Things I learned about and from the AT – Weak Gear

Categories:Appalachian Trail | Camping Advice

Your only as strong as your weakest piece of gear. 

No matter how much you research and test gear without fail something in your kit will fail. For me they happened to fail nearly back to back and within the first few days of my trip. I had tested the gear several times before ever setting out on the AT.

The first item to fail was my Klymit Inertia X Frame air mattress. I wish I had some exciting story of how I used this to fend of a mouse attack but I do not. I simply rolled into my sleeping bag totally exhausted and heard a loud pop. Next thing I knew I was on the ground. Having a flat air mattress is not the end of the world but it does cause a few issues. The obvious being uncomfortable and the second  warmth. Having your air mattress as a buffer between you and the ground provides you with extra heat. Air mattresses in general provide the ability for the bottom part of your bag to loft allowing for more heat. Some sleeping bags do not have as much filling and rely on the use of air mattress / sleeping pads to provide that barrier.

The second piece of my kit to fail was the zipper on my Mountainsmith El Diente 5 degree sleeping bag. I had rolled over and felt very cold on my backside. I quickly learned that the zipper had popped open in the middle of the bag.  I was able to wiggle the zipper down unzip the bag and then zip it back up for a nice warm sleep. A few days later it happened again in the middle of the night. I could not get the teeth of the zipper to lock together and gave up and just dealt with it.  With temps in the teens at night and a broken sleeping bag I don’t think I need to explain why this could be dangerous. I was not in dire straights but it was not safe.

The third piece of my kit to fail was my tent. In the middle of a massive downpour I ended up leaving my flooding tent to find more suitable shelter to keep myself and what dry gear I had left dry. I have no idea what happened. Was it user error in setting up the tent? I had packed it up wet would that matter? No one will know what happened but needless to say it still flooded.

So remember that even when your gear gives out on you in the middle of the no where that no matter how much you plan and test your gear it will fail you.  One hopes that it will not happen but always have a “plan b”. Even if that “plan b” is buying replacement gear at the next town you still have a backup.  With broken gear your spirits will sink and it is at that point that you need to dig down deep and focus on your plan b. That is what helped me through several cold nights.

Happy Trails




Adam Nutting relishes being an avid backpacker, hiker, and all-around adventure junkie. While he currently spends his time hiking in the backcountry of southern Arizona, he grew up in Missouri, where he was naturally inclined to spend as much time as he could outdoors. Adam’s passion for the outdoors grew as he climbed the ranks of the Cub Scouts and the Boy Scouts, eventually attaining the rank of Eagle Scout.

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