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View Full Version : is the sobo better prepared then the nobo?



RITBlake
04-25-2006, 21:48
One observation I made on our thru hike was all the sobos we met in at the begining of our hike were very well prepared for their thru hike. No overweight packs, no unnsessary gear, no big knives, hatchets etc. Granted there are far far fewer sobos starting, but I think we were far better prepared for what was to come.

From what I've read, watched in the AT films, and seen in AT pictures here on WB its a totally different situation for the NOBO's starting down in Georgia. Anybody know why that is? The only answer I can come up w/ is that there far fewer options for a SOBO to get to an outfitter in the early stages of the hike, and that the 100 mile wilderness forces you to do a bit more research....

what do you think???

mingo
04-25-2006, 22:01
i don't think it's true. i ran into a lot of stupid sobos in new england

Tin Man
04-25-2006, 22:23
I have run into NOBOs and SOBOs and they all seem to be well tuned by the time they reach my turf - CT.

hammock engineer
04-25-2006, 22:26
I'll let you know what I find when I get back.

At least for me, I think that the extra time between start dates (July versus March) is giving me extra time to prepare. I think every trip or day hike I go on, I figure out something different try or better way of doing things.

D'Artagnan
04-26-2006, 10:55
Could it be the relative uncertainty one faces with regards to the weather when starting a NOBO in early/mid-March and the necessary gear variables that requires? It would seem a NOBO must plan for weather extremes in their earlier stages which might account for greater pack weights, etc. I have not attempted a thru-hike yet so this is just idle speculation. Seems a little like comparing apples to oranges though.

Phreak
04-26-2006, 11:48
i ran into a lot of stupid sobos in new england

A little harsh?

mingo
04-26-2006, 12:06
ok, you're right. they were just ignorant

Chomp09
04-26-2006, 17:27
Don't be such a tool...

Footslogger
04-26-2006, 17:42
Not sure why anyone would assume that degree of preparation would be based on the direction of a hike. I started to meet Southbounders when I got up into PA and NY during my thru in 2003. Many of them expressed the thought that they had it much "rougher" than we Northbounders but then I reminded them that I had been on the trail for well over 4 months at that point and I had hiked through snow and then near endless rain (that was a 2003 thing) for weeks on end.

The 2 hikes are no doubt different in many ways ...but better prepared ?? That's more based on the individual than the compass.

'Slogger

Just Jeff
04-26-2006, 18:40
Ok, 'Slogger, how about framing it this way - the individuals who decided to SOBO were generally better prepared at the beginning of their hikes than the individuals who began NOBO.

If true, there may be some connection between the type of individual who chooses SOBO versus the type of individual who chooses NOBO. For example, people seeking more solitude tend to go SOBO, right? That may (in some indirect way) contribute to what RITBlake noticed. Or maybe it was just an odd year.

Experience, maybe? Are a higher percentage of SOBOs repeat LD hikers, verses the percentage of NOBOs who are? If true, there may also be a difference in success rates of SOBO vs NOBO...anyone have the success rates on hand?

TJ aka Teej
04-26-2006, 19:11
...anyone have the success rates on hand?

You could compare at the ATC posted figures (which are only those who report in, remember) with Steve Longley's numbers at the RiversandTrails website. A few years back we had the official totals from Katahdin Stream, and they were double what the ATC had for finishing GAMErs. The KSC numbers meshed pretty accurately with the Ferryman's figures. For what it's worth, the Katahdin Stream Ranger tells me only about 2/3s of the finishing northbounders take the ATC form when he offers it to them.

Skidsteer
04-26-2006, 19:12
Experience, maybe? Are a higher percentage of SOBOs repeat LD hikers, verses the percentage of NOBOs who are? If true, there may also be a difference in success rates of SOBO vs NOBO...anyone have the success rates on hand?

I seem to remember(though I may be way off) that Roland Mueser's book had that very information. But, dammit, I'm not at home to access the book. Anybody have the book at hand to check?

Disney
04-26-2006, 21:18
there may be some connection between the type of individual who chooses SOBO versus the type of individual who chooses NOBO. For example, people seeking more solitude tend to go SOBO, right? That may (in some indirect way) contribute to what RITBlake noticed. Or maybe it was just an odd year.

Experience, maybe? Are a higher percentage of SOBOs repeat LD hikers, verses the percentage of NOBOs who are? If true, there may also be a difference in success rates of SOBO vs NOBO...anyone have the success rates on hand?

One important factor are those people who really didn't know what they were getting into, and didn't do all that much research or preparation. When you hear about the AT from Bill Bryson, you naturally assume that NOBO is the way to go. The idealists and the tourists are the ill prepared, and they don't pick southbound hikes because they don't know any better.

