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  1. #1
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    Default Planning for an AT attempt. What size backpack do most folks use?

    Thanks! I would appreciate your input.

  2. #2

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    I did it with a 55L backpack (the Hyperlite Windrider 3400). I loved the bag. It was absolutely awesome. And it was exactly big enough. Any less and I would have been running into space limitations all the time.

  3. #3

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    Kind of depends on when you start and what you have for gear. 65L is pretty common for a March start due to needing a fairly bulky sleeping bag and warm and extra clothes. If you start in mid-April with milder temps and weather, a 55L should be sufficient. Basically, there are two approaches. 1) pick the gear to fit the pack, or 2) pick the pack to fit the gear.
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  4. #4

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    Size your backpack to fit your gear. Get all your other gear figured out and then find a pack that will fit and carry it all comfortably.

  5. #5

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    Quote Originally Posted by Miner View Post
    Size your backpack to fit your gear. Get all your other gear figured out and then find a pack that will fit and carry it all comfortably.
    This, and remember you can buy gear that is light, cheap and high quality…pick two.

  6. #6

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    Its highly likely that whatever pack you start with is going to be way too big somewhere in northern Virginia. Eventually the smaller pack you replace it with will be too small once you hit NH if you are running late.

  7. #7
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    In my training hikes of 5-6 days I have been using a 60L pack. I hate a bunch of crap hanging outside my bag. The 60L lets me put nearly everything inside unless I have a big food haul. I don't always pack it full as I try to only carry what I need and it compresses down well.

  8. #8
    scope's Avatar
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    I would absolutely take my Catalyst, which is listed as 75L, but that includes the side, back and hip pockets. The main body is about 50L which is plenty large, but what I like is that it cinches down to carry a small load very well. Its reasonably light and I never have to worry about packing it as it will swallow more than I should carry. The other pockets as mentioned are larger than other packs which means you have a little more flexibility for how you utilize them - like carrying a plus sized iPhone in the hip.
    "I wonder if anyone else has an ear so tuned and sharpened as I have, to detect the music, not of the spheres, but of earth, subtleties of major and minor chord that the wind strikes upon the tree branches. Have you ever heard the earth breathe... ?"
    - Kate Chopin

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seesfar View Post
    Thanks! I would appreciate your input.
    Whats your loadout look like?

  10. #10
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    The original post leads me to believe the OP doesn't have all of his or her gear yet.

    One of the biggest space savers or volume consumers is or will be your sleeping bag/ quilt. An inexpensive one will usually be bulky (and heavy), taking up lots of space in your pack which would make you carry a larger pack.
    Often times when we carry a larger pack - say a 75 liter - we will fill it up. When we do that, they get heavy.

    One of the places that I recommend spending the extra money is on a good quality, lightweight, quilt or sleeping bag. After years of carrying a less expensive bulky bag, I finally spent the money on an 850 fill Enlightened Equipment 10-degree quilt. Very light and compressible compared to my old sleeping bag(s).

    Getting "lightweight" is a little expensive, getting "ultra-light" is quite a bit more expensive. The cheapest way to be "lightweight" is to leave the "maybe I'll need this" items at home.

    Plenty of people have carried heavy bulky backpacks all the way to Katahdin, but the lighter you can get your backpack, the better your odds are of making it. Also, the lighter the pack, the less likely you are to get injured, the more mileage you can do per day or the less fatigue you will have at the end of each day of hiking.

    After saying all that, as a one-week at a time section hiker, I have a 75 liter Osprey for cold weather (below freezing) trips and a 65 liter ULA Ohm for warmer weather trips. Sometimes, as a section hiker, I carry the whole week (8 days) of food - which takes up a lot of space.

  11. #11

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    What MtDoraDave said, and even more so at 67.

  12. #12

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    Remember to factor in a bear can, per the ATC they are now strongly recommended. My suspicion is the vast majority of those responding did not carry a bear can. Its a whole new ball game for AT hikers, less of issue for PCT folks who are required to carry them on at least one section the PTC.

  13. #13

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    "Remember to factor in a bear can, per the ATC they are now strongly recommended."
    Recommended just means, not required. Carrying a can will mean more peace of mind in problematic areas when having to hang your food, but having to carry an extra 2+ pounds gets old pretty fast. As someone who hikes regularly in the Sierra Nevada (where Yosemite and Sequoia NP are and the JMT/PCT passes through), where bear cans are required in certain areas and just recommended everywhere else, I only carry a can when its needed to be legal, otherwise I don't bother; never lost my food in 3 decades there. I don't see the AT recommendations changing anything. If a bear can is required in a certain limited area, hikers will tend to not camp there to avoid carrying one (such as the 5 mile area around Blood Mountain on the southern AT).

