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lifeisalwaysgood
07-13-2019, 23:34
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?

peakbagger
07-14-2019, 06:16
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

rickb
07-14-2019, 07:31
I would say not reading this through a few times might qualify as a common mistakem

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

Rain Man
07-14-2019, 08:00
Failing to "start slow, then slow down," ... as the adage advises.

Carrying too much fear weight.

swjohnsey
07-14-2019, 09:25
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.

KnightErrant
07-14-2019, 09:30
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.

Deadeye
07-14-2019, 09:37
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.

garlic08
07-14-2019, 09:38
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.

Captain Panda
07-14-2019, 10:46
The three too's; "too heavy, too fast, too long"

Grampie
07-14-2019, 12:04
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.

Leo L.
07-14-2019, 12:05
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.

colorado_rob
07-14-2019, 12:29
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.

lifeisalwaysgood
07-14-2019, 13:26
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?)

KnightErrant
07-14-2019, 14:13
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.

John B
07-15-2019, 05:35
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.

LazyLightning
07-15-2019, 20:42
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.

Dogwood
07-15-2019, 22:13
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.

devoidapop
07-15-2019, 22:34
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.

Pony
07-16-2019, 17:02
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.

martinb
07-16-2019, 17:08
+2......Mandatory read for aspiring LD hikers.

+3, a lot of solid info.

TwistedCF
07-16-2019, 19:09
I would say not reading this through a few times might qualify as a common mistakem

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

Awesome read, thanks for posting this!

Ethesis
07-17-2019, 20:11
Treating the hike like a weekend hike.

For a weekend you take precautions and pack extras. For a through hike you just go to a resupply point and cope there. So. No extras.

For expeditions and weekends you pack comfort over weight. For long distance you pack for weight reduction.

For a weekend you experiment on the fly. For long distance you get that out of the way early, before you start. You shakedown before you start. Ideally with at least a couple-three seven to ten day practice runs.

Ethesis
07-17-2019, 20:15
I would say not reading this through a few times might qualify as a common mistakem

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

not that bad. A little out of date. But not bad.

Slumgum
07-18-2019, 09:26
Number one mistake for many newbies is taking advice from an ultralight hiker.

Can you get a good night's sleep with a thin pad on the cold hard ground?

Can you survive a long hike eating raisins and peanuts?

I started "light" and almost quit because I was absolutely miserable. More power to those who can go UL. The extra 10 pounds I added have made the difference between quitting and enjoying my hiking experience. It is not my goal to do a string of marathons on the trail. If that is your aim, then UL is more essential. It is common sense to lighten our packs but the other side of the equation (comfort/safety) must be considered. Bottom line is these decisions cannot be made while sitting in front of a computer. Shakedown hikes are a must for any serious long distance hiker.

Thefurther
07-18-2019, 09:54
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?

the biggest mistake is listening to other newbies.hahaha .. partially kidding. I think the biggest mistake is thinking they can break off a 20 miles day their first time out. that is probably the biggest mistake I see that hikers make when I drop them off and pick them up 50 miles short of their 150 mile hike that they planned on finishing in three days. the second biggest mistake is listening to others that brag about doing 20 miles a day out here when the person listening is 45 years old and the one that is bragging is 18 to 22 years old. I want to say that I see a bunch of the ones biting off big miles from the newbie status usually twist up a ankle or run themselves ragged. my advice would be to take it easy and do not be so anxious to bust big miles from the starting gate. I have seen a lot of people say it isn't for them when they quit early and never gave it a real chance because they let themselves down. they had high expectations for themselves and did not fulfill the expectations which leads to quitting. I perdonally hate seeing it, but it happens a lot out here. just have fun and do not have high expectations. hike your hike and do it with a smile. hahaha peace my friend and stay kind. thank you .

Night Train
07-18-2019, 15:57
Never trust a fart.

Deadeye
07-18-2019, 16:53
Never trust a fart.

One of the cardinal rules for those over 50!

BlackCloud
07-18-2019, 23:02
I always shake my head when I see a new hiker with brand new boots.

RockDoc
07-20-2019, 00:35
Common Newbie mistakes:

That's easy.... Too little experience.

glenlawson
07-20-2019, 09:41
my opinion? waiting until you have just the right gear before you plan your first trip. if you have a pair of sturdy shoes you can comfortably walk 5 miles in, they'll be fine. depending on your age, something to sleep on will make the nights comfortable. for warm weather you can use a fleece blanket as a sleeping bag, borrow a backpack and a tent and get out. if you like walking until your next water and spending hours alone with your thoughts, you'll do fine.

petedelisio
07-20-2019, 11:55
Over Researching the trail.

And don't be worried if you can't shake down until you start... As somebody said up to 14 days of pre shakedown...
On the trail is just as good a place to shakedown for two weeks in my opinion... If time allows.

Gives you the advantage of seeing what others are doing first hand. But do make sure all your gear works good enough first
Of course shaking down before your thru probably would be better.

All I knew on my first thru, was that the AT went from Maine to Georgia and I was going to walk it. And that I never backpacked more than a couple of overnighters. It was an adventure in itself just getting to the trailhead...

I am glad somebody gave me a guide book before I left tho. Didn't even know about Katahdin then.
A journey into the unknown.

