Every thru-hiker has a different backpacking gear setup. This is our CDT gear list.
I’ve thru-hiked the CDT twice: once northbound in 2022 and once southbound in 2015.
The CDT can throw any type of weather at you at any time. That makes packing difficult. You want to go ultralight, but have enough gear to survive and thrive.
The best advice I ever got before my 2015 thru-hike was to prepare to be wet and cold. That was still true in 2022.
First, I’ll provide a list of all gear items Karma and I (Veggie) used on the CDT in 2022. Then, I’ll explain why we chose some of the bigger items afterward.
A Few Notes First
First, I hiked the CDT in 2022 with my partner, Karma. Thus, we had some shared gear.
While I list who carries what, sometimes that shifted. There are always times on a hike when one of us is not feeling well or tweeked a muscle. As a couple, if this happens, sometimes the partner who feels better takes some weight from the partner who hurts.
However, this list reflects the normal “who-carries-what.”
Also, we use quite a bit of ultralight gear, however, we consider ourselves lightweight, not ultralight. Markedly, this is an important distinction in the world of thru-hiking.
This post contains affiliate links. I have used every product mentioned and if you purchase one of these products I can make a small commission at no cost to you.
CDT Gear List Spreadsheet
If you purchase any of the items from Six Moon Designs below, you can use the link and *also* add the code “REDPATH_2023” for an additional discount.
If you happen to be skimming this list for gift ideas for hikers, I have a list of 15 presents for hikers for under $25.
|Gear Item||Who Packed It||Weight||Notes|
|SMD Swift V Backpack with Flight Harness||Both||36 oz||We cut many of the straps down since we’re small humans.|
|SMD Packing Cubes (SM, MD, & LG)||Veggie||2 oz total|
|SMD Pack Liner (2)||Both||3 oz each (6 oz total)||We each have one.|
|SMD Haven Tarp||Karma||18 oz|
|SMD Haven Bug Net||Veggie||17.2 oz|
|Polycro Footprint – Large||Karma||1.6 oz|
|6 Tent Stakes||Karma||2.5 oz|
|Jacks ‘R’ Better 20 degree Sierra Sniveler with Couple Omni Tape (2)||Both||25 oz each (50 oz total)||The couple quilt used to be an option, but I haven’t seen it recently.|
|Sea to Summit Premium Silk Liner (2)||Both||5.1 oz each (10.2 oz total)||Not my favorite for its lack of durability, but has the best breathability.|
|NeoAir X Lite Sleeping Pad – Women’s||Both||12 oz each (24 oz total)|
|Windmaster Soto Stove||Karma||3.1 oz||We have the older version of the stove linked.|
|Trek Titanium Cook Pot||Karma||7.4 oz|
|4 oz Fuel Canister||Karma||4 oz|
|Mini Bic Lighter||Karma||0.4 oz|
|Homemade Pot Cozy from Reflectix & Duct Tape||Karma||3 oz||Linked is the material we used with duct tape.|
|Titanium Spoon (2)||Both||0.5 oz|
|Two Rubber Bands from Asparagus to Hold Pot & Lid Together||Karma||?||Kept After Eating Two Bundles of Asparagus before hike.|
|Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter (2)||Both||3 oz||NOT THE MINI!|
|Life Water/Smart Water 1 Liter Bottles (6 – 3 each)||Both||Cycled through these every 500 ish miles.|
|Pure Leaf Tea 18.5 oz Bottle (2)||Both||Shake or Drink Mix bottle, cycled through every 300 ish miles.|
|Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Dry Bag (2)||Both||1.8 oz each (3.4 oz total)|
|Swiss Army Climber Knife||Karma||3.5 oz|
|Garmin inReach Mini 2||Veggie||3.5 oz|
|Med Kit||Veggie||Fluctuates||Contents Explained Below|
