View Full Version : thru Hiking the AT- few questions

05-29-2013, 10:09
So I am planning my thru-hike for 2014, I have a few questions, any help/tips would be greatly appreciated. Sorry I am new to Whiteblaze.net so if these subject have been covered bare with me. First off, What is the best time to start the hike? I don't want to get all the way to Maine and not be able to finish due to weather. My 2nd question is campfires, I see a lot of hikers using the portable stoves and such. But I wanted to go without and use a camp fire is this possible? And would I just be able to set up camp anywhere along the trail get my fire going for my meals? This is all I have at the moment, I will update if anything else comes to mind. Thank you and Happy hiking!

05-29-2013, 10:54
On all three of my Thru-hikes i started in mid-Feb, the best time is Mid-March to Mid-April.
Camp Fires are possible if you don't mind spending a few minutes looking for wood and in some area's Fires are not permitted so check your trail guide for camp fire regulations, and always use established fire rings, "Stoves are just easier and faster".
Only at Designated sites, unless you know how to STEALTH camp and always follow L.N.T practices.
And :welcome to WB, Good luck and enjoy.

05-29-2013, 12:20
One thing that might be helpful in life in general and when hiking the AT is to get less BEST focused. What's BEST is VERY OFTEN relative and specific to individual situations. It's what can happen in a world(and American culture) that is so accustomed to seeing things through superlatives. Think of words that end in est - fastest, largest, wealthiest, etc. Even BEST.

Next, in your planning stages consider getting the AT Thru-Hker's Companion ASAP(lots of IMO NEEDED info in there), reading through the articles here on WB under the HOME/ARTICLES tab on the tool bar, and possibly reading through a few trail journals.

As Red Dog said the majority of AT thru-hikers who do make it start within that period and make it to Mt K as Northbounders(NOBOers) or GaMers(Georgia to Mainer ers) in enough time to finish their thru-hikes. Here's a word of advice. Lighten up! Don't get yourself stressed out getting to Mt K. It's a LARGELY over-hyped situation if hiking even as a slower to moderate paced AT thru-hiker when starting during that timeframe.

Ditto ALL that Red Dog said about campfires. Will not get into all the cooking ONLY OVER A CAMPFIRE issues EVEN IF YOU CAN ALWAYS LIGHT A LEGAL CAMPFIRE(which will be questionable!). Get a stove to cook on or go cookless. You can even CHEAPLY and EASILY make your own alchohol stove.

"And would I just be able to set up camp anywhere along the trail get my fire going for my meals?" PROBABLY NOT!

Do more research. As a thru-hiker YOU ARE NOT YOU ARE NOT going to want to establish a campfire and cook meals over one for ALL YOUR COOKED MEALS.

05-29-2013, 12:52
While there are things that I would advise against or for when planning an AT thru-hike there are no set ABSOLUTE THIS IS THE WAY IT IS DONE FOR ALL rules of what's BEST. IMHO, one of the PRIMARY WONDERFUL ASPECTS that NEED TO BE EMBRACED by all thru-hikers is that YOU YOU YOU get to NOT ONLY CHOOSE HOW YOU WILL ORGANIZE YOUR OWN HIKE BUT ALSO BE RESPONSIBLE for this new found freedom. Those that don't do this quit their wanna do a thru-hikes! You have to be able to adapt to a whole new LIFESTYLE as a thru-hiker.

Cincykid, I know that was more than you asked for but just trying to help you achieve your goal.

Odd Man Out
05-29-2013, 13:20

Good luck on your planning and hike. You have come to the right place for advice. The problem is, you are likely to get more advice than you asked for! Welcome to WB! Here are some often-cited references to get started.

Here is a good place to start with general background info.

For what to pack on a thru-hike, this article is often cited as a good place to start:

Also, with regard to schedules, the ATC has a nice page.

Here is a rather definitive article and hiking rates, also helpful in planning a schedule.

As for the stove, you observe that "...I see a lot of hikers using the portable stoves and such...". It would be wise to conclude that there is a good reason for that. Avoid the temptation to reinvent the wheel. Can you do things your own way? Absolutely. But it probably isn't the best place to start.

Here is how to make a very effective and popular backpacking stove for 50 cents.

05-29-2013, 13:28
Before you rush out and buy any new equipment: Wait at least 3-6 months to make sure this is really what is the best for your needs. Just make a note of it and start researching from WB, REI, Trailjournals, Amazon and more.

