Over my right shoulder, just behind me is a table with my “kit” spread out. That way I get to think about the relative need of every piece of gear, as a whole, over a long period of time. I have a philosophy on what gear goes into a backpack. This reasoning applies to backpacking as well as thru-hiking.
Except for medical supplies, if a piece of gear doesn’t come out of your pack and get used every day, it’s probably not worth carrying. Also, if a piece of gear doesn’t have more than one use then you need to consider alternatives. Plan well, but don’t overthink it.
This is an “average” philosophy. By that, I mean I apply this philosophy differently based on the trip. For example, T.I.T.S. (Thanksgiving In The Superstitions) requires a whole different set of tools than a trip across the Tonto Plateau in Grand Canyon. I apply the average of the philosophy as an “overlay” to the trip, so to speak. However, for this upcoming AZT hike I’m also adding two other layers of consideration. The first scrutiny can be explained in a simple equation: weight=pain=luxury. The second analysis is of a “durability/ease-of-resupply” style, will it last the entire time and if not, how easy can I replace that item.
I have just about one of every single piece of gear in back up. It might not be the exact same make and model, but the capacity is the same. For example, if my MSR Micro-Rocket dies then I’ve got the most ubiquitous stove on the planet – the MSR Whisperlite. I’m also pretty good at starting fires, so there’s that.
Anyway, the underlying, long-story, over described point is that I’m planning the $#!T out this trip . . . but only the first “half”. I’ve hiked many of the sections north of Oracle. I haven’t hiked a single segment south. I’m roughly familiar with the topography due to some extensive scouring of the Arizona Trail Association website but I’ve not hiked a single inch of the trail, yet.
You see, I figure that since I’m hiking south-bound, by the time I get to Oracle I’ll have my shit together. I’ll have shaken down my gear, streamlined my operations, and gotten my “hiker legs”. I’ll have just enjoyed the company of friends and amazing food in the middle of the wilderness (T.I.T.S.). The rest of the way I can make it up as I go, for the most part. If, for some reason, I am forced to abandon my hike I won’t need to know the trail for this go-around.
Either way, I don’t think I’m going to worry about the second half. Except for mail drops, water caches, hotel reservations, resupply logistics, “coyotes”, etc. For that, there’s MasterCard.