View Full Version : Newbie hiking Primer idea!

SGT Rock
01-28-2005, 10:18
This points out something that Whiteblaze is woefully lacking in. Generic articles/FAQs.

Several simple disertations on gear selection, cooking/food, supplies points (we actually have this one covered), etc. That are easy to locate on the front page would go a long way to making WB a better landing pad for first timers. As it stands now, the forum is the only resource. While an excellent one, its not the best medium for those who just want casual answers and/or 10,000' views on a topic.

Start with some sort of generic article and provide built in links (on certain keywords) that generate up-to-date forum searches. That would be a great start.

I tend to agree with this.There was a time earlyon at the WhiteBlaze we were doing some of this. There are some good articles in the Information section and some threads or posts that would make good articles to add to that section. I guess the solution though is a re-tooling of some of that info in order to make it accessable, and then a re-tooling of the front page to make it possible.

The problem as I see it is exactly what sort of lay out for the front page to make that happen. Not trying to spam the board here, but check out my site: www.hikinghq.net. A lot of my content is not on the board, but in articles I have written. Iain't trying to get ya'll to look at the articles or anything, just how the front lay out that connects to the articles works. On the left side of the front page is a java applet that links down to the different things. Now the design of one for WhiteBlaze would probably not be as intense since not all of that info would need to be in the navigation system for here. More of a concept.

Would that help?

01-28-2005, 10:21
I just discovered the information pull-down and Datto's FAQ. That is exactly the sort of thing (along with the other ariticles) that needs to be easier to locate on the front page. Maybe a "Just Getting Started?" box that contains the links the ariticles (or into sections of the articles in the case of Datto). Does seem like there needs to be a "better" gear list sort of thing as well.

SGT Rock
01-28-2005, 10:24
Oh, and how about a script that did something similar to the photo thing on the front page - randomly show the begining of an article on the front page with a link to it.

01-28-2005, 10:33
The layout of WB front page is primarily focused for forum readers who know what they are doing. Not for potential thru-hikers and/or first timers.

Do I really need to know that SGT. Rock is the top poster? How about the Active users? No. While that's cool geeky stuff for those that have been here for years, its not really needed to hike the AT.:D

I love the random pics, keep that at the top/center. Maybe move sponsor block to the left side on top of the user Cp block, and then put the new "Just getting started?/Thinking about a thru-hike?" block where the sponsor and active user blocks are located.

I'm sure many of us would gladly act as editors for the generic aritlces. Start with an outline (those would be the high-level links in the new "block") and slowly flesh it out. Heck if Datto doesn't mind we could start with his article and just add to it. Or keep his intact and copy sections to this "new" master artilce.

Maybe we could get permission to copy some of the stuff out of the various printed guides (companion? other ATC guides) and then add to them.

01-28-2005, 11:22
I agree completely with tlbj's comments in regard to WB being less than user friendly to first-time hikers. But then, perhaps WB is intentionally geared towards those with lots of experience. Still, I think that a few changes/additions would go a long way in helping those who are very new to long-distance hiking.

Maybe in the information section, these might be helpful:

Meal planning charts/tips. Knowing what to carry and what to avoid, how much for each day, etc. would be very helpful. And what novices don't need to hear is "it's a matter of preference." While that may be true, it certainly doesn't help. One thing about Trailplace that is helpful to rookies is that WF gives VERY clear advice on exactly what to do. And while I can see that really grates on some people, still for rookies it's helpful to be pointed down a correct path.

A gear list. I mean clear recommendations by someone who knows what they're doing. I've been here long enough to know that the second someone says "tent," someone else is going to say "hammock" and another will chime in "tarp." That's fine, but for rookies it's nothing but confusion. So putting yourself in the boots of people just starting out, which is the most reasonable? I just don't think that a 5 page dissertation on the merits and disadvantages of a Pepsi stove versus a beer can stove is helpful.

And the gear list can't be specific enough. Feel free to break it down to, say, what is the reasonable amount of parachute cord to carry.

Pictures of helpful stuff. For example, lots say to hang a bear bag. Fine. How to do that? A picture would be really helpful. The best I've seen is a stick drawing, but surely there's something a bit clearer out there. Another rookie sent me an email asking how the tuna cans in shelters are used to help stop mice from getting into packs -- she said that she was too embarrassed to ask that in a thread -- but I had to be honest and say that I have no clue. Something about the can being on the rope and between the pack and the ceiling beam was the best that I could guess.

And in regard to Trailplace, I'd like to say that from the perspective of a rookie, it's not that bad because the advice, albeit uniform, is very clear and straightforward. But that was also the drawback to me because it took me about 15 seconds to realize that dissent of any form was not tolerated.

