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GoLight
09-05-2016, 15:02
Im in the intensive planning stage of my planned thru hike to celebrate my 70th. Im wondering, out of all of the online and in-person advice you received during your planning phase, what is the one or two or three things you would definitely change if you were beginning again?

4shot
09-05-2016, 15:12
Not much. Although I carried too many clothes at the start. I didn't have much experience and didn't understand how infrequently one changes clothes on a long hike. (I started NOBO in late March). Also, like every other "noob", I spent way too much time fretting over gear. Assuming you buy quality stuff at the beginning, it doesn't matter at the end of the day what name is on your tent, sleeping bag or rain jacket. You can wear boots or trail runners. The trivial stuff tends to occupy much of the planning in retrospect and you can see it sort of repeat every year on this forum with the questions that get asked..

Best thing I did in preparation: went and talked to some former thru-hikers in person. This site is great but too much conflicting opinions (which just proves that there are multiple ways to do this thing). Good luck on your hike. It really is a great way to spend 5-6 months!

Dogwood
09-05-2016, 15:22
I can't go back. I know that. I know that everything experienced has somehow made me who I am and taken me to where I am today whether it was perceived as good, bad or neutral.

gbolt
09-05-2016, 15:30
Like you, I am still atleast two years away from starting. I have been intensively planning for four years now. One thing I would change (and have changed), is gear; with the idea of saving the item for the trail. I now buy things that I can use as I hike and backpack now. That way, I truly know if it will work on a thru or if it's not for me. It will also change the learning curve, when I do start the thru. Finally, if I never step foot on Springer, I have not waisted time, money and resources on a dream but got use out of the item(s) during current daily life. So in one way, I am doing a lot of pre hike testing but enjoying the current moments of each hike for it's own sake. The same applies to gear. I learn about gear and appreciate it for it's current service as much as learning if it is the item I want to take on a thru hike. Just like life, Dream for the future but don't fail to enjoy the current moments.

Puddlefish
09-05-2016, 15:40
I was really happy with all the gear/hiking/camping advice I got here. It was just a matter of choosing which bits were most applicable to my anticipated hiking style. I don't regret any of my pre-hike planning for gear, for camping tips, even for checking out which town/hostels I might want to stay at.

The only thing I really did "wrong" was carrying more food weight than I needed, and I knew in advance I was doing that, and still chose to do it. I planned my food resupply out about three weeks in advance, which went out the window after the first week. I learned it was a simple process to plan out the resupply on the fly.

CarlZ993
09-05-2016, 17:20
I may have started later (instead of 3/21) to avoid some nasty winter weather. I may have opted to go with a hammock instead of an ultralight tent (Zpacks Hexamid SoloPlus; as it was, I only slept in a tent 14 nights; I mainly used shelters on the trail). I used mail drops almost exclusively. It worked for me but was a pain in the butt for my wife. I might use fewer mail drops & buy along the way.

You can check my schedule in the signature section of this post. I was pleased with the pace I set. Not too fast at the beginning. I could have easily saved a day or two along the way. Also, there were a couple of times that I would have like to have slowed down some.

Elaikases
09-05-2016, 17:35
Not much. Although I carried too many clothes at the start. I didn't have much experience and didn't understand how infrequently one changes clothes on a long hike. (I started NOBO in late March). Also, like every other "noob", I spent way too much time fretting over gear. Assuming you buy quality stuff at the beginning, it doesn't matter at the end of the day what name is on your tent, sleeping bag or rain jacket. You can wear boots or trail runners. The trivial stuff tends to occupy much of the planning in retrospect and you can see it sort of repeat every year on this forum with the questions that get asked..

Best thing I did in preparation: went and talked to some former thru-hikers in person. This site is great but too much conflicting opinions (which just proves that there are multiple ways to do this thing). Good luck on your hike. It really is a great way to spend 5-6 months!

That is really a message I'm getting as I read threads here.

