When Jaala and Tommy Freeman leave on their honeymoon early tomorrow, they’ll be equipped like few other newlyweds.


Bear canister?
Ice axe?
Instant hashbrowns?
You bet! Gotta keep the energy up.
Jaala (then Jaala Spencer) and Tommy met at the Nantahala Outdoor Center in Bryson City in 2012 while both were thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. Atop Khatadin a few months later, they got engaged. Tomorrow, they set off on their delayed honeymoon, a five-month, 2,650-mile trek on the Pacific Coast Trail.
Last Thursday, the couple shared their packing list with thru-hikers-in-waiting at the Great Outdoor Provision Co. in Raleigh’s Cameron Village. Some highlights from their presentation:

  • When it comes to trail TP, go with Charmin, “extra strength,” says Tommy.
  • Even when backpacking as a couple, both parties should carry their own complete set of gear. “Because when you get separated, and you will,” advises Tommy, “you’ll need to have all your gear.” Not that they’ll be sleeping in separate tents on their honeymoon; they’ll be sharing  a Hyperlite Mountain Gear Echo II, with one carrying the cuben fiber tarp, the other the bug mesh tent insert so if they do become separated, both will have some type of shelter.
  • Both carry six fresh eggs, in bomb-proof containers. “Eggs last longer in the morning,” Jaala explains, meaning the fuel they supply will take them a good two hours down the trail, more than twice as long as those other morning staples, oatmeal and Pop Tarts.
  • The audience was especially intrigued by the couple’s (Tommy’s especially) recommendation of Hungry Jack Hashbrowns, which cook in their container.
  • Pack your food in double-lock, Ziplock freezer bags. “We’ll replace them after about 700 miles,” says Jaala.


  • Dental floss makes great thread. Once you’ve made the appropriate repair, a little heat will melt the plastic coating, cementing the fix.
  • “Take two fun things,” advises Tommy (though not two heavy fun things). Tommy sometimes packs a Frisbee, always packs his miniature guitar, usually packs his iPod shuffle. Jaala takes a book.


  • In the gallon-size, double-lock, Ziplock freezer bag you use to pack out your used TP, line it with tinfoil because, says Jaala, “no one wants to see that.”
  • Tommy is a big fan of Body Glide to minimize chaffing and blisters.
  • Tommy: “Take a pillow.” Jaala: “I don’t take a pillow.”
  • Take your meals seriously, especially dinner. “For a weekend trip, you can get by on dehydrated meals,” says Jaala, “but you’ll get really sick of them after that.” Thus, in the Freeman’s larder: packaged tuna, yellow rice (Jaala), instant mashed potatoes, peppers, fresh produce (which they’ll pick up on visits to town), cheese (“It will last,” advises Jaala. “If you get a little mold, just slice it off.”), sliced pepperoni, quinoa, and assorted powdered mixes for cooking, “to add some variety,” says Jaala.
  • Potato chips. Again, this from Tommy. “They’re my trail mix.”


On Tuesday, Jaala and Tommy will be put on the trail at the U.S./Mexico border with 48 other hikers. Their first 700 miles are in the desert, where overnight lows can drop to freezing, daytime highs can exceed 110. Initially, they’ll rise at 4:30 a.m., be on the trail before sunup, hike until 1 p.m.
“The saying is 12 before 12,” says Tommy, meaning 12 miles before 12 noon.
“From one until four we’ll take a siesta,” says Jaala. “It’s too hot to hike. No one hikes between 1 and 4.” After 4, they’ll hike another couple hours. They plan to finish the hike in E.C. Manning Provincial Park in British Columbia by mid-September.
At one point in their presentation, when they disagreed on what to take, Tommy stopped to make a key point.
“You do what works for you,” he told the audience. “What is it, ‘HYOH?”
Answering his own question, he added, “Hike Your Own Hike.”