Calendar Year Triple Crown Gear List and Review(And How the Gear Changed along the AT, PCT, and CDT)

This will be a mixture of gear list, gear reviews, and the thought process behind why I chose each piece of gear. To re-cap, in 2022 I thru-hiked the Appalachian, Pacific Crest, and Continental Divide Trails. In total this took 290 days. I started northbound on the Appalachian Trail on Feb 16th. After the Appalachian Trail I hiked the Pacific Crest Trail NOBO then hiked the Continental Divide Trail southbound and finished December 2nd.

The Calendar Year Triple Crown was a great testing-ground for gear. I experienced all four seasons fully and was out in conditions that you don’t typically see on thru-hikes, like camping in sub-zero temperatures on-top of several feet of fresh snow in the San Juan mountains of Colorado.

Checkout my comprehensive thru-hiking preparation training program here. It covers all your bases – from physical training to mindfulness practices and mental resilience training. Gear, nutrition, it’s all covered.

Appalachian Trail Gear List

This is what AI thinks New Hampshire and Mt Washington looks like covered in ice and snow.

This is what I carried starting out at Springer Mountain Georgia on Feb 16th, 2022 and finished at Abol Bridge in Maine(Katadhin was still closed) on May 20th.

The “Big Three”

I wanted the dyneema HMG pack because I knew I’d experience a lot of rain on the AT and didn’t want to deal with a pack cover or have to worry about a pack liner leaking. It worked pretty well, even on very heavy rainy days at most I would get a little moisture inside the pack(I have an additional layer inside my pack, all of my sleeping gear goes inside a trash compactor bag that keeps it dry). The HMG was the perfect compromise between an ultra-ultralight pack like a pa’lante and something more traditional like an Osprey. My pack fully loaded would usually top out at 30-35lbs, sometimes 40+ if there was a long food carry(mostly on the PCT and CDT). So I like having a frame and and hip belt to help distribute that load. The Windrider, coming in right around 2lbs is the perfect mix of lightweight, durable, roomy, and comfortable.

I was on the fence about taking a quilt vs sleeping bag heading into a hike in the winter. Ultimately I decided to take a chance on the Katabatic based on their stellar reviews and I didn’t regret it. On the AT I regularly faced nights that dropped below 20 degrees F. On those cold nights I would wear every layer and pick a shelter or campsite that was protected from the wind. Taking these precautions I never had a “cold night” on trail. I was able to sleep through the night comfortably even on a few nights when the temps dropped below zero. I quickly switched from the small Thermarest pad to a large wide pad which I cut down below the hips, the small pad was simply too narrow for my frame, I found my arms and shoulders hanging off of the pad every night.

I’d used NEMO tents on previous hikes and they’ve served me well. I actually only set this one up twice because I slept in shelters so often. I switched out to a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Unbound 2P trekking pole tent about halfway through the AT. The Unbound was both lighter by about 8ozs and more roomy and I found it was faster and easier to set-up.

Layers

I’m not too particular about base layers. I usually grab whatever is on sale.

I really liked the NW Alpine spider micro-grid hoody. It was the perfect layer to wear all day when the temperatures were in the 30s and 40s. I found it to be breathable and it looks cool so that’s a nice bonus.

The Enlightened Equipment Torrid worked well. It didn’t feel quite as warm as my Patagonia puffy that I’ve used previously but it is also almost half the weight of that Patagonia puffy so it’s worth the sacrifice. If I were spending a lot more time in camp on cold days I might opt for a heavier and warmer puffy but since I spent most of my time moving the Torrid worked well to keep me warm at night inside my tent/sleeping bag, and in the morning as I started moving around packing up and hiking out. I’d wear it for the first few miles until the sun came out and warmed things up. The choice of a puffy really hinges on how much time you’ll spend in camp – if you’re only wearing it a few hours a day right before bed/when you wake up then saving weight at the expense of a little warm makes sense imo.

