I am new to the forum. Iím in the midst of preparing for my upcoming, solo NoBo AT hike. I will start in mid-January 2013. I am currently a Masterís student and will be graduating in December, hiking the AT, and then starting a Ph.D. program in the Fall of 2013.
I have done a fair amount of winter camping in northern Pennsylvania, but not a lot of winter backpacking. In addition, I am not very familiar with winter conditions in the south. I have been reading trail journals (the few that I have found for winter northbounders) and searching online for advice regarding gear for winter NoBo hikes, but at times it has been overwhelming.
As a graduate student, with a significant amount of debt, I cannot afford to replace all of my equipment, so I thought that a good starting point would be to list the major items that I have already and get your collective advice regarding which gear items I should focus on upgrading and anything I will need to add. I am 6í0Ē, 215 lbs, with strong legs and core, so I think I will be ok without going ultralight, but I do want to keep the weight down enough to increase my chances of successfully completing a through hike.
Please feel free to address all or any of the items below.
Pack: Iíve been using an old panel-loading EMS 3000 bag, which is too worn to even consider bringing, meaning I will absolutely have to purchase a new pack. Because I will be carrying extra volume and weight for the first few months in colder weather, Iím willing to sacrifice pack weight in order have space/capacity and comfort with heavier loads. Iíve been looking at the Osprey Atmos 65.
Shelter: Big Agnes Madhouse 2, 7 lb 1oz fully packed
This seems ridiculously heavy, but I would feel comfortable in this thing in a blizzard (Iíve 8Ē of snow fall on it with no problems) and there is room for all gear inside and to cook in vestibule area. My thoughts are that, while it would be nice to have this bombproof winter shelter, the weight is likely impractical. I will need a lighter shelter for the second half of the trip anyway, and I was thinking of something like the double rainbow tarptent.
Is it reasonable to assume that there will be empty shelters the first part of the hike and the double rainbow (or equivalent) will do in a winter storm if I get caught in between shelters? Later in the hike I will be trying to avoid people and will want to tent if there is anyone using the shelters. Also, I will need a full enclosure for the bugs in the north, when I get there.
Sleeping Bag: Quest -25F Thermolite, 46 oz. fill (not sure total weight, maybe approaching 5lbs :/ )
This is a heavy, cheap (but warm) bag which was given to me as a gift. I am a cold sleeper and could likely do with a 0F, or maybe even a 15F bag if I have warm clothes designated for wearing at camp and inside the bag. Iím kind of leaning toward a nice, down, 15F bag, but Iím not sure if 15F is suitable for winter in the Smokies.
Stove: MSR Dragonfly, Stove and pump weight = 16 oz. (Plus fuel, of course)
I like this stove because of the versatility. I would rather not replace it.
Cookset: Snow Peak Titanium Multi Compact Cookset, 11.6 oz.
This cookset has served me well and I would rather not replace.
Other than picking up some Capilene 3 tops on sale recently, I really need to work on my clothing. Of course I need to secure some bottom base layers and outer layers. Any suggestions specific to a winter NoBo hike?
Footwear: Vasque Summit GTX
These boots fit well. I intend to wear these or get a similar full leather/Gore-tex boot and keep the Vasques as a backup pair (Iím pretty sure that I will go through more than one pair).
Again, I am looking for cost-effective gear options appropriate for winter conditions. Any other suggestions for a winter NoBo would be greatly appreciated, especially from those who have successfully completed one. I thank you all very much for your help.