The AT on display
I think most of us who started to seriously hike in 2015, still had a lot to learn. That is year when I heard the mountains calling. It was the same year that the YouTube explosion of hikers putting out videos about the Appalachian Trail on a weekly or daily basis really got going. I think I watched everyone videos that year.
I started to gather information about the AT, I searched everything on YouTube and Amazon etc... trying to make my gear selections. I watched infamous YouTubers like Dixie of Homemade Wanderlust, The Real Hiking Viking and other YouTube hikers from the previous year to see what they were using and based my gear picks around these hikers suggestions, they were my inspirations to hike the Appalachian Trail.
So that's your backpack huh?
I found out from all those great YouTube videos that the average full pack load was 35 lbs to 46lbs on the Appalachian trail in 2016. Thier BIG 4 was over 10lbs, they had 4 sets of heavy clothing and heavy bulky cooking gear. I have seen hikers carry literally kitchen sinks and cast iron frying pan on their packs. Some had huge tarps over their campsite with a feeling of home away from home. It was crazy but hey, we didn't know squat about hiking and what to bring eh? Haven't we all started there and sometimes fondly remember those days?
As seen on the AT
My first time on the AT was in 2018, my full pack load was 39 pounds and "Thumper", my best hiking buddy was a crazy follower of another UL brand nd still had a full load of 35lbs. We both carried way too much food and water, like many on their first hike do. To us at that time, that was completely normal.
As we hiked on we started to hear about hikers carrying under 30lbs and we were shocked thinking how on earth were they able to accomplish that?
In 2019, our gear start to dramatically change. Our full pack weight was now average 30lbs to 35lbs, our big 4 was about 8lbs and we started to use more multi use items for our gear, we used less clothing, less socks, less food and less water. But then it happened again, we started to hear about hikers carrying 20lbs and under. They were called ultralight hikers. Many of us were thinking how could become more like them?
In 2019/2020, our big 4 was now very close to 5lbs and our average full pack weight was close to 25lbs. We now only carried 2 sets of clothes(hiking and bed) and they were all quick dry, very light clothing and not as bad smelling. We still maintain the minimum amount of 4 layers of clothing for early season conditions and we termed ourselves 3.5 season hikers able to manage every weather condition that hit us on the Appalachian Trail.
Thumper and OZ at the AT basecamp as part of the iff fated class of 2020
Recently the chat is now about a new term called minimalism oro Super Ultra-Light and these hikers would be carrying 15 lbs and less. But I termed these hikers as 1.25 season hikers as to me, it seemed impossible that they could adapt to big changes in temperatures as readily as us normal 3.5 season hikers.
Trying to emulate this SUL style we started to cut so much gear from our kit as we could, however in our opinion we lacked the necessary gear to be safe in adverse conditions, so we started to add in some items and this reverted us back to an acceptable and safe 22lb to 30lb range when fully loaded with food and water, which is more than acceptable for today's hiking standard.
OZ at the IAT Arches
Myself with help from 6 moons design, I have finally reached the 22lb to 25lb stage, big 4 around 5lbs with 4 layers of clothing.
The gear all sorted and ready to hit the trail
I am totally happy with my base weight. While hiking on Quebec's IAT last year, the younger hikers were surprised on how light my pack was. They were even more surprised when I pulled out a submarine sandwich that I even shared with them. I told them that you can bring almost anything to the trail as long as you follow the Leave no Trace.
4 Young hikers on the IAT in 2020
We all want to carry less but don't do it at the expense of your hike, your enjoyment and safety.
OZ at the finish of his 2020 Hike