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Holly
01-18-2013, 22:59
Coming up this June, I'm going to start my first-ever long distance hike solo from Pennsylvania, ideally ending up in Maine, eventually. I was just wondering - what should I be doing now? I've been reading hiking books, and I watched a few AT documentaries. I'm also planning on exercising more at my apartment's gym and driving out to a trail to hike for a day at least once a week, as well as saving and buying all the gear I'll need. What else could I do to prepare, though? I've been thinking about thru-hiking for years, but now that I'm actually planning on hiking this one section I feel like I'm flying into this blind. I'd appreciate any advice from some more experienced peoples. Thank-you!

Spirit Walker
01-18-2013, 23:10
At this point, there isn't much to be done. Thruhiking isn't nearly as complicated as it seems. Towns are frequent. Other hikers are more than willing to help if you need advice. If you have a thruhiking guide that tells you where you can buy groceries and do laundry, you're ahead of the game. If your gear isn't ideal, help is only a phone call away.

Best really is to get in shape now and do as much hiking and backpacking as you can on weekends. Once you've done a few short backpacking trips, you'll feel much more prepared for longer ones. A thruhike is really just a series of weeklong hikes. And the only real difference between an overnight hike and a weeklong trip is the amount of food you're carrying. The gear is pretty much the same, plus or minus a few socks and underwear.

Rocket Jones
01-18-2013, 23:19
As you get your gear, practice with it, even if it's just in your yard. Cook with your stove, use your water filter or aqua mira, set up your tent in the dark or in the rain or when it's windy. Get comfortable with your gear before your first long hike.

Slo-go'en
01-18-2013, 23:23
1, Do as much walking as possible, as often as possible (like everyday). Climb stairs too if possible.
2, Decide what gear you want and buy it.
3, Go on easy weekend (overnight) hiking trips and develop a system.
4, Make any adjustments.
5, Head for the trail
6, Walk north

prain4u
01-19-2013, 02:07
Walk. Walk often. Walk often with your loaded pack. Walk uphill. Walk downhill. Walk up and down steps. Walk up and down hills and steps with a full pack. Practice using your gear--preferably on some multi-day hikes. Using a gym might help your overall conditioning and can aid in weight loss (if, like me, you need to lose some weight). However, working out in a gym--even on a treadmill--does little to prepare you for hiking. (However, it is better than nothing). The only thing that REALLY gets you in shape for hiking with a full pack--is hiking with a full pack (up and down hills on uneven terrain). Anything else is just overall conditioning.

Terry7
01-19-2013, 09:11
Calf raises

Karma13
01-19-2013, 10:10
Hi, Holly.

I'm in Norristown! :) I'm starting a thru attempt in March.

Best preparation I've found is either driving up to the AT near Allentown, or going to French Creek State Park.

The AT is questionable up there in terms of training, at this time of year. That particular chunk has enough rocks that you have to slow down to the point that it's not very cardiovascular, and there's not much in the way of elevation increase. Plus, the weather is an issue. If there's snow on the trail, it's hard to see the rocks, which can slow a hiker down even more. And ice on the trail can make the rocks treacherous at this time of year, which slows me down even more, etc, etc.

French Creek doesn't have much in the way of elevation either (although there are a couple of hills at least, which can be climbed repeatedly to at least let my ankles and knees know that something's coming). There are also enough rocks that my feet are getting some conditioning. Feel free to message me if you want route information.

Don't forget to wear some orange, or some other color not found in nature. Anywhere you go up there, you'll be hearing gunfire at this time of year.

Good luck with your preparation!

topshelf
01-19-2013, 10:40
Get comfortable with your gear, get used to their quirks, learn tricks using your gear to make life easier.

shelb
01-19-2013, 11:49
......., working out in a gym--even on a treadmill--does little to prepare you for hiking. (However, it is better than nothing). The only thing that REALLY gets you in shape for hiking with a full pack--is hiking with a full pack (up and down hills on uneven terrain). Anything else is just overall conditioning.

This is so true!!

Holly
01-19-2013, 23:47
Thanks so much, everyone!

Feral Bill
01-19-2013, 23:51
In addition to all that above, try cooking and eating your projected camp food at home. Find what suits you. You'll have fun.

prain4u
01-20-2013, 02:35
In addition to all that above, try cooking and eating your projected camp food at home. Find what suits you. You'll have fun.

So true! So true!

I have seen people go on a hiking trip and they don't know how to use their stove--or they don't how to use it very well. Then,one of their first uses of their stove on the trail inevitably ends up being in strong winds, rain--or in darkness. Those are not the conditions where one should be getting their first introduction to using their stove.

Also, it is far better to learn AT HOME that you don't like the taste of certain trail foods (or that the food "disagrees with your digestive system" or that you are "allergic"). It is even worse if you find out on the trail that you don't like a certain food--and you have already bought a large amount of the "unpleasant" food--and now have five months of it being shipped to you in mail drops!

leaftye
01-20-2013, 02:42
+3 on figuring out the trail diet. A poor way to start a long walk is with food you can't stomach enough of, and then being in a bad mental state for the next few days because of it. I swear that's been the reason I've seen people leave the trail early.

