MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 313
edited September 2022 in ROUTES & TRAILS

Words and Photos from Tina “Cash Money” Currin - @tina

Despite many thousands of trail miles under my (hip)belt, the 1,150-mile Florida National Scenic Trail (FT) required the trickiest kit I’ve assembled yet. I spent my early childhood in Florida, so I wasn’t completely out of my depth; however, there was something oddly taxing about packing for a “winter” hike on a “tropical trail.” I planned to hike from mid-January to early March, and I knew I’d be walking through a mix of busy thoroughfares, bike paths, forested single track, and knee-high swamps, sometimes all in one day. Would it be hot? Cold? Wet? Dry? Covered? Exposed? Yes! 

Is it a smile? Is it a grimace? Who knows! It’s the Florida Trail!

When I first downloaded the FarOut map, I legitimately started laughing. I was fresh off the Pacific Crest Trail, a roller coaster of a path that defines “flat” as “not starting the morning with a 3,000’ climb.” But the Florida Trail was flat-flat, as in literally a straight line across the map. Even still, Outside Magazine calls the FT “the hardest hike you’ve never heard of.” How can something look so easy and be so difficult at the same time? 

PCT (top) vs. The Florida Trail (bottom)

With all of these contradictory considerations in mind, I packed several new-to-me items that would hopefully increase my comfort and safety, like gaiters, wind pants, an inflatable pillow, umbrella, headnet, tick tweezers, dedicated “swamp shoes” for the first 30 miles through Big Cypress, and larger bug spray and sunscreen containers. I bought a bright orange hat and a down jacket with an orange hood to dissuade hunters from accidentally shooting me. The result? I was still super uncomfortable, almost all of the time. But I had a blast and consider the FT as much fun—if not more fun—than my Appalachian and Pacific Crest thru hikes. Those trails taught me how to suffer and carry on; the FT taught me to lean in and enjoy it.

Is mud considered “worn weight?”

How about now?


Patagonia Tropic Comfort Sun Hoodie (6 oz)

Satisfy Running Shorts (3 oz)

Janji AFO Hyperlite Cap (1 oz)

Darn Tough Socks x2 (5 oz)

Spanx Bra-llelujah Bra (3 oz)

Dirty Girl Gaiters (1 oz)*

Hoka Speedgoats (x2), On Cloudventure 

Sunglasses (3 oz)

Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Pole (8 oz)

CARRIED CLOTHING - 17 to 25 oz (1 to 2 lb)

Senchi Wren Alpha Direct Hoodie (3 oz)

Arc’teryx Norvan Shakedry Rain Jacket (4 oz)

Montbell Dynamo Wind Pants (2 oz)

Satisfy AuraLite Tank Top (2 oz)

Icebreaker Merino Wool Boxers (2 oz)

Generic Foam Flip-Flops* (4 oz)

Goosefeet Gear Down Anorak+ (8 oz)

Fleece Gloves+ (2 oz)

Yes, black IS my favorite color, thank you for asking.

BIG THREE & MORE - 72 oz (4.5 lbs)

Hyperlite Mountain Gear prototype Trail Pack (with and without hip belt, 19-22 oz)

Hyperlite Mountain Gear prototype Trail Tent (21 oz)

Enlightened Equipment 40* Revelation Quilt (15 oz)

Therm-a-Rest Uberlite, Short Size (6 oz)

Therm-a-Rest Air Head Lite Pillow (2 oz)

Hyperlite Mountain Gear Ultralight Umbrella (6 oz)

Therm-a-Rest Cut-Down Sit Pad (1 oz)

The sleep pad (Neoair Uberlite) felt as diminutive as it looks. 

COOK & DRINK 14 oz (~1 lb)

1L Vargo Bot (5 oz)

2L CNOC Water Bladder (2 oz)

Sawyer Squeeze (3 oz)

Smartwater Bottle, x2 (1 oz)

Soto Windmaster* (3 oz)


The Deuce Trowel (.5 oz)

REI Packtowel (1 oz)

Pibella* (switched to P-Style, 1 oz)

Wilderness Wash (1 oz)

Culo Clean Backcountry Bidet (.5 oz)

Nitecore NU20 w/ shock cord (1.5 oz)

Sea to Summit Bug Headnet* (.5 oz)

DEET bug spray* (1 oz)

Supergoop Unseen Sunscreen (1 oz)

Moisturizer (1 oz)

Unpaste Toothpaste Tablets (<1 oz)

Tiny Toothbrush (<1 oz)