|OM System OMD EM1 Mark iii Camera Body||Veggie||17.7 oz||On the hike, I had the discontinued OMD EM1 Mark ii, but now have this one – HUGE upgrade.|
|OM System BLH-1 Lithium Batteries (2)||Veggie||2.6 oz each (5.2 oz total)|
|Lithium Ion Battery Charger BCH-1||Veggie||11.4 oz|
|Sony Tough SD Cards 128 GB (2)||Veggie||1.1 oz each (2.2 oz total)|
|Sony Tough SD Card 64 GB (2)||Veggie||1.3 oz each (2.6 oz total)|
|M.Zuiko ED 40-150MM F2.8 PRO||Veggie||1 lb 11 oz|
|M.Zuiko Digital 2X Teleconverter MC-20||Veggie||5.3 oz|
|Matador Camera Base Layer||Veggie||5.5 oz||Would not use again for this purpose. Worked well enough.|
|Joby 1K Tripod||Karma||6.9 oz|
|SMD Silver Shadow Umbrella (2)||Both||6.5 oz each||For shade and rain.|
|Marmot Starfire Jacket (Rain Shell)||Veggie||13 oz||Bought in 2019, Not Made Anymore.|
|Marmot Red Star Jacket (Rain Shell)||Karma||15 oz||Bought in 2019.|
|13-Gallon Trash Bags with shoulder strap holes lined in Duct Tape (2)||Both||4 oz||Trash Bag Pack Cover.|
|13 Gallon Trash Bags with the bottom cut open (2)||Both||2 oz||Trash Bag Rain skirt.|
|Total Wine & More Plastic Bag||Thicker plastic bag to go over camera case.|
|Clothing & Layers|
|Marmot Women’s Highlander Jacket||Veggie||14.6 oz||This is the newer version of my 2015 Puffy.|
|Patagonia Nano Puff Men’s Bivy Insulated Pullover||Karma||12.5 oz||Haven’t seen this for sale in a bit.|
|Melanzana Micro Grid Hoodies (2)||Both||9 oz Veggie & 12 oz Karma|
|Patagonia Women’s Sunshade Technical Hoody||Veggie||?||I cropped it, unknown weight. Always worn.|
|Marmot Women’s Lena Dress||Veggie||?||Always worn.|
|Waterlust Cosmic Coral Shorts||Veggie||?||Always worn.|
|REI Co-op Women’s 7/8 Leggings||Veggie||6 oz|
|Darn Tough Light Hiker 1/4 Lightweight Cushion Sock – Women’s (3)||Veggie||?||One pair always worn.|
|Western Mountaineering Flash Down Booties||Veggie||3 oz||My feet get cold|
|Teva Tirra Women’s Sandals||Veggie||10 oz||Used 5 Pairs CDT 2022 (4 in 2015)|
|Fleece Hat||Veggie||?||Bought at Maple Fest WV 2009|
|Plain Otto Trucker Hat (2)||Both||?||Almost always worn.|
|Yama Insulated Poogies (2)||Both||3.4 oz Veggie, 3.6 oz Karma|
|Patagonia Men’s Tropic Comfort II Hoody||Karma||8.3 oz||Always worn.|
|Girlfriend Collective Men’s Pace Shorts||Karma||?||Always worn.|
|Threads 4 Thought Men’s Leggings||Karma||?|
|Darn Tough Micro Crew Lightweight Men’s Socks (2)||Karma||?||One pair always worn.|
|Teva Hurricane XLT2 Men’s Sandals||Karma||11 oz||Used 6 pairs CDT 2022|
|6 Gallon Ziplock Bags||Both||Shifted back and forth.|
|8 Quart Ziplock Bags||Both||Shifted back and forth.|
|Petzel Tactikka Core Headlamp (2)||Both||2.7 oz each (5.4 oz total)||One each.|
|Bamboo Kids Toothbrush (2)||Both||?||One each.|
|Huppy Toothpaste Tablets in Old Film Canister||Varies||We mail drop 30 tablets at a time.|
|Blistex Medicated Lip Balm (2)||Both||?||One each.|
|Neutrogena 50 SPF Face Sunscreen||Veggie||3 oz||Yes, we mail dropped these. Acne begone!|
|Bug Pants (2)||Both||?||Carried through WY (should have gotten in CO).|
|Bug Spray||Both||Varied||Whatever we could find between Steamboat & Mack’s Inn.|
|Sea to Summit Bug Head Net||Both||1.3 oz||When you need it, you REALLY need it.|
|Bear Rope – 30 ft||Karma||?||Received from a guy at a gas station.|
|Poop Kit Bag (2)||Both||Small Zippered Bag: TP, Baby Wipes, 2 sandwich bags (for dirty paper), hand santizer.|
|Shady Rays Sunglasses (2)||Both|
|Anker Battery Pack (2)||Both|
|iPhone Cord (2)||Both||1 each.|
|Mirco USB Cord (4)||Both||Veggie – 1, Karma – 3|