Christoph
09-05-2016, 17:51
Only thing I would (and will change on my next attempt next year) is tweaking my pack so it's a little lighter, but using the same gear. For instance, I dropped a few pounds just by removing the 3 metal pieces that made up my internal frame, doing this had no significant disadvantage for me (I got lucky, it actually fits and feels better while hiking) and I dropped the top cover that I wasn't really using anyway. The lid was a little advice I got from another hiker about 1/2 way into my trip (thank you whoever you are!). Tent poles, I went a little lighter with a few universal repair kits (they were about 1/2 the size of the originals and are still holding up well). Another tip I got from Whiteblaze. The other thing is probably get in better shape and lighten myself :) Basically all sort of "free" mods and there were more than this that I did and I really noticed the 10 pound drop in weight from when I started hiking the first time. I wasn't over packed on the first try but definitely needed some tweaking. It was a learning experience and I'll use it and next time.

orthofingers
09-05-2016, 18:10
This site is great but too much conflicting opinions (which just proves that there are multiple ways to do this thing).

i haven't yet thru hiked but like any internet advice, you do get multiple conflicting opinions . . . but, when you start hearing the same advice from multiple posters, I think that's a good time to pay attention. As a small example, numerous questions have been asked about water filtration gear. When you start hearing at least every other poster recommend the full sized Sawyer Squeeze, compared to other filters, that's a pretty solid recommendation.

Hangfire
09-05-2016, 21:17
I'd say I took too many zeros early on and maybe didn't put in enough miles per day pre Damascus. Was going with the theory of starting off slow then work into it after Damascus which worked fine until I got injured, then I had to plan ultra carefully for the final 1000+ miles to give myself enough time to finish. Also I carried too much food early on and when resupplying, took me a while to start picking up on the resupply availability up ahead, much more plentiful than I thought.

Praha4
09-05-2016, 23:40
1. I would start slower and not dwell on doing big mile days at the start. It's easy to get caught up in that game when you talk to other hikers on the trail. HYOH. I would not try to do more than 15 miles per day for at least the first 2-3 weeks, maybe all the way to Damascus. Everybody is different, if you're already in Triathlete shape, do what is good for you.

2. I would choose footwear 1/2 size larger than I usually wear, and use the thin merino wool socks. I started with boots too small, and wore sock liners and thick wool socks. Suffered foot blister problems bigtime for the first month.

capehiker
09-06-2016, 01:07
I will start slower next time. There can be a feeling of wanting to go hard at the start. More thru hikers than not will echo the same sentiment. The next time I thru hike, I will script my first 12 days to Franklin, NC like this:

Day 1: Springer to Hawk Mtn Shelter
Day 2: Hawk Mtn to Gooch Mtn Shelter
Day3: Gooch Mtn to Lance Creek Campground
Day 4: Lance Creek to Neel Gap (resupply- camp at Bull Gap 1 mile past)
Day 5: Bull Gap to Low Gap Shelter
Day 6: Low Gap to Rocky Mountain (camp at summit)
Day 7: Rocky Mtn to Deep Gap shelter
Day 8: Deep Gap to Dicks Creek gap (overnight/resupply in Hiawassee)
Day 9: Dicks Creek to Muskrat Creek Shelter (cross GA/NC border)
Day 10: Muskrat Creek to Carter Gap Shelter
Day 11: Carter Gap to Long Branch/or Rock Gap depending on how legs feel (cross 100 mile mark/tough climb up Albert Mtn)
Day 12: Winding Stair Gap (into Franklin for zero and resupply)

In comparison, I did this first section in 8 1/2 days and my body paid for it.

Lone Wolf
09-06-2016, 05:49
go southbound

tour-kid
09-06-2016, 07:05
More cheese.

Don H
09-06-2016, 07:07
Take more pictures.