BonBon
07-22-2019, 08:17
I did my shakedown on the trail for the first week- or so. Florida hiking just didn't help me understand:) It worked out great. By the time I got to Neel Gap I figured a lot of stuff out- especially the nasty weather part. Ditched over 10 pounds of gear there and continued to ditch things I "needed" all the way to Maine. (deodorant-(useless)- razors- (be a wildebeast)-small mirror-(who cares) etc.)
When I do it again- I will invest in the lightest gear I can afford. Otherwise- I don't regret any of my many newbie mistakes except not taking more side trails to see waterfalls and stuff. I was way too focused on point a to point b.
My advice is GO SLOW in the beginning. There is an almost irresistible pull to try to keep up- don't do it. Go slow. You will avoid injury and just plain misery if you take the first couple of weeks nice and slow. You will be skipping up mountains later that you would crawl up in the beginning.

Over Researching the trail.

And don't be worried if you can't shake down until you start... As somebody said up to 14 days of pre shakedown...
On the trail is just as good a place to shakedown for two weeks in my opinion... If time allows.

Gives you the advantage of seeing what others are doing first hand. But do make sure all your gear works good enough first
Of course shaking down before your thru probably would be better.

All I knew on my first thru, was that the AT went from Maine to Georgia and I was going to walk it. And that I never backpacked more than a couple of overnighters. It was an adventure in itself just getting to the trailhead...

I am glad somebody gave me a guide book before I left tho. Didn't even know about Katahdin then.
A journey into the unknown.

BAontheTrail
07-26-2019, 22:26
The ridgerunners at Amicalola recommend 8-10 miles per day for the first week or two if you aren't already hiking regularly.

I'd further add that your home elevation plays a big role in your "engine" (body) capability. I live in New Orleans, LA which is below sea level. Starting at Springer to woody gap kicked my ass at 2,500-3,500 feet above sea level trying to do 10 miles per day.

I figure the only way to train down here is to strap my pack on and get on a stair master.

Dogwood
07-27-2019, 10:46
I'd further add that your home elevation plays a big role in your "engine" (body) capability. I live in New Orleans, LA which is below sea level. Starting at Springer to woody gap kicked my ass at 2,500-3,500 feet above sea level trying to do 10 miles per day.

I figure the only way to train down here is to strap my pack on and get on a stair master.

In southern NJ along dah Jarzee Shore, Greenwich CT, and and Buffalo NY, all 500 ft in elev or less, my Seven Highest Summits seeking brother, would train restricting oxygen by sleeping in an oxygen tent. He bought a used one on Summit.post or one of the other climbing/mountaineering sites. Alternatively, you could wear an oxygen restricting mask while on the Stairmaster. They're comparatively much less expensive. This is what some runners, tri athletes, road bicyclists, Olympians, pro NFL'ers, and other athletes approach your situation. They may also add in training at higher elevations.

You could also use various supplements readily OTC available to increase blood oxygen saturation.

franky
07-27-2019, 13:27
Hey! I spent a substantial part of my day reading this! This is a wonderful recourse!!!

KnightErrant
07-27-2019, 16:45
As a Floridian, I'm definitely familiar with being unprepared for elevation change, but altitude weakness/sickness doesn't affect most people until 8,000 feet or more. (According to Dr. Google, some really sensitive people may experience it as low as 5,000 feet, but that's super uncommon. That said, I had an absolutely crippling migraine in Switzerland once when hiking at only 6,000 feet, which I've since speculated may have been related to the altitude, so count me among the sensitive types.)

So it's usually the elevation change throughout a day of hiking on the AT that gets people, not the elevation itself. We flatlanders are just unaccustomed to the cardio demands of struggling against gravity, which are only worsened because often people are carrying a heavier pack on Day 1 at Amicalola than they've ever carried before (or will again, if they lighten up at Neel's Gap). So yep, the stairmaster seems like the best solution for the fitness problem. For most people, you only need to start worrying about the lack of oxygen if you're hiking out west or internationally where the mountains are a lot bigger.

rickb
07-27-2019, 20:00
I'd further add that your home elevation plays a big role in your "engine" (body) capability. I live in New Orleans, LA which is below sea level. Starting at Springer to woody gap kicked my ass at 2,500-3,500 feet above sea level trying to do 10 miles per day.


I was at 8600 feet for the two years preceding my thru hike, and got my SOBO ass kicked anyway. Now if I had been living in the heat and humidity of New Orleans....

Very good if you are a young man riding in the Tour de France, though.

Turk6177
07-29-2019, 18:44
packing too much food and too much gear

scope
07-30-2019, 10:26
Pretty much never see someone quit who wasn't struggling on the inclines (except for injury). Gotta get some experience struggling on inclines and figure out what works for you gear-wise before you get on the AT. Some people are going to struggle on inclines no matter what their pack weighs. It does get easier after doing it a bit, but at what point it does is relative. And struggling on inclines, especially in Ga where you're doing it all day long it seems, can really affect your psyche.

Anihinga
09-05-2019, 19:35
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




Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Longboysfan
09-09-2019, 11:17
Too much clothes and extras in the pack.
Not breaking in the hiking boots / shoes enough.