Top 10 Must-Have Gear for Your Next Appalachian Trail Hike-Appalachian Outfitters

Top 10 Must-Have Gear for Your Next Appalachian Trail Hike

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What are some of the Appalachian Trail essentials that you can’t forget before your next outdoor adventure? While the nitty-gritty will certainly come down to your exact plans, including whether you plan to thru-hike it all in one season and/or use the existing shelters, certain hiking equipment is basically non-negotiable. This list includes a reliable backpack, sleeping bag, and bear spray, just to name a few. See our whole list of Appalachian Trail gear below!

Taking on the Appalachian Trail: Essential Hiking Gear

Spanning just shy of 2,200 miles, the Appalachian Trail poses a considerable challenge even to the most seasoned hiker. For their own safety, beginners seeking to satisfy their outdoor itch should break it up over several different trips or look elsewhere.

Regardless, if you believe your mental and physical endurance will allow you to persevere and pull off this undeniably demanding feat, you’ll need an assortment of Appalachian Trail gear to get you through it. 

Below, we’ve compiled a list of Appalachian Trail essentials without which you will not want to set off:

1. Lightweight Tent

This is an absolute no-brainer that should come as no surprise unless you’re exclusively planning to overnight in established shelters. Separating yourself from the elements is crucial, and when you find yourself far away from any Appalachian Trail camping spots, you don’t want to be caught out without a high-quality camping tent. 

Additionally, considering how grueling the long stretches of the AT are, make sure the tent you bring won’t weigh you down too much.

2. Sleeping Bag & Pad

Another must-have piece of hiking gear. Again, unless you intend only to use the available lean-tos, a sleeping bag and pad are necessary for any hiker to protect themselves from the cold (and often wet) ground.

3. Bear Spray

Several sections of the Appalachian Trail cross into bear country. For that reason, it is critical to remain conscious and aware of the best wildlife safety practices. Close encounters with bears should be avoided at all costs, but be prepared to fight them off when no other options are available.

4. Spare Hiking Footwear

Comfortable and durable hiking boots can easily make the difference between a nightmarish AT hike and a satisfying one. You can’t afford to rely on subpar equipment, so pack the best hiking boots you own. 

Then, consider packing a second pair in case the first one gets damaged beyond repair during your hike. If you can spare backpack space, coming extra prepared might be worth it.

5. GPS Device

Should you lose your way on the trail, a solid GPS device will help you orient yourself in your surroundings. Standard cell service on the AT isn’t reliable, so it’s wise to either pre-download all the maps on your phone, pack a standalone device, and be sure to have paper copies of the maps on hand.

6. All-Weather Clothing

As you navigate the AT's mountainous terrain, you may encounter all kinds of weather conditions. You will also not have access to many changes of clothes, which is why it’s crucial to pack adequate base layers and underwear, as well as wind and rain protection.

In other words, invest in sets of quality apparel that won’t smother you in the heat but will keep you warm when it gets chilly, especially at night.

7. Cooking Gear

The available modes of food preparation in the great outdoors are rather limited. Still, food isn’t something you can just forego altogether in the interest of conserving space. 

A reliable portable stove with a canister of isobutane fuel should do the trick. Of course, remember to bring something to eat with and something to eat off of (i.e., cutlery and plates).

8. Water Purification

While we’re on the topic of sustenance, it’s wise to pack something to help cleanse the available water supply. Coming down with a stomach bug or other sort of waterborne illness on the trail doesn’t make for a particularly thrilling adventure. Better safe than sorry.

9. First Aid

Basic first aid saves lives, and you should never set out on any trail without a kit handy. It’s not even just about treating your own wounds and scratches – the AT sees over 3 million visitors each year, and you never know when someone else might need help in an emergency.

10. Hygiene Products

Bathrooms, toilets, and other sanitary amenities are scarce on the Trail, but maintaining cleanliness remains important all the same. Therefore, your hiking backpack should contain a healthy amount of cleaning products, such as hand sanitizer, toothbrush and toothpaste, baby wipes, deodorant, body towels, and others. On that note, remember to live by the tenets of eco-friendly camping and pick up your trash.

The Takeaway

Hopefully, this list has shed some light on the essential Appalachian Trail gear you need before commencing your trip. Though the Trail may be fraught with quite a few challenges, none of them are strictly insurmountable – all you need is the right amount of knowledge and preparation to forge incredible memories out there in gorgeous nature.

You may also read: Seasonal Hiking Tips: How to Prepare for Spring, Summer, Fall, and Winter Adventures

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