GoLight
09-06-2016, 10:42
Im definitely planning to start out slower and build up to it. At my age I really dont have another option:)
So far Ive backpacked in mountainous terrain for a week or two at a time, which is good training and certainly enjoyable, but doesnt really toughen one up for a 6 month ordeal.
My age is both a minus and a plus. Its a minus because I simply cant do things the way I used to, especially things that require endurance, strength, balance and long hours without a nap. My trail name is Half, short for Half Fast, because I once said my pace is exactly half what it used to be. Now my wife is called Better, hahahaha. Trail humor.
On the up side, my age is good because Ive had a lifetime of learning how to do things and make things work. They say the best way to learn backpacking is to do backpacking, and Ive been at it a long time. Along the way Ive gotten rid of all my old Walmart and Dicks Sporting Goods gear and traded up to gear that is lighter and more functional. And more expensive, of course. Another advantage of having worked all my life is that I now have enough money to indulge myself a little bit.
Definitely hammock camping. When hammocks first started gaining attention a few years ago I was amazed at the simplicity and functionality of it. I thought at the time that tents had just become obsolete and that soon everyone would be sleeping like babies every night on the trail. I became an early convert, first with the Hennessy then the ENO. I havent slept in a shelter or a tent since.
I still have my Eureka Apex 2 tent that weighs 6 pounds. I did have a lot of good times with that tent but I always resented the weight and bulk of it and the frustration of sometimes not being able to find a good campsite with a level tent space free of boulders, briars, shrubs or mud. Now I only use the tent as a loaner for friends who dont have one yet. I gave my Hennessy Hammock set up to a friend who once was kind enough to drive 14 hours on his day off to pick me up and shuttle me home.
Probably my best purchase so far, beyond the hammock tent and the Zpacks Arc Blast 50L backpack, is the Excalibur food dehydrator. No more days craving real food and I cut my food weight in half. Just boil water and enjoy a gourmet meal at a fraction of the cost of freeze dried meals in a pouch.

renais
09-06-2016, 16:28
I am actually thinking about doing the whole thing again in 2017. I finished the AT in 2015, and when I left, I did not think I wanted to do it again. Time has made me reconsider my decision. Because of external constraints, the first year I hiked on the AT, I needed to leave after two months (college graduation of child, child wedding, last family trip together before wedding...). During those two months I had a ball; I was in no rush to move fast down the trail, and I went to see many of the sights off the trail. I started March 1, and never stepped on any snow. I did feel a few flakes at one point, and had some cold nights in the Smokies, but the weather was wonderful in 2012. I left the trail still enthused about hiking, with a big appetite, but with no injuries or pains. My knees, both of which have been subject to multiple operations, felt better than they did before the hike.

2013 I headed back to the trail for what I thought might be a thru. The weather in 13 was horrendous for my March 1 start. I hiked in snow almost all the time. It was 21 days before I stepped on a piece of the trail without snow. I got fed up with the trail and didn't feel like continuing when I had an injury, so I left. In retrospect, I was pushing myself too much. On many days I was breaking trail in the snow, and I was likely the only one out on the trail on some of the really bad days. I really should have holed up for a few more days in some of the major blizzards, and I would have had a much better time.

2015, I again headed back to the trail, aiming to hike at least everything I had not hiked, and maybe the whole trail. I went back to the attitude I had in 12: enjoy the hike, see the sights off the trail as I wanted, and not rush myself, or try to make it a competition. What I found really marvelous was that I made great forward progress on the trail, did not feel like I was in some kind of mad race, and still got to go off trail to see things and do things I wanted. I did the trail my way, had a ball. After doing the trail I had not done before, I went back to do the trail I'd done before, and found that I remembered every turn and sight on the trail. I didn't feel interested in having an entire hike in one year, so I stopped after doing some of what I'd done before and went home very satisfied.

