• Completed Thru-Hike: What I changed, What I learned

    I completed a thru hike on August 26th, 2013. I used Whiteblaze so much when researching for the hike. It was a site that I visited daily. I remember a successful 2012 thru hiker posting a review of his gear and strategies for his hike. I found that very helpful, so I decided to do the same thing for any future thru hikers.

    Before you read what I wrote below, keep in mind that I was not obsessed with weight. This is for hikers who have an open mind. This is what worked for me, not what works for everyone. Hike your own hike.

    Age: 29
    Height: 5' 11"
    Weight at start: 165 (I gained 11 pounds before the hike on purpose)
    Weight at end: 143

    Start: Approach Trail on March 13
    End: Katahdin on August 26
    Days: 168
    Avg Miles per day: 13
    Number of zero days: 15

    Trail name: Salad Days


    Here is my gear list I started my hike with:

    Pack/Stuff Sacs:
    Backpack - Osprey Atmos 65L
    Clothe bag - Sea to Summit 8L Ultra Sil
    Food/Bear bag - Zpacks Roll top Blast Food Bag
    Misc stuff sack - Sea to Summit 2L Ultra Sil
    Sleeping bag stuff sac - Zpacks Medium Roll Top Dry Bag

    Sleep System:
    REI Igneo, Long, 19F
    Therm-a-rest NeoAir X-light
    Pillow - Cocoon Hyperlite
    Sleeping Bag Liner - Sea to Summit Reactor
    Tent - Eureka Solitaire
    4x Stakes - MSR Groudhogs
    Tent Tarp - Tyvec Ground Sheet

    Cook System:
    Jetboil - Sol
    Fuel - Jetboil 100g
    Utensil - Sea to Summit Alpha Spork
    Towel - Bandana
    Water Purifier - Sawyer Squeeze
    Water Fetch Bag - Platypus 34oz
    32oz Nalgene
    2L Camelback Bladder

    Clothes:
    Base Layer Top - REI Midweight Long Sleeve
    Base Layer Bottom - REI Midweight Long Johns
    1x Underwear (to sleep in)
    3x Smartwool Socks
    Middle Layer Top - Mountain Hardwear Zip Up
    Outer Layer - Patagonia Nano Puff Hoodie
    Rain Jacket - Frogg Toggs
    Rain Pants - Showers Pass
    Gaiters - Black Diamond GTX
    Shoes - Brooks Cascadia 8 w/Super Feet
    Shorts - Nylon running shorts
    Pants - Columbia zip offs
    Hat - Smartwool beanie
    Gloves - Cheap Mil-spec

    Misc:
    Knife - Leatherman Juice
    Black Diamond Head Lamp
    REI Backpack Rain Cover
    First Aid Kit
    Soap - Brommer's 2oz
    Bear Bag Rope - 50ft Parachute chord
    1x Carabiner
    Trekking Poles - Black Diamond Z-Poles
    iPhone 4S
    Camp towel - Zpacks Lightload Towel
    Pen and Notepad
    AWOL's AT Guide
    Sunglasses - Smith Precept
    Zagg 6000 mha Battery pack (I loved this and carried it the entire trip, it was much better than a solar panel)




    I had many pack strip downs while on the hike. Just about every 500 miles, I would reevaluate what I was carrying.


    Here is what I dropped or replaced:

    My pack lasted the entire hike. The zippers on my hip belt wore out though. I was unable to close them. I did ditch the brain (top cover) of my pack in Vermont. I would purchase another Osprey for a long hike. The suspension alone was worth the extra weight over the UL packs, in my opinion.

    My Sawyer Squeeze froze the second night (my fault) and then a bag ripped. In Neal's Gap, I switched to Aquamira Drops for the rest of the trip. I did have a pump filter sent to me for Pennsylvania, because I heard the water can be untrustworthy. There was never a time that I needed to use the pump filter though. That is to say, I had a lot of rain while I was in PA and I started mid-March.

    My Zpacks bags lasted the entire trip, but they started to fray on the roll top part. I would purchase them again if I were to do another long distance trip.

