View Full Version : Total newbie with LOTS of questions

02-11-2013, 18:52

First, sorry for so many questions (I know it's a LOT!). Complete newbie here. I have tried to make them easier to answer by numbering them. I also tried to avoid a long intro (for now) because of the number of questions but I'm sure I'll be posting a lot more. Thanks bunches :) . Ok, here goes...

1# Where do you check in, register, sign in, obtain a license (or permit) or pay your fee when you enter a trailhead or is that even necessary (ie; can you just find a trailhead and start walking)?.

2# If, while already on the trail, you happen to stumble onto a lake, river, pond or other body of water, can you try to catch a couple of fish or does this require a license/permit/fee/paperwork, etc and how does one go about getting whatever is needed and how much does it cost?.

3# Are you allowed to venture off of the trail and camp, wander around or even try living off the land for a week or two or is it frowned upon? (always thought this would be really cool but not sure I'd ever have the nerve to try it!).

4# Is there a hard limit on how long you can stay at a particular shelter/campsite (for example if your feet get sore and you are down for a few days or longer)?.

5# Are you allowed to make a campfire, cook, etc as long as you act safetly and responsibly, make sure the fire is out and clean up afterwords?.

6# Are you allowed and/or is it necessary to bring survival-type items like a knife, cordage, compass, etc?.

7# What about bears, mountain lions, poisonous snakes, africanized bees, feral dogs, racoons, rats, hunters, human predators, etc?. Is the trail a pretty safe place to hike (usually)?

8# Packs should always be hung from a tree from what I've read but what about pack/gear theft (ie; while your sleeping). Is this usually a problem?.

9# Do you have to get a permit, pay a fee, register or make reservations each time you sleep in a shelter or hike a particular section of the trail?.

10# What if your a small, out of shape, somewhat older person with a number of disabilites and completely un-armed walking the trail alone?. How do you protect yourself against wild animals, troublemakers, etc?.

11# What type of pack should you have and do you need to have your own water supply, purification tablets, a hiking pole, etc?. And how much should all of your gear weigh (on average)?.

12# If you get injured, find yourself with no food left, get lost or find yourself in an bad situation, is there anyone there to help you or are you pretty much on your own?. (This is probably the SCARIEST part for me).

13# What kind of problems usually ocurr at the shelters/campsites (ie; fights, arguments, thefts, people snoring/playing loud music/getting drunk/keeping others awake, etc and how can they be avoided AND are there alternatives to a shelter or campsite if you have very little money?.

14# Self defense against wildlife/troublemakers. What happens if you get stuck in between shelters/campsites, it's getting very dark and you are in a remote area?. Let's go even further and say you are in the same situation but you suddenly hear a noise and look back to see a person or group of people coming toward you or maybe the situation is in reverse and you are coming up on someone who, because it's late, they are naturally on guard and perhaps even carrying. You don't want to make them nervous so you either walk more slowly or holler "hey, I'm really a nice person!" to them(?). How do you deal with this situation?.

15# Bedwetting. Since childhood, I have had been a bed wetter (not joking). How do you deal with something like this to avoid either soaking your sleeping bag or having to walk the trail with a huge box of depends?.

16# In general, people tend not to like me usually within the first 10-15 minutes of meeting me (or at least I've always perceived it that way). Noone has ever been able to tell me why although I've had a number of people over the years tell me that there was "just something about you" or "you walk to the beat of a different drummer". I have Tourettes, OCD and several anxiety disorders but I'm usually not walking up to people tic'ing away or anything like that and I am very polite, friendly and I feel I act pretty normal. I'm concerned that these things could be issues in the event I need to stay at a shelter/campsite or affect my ability to make friends and deal with others on the trail. It could also make me look more vulnerable. Best way to approach this situation?.

17# What is the Camaraderie/kinship like on the trail?. If you are in need of food and walk up to someone and ask them if they could feed you for just one meal, give you a place to sleep for the night or maybe your just lonely or feeling insecure and want another hiker (or two) to walk with for safety or protection, are they generally pretty accommodating or would they be all suspicious and defensive and refuse to help you?.

18# Is the trail pretty well developed/civilized or is this something straight out of those survival/reality TV shows you see on TV?.

