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  1. #1
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    Default First Time section hiker

    Hey everybody! My husband and I have always wanted to hike parts of the AT. We hike around the area we live and whenever we go up to the NC mountains or TN mountains. However, we've never backpacked and slept overnight on the trail. We are planning a 30 mile section hike in September. I want to be prepared and make this a good experience. We are getting our gear together, maps, food, etc... Any advise or tips? Thanks in advance.

  2. #2
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    Maybe do an overnighter first, with limited miles to try out gear and techniques? Park at a road crossing and hike up to a shelter/campsite (maybe 6-10 miles), then back out the next day. You'll get a good feel for your pack, equipment, etc. Good luck.

  3. #3
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    If you do decide to hike one-way, you can find a shuttle on the ATC website. Don't hesitate to use them. With all the responsibilities that most people our age have, the time spent trying to shuttle your own cars is time wasted when you can hire a shuttle for $40-$60 (depending on specifics of the location).

  4. #4

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    Practice cooking at home a lot.
    Teej

    "[ATers] represent three percent of our use and about twenty percent of our effort," retired Baxter Park Director Jensen Bissell.

  5. #5
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    Shenandoah National Park is one of the easier sections to start with. No extreme grades, frequent road access, and beautiful scenery. Get a map, plan your trip, arrange a shuttle, and go.

    Agree with others, though, do an overnight in your area to learn about your gear and yourselves before committing to a multi-day trip.

  6. #6

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    I find "maps" to be less useful on the AT than the AT guide book.
    Equipment? Sorry to say a lot of it is trial and error. Budget, preferences, etc also play a big role in your outfitting.

  7. #7

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    Check the time. Set up your shelter like you're camping overnight. Pack up your shelter. Check the time again. Repeat as necessary to make it quick and easy. Be impressed with yourself when you drop your time by half after 3-5 iterations.

    Set up cooking kit. Cook something. Pack up the food bag. Hang it. Repeat as necessary to make it quick and easy.

    Pack up your gear. Unpack. Repeat as necessary to make the whole pack thing quick and easy.

    Walk. Walk with some weight. Walk with more weight. Walk with all the weight. Repeat as necessary to figure out how your feet take it, how to use "foot fixes" as needed, get the right footgear.

    Make sure some of the repetitions above happen in the rain, on wet ground, in the hot sun, in twilight, at night.

    Ready to go? Comb through your gear for all the stuff you didn't use, see what you can do without. And get out there

    Or just cram your stuff into a pack and get out there. Eventually you end up at the same place.

  8. #8
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    One of the best ways to start on the AT is to do a section hike that includes Hot Springs, North Carolina, during the trip. For 30 miles, you might be looking at a two-night or three-night trip. After a night or two on the trail, real food and perhaps a hostel/hotel bed is the height of luxury.

    You could start at the parking lot near Max Patch. From there you could spend night one at Walnut Mountain Shelter. On night two, you could make Hot Springs if you're feeling good (or Deer Park Shelter if you're not feeling quite that chipper). If you want to do a bit more, you can then go north from Hot Springs. There are several good access points at various distances (5 to 16 miles) north of town.

  9. #9

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    Perhaps the most important thing is not planning something too ambitious that makes you stick on the trail until dusk. You want to enjoy the trail and the scenery

    September is a good time of year there. Not as hot and not in the really cold season

    Your questions are pretty general, so just have a look through the forums and ask other specific questions and you'll get good responses.

  10. #10
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Amy Jo View Post
    Hey everybody! My husband and I have always wanted to hike parts of the AT. We hike around the area we live and whenever we go up to the NC mountains or TN mountains. However, we've never backpacked and slept overnight on the trail. We are planning a 30 mile section hike in September. I want to be prepared and make this a good experience. We are getting our gear together, maps, food, etc... Any advise or tips? Thanks in advance.
    Take it slow and have fun!
    It's all good in the woods.

  11. #11
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    1. Check the weather forecast before going out. In September check for hurricanes. On a short section hike you have the luxury of avoiding really bad weather. Of course bad weather is part of hiking but for a first trip you could avoid that complication.

    2. I found on my first trip I did a poor job of projecting how far I could hike per day. It helps to hike a section where you are able to camp anywhere. If your schedule is tied to specific camp sites or shelters, you may find you overestimate and push yourself too hard to get to your destination. If you underestimate you may find yourself setting up camp in the mid afternoon and miss out on some good hiking. This is also why it is a good idea to take a shuttle to your starting point and hike back to your car. You don't want the constraint of having to hike to a specific place at a specific time to meet a shuttle driver.

    3. Have fun.

  12. #12
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    My wife and I did a practice weekend at home. We used only the items in our bags when cooking/eating and practice setting up/breaking down camp.