    I swapped out my Winter bag for my Summer bag in Waynesboro, VA. We had a cool Spring this year. I still had nights that went below freezing temps well into Virginia. I purchased a 45 degree Marmot bag. I shortly sent back my sleeping bag liner. I used the liner for warmth and keeping my down bag clean. I didn't need the extra warmth anymore and my summer bag is synthetic, so I could wash it in town if I wanted to (although I never did, and it stinks).

    I carried my pillow the entire way. I tried my clothe bag for a pillow a few times but hated it. I didn't mind the few grams of weight for comfort at night.

    My Tyvec ground sheet worked great until around Vermont. It became so soft that it started to hold water when it rained. I could wring it out in the morning. If I were to do another long trip, I'd have a new ground sheet mailed to me halfway through the hike.

    My tent performed great. Most hikers who owned the same tent hated it. You cannot sit up in it. I am 5' 11" and didn't seem to have an issue with its size. It cost me $80 and weighed just over 2 pounds. I cannot complain.

    I loved my Jetboil. I would cook, eat and cleanup before some hikers finished cooking. I did need to replace it in Lincoln, NH because the threads on the stove stripped.

    I ditched my Nalgene bottle in Vermont. I didn't use it often enough.

    Clothes:
    I carried my base layers the entire hike.
    I always hiked with compression underwear on. If I didn't, I would get chaffing (I'm a skinny guy too).
    I sent home my Nanopuff jacket in Waynesboro
    My Frogg Togg jacket and pants didn't last. They ripped within the first 100 miles. I replaced the jacket for a Patagonia H2no and had Shower Pass rain pants sent to me. I sent home the rain pants in Virginia. I carried the rain jacket the whole way.
    I sent home my gaiters at Neal's Gap. I never wore them. Dirty Girl gaiters (or a similar style) are the only thing I would recommend for the AT.
    I went through 3 pairs of Brooks Cascadia 8 shoes. One pair went over 1200 miles. Amazing.
    I sent home my zip off pants in North Carolina. I hiked in shorts every day and put my base layer pants on in camp. If it was really cold, I'd wear my rain pants.
    I carried my beanie the entire trip although I sent my gloves home in Virginia.

    I sent home my Leatherman in Virginia. I purchased a cheap, light box cutter and still only used it a few times.

    I ditched my soap. I never used it.

    I snapped one of my Z-poles in Pennsylvania. Those rocks are brutal. Black Diamond allowed me to purchase a new pair for 40% off their lowest retail price. I purchased new BD poles and had them sent home. I purchased Leki poles in New Jersey and saved the new BD poles for another hike.

    I sent home my camp towel. I used my bandana for any cleaning.

    I sent home my sunglasses in Vermont. I had a few days when I wished I had them, but I did not miss them.

    I purchased an emergency blanket somewhere in Georgia. It was the best purchase, especially once I reached the North. There were a few nights in Maine that got down into the mid 40's. I only had my Summer bag with me. I laid out the emergency blanket inside my sleeping bag and slept comfortably the entire night.



    Resupplying was the biggest adjustment for me. The first four resupplies, I spent about an hour in the grocery store and then an hour tearing apart the food packaging, repacking it all and then stuffing it all back into my pack. By the end of the hike, I was in the store for 15 minutes and was packed up in another 15 minutes. I slowly learned how much I needed to eat, what I liked and what was easy to cook. I call myself a lazy hiker once in camp. I want to be eating in less than 15 minutes after setting up my tent. I would buy food that would help with my laziness.
    I am also the type of hiker to snack a lot. I could never eat large amounts of food at once. I could eat a regular meal and then eat another one an hour later. Because of this, I would pack snacks in my hip belt pocket so I could walk and eat. I always ate on flat ground or downhills.
    I always tried to purchase food that was already in a ziplock bag. For example, a lot of bit size candy now comes in 16oz bags with a zip top.

