Having the right equipment can make or break a backpacking trip. The trick is to carry as little as possible and to keep your pack weight as low as possible, but still meet your basic needs and be able to adjust to the swings in temperature and moisture.

We fine-tuned and adjusted what we carried on our 2,200-mile Appalachian Trail journey. Still, setting out on a new adventure, we found ourselves packing too much and discarding or mailing home unneeded "stuff" early in the trip. The early miles on the Appalachian Trail were littered with all sorts of necessities that people decided were no longer necessary. We are accustomed to many conveniences in modern life and think that we can’t live without some of them.

But, as the miles accumulate under our feet, the pack pulls on our shoulders, and the soles of our feet begin to hurt from the pounding, we find that in reality we can live much more comfortably with fewer things. So here, rightly or wrongly, is what we carried on the Bruce Trail. It worked for us and with modifications, might work for you also.

Packs:  We swear by our Dana Designs internal frame packs. Rich has an Arcflex Alpine®. Mine is an Arclight Glacier®. Each holds about 5,000 cubic inches of gear. It can be annoying to have to unpack your whole load to reach something at the bottom of the single compartment, but the comfort of these packs is far superior to any external-frame packs that we’ve ever carried. The packs mold to your back and bear the weight snugly on your hips.

We each carry two diaper pins attached to the outside of our packs. We use them to hang socks and shirts on our pack for drying and for emergency repair of anything. The locking mechanism on diaper pins is much better than on safety pins. Snag a sock on an overhanging branch as you duck under it, and a safety pin breaks open while the diaper pin holds fast.We purchased small wet/dry packs for our Dana Designs packs. These are pouches that attach to the front of the pack and cross your belly. The wet part holds a Nalgene® bottle for easy, rapid access to drinking water without stopping. The dry part is a zippered pouch in which we carry maps, trail munchies, camera, and sit-upons (see Tyvek®); the things we need ready access to.

Our camera is a small, lightweight Pentax UC-1®, which handles the light range needed for exposing slide film. It looks like it’s survived a long, hard life, but it has served us well for 2,700 trail miles. Rich, being a photographer, misses having extra lenses and a tripod. But, we can’t justify the weight that they would add.

Attached to the back of my pack is a trusty plastic trowel, which we use to dig six-inch holes for pit stops. It also houses my whistle and has duct tape wrapped around the handle. We figured the poop shovel was a good home for the whistle. When you set off to use the shovel is the time that you leave your pack behind and venture off the trail, a perfect opportunity to get lost. Blow the whistle so your companion can find you. Plastic is lightweight but expect the trowel to break easily. Ours is a stubby version of its former svelte self. A metal trowel would last longer and dig holes better, but it would also add weight to your pack. There’s always a trade off. The duct tape around the trowel handle softens the grip and comes in handy for any type of repair. We’ve used it to bandage feet, mend a tent hole, tape a torn map together, etc.

Tent: We shopped long and hard and evaluated many tents before ending up with our NorthFace Ventilator®. It is long enough for Rich’s six-foot length (many tents aren’t), has a fly which comes low enough to the ground to keep rain splashes out, and fits two of us comfortably. Plus we can sit up in it to change clothes and store our packs in the vestibule. In addition, it weighs only 4 pounds, 4 ounces (1.9 kg). After seven months of trail, and four hurricanes, it was and continues to be a good choice. We carry only four tent stakes and leave the stuff bag, guy strings, and other tent stakes at home.

Additional information in the book on: Sleeping Bags, Rain Gear, Gaiters, Boots, Socks, Sleeping Pads, Clothes, Tyvek®

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