When most people think about hiking the Appalachian Trail or other long distance trails, they think about taking six months off and hiking end to end – otherwise known as thru hiking.  Only a small percentage of people ever start this hike and even fewer are able to finish it.


Another way to go is section hiking.  This is the approach my cousin and I have taken for the Appalachian Trail.  I love the simplicity of backpacking.  I am recharged outside.  And I thoroughly enjoy being immersed in the trail culture.  However, even if I had the time, I am not really interested in a thru-hike.  And while we never get “trail legs” by only hiking a week or so at a time, there are several benefits to section hiking.  The highest reason on my list is the fun is never over.  We always have a hike a head of us.  A new section to research, plan, and do.  We are doing a “best of” and have completed most (at least lots) of Virginia, all of West Virginia, some of Pennsylvania, and about half of Georgia.  This coming summer will be either the Smoky Mountains, the White Mountains, or New York.  But regardless of where we choose, I have the winter to dream and plan for it.


Years ago, I started with a pack that was almost twenty years old, heavy, and too full.  Over the past several years I have grown more efficient and savvy.  This past summer I was down to 32 lbs with food and water.  So it was time to upgrade my pack.  For those thinking about a section (or thru) hike, here is my recommended packing list:

  • Backpack (40-60L is plenty)
  • Backpack cover (although you can get away without one if everything inside your pack is kept in bags – you can also use a rain poncho or trash bag for a lighter/cheaper option)
  • Tent
  • Sleeping Bag
  • Dry bag or trash bag for sleeping bag
  • Tarp or ground cloth*
  • Blanket or sleeping bag liner*
  • Sleeping pad
  • Stove
  • Fuel
  • Pot
  • Matches
  • Food bag that can be hung
  • One spoon
  • TP w/ extra bag for used paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Water bottles for 64-76 oz of water
  • Water purification
  • Rain jacket
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • Extra coat / layer*
  • Winter hat and gloves
  • Long sleeve shirt (not cotton), yoga pants, socks (double as backup hiking socks) for sleep
  • Camp sandals*
  • Toothbrush/paste
  • Headlamp
  • First Aid kit: chap stick, Neosporin, Motrin, duct tape, Imodium, allergy med, antibiotics , nail clippers
  • Kindle^
  • MP3 player^
  • Whistle^
  • Rope and duct tape*
  • Hiker’s wallet (ziplock baggie): cash, ID, ATM card
  • Phone/camera (cord if needed)
  • Route map
  • Trekking pole*

Not on Jenna’s list for consideration:  sun glasses, compass, knife/multi-tool, sunblock, bug spray, hat, pillow, watch, GPS

*Optional or depends on time of year/elevation

^Jenna’s luxury items


Hiking Clothes:  Boots, Socks, Long Pants/Yoga Pants, Wicking T-shirt, Bandanna

Jenna’s Food:

  • Breakfast: granola bar and/or left over dinner
  • Morning snack: nuts
  • Lunch: Salami/pepperoni and cheese
  • Afternoon snack: M&Ms
  • Dinner: Couscous, Mac & Chees, Ramen, Hash browns, Rice dish etc…
  • Emergency (1 per 3-4 days): 1 Ramen, 1-2 granola bars, jerky

at5Resupply Box:

  • TP for next leg
  • Food for next leg
  • 1 pr clean clothes that can be thrown away (shorts, tee shirt, undergarments)
  • Shampoo, conditioner, soap (travel size)
  • Laundry soap (if can do laundry at that stop)

Fruit and trail magic**

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