I somehow scraped together enough from my tight budget to invest in more ultralight gear, and I’m going lighter than ever before on my 800 mile thru-hike of the AZT this Spring. Here’s everything I’m packing for a sub 9 pound base weight, detailed descriptions of the gear, thoughts on what I’m taking, and how much it all weighs.
I’m going to start this post off by reminding everybody of my efforts to raise money and awareness for suicide prevention and mental well-being with my favorite charity of all time: the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. If you like what you read on my website, please consider donating to my campaign and help me reach my goal of $4000 raised by the end of 2019. You can make a contribution here, and read up on more information about my campaign. If you can’t make a donation, that’s okay! Sharing my campaign on social media is incredibly helpful and important to spreading the word, so copy and paste that link!
100% of all money raised goes to AFSP National. My thru-hike is funded by me, myself and I.
For a rundown on my budget for the AZT, as well as what I do to train for long distance hiking and some frequently asked questions about the trail, please read my post on these subjects here.
Recently I’ve been holed up (literally snowed in due to a crazy big snowstorm that hit the PNW) in my home for over a week, and my plans to train and test gear on the Rogue River Trail were thoroughly interrupted. Apologies for not being able to provide proper shots of my gear, in action, on this post; I promise there will be better photos of my gear published in my trail journals, and then in the post trail gear review.
This time, I’ve gone super ultralight with a sub 9 pound base weight, which is something I’ve been working my way towards for some time now. You might be thinking I’ve lost my mind for going this route, but I love not being weighed down with excess stuff. There’s something very freeing about going minimalist on a long distance trail, and not stressing over the amount of things that you’ve packed. For me, comfort items just equal anxiety. I like not having to worry about whether or not I’ve forgotten something. When you’re overloaded with small trinkets and an overly complicated gear list, there’s a good chance something will be lost; best to keep it straightforward and simple.
Now, let’s talk gear!
The Big 3 (Backpack, Shelter & Quilt)
These are the heaviest and most important items in my kit.
Big 3 Total Weight: 45.6 oz. / 2.9 lbs. / 1292.7 grams
Backpack: Waymark Thru-38 Pack
- 17.2 ounces
- 2.5 inch shoulder straps
- 38 liter capacity
- Size S/M (15-17″ torso)
- Minimalist Design
- 210 Denier Fabric, for ultralight and strength
Thoughts: I had been eyeing the sleek Waymark packs while I was on the PCT last year. I liked the frameless 38 liter capacity, lovely color combinations, and I was interested in a concept that was certainly fresh to me: the no hip belt movement. So why no hip belt? Because I haven’t got any hips to begin with. That’s right, I’m no curvy goddess, and I lack the child-bearing hips that everyone around me seems to be blessed with. My hips have suffered long and hard under past belts, which never seem to fit me quite right and then lead to uncomfortable pinching and raw, open wounds. I thought, what do I have to lose? I decided to give it whirl, and with the money I earned from selling a photo to Outside Magazine last year, I purchased a ready-made pack from Waymark (no lead times, woohoo!).
I love the outer large mesh pocket, which I had on my last pack from Zpacks. It holds everything that I need to access in a hurry, such as snacks, my trowel for digging catholes, and my wallet. The two side pockets are large enough to hold my quart size water bottle with filter, a liter sized bottle, and my cold soaking container, and are easily reachable while I’m still wearing the pack. The inside is pretty straightforward: no inner pocket for anything to get lost in, just an empty space to fill with gear and food.
Bonus: I’m loving the color combination that I picked; a nice sage green and tan colors, making for a low-key pack that isn’t too flashy. I also opted to get the removable one inch webbing hip belt, just in case I do need to stabilize the pack while scrambling up a steep mountain.
Shelter: Zpacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp & Borah Gear Cuben Bivy
Zpacks Hexamid Pocket Tarp:
- 3.4 ounces
- Minimalist shelter that uses a trekking pole to pitch
- No floor
- 54″ at height
- 9′ long
Borah Gear Cuben Bivy:
- 4.1 ounces
- DCF bottom
- Mesh window around head to keep bugs out
- Chest zipper opening
Thoughts: I’m excited about trying this new ultralight shelter set up, but also a bit nervous! This is the most bare bones I’ve ever gone as far as shelters go, and as a person who values privacy and warmth, I hope this works out. I didn’t have the opportunity to test this gear out before hitting the trail, since the lead time on the bivy was painfully long (about six weeks), and I got received it only one week prior to departure.
The tarp pitches in the same way that my last shelter from Six Moons did, using a single trekking pole and forming a teepee. This current setup will not have a bathtub floor, or a full bug net. Instead, I’ll be relying on the bivy to protect me from all the creepy crawlies in the desert, as it has a mesh enclosure around my face. Let’s hope I don’t wake up to a scorpion curled up on top of me in the morning!
A single nylon cord is attached to the mesh of my bivy, and pulls it upright so nothing is resting directly on my face and reduces any claustrophobia. The zippered opening to the bivy goes across the chest, and I added a small bit of nylon cord to make a pull.
Quilt: Nunatak Arc UL 20 Degree Quilt
- 21 ounces
- Built with a permanently closed foot section to keep my tootsies warm
- Ultralight, waterproof and breathable shell
- 2.5″ loft (goose down)
- Comes with shock cord closures to address draft issues in cold weather
Thoughts: First of all, full disclosure: this ultralight quilt was gifted to me by Nunatak Gear, although I do not represent this brand. My first impressions are unbiased, and my post hike review will be honest as well.
I’ve always been hesitant to try quilts because I sleep on the cold side, and quilts almost always have draft issues. However, I couldn’t turn down a free custom ultralight quilt from Nunatak when they reached out to me recently. With a bivy already on order (see above) and adding a small extra layer of heat to the mix, I’m definitely willing to give a quilt a go this time around. I am still slightly worried about being cold at night, so my plan is to try to sleep at lower elevations in the beginning, if possible.
The shock cords to close up the underside area of the quilt came in a separate bag and I attached them myself, fairly easily. It also came with its own stuff sack, but I’m sticking to using my tried-and-true Zpacks DCF dry bag (see below).
The quilt is super soft and fluffy, and I love the enclosed foot area since my feet are my biggest problem when I’m cold. The AZT is going to be a unique experience with all new untested gear, and should be interesting, to say the least.
Everything else, other than my sleeping bag and shelter, that is used for making camp at night.
Sleep System Total Weight: 17.9 oz. / 1.1 lbs. / 498.9 grams
Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad
- 12 ounces
- Inflatable sleeping pad
- Women’s size regular
- Rolls up small and compact
Thoughts: I’ve been using this inflatable sleeping pad since my trip to Scotland in 2017, and I love it. I can’t do thin foam pads, or my hips and lower back will suffer dearly. This inflates nice and firm, providing ample support where I need it. It took a bit of damage last year on the PCT when one of the inner chambers burst (now it has a bulge on one side), so I’m hoping that it will last the entire length of the AZT and then some; fingers crossed.
Note for keeping the chambers in tact: don’t inflate fully when it’s an inferno outside, like I did midday at Crater Lake in August. The air that you’re blowing into it will get hot and continue to expand, busting a chamber. Thankfully I caught it and let it deflate before the entire pad exploded from the heat.
- 3.6 ounces
- 6 count ultralight shepherd’s hooks from Zpacks
Thoughts: I replaced my previous tent stakes from MSR with these shepherd’s hooks, because I prefer the hooks to the notched pegs.
- 1.5 ounces
- Polycro Sheet from Six Moons Designs, cut to size
Thoughts: I’ve used every ground sheet under the sun, including Tyvek, heavy tent footprints, a mylar blanket and Polycro. I was originally going to use the mylar for under my bivy, but after a quick trial run, it proved too noisy. I’m going with the Polycro this time, as Tyvek is just too bulky for my pack.
Polycro was designed for shrink wrapping and as an extra thermal layer for windows, and is light and durable, making it a perfect choice for a ground sheet.
