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  1. #21
    Registered User Which Way's Avatar
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    And physically preparing, we're running about 6 miles/day 3 times a week, and will be finding bleachers to run up and down. Using our packs weighted down, and doing lunges, squats and working out with weights as well.

  2. #22
    Registered User KDogg's Avatar
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    Can't say that I did a whole lot physically to plan. I did do some day hiking and a three-day trip. Couldn't really get in more than that with work, etc. Was overweight to start but lost it relatively quickly.

    Thru hiking is a mental game. It is different from day hiking and section hiking in so many ways. Get advice from folks that completed a thru hike and also from those that did not. Knowing why people fail is just as important as knowing the keys to success. Make sure that you give yourself everything you need to complete the hike. This includes extra money to replace gear that is not working for you or to get off the trail for a few days if you need to. Have a support network at home if at all possible. They can help you with logistics and mental challenges. I did not have fun all the time. Some days it was difficult to get going. I took a few more zeros than I probably needed to. It didn't feel like I was on vacation.

    Get your gear weight down as low as comfortably possible. You will not get used to carrying too much weight. Your pack will feel too heavy the entire time if you start out with it that way. Make sure that you practice putting everything in your pack that you are going to take, including food. I had too much stuff and the wrong stuff to start. I replaced my tent and stove after the first two weeks and knew one person that replaced their pack twice because they weren't comfortable (he finished his thru). Carry some repair materials. This won't have to be a lot of stuff but should include a needle and strong thread, some nylon tape or Dyneema tape. Roll a few yards of duct tape onto your hiking poles (YES, take poles and learn how to use them) for emergencies.

    You will not need many of the things that you think you will. You will not need a full first-aid kit. A few bandaids, safety pin, a small packet of anti-bacterial ointment and a few pills is all you need aside from things like duct tape and a bandana. You do not need a camera separate from your smart-phone (you may want one but you don't need one). The best things to take are things that have multiple purposes. If an item only has a single function then think hard about weather you absolutely need to take it. You do not need a compass and paper maps but you will probably want to take a trail guide. Get guthook's app for your phone. It is getting better every year and will likely replace paper guides soon.

    Have fun. Completing my thru hike was the most amazing thing I have ever done. It will be a huge challenge.

  3. #23
    Registered User egilbe's Avatar
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    So.many thru-hikers I met in ME and NH that we're too stubborn to quit. They just wanted it to be over. It's sad, really.

    Talked to several up here that started out with 70 to 80 poundpacks, and learned quickly how much easier a 35 pound pack was to carry. Some people who started hiking, finished the trail, and had no interest in hiking again. It varies with the individual.

  4. #24

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    Quote Originally Posted by Athos19 View Post
    Hi, decided I'm going to thruhike next year. Was curious how much preparation is necessary. On the one hand, I see a lot of people who seem to get a lot of enjoyment about it and that have exhaustively researched every subject under the sun about it. On the other, I've seen some stories about how someone decided they were going to hike the trail with no experience, then three weeks later were on the trail and went straight through. So I know it's possible on either end of the spectrum, but am curious how much preparation should go into a prudent thru-hike. I'm a pretty easy-going person and want to buy more into the advice that I see of just needing to plan enough for your first resupply, and figure it out from there. But want to make sure I'm not being dumb haha.

    Thanks for the general advice, and will probably bother with more questions as the time approaches!
    I think the best prep is to see if you like sleeping outdoors in all kinds of weather. If so then it doesn't matter if you're a thruhiker or a section hiker or just a backpacker who wants to do backpacking trips in whatever national forest or wilderness area you can find. In all the days before your planned thruhike you can still get some gear and get out backpacking and camping in whatever area is nearby.

    Corollary to this is to start sleeping outside every night in your backyard or back porch or deck. I know some thruhikers (Carrot Quinn comes to mind) who much prefer sleeping outside than inside---and who knows, the Nature drug might hook you too. The repeated backyard test will tell you real quick if you love it or hate it.

  5. #25
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    I was wondering about cooking and eating as you would for a day or 2 or more makes any sense as prep work?

  6. #26
    Registered User BuckeyeBill's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Tipi Walter View Post
    I think the best prep is to see if you like sleeping outdoors in all kinds of weather. If so then it doesn't matter if you're a thruhiker or a section hiker or just a backpacker who wants to do backpacking trips in whatever national forest or wilderness area you can find. In all the days before your planned thruhike you can still get some gear and get out backpacking and camping in whatever area is nearby.

    Corollary to this is to start sleeping outside every night in your backyard or back porch or deck. I know some thruhikers (Carrot Quinn comes to mind) who much prefer sleeping outside than inside---and who knows, the Nature drug might hook you too. The repeated backyard test will tell you real quick if you love it or hate it.
    When I lay in my hammock during a rain shower under my tarp, it is almost as good as sleeping in the hay loaf of a barn with a metal roof.
    Blackheart

  7. #27
    Registered User DownEaster's Avatar
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    It did to me. I used my GSI mess kit and Sea to Summit XL-bowl for all my meals for a week at home. I didn't bother with the Primus stove, but stuck to just one burner of my kitchen's gas cooktop as a reasonable equivalent. I found a few things that worked, and a few that didn't, so overall reasonable prep work for the AT next year.

