I went by Alabama Outdoors in Homewood, AL for a shakedown last week that was quite useful. I recommend all of you first time thru hikers go to a local outfitter and ask to be shook down because 9 times out of 10 there will be someone working there that has thru hiked before.
Point aside, William, who hiked the AT Nobo last year, gave me a few tips and some weight saving ideas. Nothing I wasn’t really expecting (don’t carry extra matches, don’t carry this heavy XYZ, etc.) But, he also showed me a neat trick you can use with the STANDARD SIZE Sawyer filters! Instead of carrying the large syringe that comes with the filter, you can simply purchase a 750 mL Smartwater bottle, drink the water, remove the cap, and use that cap as a back flush fitting! Here’s how:
Hope this helps! Note, I am using the Camelbak conversion to be able to pump water straight back into my Camelbak from the sawyer filter (no bladder removal required!)