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  1. #1
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    Default Help! Planning logistics of a thru hike.

    So i'm set on hitting the trail in 2021. I have gear pretty much set but the thing that is really boggling my mind is the planning of the trip. I have read books about others hikes but for some reason I don't even know where to begin on planning out the hike. Maybe I'm just over thinking it but i really don't just want to wing it, want a ruff outline with room for adjustments for extra 0 days, town visits ect. Figure if i'm doing this i'm not going just rush just to do it, i'm going to "hike my own hike" . So any info will be much appreciated. Thanks.

  2. #2
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/con...Katahdin-Maine

    A bit dated but still applicable today. Use a current guidebook for up-to-date facilities information but otherwise this and mapman's hiking statistics are the only tools I used to plan for a very long (~1,700 mile) section hike of the AT in '08. Using both I generated a single page spreadsheet of my "rough" itinerary.

    I took Mr. Tarlin's resupply document, saving it as a word document, and deleted all the stuff I didn't feel was pertinent. I think I got it down to 5 double-sided pages. If you take the lower number of hiking days between each resupply point it amounts to about a 5 month plan. Without actually running the numbers the higher number probably equates to a 6 - 6.5 month plan. Just guessing though.

    As an aside: I found that I could hike a bit faster than my "rough" 5 month itinerary. But as I got ahead of myself I would use those days as zero days. So, I basically stayed on track the entire trip. Just the way my brain works.
    Last edited by lonehiker; 03-29-2020 at 17:58.
    Lonehiker

  3. #3
    Registered User Christoph's Avatar
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    You can't really rely on a designated plan. so to speak, for the entire trail. This trail will take its toll on your body (I lost 46 lbs on my thru if that's any indication). What I did was had a short term plan (by the week) and planned on the trail. Even then, there were some days that I just woke up and couldn't do but 7 or 8 miles to the next camp spot, others I got up and made 20. My overall objective was met (sort of) as I had a return date in mind. I only missed it by 4 days. With that in mind, definitely look into towns and areas (scenic/touristy/etc...) you might want to spend some time in though. And don't YouTube too much, you'll spoil all the adventure.
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  4. #4
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    Thanks for the advise, like I said I’m prolly way overthinking this. I’m definitely going to have a loose schedule but just did not know about planning mail drops and things like that. Got too much time on my hand right now and really itching to be on the trail only 350 days to go but who is counting This has been adventure in the making since I have read Awols book and set foot on the trail in Gotham, NH to leave a little trail magic. Now it will be my turn.

  5. #5

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    The two big initial questions are
    1) When do you want to start?
    and
    2) How long do you have to do the hike?

    When you start will determine what kind of gear you need.
    Earlier start means more gear.

    How long you have will determine what kind of mileage you need to average.
    The shorter the hike, the greater the daily mileage has to be.

    Lets say you start on April 1st - a good time to minimize the amount of winter gear you need.
    Lets say you want to finish in 5 months (150 days), a fairly typical time frame.

    You would finish about September 1st and have to have an overall average of 14.66 miles a day.
    Your daily mileage will be less at the start and end of the hike and higher in the middle.

    Using those averages, you can predict more or less where you should be along the trail at different times.
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  6. #6

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    There are a few categories for you to plan: budget, training, and food. You have plenty of time to deal with each. Plenty of resources on here to help you. Before you start with the details think about your why so you can plan something that fits...(but realize it will change along the way)....ie are you fitting this into a specific window, trying to enjoy the freedom, want the social experience?
    One tip I wish someone had shared with me: Don't plan on shipping food to yourself from NJ down South. You can buy and ship food to yourself from the South with less cost.

  7. #7
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    Check out AWOL's website https://www.theatguide.com/ - go to the "INFO" tab and check out the 12, 15, 18 mpd hike planners and other such stuff there. Good logistics stuff.
    It's fun to plan. And, of course, any plan you make will change. In fact you'll plan for changes in the plans. Then eventually, you'll start hiking. And then as Mike Tyson said, "Everybody has a plan until they get punched in the mouth."

  8. #8

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    Agreed with 4EyedBuzzard, AWOL's site is perhaps a little better than most and will give you some ideas.

    An old adage, "no plan survives first contact" comes to mind. I cannot recall the last time I had a plan for a multiple day trek or longer in which the original plan survived more than a day or three, sometimes not surviving past the arrival at the trailhead. That said, planning is fun, will help take some of the edge off the start date wait, and should be done so at least there is serious, deep level thinking about what you'll need and you'll be less likely to forget to bring something you'll regret like not brining Microspikes if you are planning a February start date for example.

  9. #9
    Flip flop, flip flopping' LASHin' 2000 miler LDog's Avatar
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    I ended up hiking the AT in several long sections. But the first time was a thru attempt, and I had boxes filled with dehydrated beans and veggies, granola bars and the like, all staged to be mailed ... a colossal PITA. Id only do that again on a trail where resupply in trail towns was limited.

    I settled on a routine where I left home knowing where the best hostels and resupply options were, all highlighted in my AWOL guide, and carrying enough food to get to the first such spot. A day or two before I got to my first resupply, Id break out my AWOL guide, and figure out where I was gonna stop next, and how many days itd take to get there. And Id continue that the rest of the way.

    Its totally worthwhile to do the research yer doing, so you know what to expect, and where options might be limited. And I had an excellent email exchange with Baltimore Jack over his logistics document. But I found it much more freeing to hit the trail without a detailed plan, and going with the flow.
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  10. #10
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    We all have our Modus Operandi.... mine is fairly well planned out with, of course, great flexibility built in.

    I'm a spreadsheet person, used them (as a big part of my job) ever since Lotus 1-2-3 came out in what, the early 80's?

    So, I basically have the whole AT in a fairly simple spreadsheet, all camp spots, shelters, road crossings, resupply places, PO's, etc. These are all over the place online, mine is now a few years old so the mileages and other things are a bit out of date.

    The key to this spreadsheet is very simple: there are a couple of cells that when changed, update the whole sheet. One is miles per day going forward, the other is the actual date of where you are at at any point on your hike. What this does is to give you instant access to the best estimate for where you will be and when.

    So, for example, your original plan was to arrive at Fontana Dam on March 15th, which is in the sheet. You get there on the 17th, voila, you change one cell and now it shows the 17th and all future time/places get updated by the 2-day shift. For near-term, this is very accurate. For longer term, not so much, but when you make future updates, the longer term snaps into place.

    simple stuff, easy-peasy. I use a simple Google-sheets phone app to access this spreadsheet on the trail.

    I did this mainly because my wife joined me to hike along the way in 3 separate places (smokies, whites and 100-mile in Maine), and it was important to be able to schedule those, er, "rendezvous" times, if you follow. All worked perfectly.

    But it also greatly helped in mailing resupplies (which my wife did for me, of course).

    Just my own way; I've done it now for the AT, PCT, CT, LT and BMT.

  11. #11
    Registered User lonehiker's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by colorado_rob View Post
    We all have our Modus Operandi.... mine is fairly well planned out with, of course, great flexibility built in.

    I'm a spreadsheet person, used them (as a big part of my job) ever since Lotus 1-2-3 came out in what, the early 80's?

    So, I basically have the whole AT in a fairly simple spreadsheet, all camp spots, shelters, road crossings, resupply places, PO's, etc. These are all over the place online, mine is now a few years old so the mileages and other things are a bit out of date.

    The key to this spreadsheet is very simple: there are a couple of cells that when changed, update the whole sheet. One is miles per day going forward, the other is the actual date of where you are at at any point on your hike. What this does is to give you instant access to the best estimate for where you will be and when.

    So, for example, your original plan was to arrive at Fontana Dam on March 15th, which is in the sheet. You get there on the 17th, voila, you change one cell and now it shows the 17th and all future time/places get updated by the 2-day shift. For near-term, this is very accurate. For longer term, not so much, but when you make future updates, the longer term snaps into place.

    simple stuff, easy-peasy. I use a simple Google-sheets phone app to access this spreadsheet on the trail.

    I did this mainly because my wife joined me to hike along the way in 3 separate places (smokies, whites and 100-mile in Maine), and it was important to be able to schedule those, er, "rendezvous" times, if you follow. All worked perfectly.

    But it also greatly helped in mailing resupplies (which my wife did for me, of course).

    Just my own way; I've done it now for the AT, PCT, CT, LT and BMT.
    Ya (as mentioned above) a basic spreadsheet has worked for me. Simple as start point, resupply points, and end point. Mileage in between each point divided by estimated hiking mileage gives me estimated days to next point. I start out with that amount of days-of-food rounded down i.e. 4.8 days to next resupply I would take 4 days of food. Or, 3.1 I might only take 2.5 as being that close I figure I can push it a bit.. If I am a bit low on any given day means that I make it up on another day. The AT being my first really long hike was a bit different as I didn't know my hiking capabilities yet. That is why I used Mr. Tarlin's resupply guide and Mapman's hiking statistics to create a baseline. I felt that I was a stronger hiker than average so I took the 5 month model. On subsequent long hikes I simply use 19-22 miles as an average (adjusting up or down a bit for radical terrain considerations) and I am usually spot on. Each long section I do now takes maybe an hour of planning with most of the time spent on determining resupply points. With those I usually look at statistically the most used resupply points, determine if it makes sense to me, and adjust as needed. Part of the reason people over-plan is that it is fun and gives one something to do as they look out the window at the snow falling (as I am seeing it do right now).
    Lonehiker

  12. #12
    Registered User colorado_rob's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by lonehiker View Post
    Part of the reason people over-plan is that it is fun and gives one something to do as they look out the window at the snow falling (as I am seeing it do right now).
    Yep. it really is a ton of fun to plan, I'm sitting here busily planning a 1500 mile LASH of the CDT this summer (assuming things get better, a Big assumption, I know). But again, everyone's different. I can definitely see the joy in purely winging it for a long trail. But detailed planning works too, just fine, if you do it with built in flexibility.

    Not QUITE snowing yet here, supposed to be this afternoon though....

  13. #13
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    All good advice above.

    I didn't know a lot about thru hiking the AT when I started thinking about it in 2013. I needed a plan just to have some idea of the where/when of hiking the trail. I also made a spreadsheet based on mapman's statistics and Baltimore Jack's resupply advice.

    I acknowledge that people have successfully thru hiked without a plan, but not me. I agree that "no plan survives contact" (and to be trite "PPPPPPP" and "failing to plan is planning to fail"). Having a plan, understanding the trail, provided flexibility during execution. Because I have other logistic requirements I do hybrid maildrop and local purchase resupply. I didn't carry the spreadsheet but highlighted and annotated my AT Guide.

    My thru has turned into LASHs. I'm sitting here revising the 2020 plan based on my 2019 performance.


    Planning or not, its part of HYOH.
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  14. #14

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    Although i work in spreadsheets every day, I used the AWOL guide to do plan the way colorado rob and lonehiker describe. I planned on 8 miles a day for about 4-6 weeks (until smokies) when I started increasing (until Whites). Using the AWOL guide helped me estimate rest towns and places where I needed to resupply via mail drop.
    As somebody mentioned in another thread, if the 2020 season causes a large number of service providers to go out of business, obtaining current support business information could be a challenge and may mean more "longer carry" planning, at least initially.

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