    Good Luck


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  13. #13

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    VERY good advice to do some simple overnighters near home. The initial concentration should be focused on Living outdoors, and then gradually extending your mileage as your experience and confidence increase. It is one thing to do a long dayhike and get into a warm car and go home, and quite another to have to make camp after a long, hard day and fire up a stove to make dinner, and erect your shelter, and it's Much harder when the weather is bad. I've never done a thru or even a long section hike, mostly quick 1-2 night trips and several times a year trips of 3-6 days. However, sometimes I intentionally go out in crappy weather just to practice and to maintain that skill set, and the attitude that goes along with dealing with crappy weather.

  14. #14

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    Most beginners will take too much gear. The above responses have been good: hike, hike with your pack, hike in the rain, set up your shelter and do it until you can do it quickly and get it right, cook on your stove. . . do all of that. Do it over and over in your back yard or a nearby park. Then go home with your pack and unpack everything and spread it out. TAKE OUT EVERYTHING THAT YOU DIDN'T USE, AND DON'T TAKE IT WITH YOU ON THE BACKPACKING TRIP. Lighten your pack as much as you can. Everyone here will tell you that those ounces count. They do. And I always, always check my tent and my stove before I leave home. Nothing is more miserable than not being able to prepare your food or (and I did it, so I know) forgetting your tent poles and being miles in the middle of nowhere. (I stretched my tent out with cord and "hung it" as best I could, but it wasn't a fun night.)

  15. #15

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    Dont plan more miles than you know can do
    Keep flexible schedule, plenty of time to complete

  16. #16

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    Pretty broad question but for tips/tricks heres my $.02

    - Sleeping bags are Holy, keep them and your extra clothes not used during the day in a trash compactor bag inside your pack. Maybe even in a silnylon stuff sack then in a compactor bag.

    - Dont forget to seam seal your shelter and test it at home with a sprinkler or a good rainstorm. And by test I mean soak it....for hours. A small leak or drip through can turn into a trickle after the fabric is stretched and wet.

    - You will be wet in the rain. If your rainjacket cost $500 or your using a trash bag for a poncho you will end up clammily sodden either way. Plan on how to GET dry and comfortable at the end of the day because you wont stay that way in an all day rain.

    - Baby wipes are pretty handy after day 3 of 80* weather with no showers.

    -Ditch the nalgenes for smartwater/gatorade bottles or the like. UNLESS you lke to make a hot water bottle for the sleeping bag, in which case for gods sake use a nalgene LOL.

    -PCT method for hanging your food bag. Google it and try it out. saves alot of hassle, and is the hardest for the critters to deal with.

    -As several mentioned above take all your gear out for a day hike and try it out, when you can still bail to the house if something is going badly. Like a pack miraculously causes blisters in some spot after 6 miles but not 5. Carry your full loadout including the amount in food weight you will pack on your longest duration.

    -Food and water weight add up quickly, dont overdo it.

    - Dont skimp on food and water...Lol.

    - For the AT, Awols guidebook or the thru hiker companion, are awesome. Photocopy the pages of the section your doing so you dont have to carry the whole book. Keep pages in a ziplock easily accessible.

    - We could go on like this forever lol. If you have some specific concerns or question that would help narrow the info you can get here.

    -Mostly, have a great trip!!! Backpacking is really rewarding even when its hard. Be safe out there!

  17. #17
    Registered User gollwoods's Avatar
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    dont pack too much.

  18. #18
    Registered User Slosteppin's Avatar
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    I do NOT totally agree with the line in CAPITALS. I always take a first aid kit, two ways to light my stove and rain gear.

    Quote Originally Posted by Trailweaver View Post
    Most beginners will take too much gear. The above responses have been good: hike, hike with your pack, hike in the rain, set up your shelter and do it until you can do it quickly and get it right, cook on your stove. . . do all of that. Do it over and over in your back yard or a nearby park. Then go home with your pack and unpack everything and spread it out. TAKE OUT EVERYTHING THAT YOU DIDN'T USE, AND DON'T TAKE IT WITH YOU ON THE BACKPACKING TRIP. Lighten your pack as much as you can. Everyone here will tell you that those ounces count. They do. And I always, always check my tent and my stove before I leave home. Nothing is more miserable than not being able to prepare your food or (and I did it, so I know) forgetting your tent poles and being miles in the middle of nowhere. (I stretched my tent out with cord and "hung it" as best I could, but it wasn't a fun night.)

  19. #19
    Wanna-be hiker trash
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    Quote Originally Posted by FlyPaper View Post
    If you do decide to hike one-way, you can find a shuttle on the ATC website. Don't hesitate to use them. With all the responsibilities that most people our age have, the time spent trying to shuttle your own cars is time wasted when you can hire a shuttle for $40-$60 (depending on specifics of the location).
    This forum also has a good list of shuttlers, the link is below:

    https://whiteblaze.net/forum/shuttles-2016.php
    Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

  20. #20

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    Make a post on here when you get back to let us all know how it went!

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