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  1. #1

    Default What are the most common newbie mistakes?

    I want to avoid the most common mistakes and many of you folks are experts with first hand experience of hiking the Appalachian trail.

    So what would you say are the most common mistakes that new folks make hiking the trail?

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    Starting at Springer with brand new gear that has not been used at all or used in only perfect weather. Pick nasty stretch of weather at home and camp out a few days. Let things get wet then repeat the next night.

    Starting at Springer with way too much gear

    Starting at Springer with an very aggressive schedule

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    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    I would say not reading this through a few times might qualify as a common mistakem

    http://www.spiriteaglehome.com/THP_top.html

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    Failing to "start slow, then slow down," ... as the adage advises.

    Carrying too much fear weight.
    Last edited by Rain Man; 07-15-2019 at 06:21.
    ye shall not pollute the land wherein ye are: ... Defile not therefore the land which ye shall inhabit..... Numbers 35

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    Registered User swjohnsey's Avatar
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    Yep, carrying too much gear, trying to start too fast. For sure start with shoes that have some miles on them. Your hike will be so much more pleasant if you are packing light.

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    I would say the biggest newbie mistake is failing to make sure beforehand that you can tolerate hiking and camping in wet and cold weather beforehand. A lot of people start the AT without camping experience, or with lots of camping experience but in fair weather only (because most people reschedule their weekend camping trip when the forecast is bad). A lot of people who quit in the first couple weeks do so because the weather in early spring from Springer through the Smokies is usually cold and wet at least 50% of the time, maybe more like 75%. And the rain never really stops. It's just warm rain and bugs in the summer instead of cold rain in the spring.

    I did a section hike in July 2016 for ten days and it rained most of the time, and I still enjoyed myself immensely. That reassured me that I could thru-hike and maintain a good attitude even in nasty weather, and in 2018, I did. So spend a few nights outdoors in your tent on cold nights and wet nights before beginning a thru-hike to make sure you're not one of those early quitters who find (not unreasonably) that backpacking in freezing rain is not enjoyable enough to keep them out there.

    Besides that, the newbie mistakes tend to be hiking too far too soon, carrying too much weight, not being diligent with hygiene/food/water to prevent illness (giardia, noro, lyme, etc.), and spending too much time and money in town, thus eventually running out of time and/or money to reach Katahdin.
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    Some days, it's not worth chewing through the restraints.
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    All of the above, particularly learning to enjoy hiking and staying comfortable in cold rain. One thing not mentioned yet is preparing to deal with the boredom of the hiking routine.

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    I can't imagine making as much investment as an AT hike takes without being seriously prepared for a season of hiking.

    One common mistake I saw was people trying to hike themselves into shape on the trail.

    Echoing the above, the big mistake I made early in my long distance hiking career was carrying way too much stuff.

    That said, there are plenty of hikers who successfully hike themselves into shape and modify their gear as they go. It's more expensive and painful, but it's done many times every season.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  9. #9

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    The three too's; "too heavy, too fast, too long"

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    Registered User Grampie's Avatar
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    As a successful thru-hiker my advise to you would be to find a past thru-hiker to talk to. I have done it several times and the future hiker was very thankful for my advise. Being on the trail for the first time can be a daunting experience for a newbie. You can learn a lot from others mistakes.
    Grampie-N->2001

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    My biggest mistake in the earlier days of (desert) hiking was, to use a pack that was too big.
    I always filled it up to the brim and the load was heavy. The pack itself was heavy, too (4kg = 8lb).
    I was young and strong then and could stand it, but it took a big chunk of fun out of the hike.

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    I would 100% agree on the "too fast" comments. By "too fast" I'm referring to your actual hiking speed, not miles per day. I find nothing wrong with big miles per day, as long as they are done at a moderate pace. Why hike 7 hours at 3 MPH when you can do 10 hours at 2.1 MPH ? Much, much easier on the body at 2.1 MPH. What the heck are you going to do with those extra 3 hours anyway? Decide if you're primarily a camper or a hiker; the two are quite different.

    And it goes without saying that the #1 mistake is carrying too much junk.

  13. #13

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    Excellent advise. Thank you.

    You all mention weight. What is considered a good / average weight to carry? 10lbs?

    And how many miles a day would you say is good / average to hike? (12 to 16 miles?)

