AT Gear Plan: Luxury Items

Up until this point, I’d consider all the gear I’m bringing as mandatory for the trip. Meaning, for me to successfully hike 2190 miles in 5 months, I’ll NEED it with me every day to survive.  In contrast, however, this last category represents the comfort things I may WANT from time to time, to make the trip just a bit more enjoyable.

Sure, I could live without a tripod, pillow or e-reader … but these are items I think will enhance my experience while walking 15 miles a day in the in the woods. In addition, this category has and will change the most leading up to and while on the trail. Some luxuries will no longer be desired as the temps increase (e.g. winter hat), while others may become better (e.g. brimmed hat). But that’s the benefit to having an ultralight base weight … you can afford a little extra weight here and live a life of luxury.  Hello Neiman!

Political Questions
Basically, every item here is controversial. Some may have strong opinions to leave it at home, others to bring it. Since this entire section is personal preference, there really isn’t a political stance to side with. Want to read ebooks on your phone? Do it. Prefer to read them on an e-Reader? Sobeit. There is no right and wrong answer, the only true question is whether you want it bad enough or not. The list of things I chose to exclude far exceeds those that made the cut, but here are the 1.8 pounds of junk that made my final Day 1 luxury list:

Luxury Items

  1. Winter Hat (1.2 oz).  The North Face Polartec Beanie is a lightweight fleece cap I plan to carry until Damascus or Harper’s Ferry, depending on quickly the temps allow. Some people exclude this and just use the hoodie of their fleece or puffy jacket, but I like having it be an extra accessory to throw on.
  2. Winter Gloves (1.0 oz). These REI Polartec Power Stretch Gloves are close to what I have, though mine are a few years older. Nothing fancy, but I like gloves versus mittens and these are touchscreen accessible. If the rain becomes unbearable early on, I may add a waterproof shell or switch out for a combo pair like the OR VersaLiners.  I also plan to ditch this in Virginia.
  3. Hat (1.8 oz).  I. Love. This. Hat. The OR Radar Pocket Cap is small, lightweight, FOLDS WITHOUT RUINING THE BILL, is comfortable, and if I may say so, quite stylish. 🙂  It doesn’t have a full brim for sun protection, but this trail is mostly tree-shaded anyways.
  4. Waterproof Socks (3.1 oz).  I bought a cheap pair of these after hearing recommendations online, and I was not a fan. The material felt cheap, uncomfortable, and abrasive. But then I read a great review on the 2018 Thruhiker Facebook Group and decided to try a high-quality version instead. Very glad I did, as these Dexshell Terrain Ankle Socks are extremely comfortable and very waterproof.  Yes, they are pricey for socks ($38), but they feel like normal wool socks and after running them under a faucet for 5 minutes – my foot stayed dry. On those very rainy days, I’ll be glad I have these as an option.
  5. Sleeping Pad (10.0 oz). As I mentioned in Prep Hike 1, I decided to fully “embrace the hammock” and drop a typical blow-up sleeping pad for an underquilt. But, there are still so many other reasons for a closed cell pad. Sleeping in shelters/hostels, comfort for sitting on the ground, adding extra warmth to the hammock for cold nights, and using it for packing. That last one is a great hack to know: lay a pad/towel/etc like this down every time you unpack your bag, and make sure everything touches it. Then re-pack everything touching the pad and you’ll never leave anything behind. For all those reasons, the Thermarest Z-Lite Sol Small is a great add-on, even at 10 ounces.
  6. Pillow (1.7 oz). I may still leave this Exped AirPillow UL pillow behind, as pillows are really more valuable when sleeping on the ground.  And to be honest, most times I’ll just use my rolled-up puffy jacket or extra fleece as a pillow if I really want one. But, for the same reason I’m bringing the sleeping pad, I thought it good to carry a lightweight pillow.  If I’m not using it after a few weeks, I’ll send it home.
  7. Kindle Paperweight (7.2 oz). Yes, I know I can read on my phone, but I prefer the Kindle for 2 reasons: 1) Reading long-term on this screen is so much better on the eyes. I can’t read a book on my tiny phone screen for more than a few minutes without getting a headache.  And 2), the battery last’s weeks on one charge. I will have my AWOL Trail Guide on the Kindle so I don’t have to worry about draining my phone battery to do daily itinerary planning.
  8. Trowel (0.6 oz). The Deuce of Spades weighs almost nothing and is simply a nice way to have a better experience doing your business in the woods.  Do everyone a favor and bring one so you can dig that hole deep, cover it up well, and keep the contents from surfacing.
  9. Mini Tripod (1.7 oz).  Small, sturdy, and packs down tiny. For those Kodak moments that no one is around to help you with and a selfie just won’t cut it. This JOBY GripTight Micro Stand is an easy addition to make sure I document this trip with some great photos that aren’t just a close-up of my ugly mug. 🙂
  10. Corncob Pipe (1.8 oz). I wrote about this years ago in a now archived HelloNeiman 1.0 blog post, and I’ve been packing it on backpacking trips ever since. Nothing crazy here, there’s just something relaxing about smoking a pipe in the woods among friends.
  11. Wiffle Ball (0.7 oz).  A great massage tool to rub your feet over each night for some comfort to the daily grind. Not for impromptu stickball games in the woods among new friends … though, now that I mention it … not a bad idea.
  12. Frisbee (6.7 oz). I read this article 17 years ago in Backpacker Magazine about how a Frisbee is the best backpacking luxury item. I played Ultimate for years and love the obvious fun of having a disc to toss around, but it can also act as a seat, a fan, a plate, a cutting board, a canoe oar, a stove platform, a soap dish, and a sled (among many other things). Truly the most versatile of gear ever invented!

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