Rain gear

  • Rain Jacket – Enlightened Equipment Visp
  • Rain Pants – NW Alpine Test Ultralight Rain Pants

At first glance the Visp doesn’t inspire confidence as far as keeping you dry. But I found that it stayed waterproof for the entire year and it’s significantly lighter than the more traditional rain shells that I’ve used in the past. It doubled as a wind layer and shell on really cold days. As long as I kept moving I found that layering with my base layer, mid-layer, puffy, and rain jacket provided plenty of warmth all the way down to hiking through sub-zero conditions in Colorado in November.

The NW Alpine rain pants I found were not very durable and started tearing and falling apart after just a few weeks. Weighing in at around 2ozs though you can’t expect durability. I found that I needed heavier rain pants for the type of hiking I was doing. I would recommend getting heavier sturdier rain pants for the AT in the winter, or resign yourself to replacing multiple pairs. Regardless rain pants are absolutely necessary hiking on any trail in cold conditions. I got rid of my rain pants on the PCT and almost went hypothermic hiking into the Sierra’s on a day I experienced a mix of freezing rain and snow, because I had no way of keeping my lower body warm.

Socks, Gloves, and Shoes

The intent behind the waterproof socks was to keep my feet warm during cold/wet weather and not necessarily to keep them dry. The socks are waterproof but after hours of wear sweat will accumulate so your feet won’t stay dry. However the neoprene layer is a great layer for retaining heat. I bought the socks a little large and wore my darn tough socks underneath the waterproof socks.

Gloves were essential. Like base layers I just get whatever is on-sale. Having a shell for the AT was really helpful with all the rain. Once gloves wet out they don’t keep your hands warm anymore. You’ll see thru-hikers wearing plastic zip-lock bags on their hands in an effort to keep them warm during cold rainy weather. I say just spend $30 on some shells that weigh less than 1oz and will last you for years and stop dealing with the plastic bags.

I started the trail with Altra Lone Peak 6s and then tried Altra Timps and Olympus. I’ll talk on those later. I chose the trail runner and waterproof sock option as the best compromise to keep my feet warm while still maintaining a light flexible shoe vs a heavy waterproof boots. When you’re on trail all day everyday it doesn’t matter how waterproof your footgear is, things still get wet. The upside of trail runners is that they dry out much faster and are way more comfortable and cause less fatigue over long days when compared to boots.

Camp Gear

There are systems that are more ultralight, like alcohol stoves. I like the convenience and speed of a isobutane stove like the pocket rocket. I figure getting my food cooked faster at camp and thus getting to go to bed earlier is worth the extra few ounces of carrying a isobutane fuel can and stove.

The Sawyer Squeeze is standard for most thru-hikers. Don’t get the mini, it doesn’t have enough water-flow. I would sleep with my filter inside a coat pocket at night and carry it next to my chest in a pocket anytime the temperatures approached freezing. The filter will break if the water inside freezes. I also do my best to push all the water out after using it to prevent freezing.

Winter Gear

The microspikes were invaluable on the ice-covered mountain slopes of New Hampshire and Maine. If you’re planning to go through the AT in winter conditions I would recommend the most aggressive micro-spikes that you can buy.

I didn’t carry an ice-axe on the AT and didn’t feel that I really needed it. In a true winter AT thru-hike like the one that Aquaman just completed it would be a good idea to bring an ice-axe. I found that I could just hang onto trees for support in lieu of an ice axe.

The snowshoes were useful but also annoying. It was more the time of year that I went through. Late April and early May things were in the process of melting so it was a constant process of putting on snowshoes to go through the deep drifts under the trees then taking them off to walk over the bare rocks in the unshaded spots. I still don’t know if it would have been easier to just post-hole through. It’s two equally bad choices. It would have been better to either come through two weeks earlier in the year when temperatures were colder and the snow was more solid or two weeks later when everything had melted off.