    Here is an average 4 day resupply for me:

    4x Poptarts (Smores tend not to grumble as easily)
    4x Carnation Instant Breakfast
    1x Quart ziplock of dry milk (I always tried to find Nido, but the further North I got, the harder it was to find)
    6x Snickers
    2x box of cookies or bars (Fignewtons, Chocolate/Coconut Bars, Oreos)
    1x box of Cheezits (I never got sick of them)
    1x Candy (I became hooked on Hersey Almond bites)
    10x Tortillas
    1x 8 oz jar of Nutritious peanut butter
    6x Thomas bagels (I would step on them so I could fit three in one quart size ziplock bag. Thomas bagels seemed to last the longest.)
    6x Easy Mac
    2x Tuna packs
    4x Ramen
    2x Instant mashed potatoes
    1x Uncle Ben's rice side
    1x 16 oz pack of Ravioli

    At the beginning of the hike, I thought I would make coffee every morning and drink tea or hot chocolate at night. That happened about twice and I became lazy.



    Here is some advice that was passed down to me:

    Wear liner socks!!! I wore one pair of Injinji toe socks the entire hike. They lasted the whole hike with no holes. Amazing. I also went the entire hike without a single blister. No joke. I read a book called Fixing Your Feet before the hike. I'd recommend it to any long distance hiker or runner.

    If there is a view, waterfall, tower, etc within 0.5 miles off the trail, go see it. An extra mile might seem annoying, but there are some really interesting things not far off the trail.

    Always eat the tastiest thing in your food bag first. Then, you'll always be eating the best thing.

    Don't be afraid to change your plans, even halfway through your day. For example, the group I was with planned to hike 17 miles one day. 4 miles into the day, we met a local that offered to drive us to a lake for the day. It ended up being one of the best days on the trail.

    Take a ton of pictures. Even if you don't feel like taking photos, do it. You will not regret it.

    Don't take what previous hikers say about certain dates as gospel. Use them only as a reference. So many hikers recommend to send your Winter gear home in Damascus and get your Winter gear back before the Whites. We had a cold Spring and a warmer Summer. I got my Summer gear in Waynesboro, VA and never got my Winter gear back. Everyone starts on a different date and every year the weather is different. I hiked with people who had some uncomfortable nights in Virginia because they sent their Winter gear home too early.

    Most of all, enjoy every day, even the days that suck. You remember the amazing days and the crappy days the most.


    Here is a video that I put together from my hike: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yx5QQyG-Z7s

    Here is my blog that I wrote about each day: http://saladdaysonthetrail.wordpress.com/


