View Full Version : The seed's been planted so I have newbie questions to work through

01-23-2008, 01:16
First off, hello. I lurked this forum for a while and I am just floored by how amazing my timing has been for finding this forum. I'm recently graduated, have about $4k in the bank and my time is completely and utterly worthless. I also live north of Atlanta and it's nigh 2 months from the season! Perfect!

So for starters, I'm planning on doing only the GA section for now. I don't have a ton of camping experience under my belt and am NOT handy (I have a really hard time putting a dome tent together. Only one of my friends who can't seem to do it alone).

So yeah. My first and only question for this post is a clarification of something I read in the newbie guide. It was talking about planning out your camping spots like weeks and weeks in advance, before you even set out.

Now I don't really get that? Isn't that the point of camping so that you can just plunk down at a good looking spot at the end of the day? I realize it takes a little time to prepare the spot itself and take into account like..slope, rocks (Hammock probably..), but why are we talking about planning out camping spots?

Also while I'm typing I might as well ask if there is information about gathering water on this forum? It's not in the food section so I was a little confused.

Thanks everyone! Can't wait to continue absorbing information like a sponge.

River Runner
01-23-2008, 01:31
Some people like to plan where they will be to sort of count out the number of days the trip will take. Some do it so that family & friends will have an idea of where they will be. Some do it, so they can figure out where they will need resupply points. For section hikers, they do it to figure out where to arrange shuttles or have someone drop them off and pick them up.

Usually by day 2 the plan has went into the campfire. :) Sometimes by the end of day one. :D

01-23-2008, 01:31
I planned every town stop out ahead of time, and I spent the night in every one of them until Fort Montgomery, NY. I also planned every night to get to total number of nights between towns, so I could plan food resupplies. However, I only to the actual camping spots right about 40 % of the time. So don't worry, particularly if you are not doing mail drops.

You will want a mileage guide or maps with the water sources listed. 2 to 3 qt is generally enough water carrying capability. If you need more gust get a soda bottle in town.

01-23-2008, 01:43
Welcome to WhiteBlaze Freedomclub :welcome

01-23-2008, 04:08
Gathering Water:
1. Stop hiking
2. Dip gatorade bottle into stream/spring flow
2a filter/treat if you do so
3. Drink
4. resume hiking

Planning campsites:
I generally plan, within a few miles, when I'll camp from one resupply to the next, so I know that I have the appropriate amount of food to get from point A to point B, and don't miss the window of time that I need to hit to get my mail drop. I also usually look 1-2 mail drops ahead so that I can make sure I won't head into town on a Saturday night looking for a mail drop that I can't get until Monday morning. Buy-as-you-go hikers usually have a bit less to worry about on that front, however.

It also helps to plan, in general, where your campsite will be. If it's cold and windy, you won't want to be camping on top of a mountain. If it's hot and buggy, you will want to be camping on top of a mountain.

If you have $4000 and enough gear to do the GA section, then keep an open mind--you might want to keep going past the NC border.


The AT is a great place to learn how to hike/camp. Don't worry about being a novice on the trial.

01-23-2008, 04:59
Gathering Water:

If you have $4000 and enough gear to do the GA section, then keep an open mind--you might want to keep going past the NC border.


The AT is a great place to learn how to hike/camp. Don't worry about being a novice on the trial.

Hell, who knows. Ya'll may just end up on Katahdin!!:sun

01-23-2008, 05:16
You'll find all kinds of people. Those who have a plan and must check it all the time, to those who walk until they want to sleep and sleep right on the trail when that time comes.
The beginning of the trail has lots of options for camping. I'd recommend just go hiking and start to look for a place an hour or so before dark.

I'm sure you'll get lots of opinions.

As for water, it used to be pretty plentiful in the first few days of the trail also but don't know since that part of the world's been in some serious drought lately.

I'm sure you can find out on here if you ask.

01-23-2008, 08:17
Welcome Freedomclub. Realize. that some people like to have every detail of their hike planned out in advance. Some take a I'll-figure-it-out-as-I-go approach. Others fall somewhere in between. There is no right way or wrong way. Personally, I'll often look at a range of upcoming possible campsites the night before or a few hours before I decide to stop hiking. Sometimes I just continue hiking until I decide to set up camp and sleep. On the At, U don't usually have to go very far, perhaps 10 miles at most, before you'll find a suitable place to camp. Much of selecting a campsite depends on exactly how long or how far I might hike, water sources, terrain and weather conditions. Do U absolutely have to have every campsite planned out in advance on the AT, no. U get to determine what's right for your hike! Isn't this great!!!