Electronics

If you’re going to carry a camera having a Peak Design QD clip that clips to your backpack is essential. I had a HMG 10L drybag that I would put over my camera in light rain and keep it on the outside of my pack. In heavy rains I would put my camera inside that dry-bag and store it inside my backpack.

A 10k battery is sufficient for most people. This just depends on your level of electronics use and how many days you stay out at a time. With my extra camera equipment to maintain I opted for a bigger battery just in case. I never ran out with a 20k through the entire trip. If you’re only powering a phone and have moderate use(Farout and several hours of podcasts/music per day) then a 10k will last 3-5 days while a 20k battery will last 5-8 days.

The Nitecore NU25 is the perfect headlamp IMO. It recharges off your portable battery bank and has a very long battery life. I could hike 5-6 hours on the medium setting each night without draining the battery and recharge it when I went to bed. If you forget to recharge it or need to hike longer in the dark you can plug the headlamp into your battery bank and turn on the light while it’s plugged in.

I’ve used a SPOT device before and the Garmin InReach is vastly superior. It allows 2 way texting, checking of weather, and tracking. Plus it doesn’t lock you into these terrible contracts like SPOT does. While I’ve never had to use the SOS device myself I’ve met enough people on various trails who have needed it that it is an essential piece of gear for me now and well worth the money.

Other Stuff

I got rid of the pillow a week in. It just wasn’t worth the weight when I was hiking so many hours a day. Plus on less cold nights I could roll my puffy into a very comfortable pillow.

I’ll never hike without a fanny pack again. It’s just so versatile. You can fit your snacks, phone, headphones. I keep some of my camera equipment in there like spare batteries and lens cloths. When you’re in town it’s great for holding your wallet and other essentials. The HMG Versa was the perfect size for me and it being dyneema was fairly water resistant.

I’ve used Leki and Black Diamond trekking poles on all my thru-hikes. Neither have ever failed on me. I just buy whichever is cheapest. I find the $80-90 work just fine for me, no need to spend extra on the carbon fiber models.

Pacific Crest Trail Gear List

AI generated this in about 30 seconds from a few lines of text! Crazy!

I started the PCT on May 24th and finished on August 25th of 2022.

The “Big Three”

The same pack from the AT held steady all through the PCT without any tears or issues. Changed to a Katabatic 30 degree quilt. I had a few cold nights in the high Sierra Nevada mountains where I was happy my quilt was 30 degrees but I could have made it the whole trail with a 40 degree quilt with the late May start.

I used the tent a lot more on the PCT than I did on the AT. The large footprint did make it difficult to find camping spots when I was in the big hiking bubble around Cascade Locks(as many people skipped up there due to wildfires) but otherwise I was happy with the room and not feeling cramped in my tent. The drier weather on the PCT makes it a great trail to cowboy camp, but it’s still a good idea to have a tent or a bivy to escape the bugs with. I set my tent up every night in Oregon and Washington to get a reprieve from the hoards of mosquitoes.

My Thermarest sleeping pad started leaking around Truckee so I picked up a NEMO Switchback foam pad instead. I cut the foam pad down to save some weight and just slept with my pack under my feet. I like the foam pads in the summer because they’re quick to set-up and you can lay them out when you’re taking a break. When the daily temperatures top 110 degrees taking a break during the heat of the day is mandatory so it’s nice to have something more comfortable to lay on during this break.

Layers

Switched to the Farpoint OG direct alpha hoody once it was hot enough that I wasn’t wearing my midlayer regularly. I probably could have gone without a midlayer entirely, or kept a midlayer and sent the puffy home. I really like the direct alpha, it’s very warm and weighs about half as much as a traditional Melanzana or the NW Alpine midlayer. This is what I’ll carry on future hikes as it’s the best mix of lightweight and warm/breathable.

