Hikers near completion of their Tour de Smokies: Clothing and gear vital for comfort and safety

October 1, 2020

  • Chris Ford and Nancy East in rain gear

by Julie Dodd

An important part of a successful hike is what you wear and what you carry with you.

When you hike in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, weather and temperatures can change due to the elevation of the trail, time of day, and shifts in the weather during the day.

Chris Ford and Nancy East at Rocky Top

Day 9 on Rocky Top was bright and sunny.

Nancy “Seal Mom” East and Chris “Pacer” Ford certainly know the importance of having the right clothing as gear. They are in Week 4 of their Tour de Smokies.

They are hiking the 900 miles of GSMNP trails, with the goal of raising $60,000 for the park’s Preventive Search and Rescue program.

With fingers crossed, they reported in a video on Sept. 30 on Nancy’s Facebook page that they hoped to complete their Tour on Friday, Oct. 2.

Update: Their finish time changed when the park opened Hazel Creek Trail on Oct. 1. Nancy and Chris worked with their team, including their “trail boss” Lane DeCost, to modify their hiking plan to include Hazel Creek. The plan now is for them to complete their hike on the Big Creek Trail on Saturday, Oct. 3, at 10 a.m.

A backpacking trip on that trail with Nancy’s Haywood County Search and Rescue team member Lane DeCost led to Nancy and Chris deciding to take on the Tour de Smokies as a fundraiser. Lane mapped out their daily hiking routes.

Based on the photos in this post and other posts about their Tour de Smokies, you can see they’ve encountered a range of weather and temperatures and have needed a range of gear.

Clothing and gear

Let’s check out their clothing and gear from head to toe.

Nancy East and Chris Ford at the Tunnel to Nowhere

Nancy and Chris at the Tunnel to Nowhere on Day 21. Their day started in the rain with a 6 a.m. shuttle across Fontana Lake to Hazel Creek Trail.

Hiking shorts for Chris and hiking skirt/dress for Nancy

Mid-weight base layer top

Rain jacket – You can see their rain jackets in action in the photo at the top of this blog post.

Rain Wrap – Both Nancy and Chris wear a Rain Wrap, which is a rain kilt. Provides coverage during rain but not as hot as wearing rain pants. You can see Chris wearing his rain kilt in the Tunnel to Nowhere photo.

Hiking umbrella – Nancy prefers to carry an umbrella, as she says rain jackets can be too hot. The umbrella attaches to the shoulder strap of her pack. The umbrella doesn’t always work, like on Day 23 when they hiked on the AT in strong wind and rain. In such weather Nancy wears her rain jacket.

Footwear – They both wear trail runners, gaiters and Marino wool socks. See the previous post on footwear.

Hiking poles – See the previous post on footwear and hiking poles.

Pack and pack liner

Hiking head wrap

Wool beanie hat

Mid-weight wool leggings


Personal Locator Beacon, compass, maps – See previous post on navigation tools.

Waterproof matches – and Nancy carries a lighter, too.

Swiss Army Knife

Water bottle and filter – See previous post on food and drink.

Food and snacks – See previous post on food and drink.

You can read Nancy’s blog post where she discusses her gear in more detail, including the additional gear she carries on backpacking trips.

Support Nancy and Chris’ Tour de Smokies

Nancy East and Chris Ford

Nancy and Chris on Day 18 of their Tour de Smokies.

You can support Nancy and Chris’ hiking journey and improve safety in GSMNP for all hikers by making a donation on FOTS website or on the Facebook fundraiser page.

Your donation can help Nancy and Chris reach their goal of raising $60,000 for GSMNP Preventive Search and Rescue program.

You can virtually follow Nancy “Seal Mom” East and Chris “Pacer” Ford’s Tour de Smokies fundraiser hiking journey.

Nancy has posted videos and photos from their daily hikes on her Facebook page –  Hope and Feather Travels.



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