Tin Man
04-26-2006, 21:28
Perhaps experienced hikers who have done their homework actually make a choice of direction, NOBO or SOBO, depending on schedules, anticipated crowds, seasonal preferences, etc. Perhaps inexperienced hikers who only read about the trail and do anywhere from minimal to extensive homework most often select NOBO being that is what is more typical and is written about. Ergo, there are more inexperienced NOBO hikers than SOBO hikers and therefore more ill prepared NOBO hikers. That said, the ones who stick with the trail, NOBO OR SOBO, and see their way through several hundred miles have made the necessary adjustments to gravitate to being equally experienced and prepared and should congratulate each other when they meet somewhere in the middle.

Tin Man
04-26-2006, 21:30
One important factor are those people who really didn't know what they were getting into, and didn't do all that much research or preparation. When you hear about the AT from Bill Bryson, you naturally assume that NOBO is the way to go. The idealists and the tourists are the ill prepared, and they don't pick southbound hikes because they don't know any better.

Dang, that was the point I was trying to make, but my post got posted before I read your post. Nice post by the way.

Just Jeff
04-26-2006, 21:31
Yep - that's what I was thinking. The "average" SOBO probably tends to be a more experienced hiker, so it stands to reason that they'd have their stuff settled in for LD hikes better than the the "average" NOBO. But that's just a complete guess based on impressions at this point.

But after several hundred miles they're probably about equal.

QHShowoman
04-27-2006, 10:50
One important factor are those people who really didn't know what they were getting into, and didn't do all that much research or preparation. When you hear about the AT from Bill Bryson, you naturally assume that NOBO is the way to go. The idealists and the tourists are the ill prepared, and they don't pick southbound hikes because they don't know any better.

My thoughts exactly. Nice post.

Footslogger
04-27-2006, 11:43
[quote=Just Jeff]Yep - that's what I was thinking. The "average" SOBO probably tends to be a more experienced hiker
========================================
Understand that's what you believe but I ain't buying it. Not sure what you mean by "average" but that just doesn't jibe at all with my personal experience.

'Slogger

Tin Man
04-27-2006, 11:50
"Average" may not be the best term. As has been said, I think the point here is the more experienced hikers make a decision to hike in particular direction, SOBO or NOBO, and less experienced hikers mostly hike NOBO.

Mags
04-27-2006, 11:55
"Average" may not be the best term. As has been said, I think the point here is the more experienced hikers make a decision to hike in particular direction, SOBO or NOBO, and less experienced hikers mostly hike NOBO.

I like that logic. Make sense..since the less prepared hikers usually only know about going Georgia to Maine. OTOH there are less SoBo hikers than NoBo hikers.

If go by percentage, maybe the "experienced" hikers were equal.

Which begs the question..what is an experienced backpacker? Somone who goes out a weekend here or there prior to the trip? Somone who has done a week's backpacking? Etc?

Little trivia: The most thru-hikers I saw at once on my AT hike was in Maine. Thirteen people! All but me were SoBos. :)

mingo
04-27-2006, 12:04
i have seen tons of sobos carrying way too much stuff with blistered feet, depressed, thinking about quitting, etc. they weren't experienced hikers. i met a guy who just got laid off at a bank and started a sobo. it was the first time he'd ever spent a night outside. sobos do have a harder time of it generally because of the terrain and bugs in maine and n.h. but in my experience they are no more trail saavy than nobos

Footslogger
04-27-2006, 12:08
Well ...my scope of knowledge is just that ...my scope of knowledge. But when I've met and chatted with Southbound AT hikers (either during my own thru in 2003 or other times along the AT) the vast majority of them informed me that their decision was based on their schedule. They couldn't leave until some time in June. The second most common answer I received was that they lived in the south and were "walking home".

This thread is all about opinion and I've stated mine. Unless someone has some data that supports the notion regarding Southbounders being more experienced hikers (whatever a "experienced hiker" is, as Mags pointed out) I'm sticking with my position based on personal knowledge.

'Slogger

Roland
04-27-2006, 12:34
The ATC (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/site/c.jkLXJ8MQKtH/b.851143/k.C36D/2000Milers_Facts_and_Statistics.htm) reports that in 2005, 24% of northbounders completed their hike. The completion rate for southbounders was 21%.

Of course, some of you will argue about the validity of this data, 'til the cows come home... :D

Mags
04-27-2006, 12:38
The ATC (http://www.appalachiantrail.org/site/c.jkLXJ8MQKtH/b.851143/k.C36D/2000Milers_Facts_and_Statistics.htm) reports that in 2005, 24% of northbounders completed their hike. The completion rate for southbounders was 21%.

Of course, some of you will argue about the validity of this data, 'til the cows come home... :D

Ah..so my theory is perhaps correct: Overall, the level of 'experienced' vs. 'non-experienced' is probably the same on a stictly percentage basis!

Of course, as Footslogger and I both said "experienced" is a relative term.

In the long run? We have no way of knowing. It is what I like to call the "How many thru-hiking angels can dance on the head of a pin" type discussion.