Rain gear

  • Rain Jacket – Enlightened Equipment Visp

It doesn’t rain much on the PCT but you still need a rain jacket. I shipped my rain pants home. There were two days when I hiked out from Kennedy Meadows South and entered the high Sierras where it snowed and I really wish I’d had rain pants. I got so cold that I pitched my tent in the middle of the day and crawled into my sleeping bag to warm up. If I hadn’t also had my rain jacket and didn’t have my sleep system in a waterproof bag then that could have been a deadly situation.

Socks, Gloves, and Shoes

I found the Altra Timp’s to have more cushioning but the new Timps have an air vent at the bottom of the shoe which lets in sand and dirt. I developed bad blisters after just two days on the PCT because of all the sand and dirt that was getting inside my shoe. I had to stop every 3-4 hours to dump sand out of my shoes and socks. After I used up the three pairs of Timps that I had I switched over to the Altra Olympus which will be my go-to thru-hiking shoe now. I’ll write more about that on the CDT portion.

Camp Gear

Electronics

I switched to a full-frame camera. I wouldn’t recommend it unless you’re really serious about getting the best image quality. Between my camera, lens, and extra batteries and accessories I had over 4.5lbs of camera equipment. That’s about a 40% increase to my base-weight or like carrying around an extra bear can, or two extra days of food. I ended up getting rid of my tripod to save a little weight and started setting my camera down on rocks and whatever else I could find.

I also switched to a Nitecore 20k battery just to save a few ounces to try and off-set the weight of the camera.

Other Stuff

Continental Divide Trail Gear List

I started the CDT on Aug 30 and finished it Dec 2nd, 2022. I had the same gear as the PCT until about the middle of Colorado where I switched out to a lot more winter and cold-weather gear again to deal with the winter conditions and snow.

The “Big Three”

I swapped out my pack after about 6,000 miles. It was still holding up strong but I needed more space for winter gear. In retrospect I probably could have made the 55L pack work. When I made the switch I didn’t have a clear idea of exactly how much extra gear I would need or what the weather would look like exactly.

There was about a two week period hiking through southern Colorado and norther New Mexico where I encountered heavy snow and very cold temperatures. The temps at night regularly dipped into the single digits with a few nights that dipped below zero. When I could I tried to get lower in elevation but sometimes I had to camp at 10-11,000ft on a thick layer of snow. I wouldn’t use the HMG Unbound tent for specific winter camping but it worked fine for these weeks in the snow.

When the snows started I asked for advice on Reddit about how to stay warmer and the owner of Nunatak reached out. They’re based in Leadville, CO and I was in Salida, CO at the time and they were able to get me an Apex Overbag that same day! This was critical in helping me to stay warm in these temperatures. The overbag weighs about 16ozs. Think of it like a thin sleeping bag that goes over your quilt. Combined with the Katabatic 15 degree I was comfortably able to go down to below zero temperatures.

Switching back to the Thermarest was necessary in the cold. I don’t think the foam sleeping pad would have kept me warm enough in these conditions.

Layers

  • Base Layer Top – Jollygear Triple Crown Buttondown
  • Base Layer Bottom – Soffe Shorts, Smartwool Leggings
  • Midlayer – Farpoint OG Direct Alpha Hoody, Waffle top
  • Puffy – Enlightened Equipment Torrid

Added leggings and a waffle top from the local gear store in Salida, CO. I wore the Jollygear as the base layer, with the direct alpha as the next layer, then the waffle-top. This was enough to keep me warm most of the days in 20-30 degree weather. I would layer up with the puffy at night and in the mornings and a few times put the rain jacket on-top of all of these layers.

Rain gear

  • Rain Jacket – Enlightened Equipment Visp
  • Rain pants – Outdoor Research rain pants

I picked up the Outdoor Research rain pants and wore them most days through Colorado and northern New Mexico. They eventually developed a rip along the crotch line. I’ve still yet to find a rain pant that will hold up to daily continuous use but that might just be the nature of rain pants. Vital for staying warm in cold snowy conditions.