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    If your base weight (weight of your pack except food and water, since that changes) is under 10lbs, that's considered ultralight. That's doable if you invest a lot of money and/or don't mind forgoing most "luxury items." But anything under 20lbs is reasonable, because it means even with food and water you're mostly going to stay under 30lbs as long as you stop in town every 5 days or so. Everyone's different, and some people carry 35-50lbs the whole way, but most would agree that doing so is just putting unnecessary stress on your body.

    Miles per day varies widely. If you average 12 miles per day, you'll finish in about 6 months, 15 per day in 5 months, and 18 per day in 4 months. I hiked between 15-20 most full hiking days, and less when going in or out of town. Took 7 zeros. Finished in just over 5.5 months, which is pretty average. Speedy hikers regularly do 25-30 mile days during the easier portions of the trail, but I found 22-23 to be about my limit of enjoyment. But in general, it's a good idea to start as slow as you need to. The ridgerunners at Amicalola recommend 8-10 miles per day for the first week or two if you aren't already hiking regularly. A common "newbie mistake" is trying to keep up with the first friends you make on the trail even at the expense of pain or injury. Don't do it! Relationships are usually transient on the AT. For every friend you end up ahead of or behind, you'll find another one.
    A.T. 2018 Thru-hike Hopeful
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    Being unprepared, by which I mean not enough practice/experience carrying a pack for days on end while hiking, and thus the "too much" problem -- too much weight from too much stuff and too much mileage.

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    My mistake wasn't carrying too much weight, cause I prefer a 50LB pack full of food (that gets lighter by the day, good for 7-10 days on that)… my mistake was carrying a pack that wasn't meant for the weight. I got all this lightweight stuff, which was good considering the food and everything else I had but the pack should not have been a lightweight one. I did lots of practice hiking/camping but only 2-3 nights at a time at most... my pack was near 40LB then and I didn't want to stop every few days on the AT.


    I'd say the most important thing is to hike and camp with a full pack in whatever conditions get thrown at you, as much as possible prior to your start... then you can start to figure out your hiking style and adjust things. I made Saturday my definite day for at least a good days hike for a year before my start... no matter what the weather was I was out early every Saturday morning and I made a camping trip out of it every time I could (when I was able to with work schedule, ect.) … that was all year right through the winter and camping in single digit temps and everything testing my gear.


    Not saying that extreme is necessary but it worked well for me... I also loved what I was doing right from the start. It started as "going to start some practice hikes to get ready" but after the first "practice" I looked forward to getting back out so much every weekend.
    NoDoz
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    I'm just one too many mornings and 1,000 miles behind

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    Quote Originally Posted by rickb View Post
    I would say not reading this through a few times might qualify as a common mistakem

    http://www.spiriteaglehome.com/THP_top.html
    +2......Mandatory read for aspiring LD hikers.

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    Quote Originally Posted by lifeisalwaysgood View Post
    I want to avoid the most common mistakes and many of you folks are experts with first hand experience of hiking the Appalachian trail.

    So what would you say are the most common mistakes that new folks make hiking the trail?
    Where you asking about thru hiking the AT, long section hiking, or just backpacking the AT in general? Plenty of mistakes to talk about in each category I'm sure.
    You can walk in another person's shoes, but only with your feet

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    Be flexible.

    I left springer with the intention of thru hiking. Had it all planned out, how many miles per day, which towns to stay in, etc. Set deadlines for when i had to be at certain places, and it worked until I made it to Damascus. Then I realized I wasn't really having a good time and decided to take a few zeros. All the people I had been hiking with moved on and I went home.

    Two years later, I left Damascus hoping to make it to Maine, but had no iteneray. I hiked when I felt like it. Got off trail when I felt like it. Slept in. Got up before the sun. Slept during the mid day heat and hiked at night. Took zeros in the woods. Settled on hiking 10 miles on a day when I planned on hiking 18. Hiked 22 on a day when I planned on hiking 12. One of my favorite things to do was hitch into town for an hour or 2 and get a cup or two of coffee, get back to the trail and keep hiking. Whatever works for you but don't do it because the people you're hiking with want to do it. The hike is about you, and only you. This was my approach leaving Damascus and it was a much more enjoyable hike and it was fulfilling. And I made it to Katahdin. It's a vacation, not a job.

  20. #20

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    Quote Originally Posted by Dogwood View Post
    +2......Mandatory read for aspiring LD hikers.
    +3, a lot of solid info.

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