|Anker 4 USB Block|
|Anker 2 USB Block|
|Hair Ties (4)||Both||Veggie 3 (2 for hair, 1 for wallet), Karma – 1 for wallet|
|Headphones – Apple Corded||Both||1 each.|
|2 panels of zlite closed cell foam pad cut in half||Both||Sit Pads.|
Larger Items on the CDT Gear List Explained Further
Sometimes it’s nice to know WHY we chose to carry a particular item. Or, why we chose the brand we did. Sometimes it’s intentional, but sometimes we buy whichever brand is on sale.
If you’re looking at thru-hiking as a couple, I recommend a few of our key items in backpacking as a couple here.
Here are the major items on our CDT gear list explained:
Backpack: SMD Swift V with Flight Harness
I’ve been thru-hiking since 2008 and have used 10 packs over that time. That includes in order: 3 Gregory Packs, 2 Osprey Packs, 2 ULA Packs, 1 MLD Pack, 2 Hyperlite Packs, and now this pack. That’s a lot of packs!
This year, I landed on the SMD Swift V for a few reasons.
- 1. The Flight Harness. If you’ve ever used a running vest, you know why this is important. Personally, I think the shoulder straps on most packs have unused potential. On the flight harness, I carried: my phone, snot rag, headphones, a quart ziplock for rain, and used snack wrappers.
- 2. The Side Water Bottle Holders. These side water bottle holders can hold a 1.5L Smart Water bottle AND a liter Smart Water bottle. Thus, I can carry 5 liters spread evenly on both sides if I needed to have that much water.
- 3. The Adjustability. You can change out the harness and the waste belt on this pack. That’s right…if you loss a lot of weight, you can order a smaller hip belt and just swap it. Same with the shoulder straps. Six Moon Designs has several shoulder harnesses in several sizes.
I’ll grab a fresh version of this pack for the 2023 hiking season. A good pack is one that can last a whole thru-hike. This one survived the CDT.
Tent: SMD Haven Tarp & Bug Net
Since 2008, I’ve used 3 different solo tents. When Karma and I started dating, we “moved” into a tent together. We’ve used 3 different 2-person tents. Your shelter system is an important part of your CDT gear list to consider.
We wanted to try this set for a few reasons and all of those reasons became our favorite reasons for using the Haven Bundle.
- 1. We both wanted to have the ability to sit up inside the tent, together. In our last set up, only one of us could sit up at a time. When you get caught in a storm and need to hunker down, this becomes very important.
- 2. The ability to set up the tarp and net tent separately. There are nights when we want to see the stars, but don’t want the creepy spiders crawling on us. On the flip side, there are storms that come through and we only want to jump under the tarp without the bug net.
- 3. The ability to set up and take down the net tent from underneath the tarp. This is SUPER important to us. When it’s raining, we can keep the net tent completely dry this way. At least, we can keep it drier. Almost all of the freestanding tents, you have to set up the net tent (get it wet) as you scramble to add the rain fly. No no no.
The only issue we had with this set up was having to replace two guide lines. It was totally our fault. Well, kind of. We camped a little too close to a rodent’s hole and it thought the guide lines were tasty.
Quilts, Liners, & Sleeping Pads
The sleeping systems used by thru-hikers can vary drastically. How much discomfort can you endure?
That question will drive how you approach your sleep system.
