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  1. #1
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    Default Question on sleeping on the AT

    My dream is to complete a thru hike in my life and hopefully in the not too distance future. I've read a lot here and I'm on my 10th book written by others who have completed thru hikes. (Currently reading Don's Brother: A Hike of Hope on the Appalachian Trail.) Several years ago I got into the habit of going to bed very early, 7-8pm and I'm up by 3am. Even on my days off I do this. I'm in my office at 4am. I've never been one to be able to sleep long hours like some people can and noises easily keep me awake while trying to fall asleep. I'm sure I can adjust a little and stay up a little later on the AT when staying at a shelter but what happens when I still wake at 3 or 4 am? I can't lay there until the sun starts shining and I'm sure others will tire of me trying to get out before the sun starts up anyway as they are trying to sleep. I know safety can be an issue as well trying to hike in the dark. I know I can't be the only one in this position.
    The More People I Meet The More I Like My Dog.

  2. #2
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    Good morning, I am sure you will get a lot of responses to this. If you are planning on getting up at 3-4 a.m., realistically you'll need to plan to tent, unless you're at a shelter and alone, or if there is only one or a few other people there and you all agree on this ahead of time. I just can't imagine that there are very many other people who are getting up at that hour, and no matter how quiet you plan to be, I just don't see that working. Plus, if you need to go to sleep at 7 p.m., unless as I say you're alone in the shelter (and no guarantees you'd stay that way), you'll want to tent as well.

    Jane

  3. #3

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    This does seem to lead to the tent solution. I also go to bed early, wake at slight noises, and enjoy the dawn hours. I had never thought shelters would work well for me.

    good luck.

  4. #4
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    Tent. You need to carry some sort of shelter anyway in case the shelters are full. If you leave during peak season you'll be sleeping in full shelters, not much fun in my opinion.
    "Chainsaw" GA-ME 2011

  5. #5
    Registered User ChuckT's Avatar
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    Tent, tarp or Hammock. Use the shelter for company or necessity. Stop at a shelter to cook and eat and move on.
    Miles to go before I sleep. R. Frost

  6. #6
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    Tent or hammock. Sure, every shelter has one person waking before the crack of dawn, but realistically that's more like 5 or 5:30, not 3am. And you'll be surprised at how much noise that makes.

    On the trail I don't have any issues with waking up at 4am or insomnia, which I sometimes do at home.
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

  7. #7
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    You may get the trail name Web Walker (or some variant) for the numerous spider webs you will be walking thru, unfortunately you will be too early to clear them for the next hiker as they will be rebuilt by then.

  8. #8
    Registered User swjohnsey's Avatar
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    I was usually asleep by dark, moving at first light. You will find a few spider webs, not many really, but you will get to see all the wildlife. This style of hiking is not very compatible with shelters. Shelter rats call us "pot banger". I cook and visit at shelter but sleep somewhere else.

  9. #9

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    All sounds correct here, only contingency is that due to the extra energy loss of walking all day, you might find that you need a little more sleep. I have found that most thru hikers after the initial couple nights seem to turn in about the time it gets dark and in peak summer I have seen shelters full and quiet 30-45 minutes before dark. I do agree that tenting has worked out better for me due to not having to worry about mice, I have a dog, snoring, snow blowing in, leaking roofs, racoons, dopers, sex maniacs, drunks and vandals all under some sense of tomfoolery or balyhoo. haha.

    Might want to refer to the Shelter Etiquette thread started this morning. I can see where getting up this early, and beating the heat for the day and napping in a shelter during the hot of the day, then continuing on until a tent spot is found would be a great strategy. As well, You could jsut tent AT the shelter sites if there is room
    Trail Miles: 4,090.3 - AT Trips: 71
    AT Map 1: 2004.8
    AT Map 2: 265.0
    Sheltowee Trace Map: 116.0
    BMT Map: 57.7
    Pinhoti Trail Map: 31.5

  10. #10

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    Your lifetime sleep pattern may change. If it doesn't bring a tent and enjoy the early morning hiking. Most folks unknowingly shift their circadian rhythm in the first few weeks on the trail.

  11. #11

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    I found that my sleep patterns changed on the trail. Many other people I have spoken to have reported the same. So my recommendation is to stay flexible and do what works for your hike while you are out there. The decision to stay at a shelter or move on and sleep in your tent can be made on a case-by-case basis. You'll be wanting a tent anyway.

    If your sleep patterns lead you to early morning hiking then consider yourself lucky. It is beautiful time to be awake and hiking.

  12. #12

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    I had the pleasure of hiking with Don's Brother, or Mike. He was a very positive and warming person to be around. We wore the same shoes and always chatted about how they were holding up. Fond memories there. I know he posts on this forum as well.


    I carried ear plugs during my thruhike. I always wore them while sleeping in a shelter. My thinking was that its my responsibility to ensure I have a good nights sleep, not everyone else in the shelter to cater towards my needs.

    I think waking up early is a non-issue, as long as it is communicated with your shelter mates before everyone falls asleep. I would also recommend packing up your gear outside of the shelter (if it is not raining). This will help keep the noise down.

    People are always getting up to take a leak in the middle of the night, and that will wake most people up for a few seconds either way. I would rather have someone wake up early, than someone snoring loudly all night.

    Another tip might be to pack up (should get down to taking 10-15 minutes), hiking a little bit and then stopping to eat breakfast. This will mean you are not making excess noise in the shelter while making a meal.


    -Salad Days
    Out of step with the world...

    My trail blog:
    http://saladdaysonthetrail.wordpress.com/

  13. #13
    Clueless Weekender
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    Hiking a little and then eating breakfast is a great solution.

