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  1. #1
    Registered User Lewis Clark's Avatar
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    Default An old noob looking for advice.

    Hey All!

    I am planning on doing a through walk of the AT, north bound, in 2020. I'll be 62 that year. I am in much better shape than I was 3 years ago, and still working on that aspect. At least I'm off of all meds now. Almost don't need the CPAP anymore. I'm feeling good about my chances. The problem is that I've not had a lot of experience in hiking/camping. I've already made the mistake of buying my hammock, sleeping bag and backpack without a lot of knowledge or advice. I figure I should be ok with these items for my training time before I actually start the trail.

    Would you be comfortable with a 30 degree mummy bag, or would you recommend a 0 degree? I plan on starting in Georgia at the end of February, or beginning of March, and ending in August, maybe as late as early September in Maine. Generally, I don't mind the cold at all, but realize that sustained cold is a different animal than a couple hours at 20 F dressed in a light jacket.

    Currently, I am walking around ten miles a day, and need to build that up to about 20. I'm just walking around town at this point, so it is mostly flat, and unobstructed. I live on the plains, so this really is about the only practice I will get apart from hiking out to the local county and state parks for an evening or two of camping. I know the AT will require a lot more out of me than my training will, but will this be sufficient to get me on the AT, and then let the trail toughen me up as it can?

    Sorry for sounding so pathetically clueless, but I am pathetically clueless right now. This insane idea of doing a through walk hit me about a month ago, and I'm just in the beginning phase of figuring it all out before I go. I may have the opportunity to do a four week hike next summer as I have friends that live near the Smokies.

    Any advice you have for this old duffer, to help me get myself ready would be greatly appreciated.

  2. #2
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    I have one idea that might help you w/r/t training. You're right to suspect that going up and down hills with a load is a LOT different than doing that on flat ground. Do you have access to a treadmill that could increase the grade on you, by elevating the front end? Hopefully someone else has tried this and can comment on whether it's helpful or not.

    It probably can't simulate downhills, and those have their own issues (shoe fit, knee strength), but fatigue isn't as much one of them.

  3. #3
    13-45 Section Hiker Trash Berserker's Avatar
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    The best advice I can give that doesn't really specifically answer your questions is to just get out and do some overnight backpacking trips. There's no substitute for experience. Start with whatever gear you feel comfortable with (there's a ton of info on gear on here that you can search around for), and take it from there. It took me many years and lots of gear to dial in where I'm at now. It may not take you that long, but the point is you just need to get out.

    Also, after you get out a few times make sure to go out in inclement weather to get some experience with that too. You don't want to just go out when it's mild and sunny the whole time, because your not going to get a lot of days like that on a thru hike.

    As for training for a thru you don't have to hit the trail in incredible shape unless you are trying to do the thru in specific amount of time. You'll get in shape as you work your way up or down the trail. If you are already walking 10 miles a day that's way more than probably 90% of people are doing that hit the trail.
    Last edited by Berserker; 07-27-2018 at 12:28.
    AT: 2007-2019 (45 sections)
    JMT: 2013

  4. #4

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    I don't think a 30 degree bag will be adequate unless you carry the appropriate bag liner. I started April 7, 2018 at Springer and experienced 3 nights when the temperature dipped into the teens, and I was quite glad that I had a 19 degree bag. There were also many other nights in the 20's. Starting as early as you indicated, will expose you to the possibility of extended winter weather. Being from MN you probably are comfortable in the cold, but the howling wind and blowing snow can make it extremely cold. Even with my 19 degree bag, I still needed to wear most of my clothing to sleep on those 3 nights.

  5. #5

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    There are a lot of YouTube videos on all aspects of hiking and camping, some better than others. Watch the thru hiker ones doing post thru hike gear reviews, they offer a lot of great insight and will help you dial in what works for you.

    I switched from a tent to a hammock for my AT section hikes and love it. Shug has great hammock videos and The Ultimate Hang is a great book.

    Iím about 10y behind you and quickly learned ultralight is the approach for me and my knees. Less is more when the goal is hiking AT miles and not camping. My summer base weight (pack gear without food, water, or fuel) is ~11 pounds with a 1.5 lb CPAP and battery so I donít carry any more than needed for safety and comfortable survival). Donít need much gear when your day is spent walking.

    Know your gear and itís limitations, if you can setup/breakdown camp (pack off to full setup and the reverse) in 10m or less you have your system really worked out well, know how to use it, and probably arenít carrying many luxury items . BTW, hanging a bear bag and fetching water isnít included in the 10m...

    As other posters have said, hike/camp in bad weather, youíll learn a lot about your gear, itís much better to figure things out over a weekend trip than on the AT.

    Stairs with a pack on are great for training and layering is key. Youíll need more layers in the colder months when at elevation, but will be able to mail them home when it warms up.

