Speed Hiker! Pharr Davis sets Record on Appalachian Trail

Speed-hiker extraordinaire Jennifer Pharr Davis this weekend set a new overall thru-hike record on the 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail. Her time of 46 days, 11 hours, and 20 minutes, is the quickest recorded completion of the iconic East Coast trail, which stretches from Georgia to Maine. In June, Davis began her journey from Mount Katahdin in Maine, the trail’s northern terminus. Her goal of Springer Mountain, Georgia, the southern end of the trail, was reached today, July 31, 2011. To break the record, Davis hiked an average of almost 50 miles a day, camping along the trail (and sometimes leaving the trail briefly for showers and hotel beds!). We got an exclusive on the gear Davis used to make her long days and short nights doable. The photos and bullet points below lay out all the details. Congrats to Jennifer! —Stephen Regenold; photos by Melissa Dobbins

A. Easton ATR 75 Trekking Poles — Poles offer balance and stability on the trail, but more importantly trekking poles can take weight off the legs and knees on each stride, helping to cushion the blow of the tens of thousands of steps Pharr Davis took each day on the AT.

B. Salomon Running Shirt/Shorts — Pharr Davis trekked up to 50 miles each day on the trail, and this kind of motion requires apparel made for running, not typical hiking.

C. Salomon XA 20 W Pack — This day-pack is not what most AT hikers will wear but it was perfect for Pharr Davis’ supported effort. It has lightweight shoulder straps with a pocket for easy access to nutrition, a hydration bladder compartment, and a trekking pole holder on back.

D. Suunto Vector XBlack — This tech watch from Suunto, which tells time plus has an alarm, altimeter, barometer, and a compass, was crucial on the long trek.

E. Positive Mental Attitude! — Pharr Davis needed focus and a positive state of mind to get up each day and hike. “It’s painful and challenging, but I’m on the trail, in the woods, doing what I love,” she said.

F. Salomon Synapse Trail Shoes — Salomon calls this new shoe “the industry’s first natural-motion hiking shoe.” It weighs about 11 ounces, and it has a lower heel-drop designed for people who like a combination of hiking and running on trails.

G. Shell jacket — Designed for running and hiking in cold, windy weather, the Salomon XA WS is a softshell jacket that has a stretchy face and a breathable panel on the back (perfect with a backpack).

H. Energy Food — A record attempt on the AT is more an endurance feat than a normal long-distance hike. As such, Pharr Davis relied on energy food to power her through each day, including Clif Bars (her favorites are Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and Carrot Cake flavors) and Honey Stinger energy chews. The energy food was provided by Diamond Brand Outfitters, one of her sponsors.

I. Salomon EXO IV Calf — Salomon’s EXO technology supports calf muscles, improving blood flow for better performance and recovery. Pharr Davis needed this extra “support” on her long days hiking and running on the trail.

Damage: Consistent 50-mile days on the AT (for six weeks straight!) took its toll on Pharr Davis’ legs and feet

Kilo Tent (not pictured) — Made by Easton Mtn. Products, this ultra-light tent uses carbon-fiber poles to manage a weight of less than 2.2 pounds for the total package. It’s touted as the “lightest free-standing, two-person tent on the market.” The double-wall model has about 26 sq. ft. of floor space.

Klymit Inertia XL Frame (not pictured) — Advertised as one of the lightest, most-packable inflatable camping pads made, the Klymit Inertia has a unique design with cut-out portions where you do not need support. It inflates with air by mouth or via tiny cartridges of argon gas, which load in a cartridge gun and inflate the pad with the push of a button (argon provides extra insulation). The pad weighs 17 ounces and packs up to the size of a soda can.

Whistles For Life safety whistle (not pictured) — A $5 product, this wilderness-oriented safety whistle is touted as one of the loudest ever made (118 – 120 decibel rated). “If you can be heard, you can be rescued.” That’s a company tag line. Fortunately, on Pharr Davis’ long trek she never had to use it!

—See more about Pharr Davis’ trip on her blog, “Becoming Odyssa.”

Map: The 2,181-mile Appalachian Trail

Stephen Regenold

Stephen Regenold is Founder of GearJunkie, which he launched as a nationally-syndicated newspaper column in 2002. As a journalist and writer, Regenold has covered the outdoors industry for two decades, including as a correspondent for the New York Times. A father of five, Regenold and his wife live in Minneapolis.