stop for food and fuel at regular intervals, so that takes a lot of pressure off your load. Otherwise, here are my Five Keys for Success:

For a pack, think small—no more than 5,000 cubic inches, and around 4,500 is better yet. Perfect pack? Try the Gregory Palisade 80 ($319). It’s just less than 5,000 cubic inches, has a comfortable suspension, and is trim fitting.

Layer up. Start with Patagonia Capilene 1 (figure $30 per piece, tops and bottoms), then work your way up with a fleece jacket and rain gear ( Marmot Oracle, $160). Plus, you’ll need a hat and gloves. Plan on cool weather at first, and ship shorts and T-shirts to the point where history shows late spring appears.

Decent shoes are a must. Scarpa’s Kailash ($160) is just the ticket.

Keep your sleeping kit light. MontBell’s UL.SS.Down ($279) is super-light and rated to 30 degrees; it will suffice from early in the trek until late.

Food: Take whatever tastes good. I don’t care what it is. Whatever tastes good. Just be sure there is enough fiber for good…um, lower GI tract action.

I think you are nuts. But I admire that!

The 2009 Winter Outside Buyer’s Guide
is now online so you can get prepped for gift-giving season—even if everything you pick is for yourself!