    Hope my random thoughts help, good luck!


    Sent from my iPad using Tapatalk Pro

  6. #6
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    Default

    I would definitely read through old posts on here and check out hammockforums is you plan on using a hammock for your thru hike. You can also go to The Trek and read some of the blogs, gear reviews, pre and post hike gear lists, etc. I've learned a lot on there. Like it has already been said, just getting out there and spending a couple days out hiking and setting up your gear will help you figure that part out. You will find that what works for one person will likely not work for the next. Tent vs hammock, shoes vs boots, canister stove vs alcohol stove, etc.

    I don't know if you have trekking poles or not but I think they are worth their weight in gold. I recommend getting yourself a reliable pair with flip locks rather than twist locks and get use to using them now.

    If you go with a hammock there is a whole slew of questions regarding that, but those will be covered by spending some time reading stuff at hammockforums.

    Best of luck and keep doing what you are doing!

  7. #7
    GSMNP 900 Miler
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    Even down here in the south, you can expect below freezing weather in February, might even experience some snow. By the time you hit the high elevations of the Smokies, you're likely to experience temperatures well down into the 20s, and even as low as single digits if a cold front comes thru while you are there.

    Speaking of the Smokies, their National Park rules there require that you camp in the AT shelters. A hammock is treated the same as tent campers, and you are only allowed to tent at the shelters if the shelter is over-flowing with thru hikers. Overflowing or not, hammocks also can not be attached to the shelters either.

    Beyond that, I do not know if there are or are not other places along the AT where you need to be aware of rules that potentially limit your ability to hammock.

  8. #8

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    A 30 degree bag is okay for a mid April start, but no way for the end of Feb or early March. A 0 degree bag would be a much better choice. Personally, I'd go with a 10 or 15 degree bag, which would be a little less expensive, along with being a little lighter and less bulk. But I tend to push the limits of my sleep system, maybe a little farther then I should at times.

    The best thing to do is to get out and do some overnight trips. I looked up your location on the map and it looks like you'd have to travel a long ways to do that though. Plan a week or two trip next summer as a shake down.
    The AT - It has it's ups and downs...

  9. #9
    13-45 Section Hiker Trash Berserker's Avatar
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    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Slo-go'en View Post
    I looked up your location on the map and it looks like you'd have to travel a long ways to do that though. Plan a week or two trip next summer as a shake down.
    To hike the AT yes, but just to get some backpacking experience nahhhh.

    There's plenty of state parks and wilderness areas in Northern MN and Northern WI that probably aren't more than a half day drive at the most where he could get some good experience. Those areas are gonna have lots of bugs (especially mosquitos), bears and rain...all the fun stuff you get on the AT.

    I'm not super familiar with the details of some of these areas so maybe some of the MN/WI WBers can chime in.
    AT: 2007-2019 (45 sections)
    JMT: 2013

  10. #10
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    Default

    Marshall is kinda out there on the prairie , so it would be about 5 hours to drive up to Duluth, but the Superior hiking trail is great.
    fortis fortuna adjuvat

  11. #11

    Default

    Head west to the Black Hills

  12. #12

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    I always give the same advice for experts and beginners alike: Sleep outside every night in your backyard or on your deck or porch or patio. Get so used to your backpacking sleeping system (and/or shelter) that you prefer it over your indoor setup, i.e. bed.

    Once you crave sleeping "out" you'll conquer one big part of backpacking.

    As far as training, well, everybody's all over the map. Bicycling, running, swimming, weight training, whatever. The best in my opinion is to load up your pack with significant weight (in your case maybe 40lbs) and start hiking everywhere or around the house 200 times or up and down in a stairwell of a high building.

    These two facets---Sleeping Outdoors and Hiking with Weight are the main challenges.

  13. #13
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    Do a few multi-night backpacking trips to get used to your gear. You just won't really know how you use things until you've spent a few consecutive days being tired/wet/cold/hot and trying to set up a shelter and cook after a day of hiking. You'll probably change quite a bit of your gear after you try using it. Internet reviews are a great starting point but just because someone else likes product A better than B doesn't mean that you will. Sleeping bag warmth, for example, is a very personal thing: some people sleep much colder than others. I wouldn't even consider a FEB start with a 30 degree bag myself because I'm a cold sleeper (and would much rather do a late start or flip flop to avoid crowds over trying to hike in winter besides.)

  14. #14
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    Default

    Walking 10 miles a day is awesome btw. I would also recommend some weight training if you have the means to do so. Not only will building up your leg and back muscles help it also strengthens your bones and tendons to help prevent injuries.

  15. #15

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    Go into the woods.