19# I've spent a few months reading, watching shows that deal with walking the AP and in every one of these shows, someone is always wearing or showing off their "piece". This makes the trail look like a very dangerous place and kind of spoils the whole mood/atmosphere. I want to relax and enjoy nature - not enter a war-zone and be constantly looking over my shoulder. What's the deal here?.

20# Here is my current gear list. Critique is welcome. Anything that should be added or left out for, say, a month-long hike, a thru hike, etc?...

* Large, nylon, multi-compartment frame pack with waist/chest straps.
* Small sewing kit
* Aluminum mess kit
* Lighters
* Magnesium bar
* Hunting knife
* Nylon rope
* Fishing hooks, line, sinkers, bobbers
* Portable, collapsible shovel
* Fleece sleeping bag rated at 42 degrees
* 4-season tent
* Lean-too, hammock or waterproof tarp
* First aid/snake bite kit
* Water bladder
* Water purification tablets or filter
* Hatchet
* Honing/sharpening stone
* Portable camp stove/sterno
* Handbook or field guide on survival
* Compass
* Flashlight (wind-up powered) or other light source
* Small mirror
* Insect, mosquito netting
* Shaving razors
* Waterproof jacket or poncho
* Bar of soap
* Zip-lock bags
* Jerky, granola bars, trail mix, nuts, instant oatmeal/grits/cream of wheat, potato flakes, instant coffee, sugar, salt, peanut butter, instant rice, dried soups, dates, raisens, vienna sausages, potted meat food, spam, tuna in pouch, etc.
* Black plastic trash bags
* Mat or bedroll
* Hooded jacket
* Sweaters
* Peppermint tums
* Unisom sleep tabs
* Nicotine gum
* Folding saw
* Sponges, towels, rags
* Hiking poles
* Mosquito repellant
* Gloves
* Boots
* Whistle
* Benadryl

Again, thanks a lot for your patience and I apologize for the number of questions here!.

02-11-2013, 19:33
You have more questions than I have posts. Not to sound mean, but White Blaze has a lot of info. and if you surf the threads and glean all you can. Then make a plan, research the lightest gear, get in shape,surf some more, than post a gear list and let the fun begin. This post sounds like it belongs in the cafe. All Questions can be answered I believe by looking at old posts and using the search ,,,, all but the bed wetting. Wear Depends, works for NASA.

02-11-2013, 19:48
First off. Welcome to Whiteblaze! :welcome

Now on to your questions:

1. You do not need permits to hike the trail anywhere except for Great Smoky Mountain National Park and Shenandoah National Park. GSMNP charges a small nightly fee for camping. SNP is a free permit.

2. All states require a fishing license issued by their authority (i.e. a Virginia license is separate from a Maryland license)

3. Most of the trail corridor is 100 yards wide and owned by the National Park Service. Property outside these boundaries is private property. Can you leave the trail and explore? Technically yes, so long as it's NPS or other park service land (i.e. state park, state game lands, etc.). However, what you may or may not do is documented by each park individually. Some parks have very restrictive rules on where you can camp. Know before you go.

4. As far as I know there's no hard limit. It is common to take a zero for a day or two if you are injured or the weather is foul. However, many who zero for several days in a row, choose to do so in a town so they have quick access to food and other amenities. Again, some parks may have specific rules in this regard.

5. Yes! So long as you abide by all local regulations. States may issue fire bans in drought or when the risk of forest fire is high. Check with other hikers and state/park websites.

6. Yes. Advisable is up to you and your skills. A compass is not necessary for most of the AT but it is recommended. In the end, you'll find out how much you are comfortable carrying and will whittle your gear down accordingly.

7. Very safe. You're more likely to get hit by an asteroid than attacked by a bear, bitten by a snake or skewered by a porcupine.

8. Pack should not always be hung by a tree. Your pack is fine on the ground. Now your food - that should be hung in a bear bag or put in a bear box depending on how risky you feel. As for pack theft, it is rare.

9. No, except for Great Smoky Mountain National Park (as mentioned above) and in the White Mountains of New Hampshire.

10. Many people just like you have done it safely. 99% of the people you meet on the trail will be helpful, polite and accommodating. For the other 1% be polite and continue on your way if you feel that you might be uncomfortable or in danger. Check out the ATC's website for more recommendations in this regard. If I recall they have a few tips. But the main thrust is: use your wits to avoid potentially bad situations.

