“Overloaded” Backpack, Outdated Gear, and Trail Names

As I rolled into Mollies Ridge Shelter in the Great Smoky Mountains on the evening of Saturday, April 12, 2014, I was pleasantly greeted by a bunch of NOBO thru-hikers all chatting, cooking dinner and getting their gear set up in the shelter for the night.  We all started talking about our hikes, the freezing cold weather, and, you know, just basic hiker chat.

My Evening Shelter Routine

When I arrive to a shelter for the evening I like to begin emptying my pack so I can strategically stake out the perfect sleeping spot.  I started inflating my Therm-a-Rest Prolite Women’s sleeping pad, took my Moonstone sleeping bag out of its compression sack and fluffed my Therm-a-Rest pillow.  I reached in for my food bag that I believe held three days worth of food, plus my MSR stove and MSR 8 oz. IsoPro fuel canister and my Toaks 1100ml titanium pot.  Next was the stuff sack full of winter gear and sleeping clothes.

Somebody’s Watching Me

I was catching glimpses of the thru-hikers kind of looking in amazement at all the “stuff” I was unloading from my pack.  Finally, one of them jokingly asked, “What else you got in there?!”  Well, I’m not the bashful or ashamed sort, so I gladly emptied the contents of my Gregory Amber 60 Liter pack all over the shelter floor for everyone to see.

Mary Poppins Magic Bag

This included Gordini Goretex fleece lined mittens, microspikes, a North Face puffy jacket, a Patagonia fleece pullover, fleece lined long-sleeve shirt, fleece lined leggings, rain gear (jacket and pants), Katadyn pump water filter, North Face 1-person tent, and an Anker phone charger.  They are all smiling and laughing after each item gets pulled out of the pack (Seriously think back to the two kids in Mary Poppins as she was pulling endless items out of her magic travel bag.  This was the look on each of their faces.  Ha!  Priceless!).  No gear shame here!

Beginning of an Era (was it really the beginning though?!)

The thru-hikers asked if I had a trail name yet and at this point in my AT section hikes many names had been thrown out there for me, but none of them ever stuck.  They all made the ultimate decision that my trail name would be “Overload” and it has been with me since and I doubt I can EVER live that name down.  “Overload” is really the perfect description of me in my everyday life as well as for life on the trail.

Serendipitous Trail Moments

It never ceases to amaze me how these random hikers, none of whom I had ever met before in my life, were able to peg me so perfectly with this trail name.  So, I can’t help but wonder did they choose this name for me or was this trail name just waiting on me to come along to attach itself to?  It seems meant to be to me, but you’d have to be into those sort of “serendipitous” happenstances to believe something like that, but, of course, I’m one of those types of people!


I have updated some of my gear or just gotten rid of it all together to lighten my load.  I am aware that my pack is on the heavy side (anywhere from 35-45 lbs.) and some of those items that infamous night were superfluous, but, hey…it works for me, and stay tuned as to why I carry this so-called “heavy” pack.  There is reasoning behind it.  (I’m not just complete nonsense!)

Thanks for reading about my “overloaded” hikes!  

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 12

  • Sabrina Harrison : Oct 16th

    Love it Overload 🙂

    • Carol Copeland : Oct 16th


  • Ant : Oct 16th

    I plan on starting the AT in Feb which im told will be cold. I live in a tropical climate so i will be taking very warm gear. My way of thinking is i can put the warm weather gear into bounce box when the weather warms up and pick it up at the end. Id rather be warm and able to sleep than freezing. Other than the waem gear it all sounds normal to me. I have an Osprey atmos and the Gregory Deva but havent decided which one i will take yet. It has to be comfortable for you to carry it all those miles. Keep on hiking girl.

    • Carol Copeland : Oct 16th

      It is going to be cold in February! You can do it though! The bounce boxes are great! Good idea! Stay warm out there in the early, cold months. Thanks for reading and thinking it all sounds pretty normal. That makes me feel better! Good luck on your hike in 2018!

      • Ant : Oct 17th

        Thanks so much 🙂

  • Barbara Allen : Oct 16th

    Have you noticed we carry our fears in our packs. Just think about why you carry each thing in your pack.

    • Carol Copeland : Oct 16th

      Never thought about it that way. I was carrying a little much for that hike. It has slimmed down since then. Thanks!

  • Gary : Oct 18th

    I don’t know, there seems to be a bit of ‘overdo’ in the clothes department, but it all seems quite reasonable…. if you want to carry it. Thirty five to forty pounds with food and water, what’s wrong with that?

    • Carol Copeland : Oct 22nd

      I like your take on it Gary! Thanks!

  • Veronica Cavanaugh : Oct 20th

    I like a heavier pack as well, especially on long thru-hikes! Thanks for sharing!

  • Kelly Mckibben : Mar 10th

    Hi Carol,

    Of all The Trek AT thru-hiker followers I’ve read about so far, I’ve decided to follow you and want to be one of your Trail Angels. I live in Asheville, NC. If you need anything, please ask and I’ll try to help. I’m a yoga teacher, a member of the Carolina Mountain Club and a die-hard lover of the AT.

    I’m travelling for the month of March, so won’t be available after 4/2. But, if you really need help, call me and I’ll get in touch with a network of alternative support, Okay? My phone # is (828) 281-1566.

    Take care! Be WELL!! Kelly “Purr” McKibben

    • Kelly Mckibben : Mar 10th

      Oops! I mean I’ll be available after 4/2. est, Kelly


What Do You Think?