View Full Version : Planning on a thru hike in April, advice welcome

01-14-2010, 09:07
Hello there,

I am a 22 year old female from Florida that plans on a thru hike starting in April. I was hoping to post my plan here and gather any advice others may have.

For physical preparations I've been walking/jogging on the beach in the loose sand, about 4-6 miles each day and I was going to up the mileage and start bringing my pack with me.

Financially, I have $2,000 in savings right now and a royalties program that pays me $200-$300/month, so I think that should be adequate for trail costs?

As far as equipment goes, I'm a little weary about spending $300+ on a sleeping bag? Or $200 on a tent? Is this absolutely necessary? I understand that its going to be your bed for the next six months, but is there any way to cut costs a bit with equipment?

Also, clothing seems to be another expensive item...any ideas/suggestions here?

Most of my purchases will probably have to be made online because Florida doesn't have a whole lot of outdoor outfitters or anything.

Anyways, advice about gear/clothing that saves $$$ is very welcome.


01-14-2010, 09:34
Financially you'll be at the lower end, especially if you need to buy all your gear from scratch, which it sounds like you'll be doing. Most older hikers like to have closer to $4000 for a hike with a little comfort and a few beds and showers and good meals along the way, though some do it with $2000 by really dirtbagging it.

Five mile beach walks is a good start, but what's your basic fitness level? Overweight like most of US adults? If so, loose it!

Look at www.campmor.com (http://www.campmor.com) for good prices on gear. Some hikers go out there with a simple tarp and a quilt and gym shoes, so big bucks are not absolutely required for hiking, unless you want to look like an REI or Patagonia model.

Good luck in this.

01-14-2010, 09:56

There is a very good outfitter in Altamonte Springs, several of the associates there have thru hiked the AT. If you could make a trip over there, you could get some first hand advise.


01-14-2010, 10:01
You don't need the crazy expensive gear if you are starting in April. At that time of year you can really cut back on camp comfort. It will still be cold in the beginning, but it will only last about a month.

01-14-2010, 10:57
There is a good utfitter in St. Petersberg - Jackson's. He has packs, bags, and all the major hiking stuff you will ne

01-14-2010, 10:58
I'm in Lake Worth, which is like SE Florida and I don't drive, so I would have to ride my little bicycle all the way up there. Hence why I said I'm probably going to do a lot of my shopping online.

01-14-2010, 11:03
I have to ask, how did you get the royalties?

01-14-2010, 11:29
Read "Awol on the Appalachian Trail"... great book by a 2003 thru hiker from Florida who started in mid April and finished in September.

He also has a website...google Awol on the Appalachian Trail, it will lead u to his website

he lists all the clothing and equipment that he used on his hike, along wiht pictures... and he was budget minded too,

here's a sample of some of his gear:

*Black Diamond Beta-Lite sil-nylon tarptent
*Homemade summer sleeping bag (but you will need at least a 30 degree bag for the Smokies and the Whites)

Your biggest purchases will be your pack, bag, and tent/shelter.
You can save some money by going with an inexpensive water treatment system, Aqua Mira chlorine dioxide or a Katadyn Hiker pump filter would work. You can save money by just using some trail runner shoes instead of expensive hiking boots.

For clothing, do NOT use cotton, cotton is bad. Go with a fleece jacket, polyester/nylon for shorts/tops.

Use frog toggs for rain gear.

good luck

01-14-2010, 13:28
I have to ask, how did you get the royalties?

I did some photo and video work for a company based in Australia, dependent on how many views my work gets, the company splits a percentage of the profit amongst the contributors based on how many views your work gets. :)

01-14-2010, 14:03
I have lately been buying gear on eBay at a substantial savings. Almost everything I buy on eBay is as-described. Also, there are websites (non-eBay related) that have used hiking gear for sale. Just be prepared that the items won't be in as-new condition -- your thru-hike will likely trash most hiking gear anyhow.


01-14-2010, 14:07
Clothing is one area of pack weight where almost all hikers start out with too many clothes (Heh, I sure did on my thru-hike). One shirt, one pair of pants, two pairs of socks (not multiple of any of those) one jacket (if you have a choice, don't get a down jacket since you'll be wet most days on the AT), a hat and if you're starting early (in March) a pair of gloves. Might take some shorts also -- I was hiking in shorts even in the 40*F's (a hiker generates a boatload of surface heat while hiking).