If U get the Appalacian Trail Companion, which covers the entire AT, you'll find a wealth of helpful info(like where U are on the AT, water sources, mileages, resupply locations, possible campsites, shelters, etc.). And, even if you wind up hiking just the GA section it will make your hike easier to plan. But it may, in the end, pic your interest enough that you'll want to hike more of the AT.

If U want, by all means, do research, ask questions, gain practical knowledge, and plan out your hike(I think it is wise to do so), but realize, in the end situations/events are going to occur that U did not foresee. Accept that U can't contol everything. Enjoy the hike!!! CARPE DIEM!!!

01-23-2008, 09:16
All of my basic outdoor skills were learned in Boy Scouts.

The Boy Socut Hand Book and more important, The Boy Scout Filed Manual contain nearly everything you need to know about equipment needs (books will error on the heavy side for gear), basic first aid knowledge, basic camp site slections, basic hike planning, basic map and compass skills, basic personal hygine on the trail, Leave No Trace ("LNT") principals, water purification methods, cooking and menu planning, you name the camping/hiking/backpacking skill, the Boy Scouts have been doing it since 1910 and have wrapped up all that collective knowledge in two inexpensive books.

Once you have read through these, then go through your route (trail) specifice information.

Good hiking,


01-23-2008, 09:17
Spelling and error correction :)

01-23-2008, 09:44
I second the Boy Scout handbook for a newbie. I took camping in college as one of my PE classes, and our required book was the handbook. It's a good resource to have. It was very entertaining to watch people learn this stuff for the first time.

01-23-2008, 09:58

First, you should differentiate in your mind between camping and hiking. You can be both, and you can do both, even in the same weekend, but they are different.

Your question about water is a good one. I think most people nowadays overhydrate, but when I was younger I used to get dehydrated all the time and hadn't really a clue what was going on. The main thing about water is understanding that it is not everywhere, so you have to get some experience in knowing how far you can travel from one source to another and how much water you will need to get there. That is more important than whether or not you treat it or how you treat it.

Right off you talked about money. I am not so interested in talking about money. Spending money and hiking are too completely different things. I strongly suggest getting over the money and all that buying stuff and just focus on the hiking and camping and what you really need to do it and enjoy it. Start with day hikes and single overnights on a trail near your home and go from there.

01-23-2008, 17:11
Ok I have another question. I went to look at backpacks today and I'm really not sure what I'm looking for. There are millions of backpacks out there. Someone made a list of the most "talked about" tents in the Best Solo Tent thread and that helped immeasurably. Could someone mention some of the big players in backpacks so I at least know where to start? I'm not stuck on buying a popular backpack but I have no idea how to even start!

Thanks guys!

Oh and also, ScottP said that the AT is a good place to learn. Anyone else have any experience with that? I mean I go camping every so often and I'd say I'm not a nancy boy when it comes to creature comforts. I'm surprisingly able to put up with the bare essentials. Not that bare essentials are what it's all about but it doesn't hurt. :cool:

01-23-2008, 17:24
Try to save your pack as your last purchase. You don't want too big or small of a pack. If you have most of your gear, you can see how it fits in there.

01-23-2008, 17:29
As for a book to start with, the complete walker IV and Ray Jardine's Beyond Backpacking are both good books. I don't know anything about the boyscouts, but they're famous for being poorly prepared, annoying, and idiotic.

01-23-2008, 17:55
We tried plannng out several days in advance and always ended up changing it. So we planned it day by day, depending how we felt too and what the weather was like.

Not sure what you mean about gathering water? You mean what to use? We used a Nalgene canteen because we were chemically treating. But if you're using a pump, you pump right out of the stream or spring and into your playpus or similar container.

01-23-2008, 18:00
I don't know anything about the boyscouts, but they're famous for being poorly prepared, annoying, and idiotic.

I hope that now means you will use your wisdom and skill to teach boys all about the woods and backpacking so they won't be idiotic and poorly prepared. Put your money where your keyboard is - stop hiking for yourself and help out. Maybe by first learning what Boy Scouts is all about and then by getting involved.

(from someone whose husband is a Scoutmaster and we are proud of it)

01-23-2008, 18:03
Try to save your pack as your last purchase. You don't want too big or small of a pack. If you have most of your gear, you can see how it fits in there.

Yes, get your gear then the backpack. And go to a knowledgeable outfitter who can help you select one. And also there have been threads on here about backpacks - do a search and you will come up with lots of opinions.

01-23-2008, 18:26
Road Trip!!!!

If you live north of Atlanta, take a road trip to Mountain Crossings at Neels Gap. It's on US129 between Cleveland and Blairsville. The AT goes right thru there. I'm not saying that you need to go spend a wad of cash there, but Winton and the guys there have a clue. They know what's going on. They will be glad to help you.