RockDoc
01-20-2013, 04:26
Some of the most successful hikers I knew planned out every single meal, purchased the goods in advanced, packaged it and prepared it for posting to specific towns. This included foods they really liked, all kinds of dehydrated foods, spices, coffee, etc. These folks always had great food and it helped their morale as times got tough. If you do it this way you need to find a reliable person to post the packages to you when the correct times come along. You don't have to do it this way, but like I said, the ones I met who did this were always very happy with their meals (and I loved it when they shared food with me).

fredmugs
01-20-2013, 19:43
Walk. Walk often. Walk often with your loaded pack. Walk uphill. Walk downhill. Walk up and down steps. Walk up and down hills and steps with a full pack. Practice using your gear--preferably on some multi-day hikes. Using a gym might help your overall conditioning and can aid in weight loss (if, like me, you need to lose some weight). However, working out in a gym--even on a treadmill--does little to prepare you for hiking. (However, it is better than nothing). The only thing that REALLY gets you in shape for hiking with a full pack--is hiking with a full pack (up and down hills on uneven terrain). Anything else is just overall conditioning.

This is the biggest lie on whiteblaze. I don't put a pack on until I hit the trail and I can knock 20 mile days from day 1. And Day 2. And Day 3.......

fredmugs
01-20-2013, 19:44
Cardio is the key. If you can run or do any type of heart raising workout for an extended period of time you will be better served than walking around with a pack on.

yellowsirocco
01-20-2013, 19:53
Some of the most successful hikers I knew planned out every single meal, purchased the goods in advanced, packaged it and prepared it for posting to specific towns. This included foods they really liked, all kinds of dehydrated foods, spices, coffee, etc. These folks always had great food and it helped their morale as times got tough. If you do it this way you need to find a reliable person to post the packages to you when the correct times come along. You don't have to do it this way, but like I said, the ones I met who did this were always very happy with their meals (and I loved it when they shared food with me).And there are also probably an equal amount of people who got off the trail and have a basement full of dehydrated food. And what about all the mail-dropped food that ends up in hiker boxes? There are plenty of grocery stores out there and if you are resourceful you can eat well buying only food from them.

Son Driven
01-20-2013, 19:59
I'm also planning on exercising more at my apartment's gym and driving out to a trail to hike for a day at least once a week, as well as saving and buying all the gear I'll need. What else could I do to prepare, though? I've been thinking about thru-hiking for years, but now that I'm actually planning on hiking this one section I feel like I'm flying into this blind. I'd appreciate any advice from some more experienced peoples. Thank-you!

In the midst of a post mid life crises, I am also planning on my first ever thru hike. I made the mistake of over training. Within a couple weeks I was hitting the trails every day w/35 pound pack, got up to 14 miles one day. Feeling all confident, until my ACL's in my heels started to complain. After 10 day's of rest I am anxious to slowly start working on getting into trail condition. The frozen boot prints I was hiking over probably didn't help. But I am sure there is a lot of uneven ground to cover on the AT. It is all good. I am thinking of starting 2/20/13, and just let my body listen to the trail, and start doing more miles as I get stronger.

prain4u
01-20-2013, 21:27
Walk. Walk often. Walk often with your loaded pack. Walk uphill. Walk downhill. Walk up and down steps. Walk up and down hills and steps with a full pack. Practice using your gear--preferably on some multi-day hikes. Using a gym might help your overall conditioning and can aid in weight loss (if, like me, you need to lose some weight). However, working out in a gym--even on a treadmill--does little to prepare you for hiking. (However, it is better than nothing). The only thing that REALLY gets you in shape for hiking with a full pack--is hiking with a full pack (up and down hills on uneven terrain). Anything else is just overall conditioning.


This is the biggest lie on whiteblaze. I don't put a pack on until I hit the trail and I can knock 20 mile days from day 1. And Day 2. And Day 3.......

fredmugs, I think there are many people who would say that you would be the the exception and not the norm--especially with 20 mile days starting with day # 1. There have been many well-conditioned athletes--including distance runners--who have discovered that although they were in great physical shape--they were not in the CORRECT physical shape for the AT. Hiking utilizes different muscle groups than many other athletic activities.

The OP asked what could they be doing now to prepare. Walking with a full pack is something that they CAN do now. Please note, I am not saying that they MUST hike. Frankly, a person can sit on their butt until the moment that they start hiking the approach trail near Springer---and still have a successful thru hike. However, most people probably would not recommend that as a pathway to success.

leaftye
01-20-2013, 22:15
I agree that training with a pack is unnecessary. I believe training with a pack actually slows my progress during training. I do walk a lot in training, but without a pack.* I'll do roughly half the distance at a much greater speed than I can attain with a pack on. I don't do any jogging or running during training either, nor swimming/cycling/etc, but on one hike with that type of training I wanted to get to town at a certain time, and I jogged most of the last 6 miles. Iirc, I got in ~18 miles by about 2:30 PM.


*The only pack I carry is what I need for that day hike. Usually just water and food.

futureatwalker
01-21-2013, 03:45
In addition to getting some walks or runs in to strengthen your legs, I would also suggest some weekend backpacking trips, conditions permitting. This way you can experiment with your gear, and get used to a camp routine. Then, when you hit the trail in June, you'll do so with confidence about sleeping in the woods.

fiddlehead
01-21-2013, 05:40
Go hike lots of uphill and downhills. It the weather is bad, use a step machine.
You'll be glad for those climbing muscles once you hit the trail.