View Full Version : Question for Mathematicians

Snowbird 2004
11-27-2007, 15:02
How many off trail miles does it take to justify carrying additional pounds of food & fuel to prevent hitching to a distant town ? We've all been there, waiting for a hitch, buying food that you don't really like at a gas station, repacking and gobbling or tossing food prior to hitching back to the trail. Places like Mountain Crossings, Hot Springs and Damascus are no brainers. Carrying about four extra days of food & Fuel (About nine pounds ) should eliminate some off trail excursions.
So, how many miles off trail is the decision point to carry or hitch ?:-?

11-27-2007, 15:18
Its going to depend on the specific town, whether or not you hitched or walked in, how much time you killed, and how comfortable you are with the extra weight.

So, I don't think that there is an answer to your question. I think that 5 days between resupplies would be optimum, but thats just me pulling a thought out of nowhere, and for myself, I don't notice a difference in pace as long as I'm under 40lbs.

11-27-2007, 15:33
I would say on my thur hike, we went with the policy that you carry only what you need to get you to the next resupply point. Unless it is a total long shot hitch we never had trouble gettign a hitch. Why carry more than you have to? That's how I looked at it. You have to figure you'l lose about 3 to 4 hours for a resupply stop, cause you'll prob search out a library for internet, maybe go sit down and have a meal, and time spent loittering around town. It can be done in less time, no question, but every time we said "ok we gotta get in and get out" you could flash to us an hour or two later goofing aroudn in the local outfitter or laying on the town green eating a big deli sandwich. SO yes, you lose out on a few miles that day, but for us it was purley comfort, we didnt wanna carry anymore food than we had to. Our pack base weight was about 13-15 lbs, so keeping our packs light was important to us. It is also fun to go and explore a different town, and meet new people, you never know what kind of trail magic you can yoogie your way into :)

And for us it didnt make our thru hike drag on, took us 5 months 5 days, with about 32 zero days...

But as is said on WB all the time, HYOH, you'll find out what works best for you once you get out there.

Dakota Dan
11-27-2007, 15:33
I would use my mail drops and trail companion to figure this out before getting on the trail. Otherwise, it's a crap-shoot.

I refuse to depend on man-made fuels so I would carry a wood-burning stove or use a campfire(which is too time consuming). This eliminates (IMO) a major reason to exit the trail and could be a problem if you can't find the fuel or if the store(s) is closed. Hitting the Post Offices at the right times is a big enough problem.

11-27-2007, 17:18
Note, the mathematical problem is better stated, as "should I carry the food I could get at the next town until the town after that?" So, if the next town is only 2 days away, it may still make sense to stop there if the town beyond that is 5+ days away. It's a little more obvious to hitch to the next town if it is 5+ days away.

I don't really get the "off trail miles." A long easy hitch in Maine may beat a short hard hitch in NJ. Also note that trail miles are a lot slower in the beginning, and the cost for going into town in the beginning are a lot less. (If you spend 10 hr in camp including 8 hr sleep that gives you 10 hr hiking, even with a 4 hr town hitch. Not many are hiking >10 hr on a resupply day.) Only those on a strict budget hitch into more than a couple of towns for resupply and hitch out again.

My Advice:
A) Plan on 30 to 40 food stops, 2 days to 5 days appart.
B) Read Jack's resupply article.
C) I found 2 sections that require the most thought.
1) Troutville to Waynesbourgh: Glasgow has just gone from bad to really bad. Look for posts elsewhere. Dutch Haus is a long walk off the trail, but my recommendation. Lugging food the whole way??? Buena Vista?????? Listening to Whiteblazes with Mapquest:O
2) Gorham to Monson: Too many good towns: (Pinkham & skip Gorham) Andover, Rangely, Stratton, Caratunk. Most hiking at an average or better speed skip one or two of these towns.

11-28-2007, 09:13
Here are my thoughts, having not hiked the AT yet.

I'm inclined not to use mail drops, but to purchase food along the way mostly in grocery stores. I would be particularly interested in Farmer's markets and roadside fruit and vegetable stands. Those foods are heavy of course, but I would pig out on such occassions. Also I think I would be in the habit of eating less dense food like that when resupplying and the next day after, and the more dense food beyond that, saving the really dense food as the emergency ration at the end.

I am currently 220#, and find that a very comfortable weight for hiking, as long as I don't have to wear clothes or carry food. In fact, at any weight over 200# I would be inclined to minimize my gear weight and food weight, with a total skinout weight of 20# to 30# depending on how far to the next resupply point. I would also plan on burning body fat at this stage. How much food and fat I burn would depend on my fitness at the time, which is only somewhat independant of body weight. So during this stage my total weight on feet might vary from 220# to 250#. The food I carry would be 5-10# depending on the next resupply point. I would aim for 5 days between resupply.

But it would be nice to time things to hit farmers markets when they are open, and where they exist. Once my body weight is below 200# I will start carrying enough food to go 7 days between resupply. I might try and go a full fortnight for some sections once I am lean enough to carry that much food, but that would be one heck of a long ways. Trail towns can't be all that bad. ;)

11-28-2007, 09:43
Forget the math. You can't really plan this stuff, there's no point in it. Carry guides, talk to other hikers, check the shelter registers. You'll get wind of the various eating/resupply options as you go. Be opportunistic and flexible.

There are times and places where food resupply is easy (eg. the mid-Atlantic section of the trail) others where it's harder (eg., NH and Maine.) Your appetite will vary according to many factors -- fitness, weather, exertion, etc. Your willingness to carry food weight will also vary. At times you'll want "immersion" in the woods, and other times when you crave town comforts and real food.

Occasionally you can get meals within an easy walk of the trail. Eg., on the first two days SOBO from Harpers Ferry, you can get a good hot meal at lunchtime just a few minutes off the trail. You can use that to extend your range or to carry a lighter load, as you please.

11-28-2007, 09:56
This is one of those times I am inclined to forget the Math also.
I would be willing to be carrying more to maintain some flexibility.

Tin Man
11-28-2007, 09:56
I agree with terrapin - you cannot calculate your way to Katahdin other than by tracking your average daily mileage so you can get there before Baxter closes or determine whether a flip-flop is in order. Food stop calculations are meaningless when there is so much variability in where you can stop for resupply.

Tipi Walter
11-28-2007, 10:03
This is not so much a math question as one of HYOH/what's-you-intention kind of thing. I have found that with the right pack and amount of food/fuel, it is possible to stay out around 18 days without resupply. This would be carrying around 30-35 pounds of food and allows a backpacker the freedom to stay out longer without dealing with cars/traffic/roads/hitching. Although I have nothing against hitching(actually like it), the AT backpacking experience does not have to be a specialized one of 3-5 day resupplies but could be one of staying out longer in the woods.

11-28-2007, 10:15
...the AT backpacking experience does not have to be a specialized one of 3-5 day resupplies but could be one of staying out longer in the woods.

Nothing wrong with this approach, but it would be bucking the trend, for sure. You been talking to Programbo? ;) I did meet one young fella (Phoenix) on this year's hike who said he was carrying 2 weeks worth of food. Also an older gentleman at Calf Mtn. shelter who was carrying 15-20# of food for a slow amble (w/o resupply) through Shenandoah NP.