Appalachian Trail Jindo

A 2,200 mile hike with my dog Nara.

GoLite Jam50 (size M) and pack cover

Pros: Ligthweight, durable, simple, yet functional design. Everything you need, minus all the clutter/excessive pockets. $110 retail price; comparable to other light-weight backpacks in the $200-$300 range. Held up for 5 months with no significant issues. Pack cover to keep gear dry.

Cons: Uncomfortable when >25 pounds. Side mesh pockets can tear form tree branches and thick brush. Bring a small sewing kit.

Bottom Line: Highly recommend. The size and design keeps the weight down by making you think about what gear you really need. For thru-hiking, bigger bags don't do this. There are only two pockets. I kept the tent in outside pocket: easy to set up first and pack last. Also recommend stuffing the tent as opposed to folding.


Mountainsmith Dog Pack (size M)

Pros: Durable, cool design. Nara would carry up to 3 pounds. Dog Pack helped Nara focus on staying on the trail.

Cons: On longer mile days (20+), Nara would chaff under her front armpits. I tried adjusting straps, but it continued, so I decided to ditch the dog pack in Virginia.

Bottom Line: For us, the backpack ended up creating more problems than it solved. Since Nara isn't a large dog, I decided to carry her food (max 5 lbs). If you have a large dog, you'll likely need a dog pack. Make sure to watch for chaffing.

Western Mountaineering Sycamore (size Regular)

Pros: Cozy, 25 degree bag, and relatively light (2 lbs). Also unzips around foot area, so you can convert in to a comforter.

Cons: Pricey and almost too warm for most of the trip.

Bottom Line: Some thru-hikers use two sleeping bags: summer bag during the middle months and winter bag in early spring or late fall. I just stuck with one. When it was too hot, I'd unzip the bag completely and use as a comforter.


Pillow and Sleeping pad

Therma-a-Rest Trekker Pillow Case

Pros: Durable, yet soft light-weight polyester pillow for added comfort. Doubles as a bag for all my clothes sans rain jacket.

Cons: No real issues. Rarely, a clothing item would work its way out of the case at night.

Bottom Line: Any stuff sack or bundle of clothes would work as a pillow, but the Therm-a-Rest pillow is a nice luxury item.

NeoAir XLite SLeeping Pad (size Regular)

Pros: Comfortable, light (12 oz), packs small. Can sleep comfortably in any position.

Cons: Have to blow it up every night, and deflate and roll up every morning. Additional chores compared to using a foam pad.

Bottom Line: Unless you're going for a speed record and want to reduce chores, I'd recommend getting an inflatable pad. I experimented with foam pad and realized I sleep much better with the NeoAir.