So, with this long prelude, and as someone not far from your age, here is what I'm planning to do if I hit the trail next year:
1) I will not worry much about making the miles. In reality, it was not too big a deal to make the miles for me. My body developed trail legs, I was happy being out, and not stressed about progress.
2) Because I'm not worried about the miles, I intend to see sights I want to see off the trail. I hiked in past years with people who would not go .1 miles off trail to a sight. I've gone well over 5 miles one way off the trail to see something I wanted to see.
3) Each year I've been able to reduce my pack weight from the previous year's. Next year will be no exception. I will probably only have one or at most two major changes: my backpack and tent. My old backpack has suffered a number of structural issues, and is ready to live life in retirement. My tent has quite a few hundred nights in it, and I'll replace it with another of the same design (BA fly creek 2). What I'll do is to get rid of things I just don't really need. Some I'll get rid of before I leave, other things will be jetisoned as I go. I will not hesitate to get rid of these things. In the past, I would often carry things way to long past where they were needed.
4) My first year I lost 27 pounds in 58 days, eating like a pirahana. I was always hungry on the trail, and I carried a lot of food. In 15, I would make the effort to eat one extra meal than I would have in 12 before I left a town. I would also carry a special set of often heavier foods which I would eat 3 miles out of town. I found that this method radically reduced my hunger although I still lost quite a bit of weight. If I go in 17, I'll continue the eating a meal just outside of town tradition, only maybe I'll do it four miles up the trail. I really found that this simple practice raised my spirits a good bit. There is nothing like taking off your pack in the woods, eating a really full and heavy meal, maybe taking a short nap, and then going on up the trail with a much lighter pack. I felt like I was launched out of a slingshot. Another good aspect of this practice for me is that often the trail climbs right after leaving town. By having something really good to eat, I was focused on that, rather than any hard climbing. As an example of food to take: half gallon of chocolate milk with a giant hamburer or sub, topped off with a frozen cheesecake. Yum, yum.

Hope this helps. Maybe I'll see you on the trail. If I go, I'll probably start my traditional date: 3/1. If you are curious, my 15 hike is on trail journals; trail name Catnapper.

danil411
09-06-2016, 19:48
I would worry about the math/finishing less. Three years later I can tell you those worries don't dominate my memories. I do remember the support of Baltimore Jack and Miss Janet.
And I remember the respect I hold for hikers in their 60's & 70's: they were disciplined, steady and they needed less sleep than I did!
~Dimples

Bati
09-06-2016, 21:37
Take more pictures.

I completely agree. But at the time, I had only disposable film cameras, most without any flash.

evyck da fleet
09-06-2016, 23:20
The best advice I got was don't quit in the first two weeks. Followed by don't quit on a bad day...unless its like the third or fourth in a row. But looking back on the first two weeks the most difficult thing to do was sleep on hard ground. Camping in the backyard on grass isn't the same. As dumb as it sounded sleeping on the kitchen floor would have been a better way to train myself to sleep on my back and not my side. I spent a sleep deprived week on the trail before I corrected that mistake. The second week I learned how important it was to stop often and check that the bottom of your insoles are drying while your shoes are drying as you walk. That one led to two days of painful hot feet and a zero at NOC, where I discovered Gold Bond. So those were a couple of dumb newb mistakes, the first being rather avoidable with planning.

Grampie
09-07-2016, 09:44
My first attempt to thru-hike I was 65 years old. After trying to keep up with the younger crowd, i came down with a lower leg stress fracture and knee problems and left the trail at Fontana Dam. The following year I started again, from Fontana, took it much slower. I soon found other hikers who were doing 10 to 14 mile days and had a great hiking experience. I didn't really thru-hike but I did walk over 2000 miles to walk the whole AT.

Traillium
09-07-2016, 09:51
My first attempt to thru-hike I was 65 years old. After trying to keep up with the younger crowd, i came down with a lower leg stress fracture and knee problems and left the trail at Fontana Dam. The following year I started again, from Fontana, took it much slower. I soon found other hikers who were doing 10 to 14 mile days and had a great hiking experience. I didn't really thru-hike but I did walk over 2000 miles to walk the whole AT.

My 66-year-old pace and style! I learned that steady gentle pace thanks to 43 days with Kookork.


Bruce Traillium, brucetraillium.wordpress.com

dudeijuststarted
09-07-2016, 10:50
1.) I tried going stoveless in the winter. This was very stupid and I lost a lot of time because early on I wanted to stay in town eating hot meals.
2.) I attempted a NOBO without considering how many people are out there. I'm an introvert with a sound sensitivity disorder and prefer being alone. I eventually leapfrogged but could've saved time and money by planning ahead for my personality type.
3.) I didn't see a doctor ahead of time and didn't get adequate nutrition out there. If I do it again I will have a full workup and do maildrops.
4.) I focused on the miles and not the smiles. It's a nice accomplishment but I think career thru-hiking is for sadists :-)

jj dont play
09-07-2016, 16:58
Relaxed more, lived more in the present. I was "kahtarded" from day 1.
I think the main thing was just worrying about if I could do this or not. Once I made it to the halfway point under 2 months and over a month ahead of schedule all doubt was erased and I didn't stress as much.
Now that I know I am capable I don't think this will be as much as an issue/concern on future thru hikes.






Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Cheers
09-07-2016, 18:49
Perhaps starting in Maine instead of Georgia. And not planning, except for a time frame. Plans seem to get in the way. I saw quite a few people rushing to get a mail drop and missing out on things. Slowing down, too. Busting out 20+ miles a day is fun, but the quicker you go, the quicker it'll all be over. I hiked with an older gentlemen for a short while, he was just happy to be putting one foot in front of the other, i liked his philosophy.

rickb
09-07-2016, 21:02
Im in the intensive planning stage of my planned thru hike to celebrate my 70th. Im wondering, out of all of the online and in-person advice you received during your planning phase, what is the one or two or three things you would definitely change if you were beginning again?

I would have made a real effort to learn something more about the history of the trail and of the places along it, as well studied up on some of the natural history that makes the AT what it is.

Malto
09-07-2016, 21:49
Im in the intensive planning stage of my planned thru hike to celebrate my 70th. Im wondering, out of all of the online and in-person advice you received during your planning phase, what is the one or two or three things you would definitely change if you were beginning again?

I wouldnt have planned so much.

signed,
a normally unplanned man

Maydog
09-08-2016, 01:42
"Planning is indispensable; plans are useless." - D.D. Eisenhower

English Stu
09-08-2016, 14:24
Learn from others who are doing/done it- because you will when you are on it. I carried about 20 lbs starting which went to 30+ lbs after resupply so I got ditched gear and bought lighter. I now carry 11lb base weight and am more careful on resupply. By getting lighter you lose thinking about weight and just walk along.

-Rush-
09-11-2016, 07:36
As with any trip, your enjoyment can increase exponentially by doing some research into the areas you'll be hiking through before you go. Learn as much as you can about the areas, their history, and any landmarks or other points of interest.

garlic08
09-11-2016, 08:08
I just went on a week-long backpacking trip with a 71 year-old, whom I've been hiking with for a dozen years (which happens to be our age difference). We've hiked the Triple Crown and more together, nearly 10,000 miles, so I know this guy. He hiked the AT twice. He's my role model for aging well. His take on hiking in your seventies? Slow down a bit, keep your load very (not ultra) light, and use all those years of experience to listen to your body. Sounds exactly like what you've figured out, reiterated from a very experienced thru-hiker. He gets his enjoyment from relationships with other hikers (many long-term), taking photos, learning about the culture and natural history of areas along the route, again reiterating what's been said above.

Frick Frack
09-12-2016, 08:44
It is easy to over plan and my best advice is to figure it out as you go. As a SOBO I learned a tremendous amount of what I was going to encounter from the NOBO's and section hikers. You will develop a routine that works for you and it will probably be much different then anything you planned.

+1 On taking more pictures. I updated a journal in my phone every night as I was going to bed and expanded on it after my hike while memories were still fresh. Even 8 years later I look at it often. Also, as said before, researching the areas you will be hiking through and investigating extra points of interest will add to your experience.

tyoung4244
09-12-2016, 12:52
Catnapper,
You made some interesting/informative posts here. As a 74 yr old, who hasn't hiked in many, many years (1 yrs in Army), "gearing" up for next year on the AT- NOBO. Love you "slingshot" story; can understand how mind and body cooperate to get a boost on the trail. With all your experience, would you mind sharing some more essentials with me? I'm brand new to this exchange, and have an email address too tyoung4244@ol.com if that's more convenient. Tom (Grey Eagle)

gravityman
09-12-2016, 13:42
1. Start later (April 1 to the 15th somewhere)
2. Be perfectly comfortable not finishing in a single season. 3 months is a great stretch to hike. 6 months takes some magic away I feel.