Socks, Gloves, and Shoes

  • Socks – 2x Darn Tough
  • Gloves – Outdoor Research insulated gloves, REI Goretex shells
  • Waterproof Socks – Seal Skinz waterproof socks
  • Shoes – Altra Olympus 6

I wore the waterproof socks most days trudging through the snow and they kept my feet warm. Zero issues with frostbite or anything like that walking through deep snow for 12+ hours a day in 10-30 degree weather.

Out of the three different styles of Altras I liked the Olympus 6 the best. They have a good amount of cushioning and this in turn reduces foot pain and reduces the soreness that can come from stepping on rocks and roots and such. With all the different models I switched the shoes out around 500-600 miles but could have pushed them to 700-800 if I needed to.

An aside on durability of footwear. I noticed that my first AT hike I wore out shoes much faster than I do now. I think this is due to being more mindful of where I place my feet and how I walk. Walking mindfully I try to avoid stepping on big rocks or getting my shoes snagged on roots. A good general practice for anyone – it reduces your risk of turning an ankle, tripping, etc. But a side-effect of this practice is that my shoes last much longer. I don’t get those big gnarly holes in my shoes anymore and the top never separates from the bottom layer. I switch them because the tread has worn down.

Camp Gear

The stove was useful in getting through the cold nights. I would heat up water and pour it into a Nalgene water bottle and sleep with that bottle inside my sleeping bag. A set-up like this can generate heat for several hours, it’s like having a mini heater inside your bag with you.

In super cold conditions you have to baby-sit your filter. I usually attach my filter to my water bottle and filter directly into my mouth and just filter and drink as I go. That wasn’t an option with the cold so I would filter 2-3 liters and then immediately put the Sawyer inside a chest pocket and let it sit next to my body. This strategy worked fine and I never got sick from any water on trail.

Electronics

I switched to a lighter lens just to try and save a little weight with all the added things in my pack. At night I would sleep with all of my batteries inside my sleeping bag to keep them from being drained via the cold.

The Nitecore headlamp held up fine night-hiking through the cold temperatures. Never had any issues with the battery dying quickly due to the cold.

Other Stuff

I carried microspikes for a bit in Colorado but didn’t really need them. The fresh snow was easy enough to gain traction in. Snowshoes would have been helpful but it was too much of a pain to try to get them shipped somewhere accessible so I just ended up postholing for a few weeks. Miserable hiking, but not impossible.

Checkout my comprehensive thru-hiking preparation training program here. It covers all your bases – from physical training to mindfulness practices and mental resilience training. Gear, nutrition, it’s all covered.

Jack Jones

Jack Jones

Quadzilla at Couch to Trail
Jack is on a quest to explore the world and find adventure. He is passionate about using his adventures to inspire others to follow their heart and step out of their comfort zone. He has hiked ~13,000 miles and was the 19th person to complete a Calendar Year Triple Crown in 2022.
Jack Jones

Comments 5

  1. Rebecca Powell

    Jack, you are amazing!! I just returned from spending time with Gerald and his family. While I was there, Gerald and I talked about you and your adventures. What a life you are experiencing; very proud of your many accomplishments.

  2. Tom Syzek

    Jack, it was an inspiration to meet you in Salida and witness your practical and thoughtful approach to backpacking. You were still calm and cool (or freezing) as you headed south on the home stretch of your Triple Crown. I could have given you a pair of snowshoes, had we known how much snow there was ahead!

  3. Alastair Bunster

    What are those gaiters? You seem to always wear them but never mention them. Thanks for the awesome content.

    1. Post
      Author
  4. Tony

    Hi jack,
    Great accomplishment hope you continue with your vedio’s they are inspirational to watch. I’m planning to do the P.C.T. in 2024 . I use the H.M.G ultimid 2 for shelter . What your thoughts of this shelter .

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *