I started NOBO in early Feb and just left the trail last Thursday at Davenport due to a family situation. The hike was better than expected and most of the other hikers were great people and we all had a good time. The only negative of the trip was my dealings with the retail portion of Mountain Crossings Outfitters at Neel Gap. I contacted the owner by phone several weeks prior to my departure and he agreed to order a new double stay back sheet for my ULA pack and have it there when I hiked through. When I arrived "OOps, must of forgot about that." The Catalyst pack I bought was sent with an open cell back sheet which I didn't discover until I subjected it to 2 days of continuous rain after leaving Springer. The pack gained 5 pounds every time it got wet. I brought this to their attention at Mt. crossings and after they checked their other ULA packs in stock, it was determined to be a manufacturing mistake. Even though they were ULA dealers, I had to purchase the closed cell ensolite pad at an exorbitant price to fix the problem. I shopped the store and discovered a lot of things priced above retail price.
I write this with only one motive and that's to save folk's starting a NOBO a lot of hassle and money. Take the time to load your pack exactly how you're going to go carry it and then go to a another knowledgeable hiker or reputable outfitter and do a shake down with them. That way you won't carry a load of stuff you don't need for 40 miles and if there is something you're missing, you won't pay ridiculous prices to acquire it at Neel Gap. If you're going to resupply at Neel Gap, send a drop box. Even with the postage you'll come out way ahead and you'll be eating what you want, not just what's available. I would be very leary of ordering anything through the outfitter with expectations of it being there when you arrive.
The hostel at Neel Gap is run by Pirate and it's one of the best I ran across during my short trip. Pirate and RamblinMan do there best to make you feel at home and Pirate is the best damn cook I ran across in 30 days. They both make your stay amusing, comfortable and memorable. I dreamt about Pirate's sloppy joes for 2 weeks after I left there.
Good Luck to all of you and congratulations on having the courage to take that first step. Your life will never be the same.