Read trailjournals.com. Also look under their gear section to see what each hiker is bringing. Great place to see what is on the trail.

Best book ever is AWOL's to help you start planning.

05-29-2013, 15:17
Thank you, for your awesome info everyone. I work at Dicks Sporting Goods so hopefully ill be able to get most of the gear from them with a nice discount. But I have been looking at water filters, I'm kinda in a pickle with water filters. I was looking at the Sawyer 3 Way Water Filter with pricing isn't bad at all. But also seeing great reviews on the Katadyn hand pumps, these are much more costly.

05-29-2013, 15:39
I understand the lifestyle a bit, since I was able to ride a bike, I was in Kentucky on cave run lake, or laurel lake every weekend till I was about 15 mountain biking and hiking. but I kinda got to busy with the high school and college cool crowds lol. But now im 22 and free at last :) ready for a new adventure!

05-29-2013, 16:17
Some older hikers still use hand pumps but most are getting away from them and using Aquamira tablets or Sawyer system or Steripen. I would never want the wt of the hand pumps.

05-30-2013, 00:16
Moved this topic/thread to the "General" forums.

05-30-2013, 00:48
You are welcome Cincykid. We ocassionally deviate from our rude comments on WB and wander into a helpful answer every once in a great while.

But now im 22 and free at last :) ready for a new adventure! DO NOT FORGET greater freedom and independence requires GREATER RESPONSIBILITY TOO.

Have an awesome hike. Get ready to be changed in ways you don't yet fully undertsand.

05-31-2013, 14:02
Before jumping into buying new stuff, regardless of the discount, scour the Gear For Sale Forum here at WhiteBlaze and similar forums, craigslist in your neighborhood, etc. for new to very low usage Used Gear. Make a short shopping list of the big items that you need. Pack. Shelter. Sleeping System. Clothing. Etc. The list should be more about the qualities you need in a particular item and less about brand names and models. When you see an item that fits your general criteria and a known quality brand name, POUNCE on it! In the last week I have seen several packs, sleeping bags & tents for sale that would suit a Thru-Hiker and be very budget friendly. At this stage of your hiking life, gear is about state of the possible and not state of the art. You might get lucky and occasionally find both in the used market.
Don't over plan. The AT is well marked. You can't get lost. Your best planning will be multi-day shakedown trips. Find out what gear you need. What gear you don't need. What gear you didn't know you needed until it was really NEEDED. The two things that probably need to be planned: Getting to the Beginning and getting back from the End. In between is just hiking and eating and sleeping and eating and eating and hiking. And more eating.
Do your own research. The answers to your questions so far are covered in the Articles section here. Reading those first would have given you a big head start. The WhiteBlaze Homepage has enough links to cover planning a Thru-Hike. Follow ALL of those links.
GOOGLE knows a lot too. If you know how to use it.
A bit of recent history:
Winter, 2013, didn't really happen on the Southern End of the AT until late February and early March. Winter didn't end until early May. A week of rain followed Winter. Next year will be different. Prepare for the worst. Hope for the best.
Good luck! I wish I had your options when I was your age. My options were: Army, Air Force, Navy, Marines, Canada. Grinning.


06-01-2013, 00:47
I think you'll find that after a few weeks (probably a lot sooner) you'll get tired of cooking on a campfire. For one thing, starting in the spring it is usually pretty wet. Just about the time all of your gear gets dried out it will rain again. So finding dry wood won't be very easy, and the last thing you'll want to do after walking 10 to 15 miles up and down all day long in the rain is mess with trying to make a fire out of wet wood. Couple that with the short daylight hours...you get the idea.

There is a reason many people use alcohol stoves. It is because they are lightweight, inexpensive, easily made with a soda can and a pocket knife if you need to build one in a pinch, and your dinner will be done in less than 10 minutes after you take off your pack.

Some of the best meals I've had have been cooked on a campfire, but on a thruhike you won't want to do it every night. I'd take along a stove for every day use and then when opportunities present themselves for a campfire meal take advantage of them.

I bought some ears of corn at a produce stand in Elk Park, NC and roasted them on the fire that night. Another time a group of us bought a roll of aluminum foil and a 5 pound bag of potatoes and cooked them in a fire. Hot dogs roasted on a stick wrapped with croissant or biscuit dough is good too. But these are things you'll want to do your first night out of town.

06-01-2013, 04:07
thru Hiking the AT- few questionsIf you only have a few questions consider yourself fortunate. When I was planning for my AT thru I had like 2000.