  16. #16

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    I've not through hiked the whole AT yet. This was going to be the year but I had to wait. I've hiked a lot of parts of sections for training and fun. Even in Georgia (like Tray Mountain) it can get to the mid-teens, and the wind is something to behold -- sounds like a jet aircraft taking off at the airport at a distance over and over and coming at you over the ridges. So, I concur: go with the warmer bag. For practice on flatland go to your local forested spot on cold night, walk 15+ miles, camp there, wake up early, walk a mile or two, get someone to come pick you up and take you to a town, eat breakfast, and then walk to the local stadium and climb & descend the stairs for a couple two-three + of hours. Then catch a ride back into the woods and walk another few miles. If its raining or snowing -- then, all the better.

  17. #17

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    You need multiple bags
    For a Feb start, 0 probably ok

    Go for a week somwhere steep first
    With full pack food water
    It may not not be something you really like. Quite a few discover that the idea...is more fun than the reality
    Last edited by MuddyWaters; 07-28-2018 at 06:35.

  18. #18
    Registered User Lewis Clark's Avatar
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    Marshall, Minnesota
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    Default

    Just wanted to thank you all for your thoughts. I have the luxury of time on my side as far as when I plan on starting to hike the AT, so I should be able to use and abuse the equipment I currently have, and then make changes as needed. I'm going to not buy anything new until I've read a bunch of blogs and reviews, which will, hopefully, make the selection process a bit cheaper.

    The nearest State Park is only 12 miles from my house, and that puts it in hiking range. I can start testing the equipment I have, myself, and my cooking/foods preparations. I'm a bit concerned about hearing about rules in the Smokies that might kep me from using the hammock. Not what I was expecting at all, but adaptation is an important characteristic I need to improve! I may try out a tent as well to see which I prefer. I can't imagine that tick checks are easy to do in a hammock, and I embarrass easily!

    I will get out there, as that seems to be the very best way to break through the barrier of fear/indecision.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by Lewis Clark View Post
    Hey All!

    I am planning on doing a through walk of the AT, north bound, in 2020. I'll be 62 that year. I am in much better shape than I was 3 years ago, and still working on that aspect. At least I'm off of all meds now. Almost don't need the CPAP anymore. I'm feeling good about my chances. The problem is that I've not had a lot of experience in hiking/camping. I've already made the mistake of buying my hammock, sleeping bag and backpack without a lot of knowledge or advice. I figure I should be ok with these items for my training time before I actually start the trail.

    Would you be comfortable with a 30 degree mummy bag, or would you recommend a 0 degree? I plan on starting in Georgia at the end of February, or beginning of March, and ending in August, maybe as late as early September in Maine. Generally, I don't mind the cold at all, but realize that sustained cold is a different animal than a couple hours at 20 F dressed in a light jacket.

    Currently, I am walking around ten miles a day, and need to build that up to about 20. I'm just walking around town at this point, so it is mostly flat, and unobstructed. I live on the plains, so this really is about the only practice I will get apart from hiking out to the local county and state parks for an evening or two of camping. I know the AT will require a lot more out of me than my training will, but will this be sufficient to get me on the AT, and then let the trail toughen me up as it can?

    Sorry for sounding so pathetically clueless, but I am pathetically clueless right now. This insane idea of doing a through walk hit me about a month ago, and I'm just in the beginning phase of figuring it all out before I go. I may have the opportunity to do a four week hike next summer as I have friends that live near the Smokies.

    Any advice you have for this old duffer, to help me get myself ready would be greatly appreciated.
    First of all, adjust your attitude. Sixty isn't old!! I was 62 before I hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon the first time. Since then, I have been to the bottom 38 times. At age 75, I am still a strong hiker. At age 60, you are at the prime of your life. Don't think of yourself as old.
    Shutterbug

  20. #20
    Registered User Venchka's Avatar
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    Default

    Stop reading what everyone else is doing.
    Start doing with gear that works for you.
    Read REIís no questions asked return policy. Use it to get good long term real world use out of gear that you must have for a thru hike.
    Everything that touches your body MUST fit you. Not random folks on the internet.
    Foot gear. Backpack. Sleeping system. Shelter. Food. All has to fit YOU. Not me. Not anyone else. Just you.
    One area where you might get good insight from other thru Hikers is the hammock versus tent. A hammock Forum or two might help with that discussion.
    Top and under quilts are preferred in place of sleeping bags in hammocks.
    Be prepared for single digit mornings, + or -, in February and into March. Snow at higher elevations into April. Rain, wind and temperatures in the low 30s can be the most dangerous conditions on AT.
    Spend as much time as you can on the AT or similar locations (latitude and elevation) from Thanksgiving to Easter. If you enjoy hiking and camping during that time of the year then thru hiking will be fun.
    Cheers!
    Wayne

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