11. Your pack is unique to you, as well as your gear. It comes down to what you want to have with you to make your journey more enjoyable and comfortable. Some people take more enjoyment out of the walking and so carry less gear. Others enjoy the camping and carry more gear. It's completely up to your preference. You can find great information here on both approaches. As for your pack weight it can range from 9 pounds without food and water up to 35 or 40 pounds with food and water. Again, it all depends on your preferences.

12. The AT often feels remote but is rarely so. Having a cell phone with you is a good idea for the ability to call for help though a cell phone signal is never guaranteed. We all get lost from time to time, but having a map and knowing how to use it (and the aforementioned compass) can often help you get safely out of that jam. On the AT getting lost usually means taking a side trail and having to retrace your steps (and miles) back to the main trail again. Your legs may hurt but you'll be otherwise safe. Also, there is enough foot traffic that if you are injured on the trail or have some other kind of life-threatening trouble (or even non life-threatening) there will be others along who may be able to offer assistance or help get aid.

13. The most common complaint at shelters is noise, both keeping people awake and snoring keeping people up at night. Many choose to tent or tarp and avoid it all together. Many shelters also have spots suitable for tenting and tarping.

14. If it's getting dark and you're between shelters, find a nice spot and make camp (assuming it's permitted). If other folks come along be polite. They are probably looking for a place to stay for the night. I've bumped into guys camped literally on the trail when they (and initially we) couldn't find the shelter. As for people carrying on the trail, that's a rarity and I mean a rarity. Very, very, very few people carry guns on the trail. Again, keeping your wits about you and trusting your instincts (as in leave if you don't feel comfortable with someone) is your best defense.

15. Not sure here. If you need something like depends, consider incorporating them into your pack setup. You can mail yourself more or find them in towns at resupply points.

16. That sounds somewhat specific to you. That said, people are generally very friendly on the trail and want to like you. Plus many of us have our own idiosyncrasies and self-worries. Don't sweat it.

17. It's not uncommon for folks to meet and become friends and agree to hike together. That said, it's specific to those individuals. Asking people for food or supplies is done but not usually well-regarded. Some may offer out to help but if it happens frequently then it might generate a negative perception and get passed along up the trail. It's best to make sure you have adequate supplies wherever you go. Now, that said, you will find many random acts of kindness along the way (called "Trail Magic") and will meet people who genuinely care about your well-being.

18. The AT is extremely well-developed. This is one of the reasons it's rather hard to get seriously lost or in trouble on the trail. Some sections are even paved.

19. Not sure what shows you're watching. The National Geographic AT special shows no one carrying a gun. As I said before, carrying guns on the trail is not recommended and not common.

20. I've typed a lot here so I'll leave the gear critique up to others. I might also recommend you take it out of this thread and post it in it's own thread. You might get more responses that way.

02-11-2013, 20:37
@ TroutknuT -No offense taken at all (http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/member.php?35303-TroutknuT):) . Thanks so much for the reply!. Your right, there is a huge amount of very useful information here regarding just about every aspect of trail life and I have spent about 3 days reading the posts here (really fascinating stuff). I guess the reason I posted some of these questions was because I could either not find specific answers to them or because I wanted to connect directly with the people here and get my own "personalized" conversation going. Yes, lots of questions (again sorry) and thanks so much for chiming in!.

@ FarmerChecf - All I can say is WOW!. I've spent a lot of time on forums over the years and have never recieved such a thoughtful and detailed reply. I really appreciate your taking the time to so carefully and thorougly respond to each one of my questions (I know it probably wasn't easy given the sheer number of them). Actually, your answers were so good that I'm not sure I have any more questions at this point because I think they have all been answered. I might go ahead and try to find a gear forum here and repost the gear list - hope that won't be seen a double post.

Again, many thanks people :)

02-11-2013, 20:43
Thanks for the laugh! Hilarious post. The SAT has less questions

Rocket Jones
02-11-2013, 20:45
Check the home page of White Blaze, under the 'Articles' tag. There's an amazing amount of good info in there that will get you started. The more you know to start with, the better you'll be able to frame your questions and the better the answers/opinions you'll get in return.