Zpacks Medium+ Dry Bag
- .8 ounces
- DCF dry bag with roll top, used for storing my quilt
- Doubles as a pillow
Thoughts: This thing miraculously survived the entire PCT, so it’s staying in the inventory. My quilt fits perfectly inside, and the Dyneema material keeps moisture out. It also doubles as a pillow when I stuff my puffy or any other extra clothing inside.
Clothing Worn (What I Hike In)
Clothing that I wear to hike in and occasionally sleep in as an extra layer. This does not contribute to base weight, and is considered ‘worn weight’. I’m also including my trekking poles here, because I don’t know what other section to put them it. Spoiler: I scored at the thrift shop this year!
Wool Brimmed Hat
- Felted wool hat with a wide brim
- Crushable and water-resistant
Thoughts: I’ve always struggled with getting wide-brimmed hats to work for me, and I’m hoping this will be ‘the one’ that changes everything. I bought it years ago at a gift shop to protect my face from the sun while I wandered around doing touristy things. Then it just sort of sat around my house for a few years collecting dust; until now!
I’ve attached a chin strap, because I hear it get pretty windy in parts of Arizona. In the past, wide-brimmed hats have always grazed the upper part of my pack throughout the day, driving me to the brink of insanity. This one doesn’t seem to do that; either it’s the hat itself and the way it sits on my noggin, or it’s because my pack is on the smaller side these days.
If it doesn’t work out, I buy a cheap baseball cap in a town along the trail and donate this hat to a hiker box.
Button-Down Short Sleeve Shirt
- Cotton Blend short sleeve shirt from Goodwill
- Men’s size small, fits me like a women’s large
Thoughts: I’ve always been anti cotton anything when it comes to gear, but after seeing the (unusual) trend of wearing thrift store shirts (the louder, the better it seems), I thought I would see what all the fuss is about. I have a fantastic Goodwill store a few towns over, and I found a soft cotton blend shirt that seems to fit the criteria. I’ve worn it on a few day hikes now, and I do enjoy its buttery texture on my skin. And even though it’s mostly cotton, it seems to dry pretty quickly, likely due to how thin it is.
I understand now why hikers go this route, as gear gets so trashed on the trail and it’s much more economic to buy something cheap, and you won’t feel guilty about throwing it out when it’s done. Most trail towns have second-hand shops, so replacing it if need be won’t be an issue.
Although I didn’t go with the loudest print I could find, I did happen upon one with cactus, rattlesnakes and scorpions. Perfect for the AZT!
Basic Running Shorts
- Women’s size small, Old Navy brand
- Nylon material with liner
- Drawstring and elastic band
Thoughts: Goodwill for the win, again! I found this pair at my favorite thrift shop, new and with tags. They’re just a basic pair of running shorts, with a three-inch inseam. The nylon material makes them quick dry, and the liner means I don’t have to worry about underwear.
CNOC Trekking Poles
- EVA (foam) handles
Thoughts: I can’t really divulge too much with these trekking poles, besides a basic description, as I’m testing this design in the field for CNOC Outdoors. This pair that I was sent is a prototype, with foam handles, flick locks, and is made of an ultralight carbon fiber. They will also be used to pitch my shelter if I need it.
Altra Lone Peak 3.5 Trail Running Shoe
- Zero drop platform
- Women’s size 9.5
- Quick-dry upper
Thoughts: I love my Altras! When I got home from the PCT last year, Altra was just releasing the Lone Peak 4, so I did what any savvy shopper would do and searched for the 3.5 version on clearance. I bought 4 more pairs on Amazon to get me through the 2019 hiking season, and at half price to boot! I’m really happy with the fit of these shoes, which provides a roomy toe box, and lots of support for my feet. I’ve had issues in the past with plantar fasciitis, but my feet go mostly pain-free with these kicks. I also very rarely develop a blister in these, even when they’re wet.
Dirty Girl Gaiters
- Lycra material
- Comes with Velcro to attach to shoes
Thoughts: A favorite piece of gear, and for good reason. They keep dirt, pebbles and other grime out of your shoes, and protect your socks from wear and tear. Plus they come in funky prints.