I guess what I'm trying to say is that clear, straightforward information on very basic topics would be a lot of help. And then after we've been on a few hikes, then maybe the rest of the info in WB would be more helpful. I think the stuff in hikinghq is good because it says "here is my menu list" and "here is the clothes list" and 'this is exactly the gear I took,' and I can copy that stuff down to how much tabasco to take if I want.

Anyway, that's my .02 worth.

SGT Rock
01-28-2005, 11:27
OK, lets put this one out since it seems there needs to be some rookie planning info. Anyone interested in writing some of that stuff? I am sure we could add it to the article database quickly.Maybe someone that was a rookie last year and a veteran this year might have some insights about what they planned that was useless and what they didn'tplan that was needed.

01-28-2005, 11:28
Do we have any volunteers to write these articles and charts? I can create something like this if someone wants to write these things up.

SGT Rock
01-28-2005, 11:33
Let me just throw this out, If someone makes a gear list, there is going to be someone or many someones out there that say "People really don't need this!" or "Why didn't you add this, people shouldn't try to hike without it?" Be prepeared to take critisizim in anything you write.

01-28-2005, 11:45
I'd like to respond to Sgt. Rock's comment on being prepared to take criticism. And speaking as a total rookie, you'll never hear a word of criticism from rookies/novices. Maybe from those who've circumnavigated the globe and know everything there is to know about anything even remotely related to hiking and the outdoors, but you won't hear any objections from those of us who've yet to camp in a tent.

Maybe a list could be done in terms of the essentials, and then recommended items and a BRIEF statement as to why they might be helpful, etc.


"Polar Pur": comes in a single bottle, reasonably easy to use if you can read the therm. on the bottle, tastes like crap, kills everything that might remotely make you sick in water.

"Aqua Mira: you have to carry two tiny bottles, it still tastes like death, but in a poll in WB, X% of people use it. Kills most but not all of the stuff that might make you sick"

And if you're suggesting specific brands, it'd be helpful if it was mentioned WHERE to get the item (ex., REI, specific webpage, etc).

I swear that I'll shut up after this one, but I think that the guiding axiom behind the info section should be KEEP IT SIMPLE AND DIRECT.

That's another .01 worth, and I'm already way over my limit.

Thanks for listening.

TJ aka Teej
01-28-2005, 11:47
Perhaps we should make a new thread without 'Wingnut' in the topic? It's probable that many members who would like to help with the proposed aritcles and charts aren't reading this thread because of the topic.

01-28-2005, 11:49
Do we have any volunteers to write these articles and charts? I can create something like this if someone wants to write these things up.

I organize quite a few beginners trips a year for day hiking, backpacking and winter backpacking. Wrote it for Colorado, but can easily modify it for the AT/East Coast backpacking.

The links are as follows:

Day Hiking Primer - wrote this when my friends' had a pre-wedding hike for their friends/relatives coming in from NY:


Beginners Backpacking Primer - lead a beginners backpacking trip every year and have them read this doc:

Beginners Winter backpacking primer - not really applicable for AT thru-hiking, but can be useful for those who want to try out winter trekking:

As I said if there is interest can tweak the docs a bit to be more Eastrern/AT oriented.

SGT Rock
01-28-2005, 11:59
Perhaps we should make a new thread without 'Wingnut' in the topic? It's probable that many members who would like to help with the proposed aritcles and charts aren't reading this thread because of the topic.

Good idea Teej, here is the new thread.

01-28-2005, 12:11
Here's a excellent article on bear bagging...


bpl.com also has a good 3-season hiking list. I'll spend some time using thier list as a base (or at least an an outline) for an AT ready list.

01-28-2005, 12:17
Wow...excellent idea and suggestion. I'd also throw in maybe someone could do articles on things like how to fit a pack and boots. I know there's much confusion on that subject. Plus so many "outfitters" these days hire people who have very little experience with gear.

SGT Rock
01-28-2005, 12:20
Plus so many "outfitters" these days hire people who have very little experience with gear.

Tell me about it. It is so frustrating at times, especially when you go in knowing what you want and the "expert" tries to talk you into something you don't want or need.

01-28-2005, 12:40
Tell me about it. It is so frustrating at times, especially when you go in knowing what you want and the "expert" tries to talk you into something you don't want or need.

Most outdoor stores make there money off of what I call "the outdoor look" sales. They primarily sell to people who are interested in the outdoors at a casual level only. As such they tend to sell more fleece, boots and other items that look as good strolling down the sidewalk as in teh backcountry. The "hard core" outdoor person is most outdoor stores is a minority. Even where I live, an outdoor Mecca to say the least, the stores sell items most people don't need. A local outdoor storel had a symposium on lightweight gear. On the panel there were adventure racers, mountaineers, ultra runners...and not one backpacker. 'Nuff said.

