by Tara Dower aka “Candy Mama”

Since being on the Appalachian Trail I’ve realized that my gear will make or break my trip and I am pleased to say that my husband and I are making it! There is nothing like a worn and tattered piece of gear. Our equipment is still useful but it looks as though it has fulfilled its purpose time and time again. I love the look of our tent after a rainstorm when it is glittered with mud or our technical clothing that is ripped and stained. Our hats are sunbleached, packs smell of sweat, and our trekking poles remain bent with broken tips. It puts a smile on my face when I see a fellow hiker with gear so used and tattered like ours. It shows me that their gear is sustainable, and I know that the gear has been on awesome adventures! Tattered gear is loved gear!

We are a week away from completing our Appalachian Trail thru hike and there have been a number of things that have helped us tremendously along the way. First off we had the excitement that comes from living out our dreams, but the hype and excitement only gets us so far. More-so,  we’ve been surrounded by amazing people who we’ve gotten very close with. Another thing helping us along the way has been the good weather. This year we have been blessed with mostly blue skies. But one thing we do not want to overlook is our gear. We have been living outside for over 150 days and have hiked over 2000 miles with most of the same gear that we started with. Now, we are almost 100 miles from the finish of the Appalachian Trail and it feels right to celebrate the items that have sustained, sheltered, nourished, and kept us safe. Keep in mind that we are not being paid to promote these items. Instead, based off thousands of miles of hiking, we have become trusted fans wishing to share our experience.

To begin I’m going to talk about our tent, the two person MSR Hubba Hubba NX. The Hubba Hubba has been in production for a while and it is deemed one of the best backpacking tents out there. That is one of the biggest reasons why we chose it after we had to send our original tent back to its company due to a recall. We wanted one that was durable, reliable and within our price range.. enter the MSR Hubba Hubba. We got our tent around mile 500 and since then it has only failed us once in a rain storm due to human error. (That means we were dumb and set it up in an area that floods in the rain.) There is plenty of space for two hikers with additional gear. It has held up incredibly well in the rain with a very effective rain cover. Be sure to set it up in the right areas, such as areas that won’t pool and flood when it rains. If you fail to do this then water can seep through. This only happened to us once, as I said due to human error. Not much more to say about our tent other than we love it and we would recommend it to anyone other than a ultra-light backpacker.

Sheriff and I both have Osprey anti-gravity packs. I have had shoulder problems in the past and the AG system in our Osprey bags has really helped with the pain that I used to experience. These are not the trendiest or most popular packs on trail but we are more than happy with them. Right now people are focused on being “ultralight” and are choosing bags that have lightweight, waterproof materials. However, I have found our Osprey bags to be way more beneficial than the trendy bags that we see on the market today. The AG system does a great job at lifting the pack off my shoulders, distributing the weight through my hip belt. This allows more airflow through my back and relieves my shoulders from bearing most of the weight; two things that ultralight packs do not do as well. I love my Osprey bag so much that I will take it on my next big adventure, whichever that may be.

Sheriff and I both have technical clothing from Patagonia. The clothing has stood the test on the trail, lasting over 2000 miles. There may be stains and holes in areas where the fabric is worn but we think that just adds character. Rips and stains don’t bother us thru hikers. Instead, they are a badge of honor, a reminder of what we’ve accomplished and how far we’ve come. I see somebody with worn clothing and I know that they have had a journey of their own. Some things that I ask myself when I look for technical clothing is; one, is it comfortable? Two, does it wick moisture away from my body? And three, will it keep me warm or cool depending on what conditions I’m in?

When I began section hiking the Appalachian Trail, I remember the first thru hiker I saw. He was an older man donning some beautiful trekking poles that me and my friends thought were hilarious. Embarrassingly, we slightly made fun of him for how he needed trekking poles on a backpacking trip. By the end of our section hike we were using sticks and branches to make it up the smallest incline. Trekking poles are absolutely necessary on any distance backpacking trip, and we have used the heck out of ours. The logos are missing, the tips are gone, and the straps are frayed. But they have done their job for the past 2000 miles, helping us up the largest mountains and stabilizing us on the steepest declines.

There is so much more gear that has aided us on this trip and we are so thankful for every piece that we have used. They have seen rain, sunshine, and a few too many ice storms. Our gear has made it, and because of that, so have we.

So use your gear, test it, wear it out. For there is nothing like a worn and tattered piece of gear.

-Candy Mama (Tara Dower)

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@The Dower Duo