Updated on May 11, 2020 by Asher Fergusson
The A.T. is home to some of the most beautiful views in the United States, but presents some hazards as well: severe weather including high winds, rugged terrain, mosquitos, chiggers and impotable water sources for starters!
Be prepared for anything that can happen on the trail with this quick list. We also include what to wear on the Appalachian trail, what NOT to bring as well as important FAQs.
What to Pack for Appalachian Trail – 17 Essentials
1. Neck Wallet
A neck wallet is the perfect item to keep your valuables organized and secured while on the Appalachian Trail. Keep your phone, wallet, map, and any other small items you need safely tucked away into this pouch worn around your neck and against your body for maximum protection.
It is a bare necessity to have a tent or hammock with you on the Appalachian Trail. A hammock sounds idyllic, but once the temperatures reach that dreaded low at night time, you’ll wish you had a cozy tent. You’ll use it every single night on the trail, so make sure it’s a durable wilderness-grade one like this.
The last thing you want on the Appalachian Trail is to be bogged down by a ton of luggage as a result of overpacking. Avoid this by using packing cubes! These will keep you organized and will be a godsend as you pack and unpack every morning and night while on the trail.
The backpack options on the market today are almost limitless. When you’re searching for the right one to bring on a long multi-week hike, finding the right fit is key. This one has an internal frame, which places the weight of your bag in a comfortable way.
You don’t want to get stuck hiking in the rain without a reliable windproof umbrella! This one is great because it’s large enough to cover both you and your backpack so you and all your things will stay dry through the rain.
You should never start a backpacking trip (or day hike, for that matter) without a first aid kit. On the Appalachian Trail you will probably encounter loads of bugs that’ll bite you, sticks that’ll trip you, and loads of other hazardous annoyances. Keep band aids as well as the big guns with you – emergency splints, instant cold packs, and gauze. You just never know.
7. Sleeping Bag
Like your tent or hammock, you’ll be using your sleeping bag every single night on the trail. A lightweight one should do, but make sure you buy one that can be compressed as small as possible. This one is perfect for your trek.
8. Hiking Boots
Your hiking boots will be your best friend and your worst enemy on this hike. Make sure you get some with ankle support, and make sure you get them in the right size. Your boots should leave enough space around your foot for you to wear wool socks. These ones are my favorite, and have taken me around the world and back.
There will be stretches of trail in which potable water is quite scarce. And as we all know, your body needs to stay adequately hydrated to stay healthy and active. Bring along a water purification system like this one so that you always have a backup plan. Don’t risk drinking untreated lake or stream water unless you want a parasite or stomach bug.
Bringing a water bottle is another important part of staying hydrated. This Camelbak water bottle is perfect for hiking and will keep you feeling good asll day long. Make sure to fill it up with drinking-quality water every time you see a spigot.
11. Wool socks
An essential travel item for long hikes is a good pair of wool socks. These will keep your feet cool and at a comfortable temperature and will protect you from blisters along your trek. Wool socks are quick drying and will be perfect for your journey.
If the Trail is more than 100 miles away from home for you, be sure to invest in reliable travel insurance. We never leave home without World Nomads, as they’ll cover you in all sorts of emergencies. Whether it’s luggage related or a medical emergency, World Nomads will have your back.
13. Solar Charger
Needless to say, outlets are nonexistent in the great outdoors. Disconnecting is great, but there will be times that you absolutely need to charge your camera or phone. Bring a solar charger so that you never have to worry about running out of juice.
Early mornings and dusk call for headlamps. There will be countless times when you’ll need to put up or take down your tent in the dark, and you’ll need light (and both hands) to get it done. A good headlamp is necessary, and you’ll use it much more often than you think.
Maybe you need to open a can of food or maybe you need to cut free a tangle of cord from your backpack. You never know what kind of tool you’ll need out there on the trail, so bring one that can do everything. This tool has a million uses, but packs down small to save space.
A long hike means a big appetite, so you’ll need to cook! Bring a lightweight propane stove that you can easily fire up to cook your meals. This one is trusted by hikers all over the world, and isn’t too heavy to hike with.
17. Quick Dry Towel
Whenever you encounter a lake or stream along the trail, you’ll likely want to stop to take a dip. Whether it’s just to cool off or to take a much needed bath, you’ll want to have a lightweight towel that dries quickly so you can continue on your way once you’re done.
Other Appalachian Trail must-have items:
What to wear on the Appalachian Trail:
Always be prepared with a wind/ rain jacket that packs up small. As far as pants, lightweight synthetic trekking pants (zip-offs) are best. Athletics shorts work too! Depending on the season you’re hiking in, consider bringing a down jacket. Don’t forget wool socks (two pairs), underwear, a wool hat and a sun hat.
What NOT to bring to the Appalachian
2) Cotton clothing – Always wear synthetic fabrics. Sweat-wicking and quick-dry are the key words.
3) Deodorant – You’re going to be smelly no matter what.
5) Bulky sleeping bag – With so many compressible options available now, save your precious backpack space for other items.
FAQs for an Appalachian Trail trip:
1) How much will thru-hiking the trail cost?
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy advises $1,000 per month for the average hiker. Taking into account the average completion time (five to seven months), your total can end up being $5-7,000 per person.
2) What if I see a bear?
If you end up face to face with a bear on the trail, or at your campsite, stop what you are doing and stay calm. Back away very slowly in the direction you came. Walk, definitely don’t run, and keep your eye on the bear.
3) Where is the beginning of the trail?
The trail starts in Fannin County, Georgia at Springer Mountain and ends at Maine’s Mount Katahdin.
4) How long does it take from start to finish?
The average completion time is five to seven months to do the whole trail. Lots of people do sections of it during their summer breaks, and make a lifetime project out of it. Some do it all in one stretch.
5) Is the Appalachian Trail dangerous?
Well, yes and no. It’s not known for much danger, per se, but it’s known to have plenty of wildlife and can be a tough trail for beginners. Research your route, follow local park and wildlife guidelines, and you’ll likely have zero trouble staying safe on your journey.