Non-Essential Gear for Long Distance Hikers

What do long distance hikers carry for the big haul?  We all know that they carry shelter, food, water, a sleeping bag, yadda yadda.  But what about the other so-called non-essential gear?

As part of the 2013-14 survey, 466 Appalachian and 316 Pacific Crest Trail thru-hikers answered the question:  “Which of the following items did you carry most of the way?”  Results are posted below for each trail, with commentary:



Nearly 3/4 of thru-hikers are now carrying smartphones with data plans for most of the length of both trails.  And why not?  Modern-day smartphones are light weight and serve multiple functions like camera, journal, music player, map, flashlight, and, of course, phone. So say what you want about technology in the wilderness, but the multi-functionality of the smartphone makes the device a slam dunk for weight-conscious hikers.  This is the future, folks.

If the SPOT locator numbers are any indication, PCT thru-hikers are clearly more worried about getting lost or injured in a bad place.  Almost twice as many PCT hikers as AT hikers carried these devices.

EntertainmentIt would seem as though AT thru-hikers are a bit more into journaling and reading.  Could be those comfy shelters!  But the numbers don’t seem so different as to warrant making big conclusions here.  Glad to see many of you are logging your memories!

GearOK, now it’s pretty clear that PCT hikers are more worried about getting off trail.  Both sets of hikers carry smartphones in equal proportions–and mapping apps are available for both trails, but PCT hikers, by far, have more additional navigational tools on board.  Look at paper maps and manual compass!  Nearly half of all PCT thru-hikers are equipped to take a manual bearing if need-be.

The PCT is a more remote and less-marked trail than the AT and cell phone reception might be more spotty.  But if this is the case, PCT hiker, then why do you even bother with the smartphone?  Many of you are carrying a paper map and compass anyway and you won’t be able to make calls in most places.  Is it the camera and music player feature that makes the extra ounces worthwhile?  Do you not trust your mapping app?  Are you worried you’ll be completely lost in case of smartphone battery failure?  Go ahead and comment below with your thoughts…

AT and PCT hikers, if you’re thinking about going without trekking poles, just know that you’re definitely bucking the trend.  But I won’t judge you; I’m a “half-pole” kinda guy (I carry one pole).

Enjoy the rest of your summer!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *