View Full Version : Another silly question

12-20-2015, 21:52
For those of you that have completed the AT I congradulate you. For those of us " attempting" this great journey I commend us for trying. My silly question is--- how in depth have you gone in your planning? Spread sheets? Each day miles? Mail drops, or town resupply? Eat ect. I'm doing my logistics and would like to hear your ideas. If you done spread sheets can you post examples?
Trail name

Spirit Walker
12-20-2015, 23:19
Getting too locked into a schedule will make your hike a lot more difficult. I've seen people wear themselves out by trying too hard to stick to the plan they made before they started.

When I did my first thruhike, I looked at the data book, noted where shelters, campsites and towns were, and figured an approximate length of time between towns so I could figure out resupply. (I did maildrops on my first hike.) When I was on the trail, I played it by ear. Depending on weather, injuries, tiredness or energy, and my companions, I would go either farther or not as far as originally intended. I never went hungry. On the AT, if you are going slower than expected, it is very easy to go to a nearby town to supplement your food. If you are going faster, you leave food in a hiker box.

12-20-2015, 23:31
The value in planning, is the process.
You learn your options
Actual plan will go out the window about day 3 usually

In reality, it can be as simple as start walking north with 3 days food and money.
But planning is fun.

12-21-2015, 00:37
Two good answers. I originally started with I'll just hike north and resupply as needed. Always have 5 days of food. For the last few days I created a plan with miles per days and where I needed resupplies and rest days. I'm starting later than I wanted due to my good friend going to Neels Gap with me so March 29th we start. As I planned all my rest resupply and days hiked I should be on Katadhin on my Bday of 9-25. I'll be 52. Maybe I'll just go with the flow! But it would be cool to summit on my Bday. My dad gives me 60 days and I'll be going home. Only a injury will make me to that. 10 years in the Army Rangers and 18 as a fireman I think I can handle this.

12-21-2015, 07:13
Planning is critical to our weekend and week-long section hiking, because we are expected to show up at work when we said we would, and because we usually have to arrange transportation before or after the hike. If we get behind, we either have to walk further the next day or make adjustments to our transportation. It's often said that a thru-hike is just a series of section hikes one after another. The difference is that each little "section" of your thru-hike does not end with a shuttle back to work. Another difference is that we have a pretty good idea what's coming up in the next few days regarding weather and physical conditioning. It's not possible for a person to know those things several weeks or months in advance.
If you have an open-ended hike, your planning will be pretty simple. If, like us, you have a deadline to complete your hike, a detailed plan becomes more important, but you'll have much more time, therefore much more flexibility.

12-21-2015, 11:16
I love planning, however, once I have the plan in place, I'm perfectly happy to deviate from the plan. I was originally thinking along the lines of, I'll always carry six days of food, and walk so many miles per day, pick up my drop box of prepared food, and stay overnight in a town every seventh day on schedule. Then, the more I learned, there are just far too many variables to plan it ahead like that, it's a vacation after all.

This site shows some examples of plans based on various miles per day, but rather than locking into those plans and trying to make them happen, I realized (as have many others) that there are many options that you can choose on any given day that will work for you and you alone. If the weather is nice, and the scenery is pretty, maybe I'll carry some extra food and stay on the trail. If I'm in the mood to socialize, I'll stay at a shelter, or go to town.

Short answer, I'm just browsing through the guide, highlighting places/services and such that I might be interested in and can afford. Once I'm on the trail, I can easily discard or follow through on that highlighted information based on what I've learned. That cheap bunk room might sound great right now, but after staying in a few of them my outlook on them might sour. That oatmeal that I'm enjoying so much right now, might be hated when I have to wake up and boil water on an alcohol stove on a cold morning.

So, plan enough for your basic safety, but beyond that, it's got to be what works for you.

12-21-2015, 11:17
Bah, forgot the link. http://theatguide.com/PlanNobo2010-12.html

Gambit McCrae
12-21-2015, 12:36
Getting too locked into a schedule will make your hike a lot more difficult. I've seen people wear themselves out by trying too hard to stick to the plan they made before they started.


There are far too many variables to plan every step of a trip. The most successful and fun trip I have taken was Harpers Ferry south 105 miles, we bunked up 3 days during a tropical storm in Front Royal slack packing thru the park ahead of us, and fell 10 miles short of our goal, BUT it was awesome. It was one of the most over planned trips I had done but early on I broke off commitment to the plan and just hiked saying, Well get to where we get, no big deal. And it paid off, I made life long friends I talk to weekly and that trip was over a year ago.

I like to have an intended end point, but be able to be flexible with the punches. Part of being a section hiker is being able to throw in the towel, knowing when to, and running the Gambit of situations thru out the years. Most recently I have really learned how to use weather forecasts, when to call a trip, and when to call a weather mans bluff.. There are enough little towns and free rides to be able to plan lightly.

12-21-2015, 14:47
My take on what you need to know:
How to get from home to the start.
How to get back home from the end.
In between, do what works for you.
Avoid the Bubble. Avoid Trail Days. If you need crowds and a big outdoor party go to Mardi Gras.

Coming from Florida, I would suggest hiking SOBO from Maine. By doing that, you get the hardest part of your commute to the AT out of way in the beginning. Getting back to Florida from the AT is easy.
Good luck!


Casey & Gina
12-21-2015, 16:24
I don't really plan at all. I keep a spreadsheet of my gear weight, but only as I purchase it - I started with what I had and make new purchases over time as I try to get my kit more refined. Weight is only one consideration - taking it out and trying it out a few times gets a lot more consideration. If I planned out all my gear in advance and bought it just prior to taking it out for a big hike, I'd have a comparably lousy experience, though perhaps a somewhat lighterweight one.

When out hiking I also don't plan - I hike "as far as I can manage" each day. There are a lot of variables to that I don't care to try to predict, and I'm not going to push too hard to the point of potential injury just to meet a goal. I take more food that required and carry plenty of water so that I can tolerate changes in plans without stress. At the same time it is fun to push your limits and strive for an accomplishment, as long as it doesn't reach the point of becoming stressful. If I wanted stress I'd just stay at work, haha...

Sir Setsalot
12-21-2015, 17:05
I planned, printed spreadsheets, counted miles, made up boxes, and all the above. My suggestion is to not get all wrapped up into it. When I hit the trail the first day we were already behind. The next day we got farther behind. The only thing my itinerary did for me was wear on my mind and started a fire. It's nice to plan and good to have in your mind where you are but remember plans change in an instant on the trail

12-21-2015, 17:37
Two things matter. 1. Have enough time. 6 months. 2. Have enough money $6,000. Than start hiking. With good luck, everything else will work out.

12-21-2015, 18:38
On my thru attempt this year I planned out the first two weeks, with the main purpose of forcing myself to keep my initial mileage low to prevent injury. By day 2 I had already deviated from the plan, hiking less than anticipated. This continued for the next few days, for various reasons such as weather or just wanting to stay put. I blew the plan completely out of the water with an "unplanned" zero day in Hiawassee that my knee demanded. After that, I decided to forget the plan and just go with the flow. Made it a little less stressful.

One of the things I gathered from reading trail journals and books is that many people later regretted sticking too closely to a plan and missing out on something that didn't fit into their existing plan. Even during my short hike I ended up places where I hadn't planned on and had a much better experience than I would have otherwise. Best example was I had planned on ending a day at Neel Gap and resupplying, and staying at the hostel. I was hiking with a group that did not want to stay and we decided to go one mile further to Bull Gap and camp. So after resupplying and eating dinner from the store, we hiked up, built a campfire and had a great time. The next day someone reported that the hostel had been a mistake and they regretted staying there with 20+ other people.

12-21-2015, 21:51
My suggestion would be to be sure your comfortable with your pack and everything in it. After that just "take what the trail gives you".

12-22-2015, 11:44
When you leave plan to go to Neels. Then plan to Hiawasee or Helen. Then Franklin. Then NOC. Then Fontana. Rinse/repeat. There's no reason to plan passed your next stop. If you start thinking about New York in North Carolina you're going to have a bad time.

