One thing is for certain, if you are out hiking for longer than a day you will need to deal with gathering, treating, and storing water. You need a water system and the Sawyer Squeeze filter is one of the most popular clean water solutions for the long distance hiker.
So, we have been researching gear for our AT trip for a long time, and gradually buying things when they’ve been on sale or we had discount coupons. Going as light-weight as possible with our gear is not cheap, so it was important to us to wait for the sales.
Since we are currently staying with my Mom in Wisconsin, we knew we wanted to get a camping/hiking trip in before the winter hit – mainly to test out our gear.
October 16th we headed down to Devil’s Lake State Park for a 3-day trip. Devil’s Lake is about 3 miles south of Baraboo, Wisconsin, and is the biggest state park in Wisconsin. Unbeknownst to me, it is known for its 500-foot-high quartzite bluffs, which may sound very nice and pretty, but believe me it was some serious boulder-climbing. Which of course was excellent training for the AT. We even had to take our packs off at one point and scoot them on in front of us in order to squeeze through a tight boulder crevice. These bluffs were created by a glacier during the last ice age about 12,000 years ago; in fact, some of the trails coincide and merge with the famous Wisconsin Ice Age Trail.
We wanted to simulate the AT as much as possible, so we took EVERY single piece of gear that we would be taking on the AT with us. Another goal was to use as much gear as possible to make sure everything worked and we felt comfortable with it.
I’m not going to do full gear reviews on anything yet, because frankly there’s too much gear to do all at once! But everything, for the most part, worked great. It was good to use everything, as it made us really think about things – and possibly think of a few tweaks we wanted to do before heading out on our real AT trip (blog post to follow on the tweaks).