Anyway, many ourdoor stores will hire people with a heavier emphasis on retail experience than outdoor experience. Not all stores are like this mind you, but many are. Way back when was told by a manager at a Galyans type store "Your outdoor resume looks good...but you don't have enough retail experience".

squirrel bait
01-28-2005, 12:56
Is this concerning only thru hikers or do ya need/want information from a rookie section hiker. I can attest that there is alot ya learn on a week long section hike. I'm willing to give it a shot on the subject of the basics ya learn during your one week section hike for rookies.

SGT Rock
01-28-2005, 13:01
Rookie section hiker is also a good subject. We were all section hikers once, and unto a section hiker we return...

01-28-2005, 13:13
I'm more than willing to write a formal article, rather than a forum thread, directed at new long distance hikers. The more important question is one what. So, I have some suggestions that might be useful:

1) Resupply - Well covered already by Jack Tarlin and numerous threads. So, maybe not this one.

2) What to eat? Perhaps. I've got a couple of emails from people about this. I have a thread from about a year and a half ago called something like "Fueling up for 30 mile days" that addresses some of it. The problem with me writing something like this is that it will be what I want to eat. Others might not like it. Also, I resupply as I go, rather than send food drops.

3) Clothing. A common question that I get in email. Specifically, what clothes do I need? What don't I need? Specific recommendations are wanted. Again, this really is a matter of personal preference, but I'd say that I'm on the conservative side for clothing.

4) Covering more ground. An unpleasant thread topic, it might be better for an article. Specifically, how can I, say, average 17 miles a day, rather than 12? Or, average 20 a day. There are lots of things that you can do, and they don't involve training for an ultramarathon or being Pete Palmer.
A common question is: "I'm a student and would like to hike the AT during summer vacation, can I do it?"

01-28-2005, 13:18
I'd be glad to help/write an article type piece of info.

I could write one for students about the decision to take a semester off from school to hike a long trail and the consequences of when one returns.

I also always love discussing maildrops/resupply/town info etc.

I'm always interested in answering threads about pace/speed/miles

Many folks on this site know way more about gear than myself but I can certainly give my 2 cents, especially for folks starting march 1st, of what to expect.

Also always interested in the phycological/mental/motivation factor of a thru-hike

Basically I'll do anything that is needed!

01-28-2005, 14:54
I'd be willing to write. I have no thru-hike experience yet, but I think I've got a fairly good grip on gear choices and selection. I plan to write an article when I complete the hike, as I think I'll have a somewhat unique perspective.

Regarding the WB interface, one thing that may be helpful is to give the polls a more obvious presence on the homepage. Right now they are buried at the bottom of the forums list. Making these polls more accessible would go a long way towards showing new hikers what the 'average' thru-hiker would do/ carry/ use/ eat/ avoid/ etc.


Tha Wookie
01-28-2005, 15:07
Would this info be entirely AT specific? Will there be an opportunity for other LD trail info, as per resupply, mileage, camping, gear, etc.?

I don't want to get us in over our heads, but there is a serious lack of "other" LD trail centralized information out there.

I think this site is the about the best on the web for a good trail discussion, and expanding a little bit to included articles on other trails would really boost its value IMO.

I volunteer to cover Recreation Ecology and impact-reduction science for any trail.

Tha Wookie
01-28-2005, 15:14
I think a wonderful article series could be based on post-hike life. There is hardly anything written on this, but for many hikers this is a difficult and wonderful time. Specifically, I'd like to contribute a piece about careers in protected area management and research.

The only thing is that I can't write any of this until after I finish a research report in the middle of Feb.

01-28-2005, 16:30
Gear lists, with specific product recommendations where it makes sense, would give people just starting out a lot of help. Granted, a lot of stuff would likely be pruned or replaced over time, but these folks just need help to get started. You could even create parallel lists depending on how much money you have to spend or how handy you are. I'd be willing to take a stab at one of these lists.

Frankly, I'd be willing to write on any topic that I'm reasonably qualified to write about, as long as whatever I do contributes to a larger, organized effort and doesn't become "orphaned".

Rain Man
01-28-2005, 16:42
Would this info be entirely AT specific? ... I think this site is the about the best on the web for a good trail discussion, and expanding a little bit to included articles on other trails would really boost its value IMO. ...

Sorry, but I want to throw stones at this idea. The very value of this site is that it is restricted to the AT. The extraneous stuff is distilled out. Make WhitBlaze.net some general, covers-the-waterfront site, and its value goes way down. IMHO.

Same applies to pics of glaciers, foreign lands, Florida, whatever. If it ain't AT, I vote against it being here and wasting my bandwidth.

Just my two cents. YMMV.

Now, as to the original idea of articles to help newbies, I vote a big thumbs up for that, and will help out. Maybe something about conditioning to prepare for the trail? As a section hiker, I do that repeatedly.
Rain Man