  8. #28
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    Quote Originally Posted by BuckeyeBill View Post
    When I lay in my hammock during a rain shower under my tarp, it is almost as good as sleeping in the hay loaf of a barn with a metal roof.
    THAT is heavenly. Is there a barely detectable cool breeze to go with my mental image?

  9. #29
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    Quote Originally Posted by Which Way View Post
    And physically preparing, we're running about 6 miles/day 3 times a week, and will be finding bleachers to run up and down. Using our packs weighted down, and doing lunges, squats and working out with weights as well.
    Don't get too carried away. Too much of a good thing can be bad. The best thing you can do is just walk as much as possible, since that's what you will be doing.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  10. #30
    Registered User Which Way's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    Don't get too carried away. Too much of a good thing can be bad. The best thing you can do is just walk as much as possible, since that's what you will be doing.
    We are in Arizona now, and have done a couple day hikes so far. Just hiking 5-6 miles with elevation gains of 2000-2400 feet is a killer in itself. Those 6 mile hikes, with an 16-19 pound pack on, is harder than any 15 mile run I've ever done. It is odd, because when my wife and I run at sea level, she slows on any incline or hills while I hardly notice I'm on a hill. In the higher elevations, she breaths easier than I do, and she has pulled me along at times-crazy!

  11. #31

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    Well I've just joined here to get the plans rolling!
    Read some good info already, by the more I read the more I get baffled, confused and excited.
    Ordered my first book...it's a start, but I hate planning...

  12. #32
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    I probably hadn't been on a hike in over 10 years before april this year but something was telling me to get out with nature and specifically go hike the AT. Since my first weekend hike in April I haven't missed a weekend, doing at least 1 good hiking day a week but I've been camping a lot doing multiple days per weekend. I got most of my selected AT gear early and I've been testing it out all year, getting new stuff/replacing and adjusting as I find necessary. I'm not just 'prepping for my thru' , I'm loving every minute and step I take out in the woods, completing the NET and enjoying the wide range of blue blazed hiking trails in my home state CT here.

    My buddy has been hiking/camping most weekends but I go solo when he misses one, we plan on hiking/camping all winter. I should be experiencing colder conditions here then I will on the AT even starting early March like I plan to. We already camped out in a cold snap where it got down to 13 degrees - and I only had my 35 degree Caribou Microlite XP .... I got by fine with my thermals but wasn't cozy warm or anything. I got a Feathered Friend Swallow 20 now, plan on using that this winter and starting the AT with it... will see from there if I want to swap out for the Caribou for summer or go synthetic if goose down is a problem for me with moisture and what not.

    I'm not planning to specific but have plenty of extra $ for whatever happens, I plan to have the AWOL guide and know the drop offs and keep in touch at home - I'm going to have stuff at home ready to send like extra tarps for under my tent cut to size to swap out and random stuff like that (I use a Tyvek type material). I know a lot of things will not go as planned cause it's been that way already .... trying to be as ready as I can but can't wait for the adventure and whatever nature throws at me.

    I've only been hiking weekends cause of work which is physical itself in the carpentry field. I might do some longer trips if I can this winter depending on time off before I start the trail. It's been cool hiking with my buddy but I'll be glad to hit the trail solo, get in many more miles when solo.

  13. #33

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    It's a personal preference/personality style coupled with background/experience. It's what works for you and what you feel comfortable with. There is a need to be physically prepared, which can help with the mental side of things. Although I know folks that started the trail completely out of shape physically but had such a strong mental focus that they "outdistanced" many others, walked into their fitness and finished the trail. The mental focus is key and, aside from a physical injury, is what drives a large number of people off the trail. I'm a planner to an extent, a bit of a gear head but am not ultralight, rather what I would consider lightweight - I like what I like. Knowing what resupply options are out there and a reference for getting h2o are what I like to have a reference for. So AWOL's guide and guthook's app are my references. The AT is a bit different from some of the other big trails me thinks in that resupply options are almost always there and hitches into towns relatively easy to get. Bottom line: it is up to you how to best prepare and hike the trail, it is what makes you feel comfortable, confident, safe.....do what you need to do but most folks end up somewhere in the middle.

  14. #34
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    Good post, thanks. I think I'm going to write that down...

  15. #35
    The other white meat
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    Quote Originally Posted by Athos19 View Post
    I've seen some stories about how someone decided they were going to hike the trail with no experience, then three weeks later were on the trail and went straight through. So I know it's possible on either end of the spectrum, but am curious how much preparation should go into a prudent thru-hike.
    Athos19-- Yes, that is possible, but not "likely" for most people. For every unprepared success story that you hear, there are 30 aborted hikes that you didn't hear about.
    Out of all the responses you've received, IMHO I'd say that garlic08 hit right on the head. Physical conditioning is key. In fact, I link mental preparedness with physical preparedness. When hiking is easy, it's a pleasure, when hiking is hard it's an ordeal. Both physically and mentally.
    Anyone with a few bucks can buy lightweight gear and say they're ready, but if it were that easy, then there wouldn't be such a high first-week dropout rate.

