I’m planning a few shakedown hikes over the fall to test my backpacking gear list. The first is a 12-mile loop consisting of sections of the Foothills Trail, Mountain Fork Trail, and Chattooga River Trail (SC). The second is a 3-day, 2-night hike on the 30.1-mile Art Loeb Trail (NC). The third is the 77-mile Foothills Trail (NC/SC), which I hope to finish in five or fewer days.
The idea behind a shakedown is not only to test the durability of one’s gear, but also to see which pieces of kit are unnecessary. Weight is a fun-crusher out on the trail. This might seem like a lot of stuff, but remember that this is supposed to be a thru-hike-ready packing list. That means I have to carry my closet, pantry, and toolbox everywhere I go. In that context, this is actually pretty bare-bones. Plus, I’ll rarely pack everything on this list at the same time. I can add or remove items based on the weather forecast, company, and terrain.
Here’s the breakdown of my gear. The gold stars represent my Big 3—pack, shelter, sleep system. These represent the biggest opportunities to cut weight. Everything was weighed on my kitchen scale. Let’s go over a couple of terms before we get to the inventory.
The weight of all of my hiking gear. But not all of the gear listed below is going in my pack. For example, on a typical day of three-season hiking, I might wear underwear, shorts, shirt, socks, shoes, gaiters, and maybe a hat or bandana. I carry my poles in my hands. So the combined weight of those items are part of my total weight, but not my base weight.
The weight of everything in one’s pack besides consumables like food, water, and fuel. Those are variables, so we don’t count them. If that sounds odd, consider that you might carry 4 liters of water when hiking in the desert. That’s almost 9 lbs of water! If you’re in a wet region, you might only carry 1 liter (2.2 lbs) since you can refill whenever you want.
This base weight is very light, but I’m usually much lighter than this on warm weekend trips. That said, I’m not prepared to be without my winter/camp clothes if there’s even a chance of freezing temperatures.
I have a lot of experience with solo hiking/camping, mostly in bear country. That said, the only thing that has ever scared me in the wilderness is the threat of hypothermia. The idea that my brain could betray me and make me start shedding layers (called paradoxical undresssing) as I freeze to death is terrifying.
I’ve paid a lot of money to get my weight this low. If I was younger, I don’t think my base weight would be as big of a deal. But considering my age and my flat feet, I need as low a weight as possible.
Unfortunately, bear canisters are now required in the Shining Rock Wilderness, Black Balsam, Sam’s Knob, and Flat Laurel Creek areas of Pisgah National Forest. That includes much of the Art Loeb Trail. So instead of using my ultralight bear bag (3 oz), I’m stuck with a 33 oz piece of oversized tupperware. That alone increases my base weight by 15%. That’s ridiculous.
Am I leaving anything out of my gear list? Do I need to leave anything on this list at home? Do you have any tips for me? I’ll take all the help I can get.
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