Sure, you'll get skanked up but so will everyone else and after a while (a few hundred miles) you won't even notice it. So don't overdo the amount of clothes you're taking or you'll just end up shipping them home.


01-14-2010, 14:10
Raincoat too or a poncho --if raincoat, get one with a built-in hood and don't rely on anything that says DWR -- you want water proof, not water resistant. Although you'll be wet most days anyhow, the raincoat helps to keep you warm overtop of your insulated jacket.


01-14-2010, 15:04
This is a great time of year to look for deals, online (like Campmor, Sierra Trading Post) and at outdoor shops. So see what you can find. and I saw some perfctly good micrfleece etc at places like Target. You can get a reasonably good down bag at Campmor for around $100, and leaving in April, should work. Packs from last year or the year before are good prices (I have seen my Gregory Jade for cheap). Tents - I like MSR and you can sometimes find them on sale. Or some have gone with Eureka spitfire, etc., which is cheaper, but I don't know much about them.

01-14-2010, 17:09

Glad to see you are planning your thru and asking questions. I myself am attempting to get myself geared up for a 2011 nobo thruhike attempt. I am in the Tampa Bay area and have had the opportunity to visit both stores recommended in earlier posts. I think there is value in checking out equipment before buying online. Having the opportunity to feel, touch, get in, and test gear will help you make more informed decisions when shopping online. With that said, if it is possible try to make it to Travel Country the store in Altamonte Springs (just outside of Orlando) (ask a friend if they can drive you, offer to pay for gas, or toss in a free lunch. I know it would be a couple hour trip but well worth it IMHO.) RLC_FLA is right they are very knowledgeable and can answer just about any question you have. They also have a pretty wide selection for an outfitter here in FL.

Again, IMHO don't waste your time driving all the way to St. Pete/Pinellas Park to check out Bill Jacksons...they do carry backpacking equipment but it really isn't the widest selection. It is more for scuba/gun/and ski enthusiasts, or those that want to get some great car camping stuff. If you were going to trek over here to the west coast of FL I would suggest a small shop in Sarasota called Environeers. Great selection, very friendly/helpful staff and good advice can all be found there.

Since you said you only have a bicycle as your only mode of transportation at the moment, your thoughts about shopping online are right on. I have a few suggestions that may help you scare up some good deals once you know what you are looking for.
Check out: http://www.steepandcheap.com (http://www.steepandcheap.com/) you have to check this website very often since the premiss is they sell one item at a time until it is gone. But you can find some pretty sweet deals especially on layering items as well as tents, sleeping bags, and other random equipment.

http://www.rei.com/outlet (http://www.rei.com/outlet) This is the online version of digging through the sale bin at REI. Good stuff and good prices, but you have to look and sort through the items.

http://www.sierratradingpost.com/ (http://www.sierratradingpost.com/) Hit or miss for me sometimes but again once you have an idea of what you are looking you may find some great deals.

As far as ideas about some other ways to save: before I committed to more expensive clothes I used some synthetic stuff made by C9 from Target. The t-shirts are only like $9.99 and they hold up well. They have a pretty big selection of long sleeve, short sleeve, no sleeve, and zip neck tops. If you aren't adverse to wearing men's t's they have a bigger selection sometimes compared to the women's C9 selection. Target also has tons of nylon shorts, and pants for insulation layers (look at the cold weather running pants/tights) I also noticed they have on the shelf now some synthetic long underwear tops and bottoms. This isn't something I would say will stay on the shelves long here in FL so go check them out soon if interested. In the past I also invested in some of the http://www.campmor.com/ (http://www.campmor.com/) brand convertible pants, also this is a good place to look for cheap nylon type quick dry shorts with multiple pockets (I'm a fan of having places to stuff odds and ends.)
Other than that I'm sure you are proficient with Google and can pull off a gear search like a pro, I'm sure I've left off a few other good sites for cheap gear but Google will help for sure.

Hopefully you can use some of these suggestions to help gear yourself up for your thruhike.

Good Luck!

Blue Wolf
01-14-2010, 17:39
Best advice....don't cheap on a sleeping bag!

