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I’ve Been a Thru-Hiker Since 2013: Here’s How Gear Has Changed

When I graduated from college in 2013, I had no idea what I was doing with my life. But I did know that I wanted to hike as much of the Appalachian Trail as possible.

So I set out with all the secondhand gear I owned and made it as far as possible before I ran out of money. That LASH on the AT was my first real, long hike. And when I think back to the things I used to carry, I realize that over time, my entire setup has shifted in one way or another. My backpack is like the ship of Theseus.

These days, the consensus on thru-hiking gear gets built, built again, then replaced. One minute I think I’m a total edgelord with my Brooks Cascadias, the next I’m a dinosaur. By the time I’ve figured out which Altras are working for me, it feels like everyone has already moved on to Hokas.

The outdoor gear market is always progressing towards something more lightweight or innovative, thanks especially to the creative influence of the cottage gear industry. The trends move quick, and sometimes it’s hard to keep up.

On that note, let’s take a moment to look around and see what everyone’s sporting, and ask each other how we feel about it. Besides, what else was there ever to do at the campsite but to sit around and compare gear? Some traditions will outlive us all.

2021 Was The Year of the Fanny Pack

Consult the astral charts and you’ll see that it’s true, folks. Personally, I’m pretty excited about it, because I’ve been grinding down my shoulders for nearly ten years now, and there’s finally a way to get a little more weight off of them. Don’t get me wrong, that GoLite pack I had back in 2013 was fun in a masochistic kind of way. And I probably needed that Osprey pack for extra support (and how rainy it was) when I walked across Scotland.

But the practicality and versatility of the fanny pack are simply undeniable at this point. I picked up the Cotopaxi Bataan and I swear you can fit half of Narnia in there, all while relieving your shoulders of some excess weight. Phone, wallet, lip balm, map, monocular, excess of bars, various small rodents, assorted currencies, loose papers, existential dread, etc. Meanwhile, if you crack open a fortune cookie, what do you think it will say inside? Mine says, “the hipbelt is on life support.”

Keep reading the entire article on gear through the years, written by Taylor Bell here.


December 3, 2023

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