This article originally appeared on The Trek, which can be read here: https://thetrek.co/appalachian-trail/gear-all-the-small-things/
Not pictured: Hammock Gear hammock and top quilt still in production. Also not pictured: about half a dozen things I’ll probably buy between now and March 1st.
I recently purchased my last piece of gear for my thru hike. I have a couple pieces coming in the mail but I paid for those a couple weeks ago so this item was the last thing I needed buy before I’m ready to hike the AT (hopefully, damn!) What is it you ask? Maybe that ultralight tent or a new frameless pack? Or maybe a down sleeping bag or a nice warm puffy?
Actually, it was Chapstick.
A small, single tube of Chapstick was the last item I needed to buy. I realized when I erased the Chapstick from my Gear To Buy list that there was nothing else there. I remember a year and a half ago as I was truly deciding to go on this trek and that list felt like it was miles long. It seemed like that list, much like the trail itself, would just go on and on into eternity. But even things so vast and huge have an end. And this one ended at Chapstick.
The Little Things
I thought about making the ubiquitous gear list post for this but decided against it. There are already a million gear list posts here and all over the internet. And even with all those out there, no two are the same. You may take some hints and tips and ideas from a gear list, but you’ll never have an exact copy.
Besides, my gear is constantly changing so a gear post of mine would be out of date before the day is over! So, rather than make another gear list to be lost among the millions, I’ve decided to focus on something a little smaller; on the things in my pack like Chapstick.
I remember a recent trip when the temperatures dropped overnight and I was laying in my hammock, warm and comfy, with a great new puffy and an awesome rain fly, when I realized I needed some Chapstick for my lips. The cold! The terrible, impenetrable cold! It had chapped my lips raw and I realized that for all my fancy and expensive gear I hadn’t thought about a one-dollar tube of Chapstick!
And now that makes me think of all the little things that are going to get me to Katahdin. I think about my ten-dollar mug that hangs off my pack and bounces along with me down the trail. Or a five-dollar bandana to wipe the stinging sweat out of my eyes. Or my trusty, long-handled spork. And yes, even a face-mask. All these things are just as integral to getting me to Katahdin as my pack or my hammock. Each piece will have its part to play.
The Littlest Thing
And that brings me to the last little thing I’m taking with me on the Appalachian Trail. It’s a lighter. Not just any lighter though; it’s a Zippo. I know Zippos typically aren’t as practical as a Bic lighter but this one is different. It’s bright silver and the lid flips open with a nice, sharp click. It has engravings on it. On one side, my initials. And on the other side is a quote that is probably my favorite line in the entirety of the English language. It comes from Cormac McCarthy’s The Road and it defines the close relationship between the two main characters.
I want to take this lighter with me to Katahdin because it was given to me by my fiancé and it will be my way to stay connected to her while I’m gone. It will be her favor that I will carry from beginning to end. And the quote? Like how it defines the relationship between the characters in the novel it perfectly defines the relationship between my fiancé and I, “Forever each the other’s world entire.”
As much as my trail runners and my lightweight waterproof pack, that little silver lighter is going to get me all the way from Springer to Katahdin.
For all those gear nerds out there (like me!), here are my detailed gear lists for both cold weather and warm weather on the AT (subject to change):
Cold weather: https://lighterpack.com/r/d7nrmw
Warm weather: https://lighterpack.com/r/48jdjx