Phil Phelan knows the Blue Ridge Parkway better than most. The North Carolina-based hiker and adventure runner spent more than two weeks running the entire length of the highway, including Skyline Drive through Shenandoah National Park. Phelan is probably best known for his work in the Linville Gorge—he’s written a couple of exhaustively thorough guidebooks after spending years hiking and mapping the area. But he’s recently added Fastest Known Time (FKT) attempts to his repertoire. Phelan earned the FKT for the Blue Ridge Parkway and Skyline Drive last summer, running the entire road, south to north, self-supported in 17 days and 16 minutes. He bagged 575.5 miles and 99,851 feet of elevation gain along the way. And he’s just beginning. This winter, Phelan will attempt the self-supported FKT for the Florida Trail, then move on to the Appalachian Trail, Mountains to Sea Trail, and Benton Mackaye Trail.
“I like pushing my boundaries and finding out what I can do,” Phelan says of his newfound passion for long trail FKTs. “This is my way of expanding my world, getting outside of my comfort zone, and hopefully becoming a better person.”
We asked Phelan to detail his essential pieces of gear during these multi-day FKT runs. Here are his favorite pieces of gear, in his own words.
RIBZ Front Pack
Going for a FKT is all about logistics and efficiency. If you have to stop to get your food or GPS out of your backpack, you’re wasting time. This pack puts everything on your front so you can access it easily. And it fits well—no hot spots at all. $65; ribzwear.com
REI Flash Bag
It’s a three-season bag, rated to 29 degrees that’s comfortable and durable—I’ve thrown this thing on the ground and slept in it many nights. And you can’t beat the weight. It only weighs a pound. $259; rei.com
Hoka Stinson 3 ATR
I was reluctant to try these because of the way they looked, but I don’t know if my feet have ever felt better. Once I tried them, I couldn’t go back. They’re so comfortable. $160; hokaoneone.com
Safety precautions should always be at the forefront of any planned excursion. I can’t stress that enough. The SPOT allows people to track me on an adventure, and allows me to get help if I need it. $150;findmespot.com
ENO Singlenest Hammock
I was a tent guy for so long, but I haven’t looked back after trying this hammock. It’s a little heavier than a bivy sack, but it’s comfortable and it has endured storms, cold weather, hot weather…it’s easy to set up and the thing is bombproof. $60; eaglesnestoutfitters.com