Will Your Gear Survive A Shakedown?

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Travel light and you’ll have to make some choices.

Mountain Crossings, a store located on mile 31.7 miles into the Appalachian Trail will disabuse you of the notion you need to bring anything extra. You can actually pay them to get a shake down of your pack – remember Cheryl Strayed getting a shakedown on the PCT? –  or you can use this article as a guide to help you winnow your pack weight. Remember, you’re traveling light.

You have to make your own choices geared for where you’re hiking. But on the AT, and many trails where you will be mailing supplies,  this is good advice.

Enjoy! See you on the trails.

Top 5 Items Sent Home in a Shakedown

The act of having an experienced backpacker cull through your backpack in search of unneeded items.

I have only worked one thru hiker season at Mountain Crossings, but the patterns are obvious. I see why it is a trail tradition to get a pack shakedown 31.7 miles into your thru hike.  So before you even walk through the front door of the badass, climate controlled shelter you live in, chuck these things out of your pack!

Matt "Pretzel" Mason scouring for ditchable gear.

Matt “Pretzel” Mason scouring for ditchable gear.

Bear Mace / Pepper Spray

Google "Bear Mace". No really, do it. Count how many black bears you see. Then Google what kind of bears are on the East Coast... Don't carry bear mace.

Google “Bear Mace”. No really, do it. Count how many black bears you see. Then Google what kind of bears are on the East Coast… Don’t carry bear mace.

Just be smart, aware and make friends who will watch your back!

Spot Beacon/Solar Chargers/Battery Packs

Don't be this guy, who might as well have a 2,185.9 miles leach one him.

Don’t be this guy, who might as well have a 2,185.9 miles leach one him.

The SPOT GPS units are the hardest thing to try to convince someone to send home. 100% of the time we tell someone to send it home. The trail is so well marked and cell service is depressingly easy to get along many parts of the AT that they are absolute over-kill.  Solar charges also fall under the group of way-too-heavy-and-way-too-expensive-to-be-worth-it. There is too much tree coverage on the AT for a solar charger to work well. They share the same root problem as with battery packs. Just let go, live a little, in the moment, with your own known how and capabilities!

Half of the first aid kit

First-Aid-Kit

What could one person possibly need all this crap for?! Bring it down to the realistic needs: scrapes, bruises and upset stomachs.

Really all you need are a few Band-Aids and a bunch of pills; things for achy muscles, diarrhea, gas, cold symptoms, a few sleep aids for the snore symphony nights. That and any special prescriptions is all you will use for the most part.

Extra Toiletries

Travel size or not, just don't bring them! Too heavy, too repetitive.

Travel size or not, just don’t bring them! Too heavy, too repetitive.

A single 2oz bottle of Dr. Bronner’s is all you need to send you off on the trail. It will clean your hair, your body, your clothes, your dishes, your pack. Anything!

Extra clothes

This is close but why 3 bottoms? Why 3 tops? Why two gloves? Why arm warmers? The answers probably start with a "Just in case..." or "What if..."

This is close but why 3 bottoms? Why 3 tops? Why two gloves? Why arm warmers? The answers probably start with a “Just in case…” or “What if…”

People go overboard on clothes, but having the proper clothing keeps you from carrying too much. Don’t bother with more than two sets of clothes. Have one set of clothes to hike in and one for camp/town. If your clothes get soaked in the rain and you’re cold in camp, slip your town clothes on to sleep in but put your dirtier hiking clothes back on in the morning. In cold weather carry a set of base layers, any necessary hats and gloves and a heavy insulation later like a down jacket but don’t double up on anything.

The Take Away

 

It can seem harsh to riffle through someone’s pack and tell them to get rid of things they have thought long and hard about bringing. It’s hard to do sometimes. I was so resistant to it myself back when I started backpacking. Sometimes I hesitate to tell someone to chuck something out. But then I think back to RPH Shelter in New York almost 1,500 miles into my thru hike when I finally got rid of all the pointless shit in my pack I hadn’t touched yet. It felt awesome and I want people to feel awesome at mile 31.7!

To read more about Mountain Crossing’s shakedown process, go to page 2.

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