We all have our favorite backpack. Our bodies are all different. The pack that is perfect for me may suck for you. Also, you may buy the greatest backpack in the world, but if it is the wrong size and not adjusted properly you won't be a happy camper. Since you are new at this I strongly suggest that you do not buy a pack on the internet. You don't want to get it from a mall either. You need the help of someone trained to fit and adjust a pack; and it needs to be by someone that does long distance backpacking.

As for the water....don't worry about it in GA. Sources are flowing and you will cross water several times a day.

Welcome to the wonderful world of backpacking. If your pack is comfortable and your feet are comfortable and you aren't going to freeze; you will have a great time learning by doing. Don't be afraid of doing something or caring something that everybody thinks is stupid. Chances are that most of on WB have done or carried the same stupid thing. Part of the fun is trying new things to see what works for you.

You know I am almost envious of you being a newbie. I remember the excitement that I felt when I first started. Congratulations and have fun!!!

01-23-2008, 18:34
I have enough time to make a road trip up north and hang out at some outfitters. I tend to shop online and not talk to people and I think that has hurt me in the past. Is Mountain Crossings the best place to go? Does anyone have any other suggestions?

Thanks guys! And you're right, I'm obscenely excited. It's occuring to me that I'm getting rather low on time actually. People are pushing me from all angles to go and get a job. One day I may have to but now is seriously NOT the time. I also read that thread about developers ****ing up small parts of the AT. I think that's some serious bull**** so I need to get out there stat. :mad:

01-23-2008, 18:53
There are a number of REI stores in the Atlanta area. You can find them at www.rei.com (http://www.rei.com) . There will be a lot of great gear in the stores. Go to the biggest store, it will have more variety. A lot of the employees are knowledgable, ask them many have hiked the AT. But, the really important part is to get your pack fitted, put some weight in the pack and walk around, see how it feels. It's nice to be able to put your hands on the gear, weigh it, see how it works, etc.

01-23-2008, 19:40
I'll answer your question about packs

Granite Gear

are just some of the packs I can think of offhand. Going to Neel's Gap at Mountain Crossings is a great idea. That's where I got my ULA pack. I would NOT go to a big chain outfitters unless you know someone that works there that has done a thru hike. They'll sell you all kinds of crap you don't need. Do a search on here on backpacks. I'm not familiar with a lot of the most popular packs since I'm happy with what I've bought and not looking. I also have a kelty external frame, the Trekker. Love both my packs.

01-23-2008, 20:16
Big chain stores do not have the expertise or the equipment you'll want for a thru-hike. You'll walk out with heavy gear and a light wallet.

01-23-2008, 20:17
Oh, and I responded to Blissful's comments by PM. I

01-23-2008, 21:15
There's no reason not to go to both REI and Mountain Crossings. Take a gear list with you, see what they have. Do not buy anything during your first visits. Go home. Cool off. Rank things you need from most expensive to cheapest. Generally speaking, a good sleeping bag is the most expensive item in your pack. Get that first. How much or how little padding you'll want under you when you sleep. Decide on your tent. Your cooking system. Your clothes. Get four days' worth of food. When you've got all that together, then it's time to look at packs.

The thing about a place like REI is that they have so much stuff you'll probably end up with all sorts of stuff you don't need--a coffee pot, multiple cook pots, some heavy-duty rope (for the bear bag), maybe a GPS...

Mountain Crossings has more limited stock but it's very much aimed at long-distance hikers. If you shop there, you'll probably buy fewer items, so you can afford to spend more on each one, and you'll probably get it right the first time.

01-23-2008, 21:19
First of all, welcome to WB!!!

I'll second the recommendation of going to Mountain Crossings and trying on some packs..... And don't buy one until you have your gear...

As far as another line of packs, I can recommend the GoLite brand of packs.... I am the proud owner of a GoLite Pinnacle, which is about a 4000 cu.in pack... I'm able to put my hammock, the rain fly, sleeping gear, clothes, food, and stove all inside of it... The pack itself weighs in at 25 oz.

The ULA line of packs are also very good, and many people are fond of them. I don't have any personal experience with them, so I won't comment on it.



01-23-2008, 21:32
This is good information. I have a sleeping bag I got a long time ago but I really don't know any stats. If I had to guess I'd say it's somewhat shady. It's a mummy style (I think) and it's made of some kind of plasticy-nylony-fabric. I'll probably bring it with me and have them tell me if it blows or not.

Now I just need to decide if I want to get the Tarptent Contrail or a hammock! Decisions decisions...