02-11-2013, 20:47
Thanks for the laugh! Hilarious post. The SAT has less questions

So glad I was able to make your day :)

02-11-2013, 21:02
You can probably leave these at home or pay to mail them home at Walasi-Yi, GA:

* Magnesium bar
* Hunting knife
* Fishing hooks, line, sinkers, bobbers
* Portable, collapsible shovel
* First aid/snake bite kit
* Hatchet
* Honing/sharpening stone
* sterno
* Handbook or field guide on survival
* Flashlight (wind-up powered)
* Bar of soap
* Sweaters
* Folding saw
* Sponges, towels, rags

You do need a chami or wash cloth for use as a towel.

You do need light nylon cord and a stuff sack for bear bagging.

You do need a puffy, insulating layer, but not "sweaters", which are usually heavy.

I've never seen a fleece bag rated down to 42F, but you do need to be able to stay warm at lower temps than that.

You need either a tent or a tarp, but likely not both. Tarps are usually lighter as you dispense with poles and extra fabric.

You might check out the videos and resources on gear in the online course linked below in my signature.

Good hiking!

02-11-2013, 21:13
I see you are from GA.
Best thing you could do is go up to the trail some weekend and hike.
You'll find out most of the answers to your questions and that you are carrying some stuff that you don't need. (and that how much weight you DO carry is very important)
Have fun.

02-11-2013, 21:22
Good luck on the trail...

Hikes in Rain
02-11-2013, 21:30
I see you are from GA.
Best thing you could do is go up to the trail some weekend and hike.
You'll find out most of the answers to your questions and that you are carrying some stuff that you don't need. (and that how much weight you DO carry is very important)
Have fun.

Yes, do this. Then, when you get back, dump all your gear into a big pile, and sort it out into three piles. One, things you used every day, several times a day. Two, things you used once or twice the whole trip. Three, things you didn't use. Then, dump the last two piles. It's an old, trite trick, but it really does work.

Then, examine the stuff in the last pile, and see if you can find lighter, smaller, simpler items to replace them. Won't take long to get your gear down to day-pack size and weight.

02-11-2013, 21:56
Farmerchef gave some really good answers to your questions. I think cutting some from the gear list is a good idea. Hikes in rain has you covered on that. A couple of things to think about. #15- Get checked for diabetes. I know it sounds weird but my son was just recently diagnosed and I know of another young man who was recently diagnosed. The only sign that person had was the bedwetting issue. #16- screw others and their opinions if they have a problem with you. We are all individuals and who is anybody to judge you? I loathe people who pick on others b/c they are different, have quirks, etc. Go out and hike some before you go and you'll learn what you need quickly.

02-11-2013, 23:46
I can't believe you people fell for this.......;/

02-12-2013, 02:20
Thanks for the laugh! Hilarious post. The SAT has less questions

I can't believe you people fell for this.......;/

I can see where, because of the very "newbie" (and perhaps even naive) nature of some of the questions I asked where a few people might have taken it as some kind of crank but seriously, would I really spend 3-4 days reading and watching vids, another 3-4 days putting a gear list together, spend about $300.00 on gear and then join some random forum just to get a "laugh"?. I get that the bedwetting/depends/anxiety/OCD/Tourettes bit might sound kind of funny but I find it deelply offensive that a few people find it "funny". I hope this isn't the type of people I'm going to run into when I finally do hit the trail.

I've only gotten about half (if that) of the gear in my list. Some of it will probably go back.

02-12-2013, 08:58
Hey, Todd,

First, don't get deeply offended at anything online. Really. It's not worth the emotional energy.

You got some good advice on gear, especially from FarmerChef, and I hope you take most of it. The other suggestion that I have is that you drive up to Neels Gap and go to the outfitter store there. Neels is right on the A.T., and the outfitter specializes in long distance hiking gear and clothing. The staff are all experienced hikers, and they are quite good at starting someone from scratch with the proper gear. You'll spend a LOT Less money in the long run if you start with the right stuff (http://www.backpacker.com/november_08_pack_man_/articles/12659?page=4).

Google Maps tells me it's less than 2 hours from Atlanta, which makes it a day trip. Even better, drive up Friday night and plan to hike up Blood Mountain from Neels Gap one morning. It makes a great half day hike up to the top and back, and it's a good introduction to the trail. (What I mean is that the trail is quite steep and difficult for a beginning hiker. But it's what the trail is really like, so it makes a good reality check.) Then you can go talk to the folks at the outfitter (Mountain Crossings) and they'll set you up.

Good luck and happy trails.

02-12-2013, 09:56
Closing at request of OP