Rain Gear: From experience, I know that you can't stay dry in wet weather. You just try to stay 'less wet.' The choices are typically: warm wet (sweat) or colder wet (rain). Waterproof/breathable fabric is a joke. It really doesn't breath when you're hiking. Oh well...
At the start of the hike, I took a new Marmot Minimalist GoreTex Jacket & an old pair of Marmot PreCip pants. The jacket held up 'okay' for the most part. I had to keep retreating it with a water repellent solution so it would continue to bead up. As I neared NH, I decided to switch out my jacket for an REI Kimtah Event Jacket. I carried this jacket the rest of the way and didn't have to retreat it.
My Marmot rain pants were very old. In hard rains, it seemed like my butt was getting wet. In Damascus, the outfitter there looked at my rain pants. He held them up and could see that the inner waterproof coating had worn out in the seat. Surprisingly, he suggested I go ahead and keep using them as the rain SHOULD get warmer as my hike went along. Well, this year turned out to be quite wet and a lot cooler than recent years. When I got to Daleville, I bought a new pair of North Face Venture rain pants. I wore these for the remainder of the hike. I was pleased w/ them.
I saw other hikers using similar rain gear choices. Different brands maybe. I also saw hikers using Frogg Toggs or other ultralight - but fragile - rain gear. I saw some people using ponchos. I even saw a few 'Packas' - a pack cover/jacket combo - on the trail. Many hikers sent home their rain pants when it warmed up. All told, I'd probably use the same or similar gear on a future long hike. All waterproof/breathable rain gear sucks.
Hiking pants: I used REI Sahara convertible hiking pants (zip-off pants legs to convert to shorts). I've used these pants almost exclusively on all my hikes. Midway, the seam just below my front zipper started to come apart. The seat of the pants were looking a little worn. So, I replaced the pants with an identical pair that I had mail-ordered to myself. I would use this system again.
Others used similar pants or switched to shorts only when it warmed up.
Hiking shirt: I used a Mountain Hardware long-sleeve hiking shirt. If it was cool, I wore a wool or synthetic undershirt underneath it. In warmer weather, I'd only wear the shirt with the sleeves rolled up. Other than losing a button, I was quite pleased with my results of this shirt. I'll use it again in the future.
Hiking shoes: I used four pair of Brooks Cascadia trail running shoes as my foot wear on the hike. These shoes were not waterproof. I purposely didn't get waterproof shoes as they would be hotter and potentially cause more blisters than non-waterproof shoes. I normally wear a size 12. But, the 12 felt a little snug on my foot so I used a size 13 instead (in case my foot swelled up from the hike). I used Dirty Girl Gaiters with the shoes. I must saw that I was pleased with this set up. I only got one blister the entire hike.
I saw mostly trail runners being worn by thru-hikers. Probably 80% or so. Others used light hiking boots or medium weight hiking boots. I even saw a few people hiking in sandals.
Hiking socks: I used REI wool light hiking socks (1/4 length) for most of my hike. In VT, I bought a pair of Darn Tough wool socks. I really like the DT socks. Still, I had no concerns with the REI socks. I used BlisterShield Foot powder inside my socks to prevent blisters (note: only one blister on the hike; must have worked pretty well).
I saw a variety of hiking socks on the trail. Darn Tough socks were the most prevalent. I'll be switching over to Darn Tough socks as my other socks wear out. I like their lifetime guarantee.
Insulating clothing: I used a Buff headgear for cool weather for my head. I also carried a Mountain Hardware knit cap. Maybe a little overkill. If I had it to do again, I'd probably only tag the knit cap.
For gloves, I used liner gloves. It was 'warm enough' for the most part. When it got really cold, I'd jump into my sleeping bag & call it a night.
I used Smart Wool long underwear pants and Patagonia synthetic long underwear shirt to sleep in. My Smart Wool shirt quickly developed a hole in it and I couldn't get a replacement from Campmor (old model close-out). That's why I used the Patagonia shirt. I wanted to go w/ wool exclusively since it would retain less body odor. All told, it worked pretty well - wool or synthetic.
My insulating jacket was a Montbell Thermawrap jacket. Synthetic insulation. Very warm and light. I've used this jacket for years and truly love it. Some of the down versions are lighter. But, I was leery about using down for my East Coast AT hike.
Underwear - I used lined running shorts as my underwear. I've been using this system for years. I will continue using it. I had zero chaffing issues on the hike.
I used either a wool t-shirt or synthetic t-shirt as my undershirt. I started w/ only one shirt (wool) at the beginning. I later added a synthetic shirt to have something dry to change into at the end of the day.
Hiking poles: The bane of my hiking experience. With the unusually wet year, I fell countless times on trail. Sometimes, I caught myself with my hiking poles. Sometimes, my hiking poles weren't up to the task and either bent or snapped. I used Black Diamond poles. The ones I took on the trail belonged to my wife. I used them since they fit in my shipping tube I used to transport them in. Mine wouldn't fit. During the course of the hike, I bent 3 sections of the poles and broke 2 sections. I was seemingly replacing sections constantly toward the end of the hike (NH & ME). In Andover ME, I got two new sections for my hiking poles. One section only last a few hours that morning before I broke it. From a mountain ridge, I got a cell signal and ordered a replacement section for my next resupply point. In Rangeley ME, I took an unplanned stop there & I bought another pair of hiking poles - Leki - to help me get through that next section before I got my replacement part. I wasn't comfortable with only having one pole in this tricky section. I really liked the Leki poles. Even when I got my final replacement part for the Black Diamond poles, I used the Liki's exclusively for the rest of the hike.
Hat: I used a Sunday Afternoon boonie-style hat for my hike. It kept the sun (what little I saw of it) off my face & neck. I liked the had. I added a lightweight running hat for use in towns. The system worked good for me. I could have done without the running hat if I really wanted to watch my pack weight.
Almost there, just around the corner.