    If you have any questions, please feel free to ask!
    Comments 22 Comments
    1. 9pin's Avatar
      9pin -
      great stuff, actually pretty valuable. thanks for sharing.
    1. 9pin's Avatar
      9pin -
      did you wear the Injinji toe socks as your 'liner sock' or as your only sock? Looking at REI selection, I wondered if you wore one of the light weight models as liner socks or just as one sock? thanks
    1. SS/SB's Avatar
      SS/SB -
      yr vid was worth watching for sure! My wife moaned tho when she saw that snow covered toilet early on....
    1. Nonfiction's Avatar
      Nonfiction -
      Killer advice good sir! Also a killer video!... can't wait to see it all for myself in 2015
    1. Cro-Mag's Avatar
      Cro-Mag -
      Quote Originally Posted by 9pin View Post
      great stuff, actually pretty valuable. thanks for sharing.
      Thank you!
    1. Cro-Mag's Avatar
      Cro-Mag -
      Quote Originally Posted by 9pin View Post
      did you wear the Injinji toe socks as your 'liner sock' or as your only sock? Looking at REI selection, I wondered if you wore one of the light weight models as liner socks or just as one sock? thanks
      I wore them as a liner sock and either Smart Wool or Darn Tough socks over them.
    1. Cro-Mag's Avatar
      Cro-Mag -
      Quote Originally Posted by SS/SB View Post
      yr vid was worth watching for sure! My wife moaned tho when she saw that snow covered toilet early on....
      This is the truth: I had never squatted in the woods before hiking this trail. For the first few days I held out for privies when I had to go. After the first snow storm, I quickly adapted to squatting! haha
    1. Cro-Mag's Avatar
      Cro-Mag -
      Quote Originally Posted by Nonfiction View Post
      Killer advice good sir! Also a killer video!... can't wait to see it all for myself in 2015
      Thank you! Best of luck in 2015!
    1. Mitchell McMahon's Avatar
      Mitchell McMahon -
      Awesome information!! Watched the video as well and I'll be leaving soon to start my thru hike. (March 1) Video looked amazing.
    1. Cro-Mag's Avatar
      Cro-Mag -
      Quote Originally Posted by Mitchell McMahon View Post
      Awesome information!! Watched the video as well and I'll be leaving soon to start my thru hike. (March 1) Video looked amazing.
      I hope you have a great time! I am already following some 2014ers and I am loving it!
    1. sugarspy's Avatar
      sugarspy -
      You don't have to respond to this if you left this information out on purpose, but I'm wondering how much money you spent? I'm planning on hiking 2015.
    1. jerseydevil's Avatar
      jerseydevil -
      i second sugarspy- i am also very curious how much money you ended up spending. great, informative post! my plan is a thru-hike in 2016
    1. RocksteadyMB's Avatar
      RocksteadyMB -
      Thanks for the great insight. There are a few things I will take from your time on the trail. I only get to hike 1 week out of the year, and like you said I cherish the time I on out there.
    1. Cro-Mag's Avatar
      Cro-Mag -
      Quote Originally Posted by sugarspy View Post
      You don't have to respond to this if you left this information out on purpose, but I'm wondering how much money you spent? I'm planning on hiking 2015.
      Quote Originally Posted by jerseydevil View Post
      i second sugarspy- i am also very curious how much money you ended up spending. great, informative post! my plan is a thru-hike in 2016
      One regret I have is that I did not keep track of the money I spent. I get this question a lot, and I wish I had kept somewhat of a record.
      Either way, I saved $4000 (roughly) to use on the trail. This did not include other money I saved to pay bills (student loans and car payment).
      My plan was to pretend that I only had $2000 to spend on my hike. I finished the hike with a few hundred dollars left. So to answer your question, I spent about $3500 for the hike.
      Again, I treated myself pretty well I think. I split motels with other hikers, stayed at a half dozen hostels and spent a lot of money on food in town.
      I dont drink or smoke, so that saved me A LOT of money. I think some hiker's bar tabs equal $2000 alone. Not that I am knocking that, just saying I spent less money in town than some.

      Good luck on your hikes!!
    1. Tprunty8's Avatar
      Tprunty8 -
      Love the video. Was that all shot with the Iphone or what did you use?
    1. Cro-Mag's Avatar
      Cro-Mag -
      Quote Originally Posted by Tprunty8 View Post
      Love the video. Was that all shot with the Iphone or what did you use?
      80% of the video was using an iPhone 4S. I also had a GoPro Hero 2 that I would carry with me sometimes (I'd mail the GoPro ahead of me).
    1. permagrin's Avatar
      permagrin -
      Quote Originally Posted by Cro-Mag View Post
      Thank you! Best of luck in 2015!
      This is part of my AT research. I plan on leaving NOBO from Springer to Harpers Ferry on May 1, 2015. Thanks for the info!
    1. gibbsaroli's Avatar
      gibbsaroli -
      Thanks for sharing it's great to see in such detail what has and has not worked for someone. I'm wondering who wrote Fixing Your Feet? Thanks.
    1. comanche8f's Avatar
      comanche8f -
      Quote Originally Posted by gibbsaroli View Post
      Thanks for sharing it's great to see in such detail what has and has not worked for someone. I'm wondering who wrote Fixing Your Feet? Thanks.

      The first link is for the newest edition of Fixing your Feet. It is a good book, but it focuses mostly on general athletes, not really specific for hikers, and it talks mostly about preventative, as opposed to fixing. I think it is a good book , a good read, and has some useful information. You can view the first few pages of, kind of get an insight into the book.
      The second link is for one that appears to be catered more towards hiking and stuff, I have not read it, it is much older (1997) , but it is by the same author as the first, so I would imagine it wouldn't be too bad. Having not read it, I can't say for sure though.

      First book
      http://www.amazon.com/Fixing-Your-Fe...dp_ob_title_bk

      Second Book
      http://www.amazon.com/Fixing-Your-Fe...=1419002991567
    1. Bigfoot86's Avatar
      Bigfoot86 -
      Good advice and great video and I'll be doing the AT in 16 or 17
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