MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 313
edited July 2023 in THE GEAR LAB

Words and Photos from Katie Houston (@oatshikes)

When I tackled my first long-distance trail in 2019, I had over 30 lbs on my back as I headed northbound from Amicalola Falls. After sustaining an achilles injury born of overuse and carrying simply too much (and after overcoming the shock of having to trade my Nalgenes for SmartWater bottles), I was forced to reassess my luxury items and the “Big 3” I’d used on every adventure since Santa Claus left them under the Christmas tree for me 10 years before. 

After 3,000 miles of thru hiking, honing my kit has proven to be a worthwhile endeavor and I’ve never felt more prepared for a long trail adventure than I did for my latest trek this past September on the Appalachian High Route. Now that all 330 miles are under my feet, it’s time to take a look at what worked, what didn’t, and what I carried every step of the way in my trusty home-away-from-home. 

Here’s the gist – Oats on the Appalachian High Route LighterPack Gear List


Camera gear and bear canister aside, I’m sitting pretty at a sub-10 lb base weight. When I add these deemed necessities back into my back, my Junction is still a commendable 13 lbs, something past-Oats on her first thru hike would’ve been in absolute awe of. Though I’d never hit a long trail with any of the pieces in my “Big 3”, I trusted the reputation of the companies and how the gear had performed on shorter adventures to ensure I’d made the right choice: and boy did they exceed my expectations. 

I’ve used foam sleeping pads since I began my hiking career and the versatility, durability, and ease of use make for an ideal piece of gear in my book. Shoutout to Nemo for getting me out of camp earlier than inflatable pad users and for their solid use as a sitting pad. 

I am also opting to carry a bear canister due to rapidly increasing bear-human conflict on the Appalachian Trail (and my desire for a good night’s sleep). Sure, the weight is a burden, but I’m willing to bear it.

Backpack: HMG Junction 40

Tent: Zpack Plex Solo Tent

Sleeping Pad: Nemo Switchback Ultralight Sleeping Pad

Stakes: 6” Ultralight Titanium Tent Stake

GPS: Spot Gen 3

Sleeping Bag: Therm-a-rest Hyperion 20 Degree

Bear Canister: Bear Vault BV500 


I’m curious what someone reading my search history would think of my recent inquiry, “Are trekking poles worn weight?” to which the answer is: apparently, yes! No one could convince me to leave my trekking poles behind, not even TSA’s policy of only allowing them in checked bags. 

Trekking Poles: Hiker Hunger Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles

Hiking Shirt/Shorts: Doesn’t Matter!

Hiking Socks: Swiftwick Pursuit 2

Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 5

Liner Socks: XO Skin Toe Socks

Rain Jacket: Outdoor Research


I was born and raised in Asheville, so I was fortunate to have family in the area. With an ice cream date with my mom and Gram at the Pisgah Inn and a Hot Springs sit by the river with my Dad on the schedule, I had the option of flexibility with some of my gear and resupplies. Though the items were given a thoughtful once-over every time I resupplied, the only pieces I didn’t routinely use were the down pants and gloves. Even for a cold-natured hiker, the Appalachians rolled out red carpet temperatures for my trek.

 Down Socks: ZPacks Goose Socks

Down Puffy: Enlightened Equipment Torrid Jacket

Down Pants: Enlightened Equipment Torrid Pant

Base Layers:: Smartwool Merino 250 Long Sleeve and Pant

Gloves: Aegend Lightweight Running Gloves


Though I got my trail name from beginning my AT thru-hike stove-less and typically prefer to hike that way, I opted to carry a stove on this trail for several reasons. 1) I want to share all the amazing, dehydrated food I’ve been seeing thru hikers go wild over. 2) It’s more nutritious. Otherwise, I’ll end up shoveling cookie dough into my mouth around dinnertime. 3) I wanted to enjoy my time on trail. Did this serve me well when my Dad’s cats became responsible for the crime of hiding my camping spoon while I was packing for my last section of trail? Maybe not, but seeing me attempt to shake a ramen bomb into my mouth from a Ziplock bag three nights in a row did make for a funny dinner show for my shelter mates.

Water Filter: Sawyer Squeeze + 1 L Bag

Stove: MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe + Lighter

Pot: Vargo Titanium Ti-Lite 900 ml Mug

Fuel: Snow Peak GigaPower 250

Spoon: Titanium Long Handle Spoon by Toaks

Bottles: 2 x 1.5 L Smartwater Bottles + 1 x Platypus 2 L Bottle


Besides a rechargeable headlamp and my luxury item pillow, there’s not too much to see here. The bug head net came in handy more than once, if you love recreating in the southern Appalachians you know why. 

Phone: Samsung Galaxy S21 FE

Power Block: Nitecore NB 20000 mAh

Power Cords: USB-USBC, USB-Micro USB, 30W Wall Adapter, Headphones

Bandana: Gifted

Headlamp: Nitecore NU25

Pillow: Sea to Summit Aeros Ultralight Pillow

Toothbrush/Toothpaste: Travel Size

Hand Sanitizer

Dry Sacks: Sea to Summit Ultra-Sil Dry Sack (XXS, XS, S)

Bug Head Net


This addition was a difficult decision for me on several fronts: price and weight being the most blaring factors, but I eventually pulled the trigger on this sparkly new setup to support my content creation on trail. Unfortunately, on my first day the clip I was using malfunctioned and the sparkling new investment in my passion and business fell from my shoulder strap and, with a sickening crack! connected with a large rock on the trail below. This made for some backcountry cursing at the moment, but the camera made it out alive and is currently in the process of being repaired. One of my favorite gear discoveries is that the hip belt pockets of Hyperlite’s Junction 2400 are the perfect size for my camera - turns out I didn’t need the clip after all!

Body: Sony a6400 w/16-50mm Lens

Microphone: Sennheiser MKE 200

Tripod: PEDCO Ultrapod 3

Katie "Oats" Houston (she/her) is a freelance outdoor writer and content creator based in Austin, TX. After being bit by the thru hiking bug in 2019 on the Appalachian Trail, Katie has since got the Colorado Trail and Lone Star Hiking Trail under her belt with a bucket list of many, many more in her future. She enjoys any opportunity to write about her adventures, good trail ethics, and trail stewardship and currently works as the Social Media Lead for The Trek. Check out her adventures with Thru the husky on her website and Instagram


  • oatshikes
    oatshikes Member Posts: 16

    Loved recapping the gear from this hike - it's definitely the most comfortable I've ever felt with my kit in the backcountry. There's such a sweet feeling from using everything in your pack every day and every piece having its purpose. The Junction 2400 performed fantastically as well! Can't wait to get out on the next trail with my Unbound 2P that just came in the mail today!