Details Before Departure

Starting my journey on the Appalachian Trail has never felt closer than it did this morning when I was able to see the the first few days of my hike in the 10 day weather forcast. 65 degrees and partly cloudy. It’s perfect. But, of course, I’ll be ready for the cold and rainy days too.

The first COVID vaccine was adminstered in the U.S. in the middle of December. In January I breathed a huge sigh of releif when my husband, Ben, received his first shot. This came after 10 months of working in a high volume COVID ICU in Utah and on the frontlines in NYC. I didn’t know how scared I was of him getting sick, until he was safe. When I was able to make my vaccine appointment this week, there was tears. For us, this isn’t about finally being able to take a vacation. It isn’t about being able to go on this hike. It’s about avoiding the worst case scenerio. To quote Andy Siara’s excellent writing in Palm Springs, “There’s nothing worse than slowly dying in the ICU.”

By total serendipity my mom, an ER nurse turned hospital CNO, was volunteering at the vaccination site on the day I made my appointment!

This vaccination is a windfall but I’ll still be the girl in a mask, six feet away, with lots of hand sanitizer. Now this is less about keeping myself safe from COVID, and more about making sure I’m not a carrier from trail town to trail town.

Enough about COVID, let’s talk about gear.

So here it is. Everything I will have on my back to start this five month adventure is in this picture. It weighs around 13 lbs, which means that once I am fully loaded with food, fuel, and water I’ll hopefully be between 25 and 30 lbs overall. This is exactly where I want to be! I am totally certain that what I carry will change as I become more experienced but I am very happy with my starting point.

Carey’s Gear List

  • Pack: Osprey Lumina
  • Tent: Nemo Hornet Elite
  • Sleeping Bag: Katabatic Sawatch (15 degree bag, I sleep extremely cold.)
  • Sleeping Pad: Thermarest Prolite (Small size, 47″L. This is long enough to cushion my shoulders and hips. I decided that extra length just for my feet is not necessary!)
  • Food Storage: Wild Ideas bear cannister (Don’t @ me about my bear can. I know that Ursacks are lighter and that they can be just as effective. I chose to go this route instead because I like the way the hard sided storage packs, I like that I can use it as a table or a chair as I am sketching, I like that at the end of the day I can just place it 100′ away from camp, I like that I can wrap duct tape around it to use for whatever emergencies will arise. With all of this in mind the extra 1.8lbs becomes worth the weight. BUT – perhaps I will eventually change my mind.)
  • Trekking Poles: Gossamer Gear LT5
  • Camp Stove: Jetboil MiniMo
  • Utensils: (1) big ol’ spoon, (1) mini swiss army knife
  • Water Purifier: Sawyer Squeeze
  • Water Bottles
    • (1) 2 liter platypus for “dirty” water
    • (1) smartwater for filtered water
  • Fanny Pack: Life AF (This will hold just a few items that I want to be more accessible while on the move: a couple snacks, cellphone, pepper spray, aquafor.)
  • Maps: AWOL Guide pocket profiles. (These are small maps, section by section, that show the trail, elevation, shelters, campsites, water sources, towns and what each town has for shelter and supply, distances, wayfinding…just, everything. So much information. I will also have the full, more detailed, AWOL PDF on my phone.)
  • Safety:
    • Pepper spray for the most dangerous animals on the trail (Hint – it’s not bears)
    • Compass (I opted for a small compass attached to my bag. Less helpful for full orienteering, more helpful for general wayfinding.)
    • Whistle
    • Emergency fire starting kit – Striker fire starter, dryer lint soaked in lighter fluid.
  • Sketching Kit:
    • Homemade sketchbook. Each is ~100 pages to keep overall weight down. I’ll be mailing complete books home and trading in for fresh books as needed.
    • Pens – Micron archival .01, .03, .05, .08
    • Pen – Sakura white gel pen
    • Watercolor reservoir brush – Kuretake
    • Watercolors – Windsor & Newton travel kit (I ordered some specific half pan colors to trade out for colors I tend to use less often. So, additional blues instead of the chalk white half pan that I greatly dislike and the black half pan that is duplicated by my preferred dark color: paynes grey.)
  • First Aid Kit:
    • Sterile dressing, butterfly closures, blister care (moleskin + wool it), leukotape, Ibprofein, Antihistamine, Imodium, Doxycycline, rescue inhaler, allergy meds, afterbite, antibiotic ointment, alcohol swaps, tick remover, nail clippers, MSR Aquatabs,
  • Electronics:
    • Cellphone
    • Headphones
    • Power Bank – Nitecore 10,000Ah (will be able to charge my phone ~3 times)
    • Headlamp
  • Toiletries:
    • Toothpaste, toothbrush, campsuds (biodegradable body wash/shampoo/dishes/detergent!), suncreen, insect repellent, aquafor, TP, trowell (deuce of spades), pee cloth (Kula), hand sanitizer, body glide (chafing is a real issue for me.), Joshua Tree salve.