Tin Man
04-27-2006, 13:54
Which begs the question..what is an experienced backpacker? Somone who goes out a weekend here or there prior to the trip? Somone who has done a week's backpacking? Etc?


Experience is a relative term, but as it applies here (and we can debate this) I would suggest experienced means someone who has enough mileage and consecutive nights out to have a reasonable plan, are in reasonable shape, and have worked most of the kinks out of gear selection so that they don't do a Katz imitation on day 1 of a thruhike. :D

Tin Man
04-27-2006, 15:00
i have seen tons of sobos carrying way too much stuff with blistered feet, depressed, thinking about quitting, etc. they weren't experienced hikers. i met a guy who just got laid off at a bank and started a sobo. it was the first time he'd ever spent a night outside. sobos do have a harder time of it generally because of the terrain and bugs in maine and n.h. but in my experience they are no more trail saavy than nobos

Wow. Most of the SOBO's I have run into have been quite a bit more experienced and more or less happy with their hikes, but then I have come across them in MA and VT where the less experienced may have already washed out? :-?

briarpatch
04-27-2006, 15:44
The last time I talked to someone with the ATC about north vs southbound finish rates they didn't remember the numbers, but thought that southbounders had a slightly higher completion rate. Has anyone seen real numbers?

Just Jeff
04-27-2006, 18:31
This thread is all about opinion and I've stated mine. Unless someone has some data that supports the notion regarding Southbounders being more experienced hikers (whatever a "experienced hiker" is, as Mags pointed out) I'm sticking with my position based on personal knowledge.

Dang, dude - it was just a hypothesis for conversation - not a statement of fact.

Tin Man
04-27-2006, 21:20
Dang, dude - it was just a hypothesis for conversation - not a statement of fact.

LOL. Excellent statement of purpose.

Disney
04-29-2006, 22:49
Talking from my own personal experience. I had absolutely no clue what I was getting into. Seriously. I actually bought all my stuff, got the maps, carried about 55+ pounds, and bought a book on how to backpack from REI. I had been in the military and figured I was a tough kid and knew my way around the map. I (like alot of people with no clue) thought I would hit the trail doing 10 miles a day and gradually work my way up to 30 of the course of two weeks. Given that, it was only going to take me about 3 months to hike the whole trail (with my 55 pounder) and so I left on June 1st 2004 all alone.

It didn't quite work out the way I planned.

My point is, I didn't even know that people did SOBO.

Bewildered
06-06-2006, 15:40
SOBOs are the hidden gem of the AT, we form tight groups and raise hell. I feel every sobo that I met on my MEGA 05 was adequately prepared. With exception to Leroy and Tarkus, those two carried a sh1t load of stuff and the AT was only their 3rd ever backpacking trip. At one point in TN Leroy had an I pod, and 3 cameras. But I watched them all finish so preparation and experiance are not indicators I guess.

Overall I would say that itís all a numbers and percentig game with no real science to it. Though all the Sobs I know got down hard when it came to going into town for a resuply and a fun time.

Forever southbound

tolkien
05-04-2011, 19:21
I like that logic. Make sense..since the less prepared hikers usually only know about going Georgia to Maine. OTOH there are less SoBo hikers than NoBo hikers.

If go by percentage, maybe the "experienced" hikers were equal.

Which begs the question..what is an experienced backpacker? Somone who goes out a weekend here or there prior to the trip? Somone who has done a week's backpacking? Etc?

Little trivia: The most thru-hikers I saw at once on my AT hike was in Maine. Thirteen people! All but me were SoBos. :)

I would say somebody is experienced when they can go through the motions without injuring themselves. Whether that knowledge is hard won from multiple failed trips or book-learning that caught on well doesn't really matter.

Jim Adams
05-05-2011, 17:23
[quote=Just Jeff]Yep - that's what I was thinking. The "average" SOBO probably tends to be a more experienced hiker
========================================
Understand that's what you believe but I ain't buying it. Not sure what you mean by "average" but that just doesn't jibe at all with my personal experience.

'Slogger

I agree 'Slogger. In 2002 I met SOBO's (5) who were carrying 5 gallon buckets attached to their packs with their sleeping bags in them.
I also met a guy SOBO in Hanover, he was a young guy in his 20's, name was Bear...something. He walked into the frat crying, looking like he was starving, literally, skinny beyond reasoning for a hiker and was begging someone to walk him to the P.O. so that he could pick up his FIRST money drop so that he could buy some real food. He had left Katahdin with #30 of GORP and no other food because he thought that was what backpackers eat.

I would think that when you consider the numbers of hikers NOBO compared to the numbers SOBO that the level of stupidity running rampant on the trail is probably even.:D

geek

tolkien
05-05-2011, 20:11
Because of the dificulty of begining in the north, the SoBo hiker would have to be better prepared. Also, I'd imagine that the people who really oughtn't be hiking the AT start in the south because thats how the hiker in the documentary/book did it.