Tiny Scissors (<1 oz)

Tiny Vaseline (<1 oz)

Tiny Tick Tweezers* (<1 oz)

Tiny Roll of Leukotape* (<1 oz)

Gear & Body Repair - Pills, Patches, Etc. (1 oz)

* Denotes thing I discarded along the way

+ Denotes thing I added along the way

If I made any mistake, it was underestimating how cold it can get in Southern Florida. For three weeks, I hunkered down in my 40* EE quilt while the outside temperature plummeted into the mid-20s. I found myself routinely wearing every available item of clothing (hiking, sleep, and rain gear) before the morning sun appeared, which meant that I was often walking through roadside cow pastures or on bike paths with boxers on top of wind pants on top of running shorts, with my hands shoved deep inside the mix (I didn’t realize how much UL gear eschews pockets until I was searching for somewhere to put my freezing digits and came up blank.) 

This is the version where there isn’t snot hanging from my nose.

This happy camper just discovered that she literally owns no pockets.

My raincoat, a single thin layer of Gore-Tex, pulled double duty as an insulating layer and wind jacket on top of a 3-oz Senchi and a Patagonia sun hoodie. Surprisingly, this combination was more than adequate for temperatures that stubbornly stayed below freezing, although I did eventually ship myself a down jacket, mostly out of concern for the wear-and-tear my paper-thin raincoat was receiving. And, when I found a pair of fleece gloves discarded on a bike path one morning, I happily scooped them up. If I were hiking this trail again, I would carry a more robust sleeping bag and begin with gloves and a heavier coat (a synthetic Patagonia Micro Puff would work nicely in the damp environment.) 

In addition to the above, another standout was my HMG umbrella, which I was originally on the fence about using. I absolutely adored the PCT’s desert sections and silently chuckled when I saw folks tucked away under space-age looking umbrellas, but now, I wouldn’t consider doing this trail without it. Not only is the Florida Trail full of heavy and sometimes long-lasting bouts of rain, but there are more than 400 miles of exposed road walks. In the midday sun, heat beats off of the black asphalt, basically creating a multi-dimensional oven effect. I used my umbrella in every single one of these situations, reducing the heat I felt from above and below, as well as the direct UV exposure I was receiving. It probably wasn’t a literal lifesaver, but there were times when it certainly felt like one. 

Part of you might as well stay dry.

Other things I’d change? Although I was trudging through lots of sand, gaiters were useless. There’s so much swamp-walking that the adhesive backing quickly failed and they no longer attached to my shoes. Same goes with Leukotape. My partner and I both carried a single hiking pole for navigating through swamps and pitching our tent, but a carbon stake would work just as well (I did, however, use my hiking stick to ward off aggressive dogs on more than one occasion.) On that note, I’d add pepper spray, especially if I were hiking this trail alone. Weird dogs, weird people, weird no-trespassing signs, you see it all. 

Things I loved? All of my clothes, which lasted 1,100 aggressive miles and will soon go back into the pack for another adventure. My tent, which provided the perfect balance of weight, weather protection, and breathability in challenging (humid, buggy, windy) conditions. My Vargo Bot, which is on the heavier side of ultralight, but serves as both a cook pot and a watertight container—and which I took full advantage of by stopping at every corner gas station and filling up with ice water for the road (ice weighs less than water, in case you’re wondering.) 

Was the FT the most difficult trail I’d never heard of? I don’t know, but I do know that I wouldn’t want to try it without well-vetted protection from the elements. A good tent, sleeping bag, and pack are essential to keeping your gear dry(ish) and your body warm, especially after a long trudge through a wet swamp in freezing conditions. You really don’t wanna be the thru hiker who gets hypothermia on the Florida Trail. Did the ever-changing conditions make the FT one of the most exciting long-distance trails I’ve done? Absolutely. Was it totally weird, unpredictable, and unlike any other backcountry experience I’ve had in North America? What do you think? It’s Florida, man. 

Tina Haver Currin is writer, activist, and outdoors enthusiast currently based wherever the trails are. From 2016 - 2018, she lived in a Sprinter with her husband, two cats, and a dog, climbing as many mountains, running as many routes, and seeing as many National Parks as humanly possible. Whether climbing in the Rockies, bushwhacking through Arctic backcountry, hiking deep within the Grand Canyon — or thru hiking the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails— she discovered the variety of experiences one can have in our wild spaces and the joy of sharing what she has learned with others. Tina currently spends her time writing, hiking, eating, and planning her next trip.