Clothes & Footwear

  • (2) MASKS!
  • Shoes:
    • Saloman Speedcross trail runners (I’m starting with a pari I already have worn in, thinking that I will ditch them for a new pair after rocky Pennsylvania)
    • Birkenstock Eva* (Ultralight birks! How great, I don’t have to wear crocs after all.)
  • (2) Wool T-Shirt: Smartwool*
  • (1) Long Sleeve Baselayer: Smartwool
  • (1) Midlayer: Patagonia Capeline
  • (1) Hiking Pant: Mountain Hardwear Dynama Pant
  • (1) Hiking Short: Brooks running
  • (1) Long underwear: REI*
  • (2) Underwear: Patagonia Barely
  • (1) Sports Bra: Brooks Hot Shot (So comfortable. Unfortunately this product is now discontinued!)
  • Down Jacket: Patagonia Nano Puff
  • Rain Jacket and Pants: Marmot Precip/EMS
  • Socks:
    • (2) Darn Tough midweight hiking
    • (1) Darn Tough heavyweight hiking*
  • Hats:
    • (1) Wool hat
    • (1) Ciele cap
  • Gloves: Z packs possum wool gloves
  • Buff
  • Glasses/Sunglasses

*I will be keeping one set of clothes, including a pair of socks, in a dry bag at all times outside of the tent. This is so that I am guaranteed to always have something dry-ish to change into at the end of a wet day.


I love my thick hair. I can easily twist it into great updos, top knots, high ponytails. I can keep it loose and wild. I don’t love that after I shower it takes between 12 and 36 hours to dry on it’s own. In the past I have hiked all day in the rain before laying down in my tent with wet hair and the knowledge that it will remain wet, and cold, all night. To prevent this terrible condition I have cut it all off – eek!

It’s been a decade since I’ve worn a pixie cut and honestly it is scary as hell! I miss my cute bangs, I don’t know how to style this, and I look a LOT like my younger brother (I mean we’re baisically twins already but this is a whole new level).

The good news is that a week from now I’ll be dirty and sweaty and wearing a hat anyway, how my hair looks will be a least of my worries. Maybe I’ll even grow to love it.

My brother Josh and I at my wedding….resemblance is really uncanny now.

“But, how do you get your food?”

Ah, the second most common question. Only beat by “Your husband is really letting you do this?” (insert eyeroll here)

Along the A.T. there are a lot of places that you can access from the trail for food. If you are willing to walk along a road for a few miles or hitchhike you could resupply every 2-4 days. I am opting to carry food for more days at a time and resupply when the trail passes less than a mile from, or directly through, a town.

Even with those conditions in my first month of hiking I am not going more than 6 days between resupply points. These resupply points are most oftens towns with grocery stores, dollar generals, or small convenience markets. I am also preparing a series of resupply boxes that Ben will mail to strategic post offices for me to pick up as I pass through. I am saving these boxes for points where town offerings are limited, and plan on picking one up every three weeks or so. The resupply boxes will mostly have items that would be difficult to find along the way or items that typically are purchased in bulk – freeze dried vegetables, sauce packets, flipz to be devoured immediately, epsom salt for sore feet, a couple pages from my crossword book, greenbelly bars, spare ziplock bags, etc.

Following a great tip from a Trek blog post I have bought colorful and uniqe duct tape. This means that when I’m picking up at a post office I can easily say – mine is the one with the cactus tape!


I’m packed, I’m vaccinated, I have a plan, I have determination, my attitude is positive, my outlook is sunny, and now it is time to go.

“Beyond the very extreme of fatigue and distress, we may find amounts of ease and power we never dreamed ourselves to own; sources of strength never taxed at all because we never pushed through the obstruction.”
William James.

“Don’t you wonder sometimes, what might have happened if you tried?”
Never Let Me Go, Kazuo Ishiguro

Here’s to the struggle,


One response to “Details Before Departure”

  1. John Scanlon Avatar
    John Scanlon

    You go girl! Just when you think you are out of gas, the magical restoring power of sleep, nourishment, and positivity will fuel your next day on the trail. One day at a time. The sun will come out, after it rains. Be well, be safe, drink in the challenge.

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