    I envy you your ability to be active pre-dawn. I need jump-starting in the morning. In hot weather, being ready to roll as soon as you can see where you're going is a great way to beat the heat. Rest in deep shade in the hottest part of the day, and then move some more in late afternoon. This is the "ten before 10, five after 5" style that so many recommend. (I've never been able to pull it off. I'm just too sleepy and disorganized in the morning.)
    I always know where I am. I'm right here.

  14. #14

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    I stayed in a shelter in VA this spring because I got there late and all the decent tent sites were taken, but there was still room in the shelter.

    Little did I know there was a guy in there who was to get up well before dawn and then then spend the next 2 hours at the picnic table (which was directly in front and with in a few feet of the shelter) rustling plastic bags and gear, all the while shining his headlamp into the shelter. Annoying and inconsiderate doesn't come close to describing this behavior. Don't be this person or you will not have any friends. Thankfully for me, this jerk was SOBO so he went on to annoy some other group of hikers the next night.

    On the other hand, I've waken up in shelters and find I didn't even hear some of the people who were there pack up and leave. It takes some practice to be able to pack up quickly and quietly, but it can be done.

    Except for the middle of summer when you want to get up real early to beat the afternoon heat, you'll want to wait for the sun to have a chance to warm up the air a bit and lift the clouds before you get up. When it's cold and there are early morning showers happening, it's really tough to get out of that warm sleeping bag
    Follow slogoen on Instagram.

  15. #15
    Registered User swjohnsey's Avatar
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    If you go to sleep early you will wake up early. My eyes would fly open about an hour before sunrise. By the time it was light enough to move I had my coffee and was packed up and ready to move. I would hike for a couple of hours then stop to cook breakfast. I like to get most of my miles in before noon, take a nap then hike 'til it was time for dinner. Leisurely dinner then a couple of hours and find a spot to camp. Repeat.

  16. #16
    GoldenBear's Avatar
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    Lightbulb One thing to add

    I don't wake up before light because it's my sleeping pattern.
    I set my watch alarm to do so because hitting the trail at first light is the ONLY way I'm going to complete the miles I want to complete. I'm just too slow to start at a "normal" time and make significant progress.

    Partially because I know that just the sound of getting out of a sleeping bag is annoying to others, I always tent unless it's raining or the shelter is completely empty.

    But the other thing I've learned to do, is how to wrap up my equipment and start to pack my pack in pitch dark. Bizarre as it may sound, as a kid I loved the challenge of trying to do things with my eyes closed, so I got used to learning how to adjust things by touch alone. If you're going to start to pack up before dawn, learn to do so with your eyes closed; and then just do it on the trail.

    One bit of advice: the key to doing things without light is ORGANIZATION. Put the things you're going to need in the same place, relative to your pack, every night, just before you go to sleep. Nothing worse than fumbling around for your stuff sack because you left it somewhere in your pack the night before, instead of to the right of you in your tent.
    Last edited by GoldenBear; 08-21-2014 at 21:27.

  17. #17

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    After walking 20+ miles up and down steep mountains all day you will not have a problem sleeping, Take a tent and use it, and If you still have a problem sleeping take some kind of sleep aid, and if that fails you can always put on your Head Lamp and start waking.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gambit McCrae View Post
    All sounds correct here, only contingency is that due to the extra energy loss of walking all day, you might find that you need a little more sleep. I have found that most thru hikers after the initial couple nights seem to turn in about the time it gets dark and in peak summer I have seen shelters full and quiet 30-45 minutes before dark. I do agree that tenting has worked out better for me due to not having to worry about mice, I have a dog, snoring, snow blowing in, leaking roofs, racoons, dopers, sex maniacs, drunks and vandals all under some sense of tomfoolery or balyhoo. haha.

    Might want to refer to the Shelter Etiquette thread started this morning. I can see where getting up this early, and beating the heat for the day and napping in a shelter during the hot of the day, then continuing on until a tent spot is found would be a great strategy. As well, You could jsut tent AT the shelter sites if there is room
    Thanks for all the replies. As far as the spider webs I worked 30 years as a police officer with most of it in K9 and I can't tell you how many spider webs I cleared while tracking through the woods looking for people. Also, the part in bold has never been addressed in any of the books I've read on the AT and thru-hikes. Is it really much of a problem? And the tent suggestions is what I figured all along but I would imagine sleeping in a shelter might be desirable on certain weather nights.
    The More People I Meet The More I Like My Dog.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by peakbagger View Post
    Your lifetime sleep pattern may change. If it doesn't bring a tent and enjoy the early morning hiking. Most folks unknowingly shift their circadian rhythm in the first few weeks on the trail.
    I actually hope this happens.
    The More People I Meet The More I Like My Dog.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cro-Mag View Post
    I had the pleasure of hiking with Don's Brother, or Mike. He was a very positive and warming person to be around. We wore the same shoes and always chatted about how they were holding up. Fond memories there. I know he posts on this forum as well.


    I carried ear plugs during my thruhike. I always wore them while sleeping in a shelter. My thinking was that its my responsibility to ensure I have a good nights sleep, not everyone else in the shelter to cater towards my needs.

    I think waking up early is a non-issue, as long as it is communicated with your shelter mates before everyone falls asleep. I would also recommend packing up your gear outside of the shelter (if it is not raining). This will help keep the noise down.

    People are always getting up to take a leak in the middle of the night, and that will wake most people up for a few seconds either way. I would rather have someone wake up early, than someone snoring loudly all night.

    Another tip might be to pack up (should get down to taking 10-15 minutes), hiking a little bit and then stopping to eat breakfast. This will mean you are not making excess noise in the shelter while making a meal.


    -Salad Days
    Was Cro Mag your trail name? I'll look for it in the book.
    The More People I Meet The More I Like My Dog.

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