The Big Three on the AT

Posted by Dalton Spurlin on Sep 6th 2022

The Big Three on the AT

When backpacking, whether it be one night or one hundred, the Big Three can make or break your trip. The big three entails a hiker's tent, sleep system (sleeping bag and pad), and their backpack.

Here is a brief rundown of the Big Three for my 2022 Southbound (SOBO) thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail:

The tent is central to the big three, so choosing the right one is important.


I'm carrying Big Agnes' Fly Creek HV1. Fully packed, this tent weighs about 21 oz. While it may not be the most spacious tent, my plan is to use this tent sparingly and take advantage of shelters along the trail. My tent will be a backup if the shelters are filled up when I arrive at camp or if I want to spread out from the crowds

Sleep System


For this hike I am using enlightened equipment's enigma 20 degree quilt. This weighs 21 oz as well. I went with a warmer quilt because summer nights up north can still get pretty chilly and I will be going through the southernmost states in the late fall/early winter. I can use this quilt the entire duration of the at without having to switch it out for something else

Sleeping Pad

My sleeping pad of choice is the classic nemo tensor insulated, which I am sure many of you are familiar with. This weighs in at 17oz. I do not have much to say about the tensor that has not been said before. It is a great sleeping pad and widely used among backpackers. As with my quilt, the insulated model of the tensor allows me to use it the entire time I am on the trail without getting too cold…. Hopefully


Picking my backpack was probably one of the toughest gear choices I had to make during my preparation. I was curious to explore hiking with an ultralight pack, but I like the versatility and weight capacity of internal frame packs. I have always backpacked with Osprey packs and really liked them, so when I saw the updated Osprey Exos it was a no-brainer. They say you pack your fears, and for some odd reason my fear is running out of room. I went with the 58 liter option for more space; it weighs in at 2.6 lbs.

The Big Agnes Fly Creek is ultralight, a great way to knock weight off of your big three.The Big Agnes Fly Creek is ultralight, a great way to knock weight off of your big three.

Check back later in my hike to see how my choices hold up after a few thousand miles of walking. Did I make the right decisions, or will I be wishing I had saved a few ounces?