01-14-2010, 19:10
Check this article on the Gear section of Whiteblaze (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/showthread.php?p=206678#post206678). Lots of very good ideas in there. Remember that your gear doesn't get you to Katahdin -- you have to carry your gear all the way there.

Some specific ideas:

Sleeping bag: The Campmor 20-F down bag (http://www.campmor.com/outdoor/gear/Product___40065) is a very good value, and should be adequate for an April start. Certainly for a late-April start, anyway.

Shelter: I would try to find a Tarptent (http://www.tarptent.com/products.html) for sale used in good condition. A Contrail, Rainbow, Squall, or Virga would suit you. I have seen these for $100 on occasion. You could post a request in the sale board on this site, also check the forums at Backpackinglight. (A Tarptent is a single-wall tarp shelter with full bug netting and a floor. They are popular on the AT because they provide good shelter at very light weight.) I would avoid a heavy double wall cheap tent.

Clothing: plenty of good deals at Target in the women's athletic clothing department. Look for synthetic base layers (long johns top and bottom), synthetic underwear, a microfleece zip-tee, etc. For rain gear find Dri Ducks, which will cost less than $20 for the set (http://tinyurl.com/yc8ktgx). They aren't fashionable, but they work as well or better than very expensive rain jackets. You'll want something warm and dry to put on in camp in the evening, and to extend the warmth of your sleeping bag on the coldest nights. Fleece tights and a fleece pullover are relatively light and cheap. Get a warm fleece hat and some gloves, too.

Pack: You need to carry all this stuff, and the comfort of the pack will make a difference. I would carry a light internal frame pack, something in the 3-pound range (empty.) If you order from REI, you can try out a pack or two and return them if they don't work. Take a look at their women's pack selection here. (http://www.rei.com/search?cat=8000&cat=4500053&cat=4500573&hist=cat%2C4500053%3ABackpacking+--+Internal+Frame^cat%2C4500573%3AWomen%27s+Weekend+ Trip+Packs) The REI Flash 65 pack is a good choice to start -- but of course you'll need to make sure it fits you and all your other gear.

Cook kit: an aluminum pot from the thrift store, or the K-mart grease pot, a homemade alcohol stove, a spoon, and a cheap plastic coffee mug will do. More details in that article I linked above.

With some careful shopping and some creativity, it should be possible to buy everything for $500 give or take.

Good luck and happy trails.

01-14-2010, 20:15
I'd plan on leaving in early april as I left April 19th and wished I'd left 2 weeks earlier. You will spent all the money you have saved plus the royalties if not more.

01-14-2010, 21:54
Check out www.steepandcheap.com (http://www.steepandcheap.com) they sell a lot of hiking gear from clothing to packs to sleepingbags. all at reduced prices (anywhere form 50-99% off). they sell once piece of gear at a time so you have to watch the site, but its awesome. There are some other threads on here regarding the website. other than that, watch the sales onREI, EMS, Campmore...etc. never pay full price for anything.

I'll be starting in april also, with only about $500 more than you, so we can hike on the cheap together...or relatively close anyway, as thru hiking goes. All of the above advice is good, fleece from target/walmart is just as good as name brand, zip off pants, any poly blend t shirt. sleeping bag and tent are your big ticket items that you'll have to just look around and see what you like.

You will have to weight what you are willing to spend vs. what you are willing to carry. lighter gear is usually more expensive. If you're not looking for light/ultra light weight stuff, you don't have to spend a lot of money. And if you check out some of the make your own gear threads on here, you can make lightweight gear for cheap too!

Have fun with your preperations, I'll see you on the trail!

01-15-2010, 16:19
also check out www.geartrade.com (http://www.geartrade.com). i just saw a Granite Gear Latitude on there for $100, which is over 50% off retail and a Mont Bell UL super stretch hugger sleeping back for $116, also over 50% off retail. there are a lot of Mont Bell sleeping bags on the site, all different ratings.

Do some research, ask questions, then figure out what gear you want and start looking for deals.

Good luck.

sleeping bag

01-15-2010, 16:30
It's real easy to spend/waste a lot of money on useless gear.

Use this article as a guide to compare what you already have. The Mountains Crossings Method is tried and true.


Good luck!