Gear for my 2020 Southbound Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike

Below is my pack, it’s contents, and any comments that I may have regarding the item. This may vary slightly, from time to time, as I do enjoy trying new gear and changing things up when I feel it’s appropriate.

The Big Three. Pack, shelter, and sleep setup.

Pack: Custom ULA Ohm 2.0 in DCF (Dyneema Composite Fiber / “Cuben Fiber”)

I bought the pack second hand from /r/ULGearTrade on reddit, which has been a great resource for some solid ultralight backpacking gear.

Shelter: ZPack’s 8.5×10 tarp and Mountain Laurel Designs’ Bug-Bivy 2.

I’ll admit, it was hard to drop $275 on a tarp. But switching to a tarp made out of DCF from my previous silnylon material tarp saved me almost a pound. Dollars to ounces, it was worth it.

Combined with my MLD Bug Bivy, my entire shelter (without stakes) is less than 14oz. It’s minimalistic, sure, but I can get it setup in a couple of minutes and can pitch the tarp in multiple ways to protect from varying weather, or not use it at all for a quick setup and waking up to a view.

Sleep Setup: Nemo Tensor Pad, Massdrop x Klymit Pillow and a REI Magma 30 Degrees quilt.

A good day starts with a good night of rest. I’ve changed my sleep setup so often, that by the time you read this, it’s likely changed again. I’ve got two Klymit brand pads, and a Thermarest brand pad as well. Now I’m using the Nemo Tensor pad, and so far, it seems like a real winner.

I’m an active side sleeper, and have come to terms that a 20″ wide pad isn’t wide enough. A CCF (closed cell foam) pad isn’t thick enough, although the most convenient of all pads (just throw on the ground and you’re good to go) I just can’t ever comfortably sleep on one. I’ve decided to try out the Nemo Tensor pad, as it’s still relatively light but more importantly: Offers the comfort I need for a solid night of rest. More importantly, it’s quiet and doesn’t sound like a bag of potato chips when moving around on it.

The Nemo Filo Pillow, my ‘heavy’ luxury item. At 8oz, it’s a chonker of a pillow considering you can get inflatable pillows that weigh 2oz or less. Though in my experience, the lighter pillows often feel like you’re sleeping on a pool toy. Uncomfortable, cold, and supportive of a side sleeper’s head. The Nemo Filo is an inflatable pillow with foam and fabric. I don’t foresee myself giving this up anytime soon. (I gave it up, see below)

I gave up the Nemo Filo, even though it’s comfortable, it’s quite heavy. I’ve lightened my pillow game from 8oz to 2oz while still maintaining the head support I need as a side sleeper using the Massdrop x Klymit Pillow. It’s much larger than the Nemo it replaced, and inflated about 50% of the way seems to provide the stability and comfort I need. I can comfortably sleep on my side, with one or both hands under the pillow, as I would at home. As with the pad, it could benefit from some sort of anti-slip material to help eliminate it from moving around as I move, but almost all sleep setups I’ve used involve re-adjusting in the middle of the night as my slides, my pillow slides, or I slide around.

My choice in quilt is questionable, but at this point, it works. I bought this Outdoors Vital quilt off of Amazon for winter camping. I’ve taken it down to 28 degrees comfortably, though I had my base layers and puffy on as well. I’ve thought about buying a 30 degree quilt and liner to start my SOBO hike with, but am having trouble justifying the cost. The 15 degree quilt will certainly be overkill for the warmer months, so I’ll replace it with something else, though I am not certain just quite what yet. Not buying two new quilts means I’ll have more money elsewhere. (I gave it up, see below)

I caved in and bought the REI Magma 30 Degree Down Quilt. After having some experience with some other REI products, and after reading several positive reviews on Reddit’s /r/Ultralight and elsewhere, I decided to give it a go. My experience with this bag is limited to just a few overnighters now, but I can say that I’m impressed with it’s build quality and features. I have no reason to believe that it will not be a great quality product and it’s hard to beat that warranty. I went with the REI Magma Quilt for two main reasons: 1.) The ship time. I didn’t have to wait 2-12 weeks for a quilt to be made and shipped to me. I’m impatient. 2.) The warranty. I think we all know by now that REI has one of the best warranties in the game. I could probably burn half this quilt in a fire and they’d still (probably, maybe) replace it. No brainer there.


DISCLAIMER: I'm not associated with any of the above companies. I've purchased all the gear myself unless otherwise noted and all comments are my honest opinions. I've also opted to use affiliate links to items that are available for purchase on Amazon, but include a link to the manufacturer's product page as well. Affiliate links help me out by providing me with monthly Amazon gift cards that I can use to offset the cost of living for things that I can buy from Amazon instead of in the store. (Groceries, camera gear, etc).