View Full Version : Class of 2013 -- Dozen Quick Tips for Thru-hiking the AT

01-30-2013, 17:31
Here are a dozen quick tips to consider when preparing to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail:

12) Use kite weight Tyvek under your sleeping bag in shelters -- those previous hikers left barbeque sauce all over the shelter floor and that might not go well with the panache of that fancy expensive sleeping bag you bought for your AT thru-hike

11) Sleep orientation -- It might seem obvious but some hikers don't understand -- Usually your head is inward toward the back wall when it's cold (so the bitter wind doesn't blow up inside your sleeping bag) -- when it warms up (May 1st or so), face your head outward so the mice and snakes in the shelter don't try to start a relationship with you in the middle of the night (the mice and snakes run along the back wall).

10) Earplugs -- Bring some along so you're not kept awake all night in the shelter when the women start snoring -- if your ear canals are sensitive, use the Hearos brand brown colored ear plugs since they're the softest ones I've found.

9) Bug headnet - It may be best to use a no-see-um labeled headnet -- the gnats may be horrendous early in your AT thru-hike and the headnet should only weigh in at a couple of ounces. I would have gone crazy in North Carolina on my AT thru-hike had I not had my headnet because the gnats were so persistent in my face all the time. Later on in Virginia, you'll have to decide on the trade-off between the protection from the gnats versus the increased heat you'll experience from wearing the headnet (5-10*F increased heat when the headnet is over your head).

8) Taste punctures -- Spicy hot things on my AT thru-hiker were so enjoyable -- things such as Redhots (candy) and Jalapeno spice for Lipton meals -- you might send yourself some of those if you're doing maildrops versus buying on the Trail.

7) Washington, DC -- If you've not see the Nations Capital, you may be able to get there and back in the same day or possibly have an overnight stay when you travel from Harpers Ferry to Washington DC via train -- you'll come in to Washington, DC just behind the Capital Building. See the Smithsonian (right near the Capital Building) where you can easily spend three hours just looking around in there at interesting things. Also, see The Wall (Vietnam Veterans Memorial) which is one of the most visited monuments in DC. You might even see the National Archives (across the Mall from the Smithsonian as I remember) as well as the Washington Monument (you can see the White House from the Washington Monument). Down at the other end of The Mall opposite the other end from the Capital Building is the Lincoln Memorial.

6) Gettysburg, PA -- If you're interested in American History and the Civil War, you'll likely find The Battle of Gettysburg to be very interesting as a side trip. If you're a northbounder starting with the pack at Springer, you may be arriving at US 30 (Gettysburg is 15 miles east of the AT when the AT crosses US 30) right about at the time of the anniversary of the battle (July 1st -July 3rd). Be sure to take a walking trip on the actual battlefield with a Ranger who'll describe some of the most recognized battlefield actions (such as Pickett's Charge).

5) Mylar sleeping bag -- If you're starting your AT thru-hike with the crowd at Springer you may encounter a few very cold nights at the very beginning and again at the northern end of your AT thru-hike. You might want to bring along a Mylar sleeping bag that you can put inside your regular sleeping bag to provide considerable additional warmth at a weight of about 4oz. The Mylar sleeping bags from the Space company and from the American Supplies company held up best for me (once the bags are unraveled from the box they're probably good for seven nights before they start deteriorating).

4) Billed cap for rain -- You may encounter driving rain in your face while you're hiking so a billed cap that comes out from under the rain hood of your raincoat will help block the rain from hitting you in the face (much better than say a Boonie type hat).

3) Eyehooks and string -- Consider bringing three eyehooks and some string that would allow you to block the front of the shelter from the wind during cold weather as well as give you a method to string up your carry-on-shelter to let it dry out a bit

2) Water carrier -- Some of those descents down to water are going to be WAY down half a cliff so you're going to want to get water at night for the evening meal as well as water for hiking out the next morning -- all in one trip. You might consider bringing a 96oz Nalgene Canteen (the wide-mouth model) so you can get all your evening/next morning water in one trip down the decent to the spring.

1) You have plenty of time -- If you're starting with the pack of AT thru-hikers at Springer Mountain, GA, you'll likely have plenty of time to reach Katahdin (at least 180 calendar days). There's no need to rush in the beginning and doing so may cause you to injure yourself needlessly (such as putting more strain on your knees than necessary until you get into Trail Shape a few hundred miles up-trail). So take it very easy in the beginning so you don't knock yourself off the Trail due to injuring yourself.


sgt easy
01-30-2013, 19:44
Thanks Datto, good info. Hadn't thought of the bugnet, but have a nice, fine mesh bag my down booties came in that will do nicely! The advice on knees, for me as a "senior" hiker who will be hiking with a cho-pat on each knee, is good too. now if i just can find someone to drive me up to the top of the steps at Amicalola.....

01-31-2013, 09:12
I've never heard this mentioned anywhere other than basic training in the army.

-Sleep arrangement should be alternating feet-head-feet. This way when someone coughs, they cough on your covered feet, not your exposed face.

Not having spent much time in shelters I can't say how practical this is for that stuation. The army claimed the incidence of colds was reduced over 50% when this policy was implemented.