We chose the Jacks R’ Better sleeping quilts because it was Karma’s favorite when we started dating back in 2016. Then, Jacks R’ Better made a couples version of the Sierra Sniveller. They’re light and they last forever.
Next, both of us have used various closed cell foam sleeping pads in the past. They worked for the time we used them. Personally, I switched to a NeoAir back in 2012 after I got tired of my arms falling asleep. Basically, I switched when I no longer got the rest I needed to hike the next day.
My first Neo Air lasted me 10 years before I replaced it.
Finally, we’ve used several silk liners or homemade versions of silk liners over the years. Ultimately, the silk liner listed is the best for breathability, but the durability is not great. It’s one item we have to replace too frequently for our liking.
Why All the Camera Equipment?
So, why is all this camera equipment on my CDT gear list? Because, I got into wildlife photography during the pandemic. I carried my camera around everywhere. Therefore, why wouldn’t I want to carry it on the CDT?
However, the camera equipment did need a team effort. As you can probably see from “who carried what,” obviously, Karma carried more of our group gear. This allowed me to strap the 4 lb camera setup on my chest. Also, I had the charger, a backup battery, extra memory cards, and a second lens for astrophotography.
Moreover, I had become frustrated with the lack of zoom clarity on a phone camera. On trail, we saw so many cool animals and I wanted to photograph them.
Surprisingly, OM System had some of the lighter camera bodies and lenses for wildlife photography. So, I went that route.
This wouldn’t be a CDT gear list without a safety SOS button. While I have never used the SOS button *knocks on wood,* I like having one.
I used the Garmin inReach Mini 2 a few times. First, I used it to send a few messages about our resupply boxes when I had no cell service. Second, we used it to coordinate a backcountry visit from a friend. Third, we used it to check the weather before going above tree line several times.
Personally, we did not use the tracking features. We did not want to use all the extra battery power or time charging in towns.
An Umbrella? Really?
If you know, you know. Surprisingly, an umbrella is an incredibly useful item in our CDT gear list. In the past, we have used them for all sorts of things. Once, we used them as a sail on a canoe. Although, I do not recommend this.
Functionally, the umbrella works wonders in the rain. I strongly dislike hiking through continual rain. I’m just over it. Been there. Done that. But, if I can keep my head dry, it’s a game changer.
In addition, the Silver Shadow reflects the strong sunlight on hot days. During those scorching New Mexico desert sections with no shade, we carry our own. On average, I would say the umbrella decreases the temperature 5-8 degrees.
Occasionally, on a Camino, I’ve also used it as a privacy screen to pee!
The Med Kit fluctuates depending on our needs. At first, it always weighs more because we carry extra blister bandaids, Tylenol, and our anti-biotic ointment tube is full. Usually, we need more pain killers at the beginning as we ease our bodies into thru-hiking.
Eventually, we get stronger and need less items from the med kit, so things get purged. Or, they never get replaced in town.
However, there comes a point where our bodies begin to break down again. Thus, the med kit expands as we deal with new aches.
Sometimes, one trail needs different medical items than others. For example, hiking the AT southbound in 2018, we carried more gauze and cloth medical tape. Why? Because we continually walked by nests of ground bees. I get a localized reaction to bee stings where the skin hardens, bubbles, then oozes. It’s pretty gross. In that case, I needed more gauze than usual to keep these areas clean in between towns.
Generally speaking, here is a list of items that exist in our med kit:
- IBUprofen (roughly 25)
- Tylenol (roughly 25)
- 3 gauze pads
- 4 blister bandaids
- 4 regular bandaids
- 1/2 roll of cloth medical tape
- 1/2 oz anti-biotic ointment
- Pair of medical gloves
- WFR mini book
All things considered, I have a lot to say about gear. Have I used everything? No. But, I’ve used a lot of different gear over the last 14 years.
This CDT gear list evolved from all of that cumulative knowledge.
As a matter of fact, several items on this list have hiked the CDT twice. For example, my marmot puffy. Also, my fleece hat has hiked every trail since my 2010 AT nobo hike.
Click here for more about my Thru-Hiking Adventures!
Please feel free to comment below with any questions!