Outdoor Research Active Ice Sun Sleeves
- Polyester/spandex gloves with long sleeves for sun protection
- 50+ UPF
- breathable and moisture wicking
- Size small
Thoughts: I loved my OR fingerless sun gloves that I used on the PCT, but they were discontinued and I couldn’t find a pair in my size once I got home. I came across these sleeves on Amazon, and thought they would be better anyway since I’m wearing a short sleeve shirt on this trail. The fabric is soft and stretchy, and covers most of my hand (except my fingers). They claim to have ‘cooling technology,’ so I guess Arizona will be a good place to put them to the test.
- Danskin brand bralette with racerback
- Nylon/spandex material
- Triangle cups
Thoughts: The search for the perfect sports bra continues. This bralette is just your run of the mill special found at places like Target and Walmart. I bought this one because I prefer racerback styles, as they keep the straps from slipping down my shoulders. The material is soft and stretchy, and it comes with the usual removable padding that will drive me crazy when it bunches up in a wash cycle.
The triangle cups create a ‘v’ shape on my chest, much in the same way as a bathing suit, and will allow my breasts to breathe a bit more than the typical ‘uni-boob’ sports bra does.
Darn Tough Vermont Micro Crew Cushion Socks
- Merino wool
- Cushioned bottom
- Women’s size medium
Thoughts: Nothing beats these socks! Another fan favorite: no blisters or bunching up, durable and comes with a no strings lifetime guarantee. When I wear a hole through a pair, Darn Tough replaces them quickly. My feet always feel good in these socks.
Basic Cotton Bandana
- The cotton kind
Thoughts: Used as a headband, sweat rag, wash cloth and towel. Easily a must-have item for how multi-purpose it is.
This includes the clothing that I sleep in, plus other items for warmth and inclement weather.
Clothing Packed Total Weight: 38.3 oz. / 2.4 lbs / 1085.7 grams
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Jacket (Puffy)
- 6 ounces
- Down fill
- No hood to save weight
- Women’s size small
Thoughts: This is a tried and true jacket for me, as I used it on the PCT. Not only is it incredibly lightweight, but it compresses down into its own pocket, reducing bulk inside my pack. It’s very warm, a feature that I can attest to after surviving below freezing temperatures in the High Sierra.
The North Face Utility Hiker Hybrid Tights
- 8.8 ounces
- This is a fancy name for cargo leggings
Thoughts: This was a last-minute purchase, days before I’m due to leave for the trail and with the current winter advisory weighing heavy on my mind. Tuscon, and some of the higher elevations, are going to be seeing snow accumulation just a few days before I fly down there. I was worried about being warm enough in my current set up, and sprung for these. I usually only wear shorts when I thru-hike, but with the predicted wind and cold, I knew I’d need something beefier to protect my skin, and possibly provide an additional layer at night.
I was drawn to these because of the fit and the pockets. For far too long, women’s clothing has lacked pockets. Instead, clothing designers prefer to sew in faux pockets. Why? Great question! Do they think women hate functionality? Bravo, North Face, for giving us what we want.
Darn Tough Vermont Micro Crew Cushion Socks (2 pairs)
- 4.6 ounces
- One backup pair for hiking, one for sleeping
Thoughts: See description above in ‘Clothing Worn.’
- 3 ounces
- The Hipster Special
- Acrylic knit material
Thoughts: Meant to keep my head warm, especially at night. There’s not a lot more to say about a beanie.
- 1 ounce
- Polyester fleece
- Found them on the ground in Scotland
Thoughts: They’re good gloves, and I’m glad I found them.
Outdoor Research Helium II Rain Jacket
- 5.5 ounces
- Pertex Shield+ 2.5-layer nylon
- Women’s size small
Thoughts: Another favorite piece of gear for me, this beauty doubles as a rain jacket and wind breaker. I find myself wearing this jacket daily, as a light layer in the morning and evenings. It also packs down into its own pocket. Outdoor Research is another great company, and when my zipper failed on the PCT last year, they sent me a replacement jacket before I had even sent the old one in.
Smartwool Hooded Top
- 8.4 ounces
- Merino wool top
- Drawstring hood
- Kangaroo pouch
Thoughts: I’m really fond of this wool top, for being so cozy and warm. I’ve used it in the past as a sleep top, and it will serve that purpose on this trip, in addition to being a warm layer on chilly days in the mountains.