01-23-2008, 22:36
Others have mentioned it before, I haven't done it myself though but... REI will rent you equipment. That is a thought if you do some weekend hikes, that way you can play before you decide. Another thought, do a bit of North Carolina too while doing Georgia. Welcome and I know you'll get coming back for more.

01-23-2008, 23:34
Ya, REI rents equipment, but it's usually not the best gear for a thru hike. We are lucky here in Nashville to have people that have thru hiked working there. Can't say that's true for all of them. Can't go wrong with a Tarptent. I have a Squall and love it. Hammocks are a good choice too. Tough making that decision. Being female, I like the privacy of a tent. Hard to get dressed in a hammock.

01-24-2008, 00:07
There are plenty of places to camp on the AT in the south, if you carry in your own water.. I liked to camp near a water source so I would have plenty to cook dinner and breakfast.. Check out the Appalachian Pages ,
or AT Companion, available online, to find out where the campsites and springs are.

Also I bought a whole lot of used equipment which served me well through the whole thru hike.. there is a used gear forum here, or if you know what you are looking for then you get look on ebay.

01-24-2008, 14:29
Look at some gear lists that others have posted here. While everyone makes different decisions, you'll find a lot of commonality. for example, you'll find a lot of people suggest not skimping on a sleeping bag (or quilt, in a hammock), and maybe a decent pack (but not super expensive). Other than this, you can do everything else for pretty cheap. You have plenty of time. don't buy anything until you've read 10 gear lists.

01-24-2008, 14:58
I would go with a down lightweight sleeping bag, an alcohol stove, a silnylon tarp tent, by six moons or Henry Shires... A lot of people use the ULA or the Granite Gear Vapor Trail.. These are not available at the outfitters but they are real good.. Get your torso measured at the outfitters.... And compared with what is out there you probably should replace your sleeping bag...

01-24-2008, 17:49
Ya, REI rents equipment, but it's usually not the best gear for a thru hike.

True, but it does give you a chance to get out and hike with gear, without buying it. Then start thinking on your own about what works what doesn't prior to spending lots of cash. Nice to have a little first hand experience.

01-24-2008, 18:03
Welcome, Freedomclub!

There are lots of experts here on WB. They really know their stuff. All the different perspectives are valuable.

For gear, make sure you check out Goodwill and the Salvation Army. I have gotten 2 NorthFace sleeping bags, both synthetic but in excellent condition, and a pretty good semi-rectangular down bag (no-name). Paid no more than $7.50 for any of them. Kind of lucky finds, but i got one in Crawfordsville, Indianna on a business trip. Shipped it home via UPS for $7. Not bad for a 20dF North Face synthetic bag!

You can find great deals on clothing: merino-wool sweaters, vests and even cashmere sweaters. Never paid more than $5 for any of it. Wool clothing is preferred by many (though it is a bit heavier than synthetic "petro-clothes") because it is more comfortable over a wider temp range, and they don;y stink after sweating in them. Also look f or silk shirts, which do great in hot weather, and also don't stink as bad.

Also, I'd go slow before jumping into hammocks. :-? That means, learn ground camping some, and borrow someone else's hammock if you can for at least a night. Or visit Just Jeff's camping site for instructions to make a cheap ($10) "test-hammock. http://www.tothewoods.net/HomemadeHammock.html

Listen to people who really use the gear, not just salespeople. I used to sell adventure gear, and I used to sell people more than they really needed, mostly cause I didn't know any better.:D

01-24-2008, 19:53
ula pack
henry shires tarptent
western mountaineering sleeping bag
caldera cone stove and pot

with these i believe you will be going first class

01-24-2008, 20:45
True, but it does give you a chance to get out and hike with gear, without buying it. Then start thinking on your own about what works what doesn't prior to spending lots of cash. Nice to have a little first hand experience.

This is true, and you can rent the big ticket items to check out how your other gear works; water filter, stove, etc....

01-24-2008, 20:54
ula pack
henry shires tarptent
western mountaineering sleeping bag
caldera cone stove and pot

with these i believe you will be going first class

yup, I have the first two on this list and I saw a caldera cone stove at the SoRuck this last weekend. Tin Man sells them at antigravitygear.com. saaweeet!! I may have to invest in one of those......

01-24-2008, 22:23
Great advice from Boudin and Grandma. Do get fitted for your pack! It's not a bad idea to get fitted for a sleeping bag also. Mountain Crossing is a great place for this. The staff there are hiking people and will spend all the time you need to get things right.
Get a few miles on your boots, spend a couple of nights out camping, and you'll be just as good a backpacker as anyone on this site! It's all about freedom to go and do what makes you happy. That the beauty in what we do!
Happy trails:sun