    The best advice I give to hopeful hikers is to Train. Period. Train every other day to allow your body to adapt, but train consistently and train increasingly hard. If you donít have easy access to a trail to train on, then make do with what you have. My body is currently hike-hardened and nevertheless, I am beginning my training program now for an April 7th start. My training regimen before a hike looks something like this: Hike every other day with a pack and build up pack weight to about 20-25 pounds. Work mileage up to about 10 miles. Then, because my training area lacks hills, I add-in trail running and build up to 7 miles. So by the time my hike window arrives, Iím doing a 10 mile hike before work (3 hours) and 7 mile run after work (1.2 hours). Yes, it takes dedication and much of my winter training is done in the dark, but the reality is that this sort of training has made hiking enjoyable for me for 10,000+ miles.

    Training will also allow you to find problem areas, for example, do your thighs chafe? How are your ankles? Hiking on an unpaved surface requires several weeks of conditioning to buildup ankle strength for most hikers. Also, the nutritional needs of daily hiking are not just about calorie intake. Certain foods make me feel great, while others make me lethargic. Lots of details can be worked out before your hike and you may just surprise yourself as to how resilient you will be on the trail.

    Good luck.

  16. #36
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Athos19 View Post
    Hi, decided I'm going to thruhike next year. Was curious how much preparation is necessary. On the one hand, I see a lot of people who seem to get a lot of enjoyment about it and that have exhaustively researched every subject under the sun about it. On the other, I've seen some stories about how someone decided they were going to hike the trail with no experience, then three weeks later were on the trail and went straight through. So I know it's possible on either end of the spectrum, but am curious how much preparation should go into a prudent thru-hike. I'm a pretty easy-going person and want to buy more into the advice that I see of just needing to plan enough for your first resupply, and figure it out from there. But want to make sure I'm not being dumb haha.

    Thanks for the general advice, and will probably bother with more questions as the time approaches!
    Print a copy, and read, Mr. Tarlin's resupply article and get a current guidebook (any will work). That article, though dated, is about all of the prep you need to do prior to your hike. If you want the first few weeks to be a bit easier then start a physical conditioning program. Anything works but try to do something that will toughen up the feet. Most over-complicate things.
    Lonehiker

  17. #37
    Registered User swjohnsey's Avatar
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    Starting out with good gear certainly helps.

  18. #38

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    The less you learn and prepare beforehand, the tougher the first few weeks will be. Making mistakes on the trail on a cold rainy March day can be a PITA. Read a lot and watch some Youtube. There are some good books out there, but you can learn a lot on this website. Lots of good information... and some B.S. I probably learned more here than anywhere other than weekend and section hikes I took prior to starting out. Make sure you get out on some trails. Hike in some snow and hike in some rain. The first time you deal with crappy conditions you will be depressed and might struggle. Once you have dealt with them before, you just handle it and they are not a big deal. Don't waste your time mapping out your hike and choreographing your first few weeks. Like the great philosopher Mike Tyson said, "everyone has a plan... until you get punched in the face". Be committed and disciplined, but let the trail come to you.

    As others have said, don't discount the physical requirements of a long hike, it is very arduous, but once people get past the first 500 miles, it is mostly a mental game. Appalachian Trials offers some good ideas, but you better get your head right and learn how to deal with trail hardships before you start asking yourself questions about quitting and going home. Once you get to that point, you might as well buy yourself a ticket. I found interaction with other people kept me attached to the trail and made it much more enjoyable. Good luck, it is one heck of an adventure.

  19. #39

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    When I was younger and in college for the first time I one day said **** it, bought a bike and a ticket to Europe and biked from the Netherlands to Greece in August-December. I think I planned all of 1 day before I set off.

    This trip is different. I’ve wanted to do something like it for a while now, and had a lot of equipment bought, but up until two weeks ago it was either Appalachan Trail, renting an appartment on the beach in Costa Rica, or finishing another semester of school working on a second degree.

    It was only a couple days ago that the Trail won out, but it really is a clear winner right now. I don’t know if that constitutes a massive amount of planning or just spur of the moment. The way I see it I have my gear and money and have between now and March to plan, although plans, reservations, are already mostly made.

  20. #40
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    I think it's awesome that you decided to hike Flakes!

    My advice is to put some miles on your feet and find shoes that fit. Foot problems suck and are very common. Toughen your feet up a bit and get to know and love athletic tape (or whatever you use to prevent blisters) and you'll be way ahead of the curve. The AT is tough hiking so plan on taking it easy at first. I easily do about 2.25 mph around my neck of the woods but averaged less than half that on the AT.

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