    I didn't comment earlier on my pack size since as I previously mentioned, it is really depended on your gear. I've been comfortable using a 35L main body (ignoring external mesh pockets which brings it up to 50L) pack for over a decade on long trails, even with a bear can, where I only keep things I need during the day outside of the main body. But most people will struggle to fit their gear inside a pack that size for more than a weekend trip without strapping a lot of it outside.

    I own 3 different pack sizes:
    • A MLD Burn for 2-3 day trips (25L internal / 38L All). I've actually taken it for up to 4.5 days, but it was pretty loaded on the outside.
    • The ULA CDT is my main pack for most longer trips including thru hikes (35L internal / 50L All) with sections up to 8 days. I've never had to put gear outside except to dry it when wet.
    • And an ULA Ohm pack for winter travel that can handle the weight of extra things like snow shoes (41L internal / 63L All). I've never filled the inside of this pack as snowshoes have to go outside to be of any use. Notice the guy above who calls this pack as his warm weather pack, which shows how your personal gear choices will effect the pack size you need. I suspect for many hikers, this is about as small as they should go for a thru-hike and many will still need a larger pack.



    There is nothing wrong with carrying a larger pack than needed for a trip, if you need the extra volume for even a small portion of a hike. It's what the compression straps are for. But you definitely want to keep the overall weight down as much as you can without sacrificing the ability to handle the max. weight of the rest of your gear comfortably. No one wants to hike with sore shoulders for very long. I'll put up with carrying a lot of water (up to 6L) for a long dry section out west with a lot of food, even if it means being temporarily overloaded, because it will only last a few hours before I drink the weight back down to something more manageable. But I wouldn't even attempt doing so if I had to do be overloaded on a regular basis and for more than a very short period of time. I've been there and you won't enjoy your trip for long.

  14. #14
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    You won't need a bear can. There's only one short section of the trail that requires a bear can, and you can easily hike through it in less than a day if you plan accordingly.

    I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.

    ~John Muir

  15. #15

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    Buy a cheap backpack (like from Walmart) for only about $50. Start the trail with the extra money saved. Then upgrade along the way, after you see what everyone else is using, and once you've discovered what you like through experience. About 60L is good.

  16. #16
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    You may want to look at a survey of long distance AT hikers. Lots of good info there. There is something to be said for not reinventing the wheel.

    https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail...-hiker-survey/

  17. #17
    Registered User somers515's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Odd Man Out View Post
    You may want to look at a survey of long distance AT hikers. Lots of good info there. There is something to be said for not reinventing the wheel.

    https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail...-hiker-survey/
    Thanks for the link Odd Man Out! Looks like I'm pretty close to the average with a 55L pack and a base weight of around 14-15 pounds (not including fuel, food or water).
    LT End-to-Ender 2017; NH 48/48 2015-2021; 8 of 159usForests.com
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  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by MtDoraDave View Post
    Often times when we carry a larger pack - say a 75 liter - we will fill it up. When we do that, they get heavy.
    Do we? I've heard this many times but I certainly don't, and while I'm sure there are some who do, I don't buy that's the majority of experienced LD hikers.

    On my thru I typically had my summer weight down that all the cinch straps were at their max compactness. What a larger pack does is give you more options on how to pack and easier to pack and also to get the stuff one needs. This tends to allows an overall more comfortable pack as well. While the smaller pack folks were playing tetris most every time, especially leaving town resupply and getting ready for a longer stretch till next one, Sometimes even carrying a meal in hand. I could easily pack up and get on trail putting things were I wanted in the shape I wanted instead of where and how they needed to be.

    In that I do like some extra room, but not so much as I feel it is unnecessarily large, with the primary factor of comfort under a load.

  19. #19

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    Would go with 60L if you want one pack for the whole shebang. Bigger than you need for some of the trek, but large enough for more insulation or food when you want those things. I’m assuming you will select only the necessary stuff. If not, maybe go bigger, but you may regret it.
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  20. #20

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    The pros and cons of extra room are dependent upon how you're approaching your hike.
    It's true that extra space tends to lead to more overall weight, so a disciplined masochist should go as small as possible.
    On the other hand, extra room comes in handy when you least expect it. Maybe you'll find yourself wanting to carry a 12-pack of beer and hot dog buns from a local store for 2 miles. 5-6 months is a long time.

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