Top 10 Weird Must-have Items for an A.T. Thru-hiker

Here’s a list of some of the weird gear that I carried for over 2000 miles and some reasons as to why I chose these items. 


 1. Sunbrella

Everyone thought I was crazy for carrying an umbrella for the entire length of the Appalachian Trail until they saw me hiking through a downpour with my own little dry spot or walking through the blazing sun in the shade. I also used the umbrella to keep the wind and rain out of the opening in my Mountain Laurel Designs, Cuben Fiber Patrol Tarp.

2. Z-Seat

I carried a Thermarest Z-Seat for most of the trail and used it for more than just a butt pad. During the day, I used rigged the pad with bear-line and carabiners to create a back cushion to prevent chafing and bruising from my pack. At night, the small matt added a padded foot area for my torso length therma-rest. I used this pad for a ton of other things like fanning a fire and patching a leaky roof.

3. Crocs

Gross. I never thought that I would own or even wear a pair of Crocs, but after doing some research, I gave in and tried it. They aren’t the lightest camp shoes, but they are definitely some of the most versatile. After fifteen or twenty miles of hiking I would change shoes and finish the last three to five miles of each day in Crocs. I hiked through a foot of snow in the Smoky’s and the last thing you wanted to do was to go get water in wet shoes or get your dry socks wet in your camp shoes. I solved this by putting plastic bags over my socks and taping them around my shins and walking around in my Cros! Lastly, they’re just super comfy!

4. Talenti Gelato

Yes, it was always a treat to have icecream on the trail, but I used this specific container to ‘no-cook’ my dinners for over a third of the trail. After New Jersey, I sent my stove home because it was super hot out and going stoveless meant saving weight. Each day I would make cold oatmeal for breakfast and pre-soak Ramen for both lunch and dinner. Most people think it’s gross, but it’s super convenient and efficient on time!

5. Lacrosse Ball

I always made sure to carry something like this to massage out the deep tissue knots I’d get from hiking twenty-plus mile days. It also feels great to roll out the arches of your feet!

6. Birch Bark

Day hikers would often pass me while stripping bark off of logs and sticking it in all the extra webbing of my pack. I’d show up to camp and my pack would look like I outfitted it with a ghillie suit. Birch bark is one of the best fire starters that you can find along the trail, although it burns quickly so make sure to have more than you think you need as well as proper tinder and kindling to get the fire really going!

7. Buff

This was my favorite piece of headwear on the trail although I was notorious for losing them all the time. Not only did it function as a barrier to the cold and wind, it was also blocked UV rays! It’s designed to let you use it in whichever way suits you best ie. hat, headband or face-shield. My favorite pro-tip for the buff users is to slip it over your sil-nylon stuff sack at night so your face doesn’t stick to your pillow.

8. Smartwater

Water is super important while hiking so I recommend choosing quality and lightweight bottles to hold it in. I never had any problems with leaking from smart water bottles (minus the one time I burned a hole in the bottom of one.) and the threads are completely compatible with Sawyer water filters and platypus accessories. Smartwater also claims that there bottles are BPA free!

9. Gallon Freezer Ziplocs

These things are uber-useful all the time. Here are a few things I used them for; food storage, scooping water from a shallow source, temporarily storing stinky wet clothes, sketchily carrying water up to a bald, keeping feet dry inside of shoes (only works for first five miles), keeping electronics dry.

10. Deodorant

Most lightweight hikers frown at backpackers for carrying deodorant because it's an unnecessary luxury item. I disagree. It’s much cheaper and more available than Bodyglide so I used it to combat chafing on my legs and back. I also used it for it’s intended purpose before hitch hiking and while in town as a courtesy to non-hikers.