Merino Wool Buff
- 1 ounce
- Merino Wool
Thoughts: I consider this an essential piece to my kit. I sleep with this over my face, for warmth and to keep moisture from building up inside my bivy (breathing equals condensation). It also protects my ears from the wind, when it’s too warm to wear a beanie.
Helly Hansen Wool Long Underwear Bottoms
- Wool blend for warmth
Thoughts: I’ve used these for a while now, and I’m happy with them. They keep me pretty warm on chilly nights, and they’re not itchy in the least bit.
Cooking, Food Storage & Hydration
Eating is one of my favorite parts of thru-hiking. Here’s the tools I use for storing grub and cooking, or in my case, cold soaking.
Cooking and Food Storage Total Weight: 12 oz. / .75 lbs. / 340 grams
Talenti Gelato Jar
- 1.9 ounces
- Screw top jar
- 16 ounce capacity
Thoughts: This is one fine cold soaking apparatus, plus the bonus is you get to eat some delicious gelato or sorbet in order to use it. It fits quite a bit of food, including an entire Knorr side or two packets of ramen. When it gets too grimy and needs to be replaced, eat another pint of ice cream!
Nylon Dry Bag
- 2.2 ounces
- Nylon material, with silicone waterproofing
- Roll top closure
Thoughts: This was an ultralight dry bag I picked up in England when I was in the U.K. doing some trekking, and I didn’t feel the need to replace it even though there are other lighter options out there (such as Zpacks). It’s a great bag for food storage, and I’m too impatient to endure the long lead times at a cottage company just to shave off an ounce from my base weight. Shocking, I know.
Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spork
- .4 ounces
- Hard anodized aluminum alloy
Thoughts: It puts food in my mouth, and I’m fond of that.
Sawyer Squeeze with Coupling Device & Smartwater Bottle
- 3.2 ounces for Sawyer Squeeze
- 1 quart Smartwater Bottle, 1.9 ounces
- Screws onto water bottles for easy filtering
Thoughts: I have yet to find a better water filter! I love how small and light the Squeeze is, and how I can just screw onto a Smartwater bottle and be done with it; no digging through my pack to find it, no hassles. Just fill the bottle and squeeze the water through. I prefer the Squeeze over the Mini, despite the Mini being a bit lighter. The Mini, from what I’ve experienced, is painfully slow in comparison to the good old-fashioned Squeeze.
The coupling device attaches to the end where the clean water flows out, and you then back flush with a water bottle to clean the filter. Smartwater bottles are the popular choice because the Squeeze fits on them properly, they come in good sizes, and are easy to replace if needed.
2 Platypus 1 Liter Soft Bottles
- 2.4 ounces
- Bag for water storage, 1 liter each
Thoughts: I’ll be using these for storing filtered, clean water on longer waterless hauls. I prefer these over carrying bulky water bottles because they take up less space when they’re not being used.
Electronics and Gadgets
The necessary evils of the trail: modern technology!
Electronics and Gadgets Total: 19.9 oz. / 1.2 lbs. / 564 grams
Samsung Galaxy s9+ with Silicone Shock Case, Ear Buds & Fast Charger
- 9.1 ounces
Thoughts: I actually really like my Galaxy, despite some gatekeepers judging me for not having an iPhone (I don’t get this). It takes phenomenal photos, which is why I got it. I use it for navigation too, with the Guthook’s app and some downloaded maps. The ear buds are for listening to music and audiobooks, and the fast charger (which came with my phone) will charge my nearly dead battery in about an hour.
Nightcore NU25 360 Lumen Headlamp
- 1 ounce
- 3 brightness levels, plus a red light setting
- Rechargeable battery
Thoughts: I’m really glad that I found this headlamp, at the suggestion of a Redditor on r/ultralight. It’s really bright, and the battery seems to hold a decent charge. After dealing with Black Diamond headlamps and corrosive battery acid build up, the Nightcore is a welcome change. Bonus points for not constantly turning on while inside my pack and draining the battery.
