Jennifer Pharr Davis on the MST

Jennifer Pharr Davis set the speed record for the Appalachian Trail in 2011, becoming the first woman ever to set that mark. Since then, Pharr Davis has founded a guiding company and written five books about hiking. This fall, she’s hiking the Mountains to Sea Trail, which runs for 1,175 miles across North Carolina. And she’s doing it with her family in tow.

“Our 10-month-old is pretty easy to tote around, and our four-year-old loves being a cheerleader,” says Pharr Davis.

You can follow JPD’s progress along the trail and even join her for a hike; she’s leading day hikes, giving talks and putting on workshops to raise funds for the MST throughout her journey.

We asked Pharr Davis to detail the kit she’ll rely on for three months of hiking and family camping. Here are her gear picks, in her own words.

Leki Corklite, DSS ($160)

Because I like my knees and want to use them when I’m 65, I almost always use poles. The exception is that when I am carrying one of my kids, I usually leave them behind. I need my hands more with the kiddos and I don’t want to trip and poke the baby with a pole.

Astral TR1 ($130)

This Asheville based company is known mostly for PFDs, but it is making a splash with its trail shoes. I get about 200 more miles out of their TR1’s than most lightweight hikers. They’re comfortable, with good traction and great breathability.

Sawyer Mini ($25)

I’m lazy when it comes to filtering water, but I don’t have time for giardia. This filter fits my style: light, quick, affordable, and I can screw it onto the threads of most plastic bottles.

Gaia GPS APP (Starting at $10)

This app lets me know I’m in the right place even when I can’t find the trail. It also helps me tell my husband where I am at the end of the day when it’s time to reconnect.

Baby BJORN Carrier, ONE OUTDOORS ($250)

This is my go-to baby carrier on the trail. It is lightweight, washable, and allows the babe to look out or snuggle on my chest. I switch my kids to a traditional backpack style kid carrier at 12 months, but they’re heavier, lack storage, and anything unisex isn’t going to fit well. It’s 2017—can’t we make a better kid pack?

Thermarest, Z-Lite ($35-45)

I’m such a fan of these old school foam pads. I sleep really well on them at night, and I strap them to my pack for a cushioned seat or diaper changing pad during the day.

Farm to Feet, Boulder ($16)

Made in America and manufactured in N.C., these are the most comfortable, best wicking hiking socks I’ve ever owned. Plus, they have a lifetime guarantee.

Western Mountaineering Apache MF ($550)

These bags are so nice—and expensive! But you can’t beat the warmth to weight ratio and I tend to sleep cold so that’s important. Plus, the natural materials don’t hold in hiker stench like synthetics.


We are hiking and traveling across the state for three months with two young kids, so I see this as a necessary piece of gear. Our go-to on this hike is Appalachian Mountain Brewery‘s White Dot Session IPA. It’s hoppy without being heavy and a percentage of the proceeds go to benefit the MST.

Places to Go, Things to See: