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6 Things I thought I needed on the trail, but didn’t!

What does it mean to carry your fears? 

If you don’t like watching/listening, then read on!

As a hiker, you might hear people talk about carrying your fears – what’s this?

It’s what happens when you’re afraid of, for example, being too cold while you’re on the Trail, you may end up packing and carrying way more clothes than you need so you know you won’t be cold! Or if you’re scared of being hungry, you may carry way too much food!

What did I start hiking the Appalachian Trail with that I ended up ditching or sending home?

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  • My camp pillow. Some people do hike with a pillow of some sort, but mine was just silly. I always found a stuff sack of clothes or sweatshirt or something to put under my head and was totally fine!
  • First aid supplies. Now don’t get me wrong – you need a first aid kit! But mine was humongous for one person. I was carrying way too many first aid supplies, coming from a summer camp/trip leading background where we always carry a giant first aid kit because, you know, liability. My trusty trail family helped me sort through it and keep only the bare essentials.first aid kit gift for hikers
  • My hiking boots. Now, again, unless one of the select few who hike barefoot, you need hiking shoes! But I picked the completely wrong shoes for me and they destroyed my feet. So I ended up stopping at an outfitter along the trail and buying brand new, different, boots – and like magic – no more serious blisters or lost toenails!
  • Runners mace. Starting this adventure as a solo, single, female hiker, I thought it wasn’t a crazy idea to carry mace, just in case. But my trail family kept it real for me. After hiking for a few weeks, they honestly asked me, did I ever need it?? Did I even ever feel like I might need it? The answer was no, not even a little bit! And in the hiker box it went.
  • A book to read. Before starting my hike, I had these fantasies of laying around in the woods, sun shining, birds chirping, and finally having some quality reading time.  Ha! Any time I spent ‘laying around,’ I was sleeping. The rest of the time was spent actually doing stuff – getting water, cooking/eating food, setting up or tearing down camp and visiting with other hikers. Some people do like reading on the trail, I never found the time for it.

My husband (who I met on the trail!) also ditched a few things early on. One was his water filter – it broke after minimal use, so he switched to Aquamira drops.

And, wait for it….

3 pounds of hot cocoa mix!! Haha! But on a more serious note, try not to carry foods in bulk on your hike – just resupply along the way, ok?

In general I hear from a lot of other hikers who end up ditching their water filters, because they either break, or clog, or go too slow, are too heavy, the list goes on! I really recommend Aquamira Drops instead, they’re ultralight, and easy to use. Another thing that hikers usually bring too much of is clothes! Too many outfits, or too many layers.

You really do only need one outfit for hiking, and one warmer, dryer outfit for sleeping. And then the appropriate layers for the climate you’ll be hiking in.

You can download the complete backpacking gear checklist here, and find out exactly what you need in your first Aid Kit here.

I’d love to hear what gear or items you brought with you on a hike that you realized you didn’t need, let me know in the comments below.

Check out these posts for more tips on preparing for your long distance hike:

  • How safe is it to go backpacking alone?
  • How to financially prepare for a long distance hike
  • How to protect wildlife – and yourself – on the trail

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6 Things I thought I needed on the trail, but didn’t!


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