12-22-2015, 13:12
I have been planning this Thru hike for 15 years. I have many miles section hiked and spend considerable time each summer talking to those who were currently thru hiking. I have done pretend daily mileage schedules. 15 years ago, mail drops were more common than not, and alcohol wasn't as readily available. Things have reversed. I am as researched and planned as I possibly can be. So...now that I'm 143 days from my start, I'm done planning and I'm just going to get to Springer and walk north. The only thing I am pre-planning now is a mail drop at Mountain Crossings. After that, it's just walking. :)

12-22-2015, 20:06
I've been a frequent AT section hiker from back in 2009. Have met and talked with many, many thru hikers on the trail during my hikes. When I first started doing this in 2009, I had a bit of trail "OCD", making detailed spreadsheets, etc with daily hiking plans..resupply plans... mailing resupply boxes up the trail, etc. After some experience you will find you don't need to over plan to hike the AT. If you average 12-15 miles per day, you'll quickly figure out how many days food you need to carry on each section before resupply. Get yourself a copy of the AT Guide for 2016, it has all the info you need on where to resupply. I've seen some hikers overstress all the planning and selecting gear, etc. I eventually learned the most important piece of gear is footwear (shoes/boots/socks), spend some time getting that one right and the other stuff is a piece of cake.

12-23-2015, 16:22
I spent the last 6 months making a in depth plan for my hike. Spread sheets, budget, meal plans, even down to where I was going to stay for each day of my hike. I looked up trail towns and priced hotels. I looked up reviews for places to eat. After all of that just last week I tossed it all out. The planning for me was just a fun way to pass the time. When I get out on the trail my only plan is to see where the trail takes me. I want to be open to anything and everything the trail has to offer and if I tried to stick to the plan I worked on that just could not happen.

12-23-2015, 20:01
I plan very specifically for a section hike of given duration, because we have a plane to catch at the other end.
There's an itinerary for daily mileage, every night's stop location, re-supply options, post office stops, zero days, and in some cases all the food in every meal.
If the hike is more than two weeks though, we forget all that and just have at it.

12-28-2015, 23:12
I planned for a 6 month journey which seems about average. Only plan I had was to average 12 miles a day in order to make it in that time. Every day when I passed the 12 mile mark it seemed like icing on the cake! I finished 2 days ahead of schedule! I used town resupply for the most part, supplemented with the occasional care package from home.

Good Luck!

Class of 2015

12-29-2015, 00:35
I spent so much time stressing about the logistics and planning every day before I even got on the trail trying to figure out exactly what day I would be in which towns, where I would camp each night, etc. Eventually I realized it was impossible to plan these things, and being on the trail only confirmed that. Part of the adventure is not knowing. Thru hiking forces you to live on a day to day basis, that's one of the things that made the trail so beautiful for me. One week you might feel like doing a bunch of 20's back to back, then the next week the terrain might get tougher or you might get lazy and feel like slowing down. My advice would be to plan out which towns you're sending maildrops to (if you are) and get those set up, I even went as far as to plan each town that I was going to stop in and carried a piece of paper with them and how many miles they were apart with me which I pretty much stuck to. Other than that, go with the flow and enjoy the trail

01-10-2016, 12:00
I planned out every step of my 2013 hike. Once on the trail the planning had been a complete waste. I agree with the previous post, plan when, where, and which direction. Then hike. Buy food as you go.

01-10-2016, 14:05
for an off season hike, a little bit of research/ planning is in order as some resupply sources are not available

01-11-2016, 13:16
I think the planning is helpful, so that you've thought about options, gear option places to sleep mileage, etc. Without planning it's too easy to fall into bringing too much stuff, the wrong stuff, starting with bad decisions. With planning you'll start with a better knowledge base. Then start you 1st fire with your spread sheets.
Accept the lightness the trail gives you!

01-11-2016, 13:27
I do plan with a spreadsheet, mostly just because it's fun to do. My spreadsheet was uploaded on my phone, and all you have to do is update a cell or two when you get ahead or behind, and the spreadsheet refreshes with all new dates, times, places, etc. So I disagree when folks say that if you make a plan that pretty soon the plan will be useless. All you have to do is have a "smart" plan, meaning it updates itself automatically.

One main reason I did this is because I was meeting folks at various places and various times along the trail, hence I needed a "running update" to inform them or approximately where I'd be when. Or to tell my wife where to mail a box and when. Easier to update one cell in a spreadsheet (my current place and date), rather then slave over AWOL, and then know where I'd be in a week or ten days pretty accurately. To me this is all extremely easy, because I was engineer for a few decades, using spreadsheets all the time, all the way back to good old Lotus 1-2-3 in the mid 80's.... Yikes...