PNY Battery Bank & 2 USB Cables
- 9.8 ounces
- 2 charging outputs
Thoughts: It’s heavy, and I hate carrying it. This battery bank charges up my phone at least 2.5 times before it’s drained. It also holds a charge pretty damn well. I just wish it wasn’t such a brick.
Just a couple of things for maintaining appearance and pooping in the woods. Excludes consumables, such as hand sanitizer and wet wipes. I never pack soap.
Hygiene Total Weight: 1.4 oz. / 39.6 grams
The TentLab ‘The Deuce’ #2 Trowel
- .6 ounces
Thoughts: Another favorite of mine. It makes digging catholes super easy and it weighs practically nothing. Anyone who cares about practicing LNT should have this in their kit.
Key Chain Knife
- .4 ounces
- 2 small blades, scissors and nail clippers
Thoughts: Not an especially exciting piece of gear, but it does the trick. I actually bought this ages ago on holiday in Hawaii, at an ABC Store because I had forgot to pack nail clippers. They’re tiny, but have everything I need in a knife. I found that the most basic Swiss Army Knives were too much for me. I generally don’t need a can opener, bottle opener or corkscrew when I’m thru-hiking.
- .4 ounces
- The free kind, compliments of a hotel I stayed in
Thoughts: If you’ve seen me recently, then you know I’ve been rocking a pixie cut. I had to cut off all of my hair after not properly caring for it on the PCT last year. I went days on end not brushing my locks, and now I’ve paid the price. I’m not mad though, I like my short hair. But just to be safe, I’m bringing a comb.
Total Base Weight: 135.1 oz. / 8.4 lbs. / 3830 grams
A Word on Consumables
A friend of mine once asked me, before I had set out on my second thru-hike of the PCT, how much my pack weighed. I proudly proclaimed “my base weight is around ten pounds,” and after laughing nervously, she asked if I ate anything. I took this to mean she didn’t know what ‘base weight’ really meant, so I explained that it didn’t count my food, water, and other fluctuating weights. She scoffed, and said I was cheating by not counting those. Yet, it’s difficult to count those when they’re always changing.
For example: some of my food carries are five days, while the next resupply might only be for three days in the wilderness. A five day food carry can make my pack weigh over twenty pounds, but it steadily decreases as I eat my way through the inventory.
Consumable weights include water, food, some toiletry items, and fuel if you’re cooking.
In honor of this friend, and to maybe clear up any confusion, I thought I would mention some of the consumables that I regularly go through:
- Peanut Butter
- Tortillas or bagels
- Powdered drink mixes, such as Gatorade and instant coffee
- Snacks and candy
- Instant ramen or rice
- Dehydrated vegetarian refried beans
- Dental floss
- Lip Balm and muscle salve
- Wet wipes
Happy (Snowy) Trails
With my start date on the Arizona Trail just days away from now, I’m in my usual late stage panic mode (even though everything usually turns out just fine). The snow storms here in Washington affected my ability to pack and write up this post, as the mail was being held up by the weather. I had several very important pieces of gear floating in USPS Snowmaggedon limbo; I’d check the tracking number, and it was in some random town in another state ‘pending delivery due to weather.’ I was honestly worried that I wouldn’t be able to pull this off.
Then the unbelievable happened: Arizona was hit with record snow, and my anxiety shot through the roof. Here I am trying to escape this snowy bullshit, only to be dealing with it in unfamiliar terrain. Of course, the usual fear mongering in the AZT Facebook group didn’t help the situation at all. It’s good to remind yourself when you’re scrolling through the ‘you’re probably going to die out there’ posts, that this is coming from non hikers who enjoy being incredibly over dramatic. There’s no real way to get them to stop this behavior, so it’s best not to be confrontational and maybe just suggest they pursue a career with Sinclair Broadcasting.
Even in the face of snow, I’m sticking to my original planned gear. I spoke to some trail angels and they reassured me that I’d be fine, which made me feel much more confident (thanks Gabrielle, Joelle and Clyde).
After getting all of that off my chest, it’s time to hike! If you have any questions about gear, I’m happy to answer them, as always. Please note that I will be on the trail, therefore my responses may be delayed by a few days. You can leave a comment or send an email.