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  1. #1
    Registered User Ehrickah's Avatar
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    :banana Tentative Start Mid February - opinions on this?

    Two friends i will be hiking with would like to start mid February, going NOBO from GA to ME. At first they wanted to start Feb 1st, but I got them to change it to mid-month because of my concern for the weather during this month, among a few other concerns- but one of my friends is very adamant about beating the crowd so this is the main reason for the early start date.. I know there can be snow in the southern states all the way into May, so we will be hiking in snow to start either way.

    I guess i am just looking for opinions on starting mid-Feb. concerns and anything we should be aware of/knowledgeable about before setting off? I have a 20 Degree synthetic EMS bag, and i will be purchasing a liner, probably silk. my friend has a Big Agnes 3 season tent, 3 person, but i will also be bringing my own 2 person Tarptent for the nights that id like to spend alone. I am also looking at a pair of Asolo boots for the trek, either the Fugitives or the TPS 520 GV's. both boots fit great. I am just undecided about whether to hike in leather or not during the summer months, considering leather is not as breathable as the Fugitives. I know the TPS 520's will be better in the winter months, though, with the snow than the fugitives will but both seem to be excellent regardless. I have hardly come across any bad reviews on either boot. and if i have it was an minor detail as to why the person got a different brand.

    I know tarptents are highly recommended as well, but i'd also like to know opinions from people on here, especially in regards to the winter months. I haven't found one negative review on these tents either.

    As far as everything else, all is in line. Just need to save the appropriate funds for the trip.

    Thanks for any help you can give.

  2. #2
    Fat Guy Lemni Skate's Avatar
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    I personally wouldn't do it. When I have done winter hiking I always work up a sweat going up hill and then get chilled (I haven't mastered layering). While you might indeed get snow in May, you won't get the copious amounts possible in Feb. With a February start you will likely be forced off the trail a time or two.

    Still, this shouldn't stop you from doing it. You just need to be prepared with warm enough gear (you seriously don't want to be cold at night). Also, make sure you do some shakedown hikes so you know what gear is right for you.

    With a mild winter this could be quite nice, but you seriously shouldn't count on any real warmth for 3 months. That can take it's toll on your psyche. I hike Shenandoah National Park and Northern Virginia one year from May 16 - June 1 and didn't get a day over 62 degrees until May 30 (and woke up to temperatures below freezing 4 or 5 times). I got to a hot bath around May 27 and stayed in it for about 2 hours.

    As miserable as I remember being sometimes, it was the best two weeks of my life.
    Lemni Skate away

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  3. #3
    Registered User Ehrickah's Avatar
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    See this is my concern. I don't want to be forced off the trail for a day or two because of weather. The other thing too, is I have done a few winter day hikes, and neither of my friends have. One of my friends will not be able to do ANY winter hikes before February because he lives in FL. (my other friend and I live in CT so we are used to the winter weather and know how it can get) we are flying to Miami to meet up with him, kickin it there for a few days, then heading to GA. the only advantage this guy has is that he runs 100 miles+ a week, and is in SUPPPPPER good health and shape. But I do know that the winter can be unforgiving even to experienced hikers. I mean, I am by no means as experienced as the majority of people on here on here, but like i said, i have done a few day hikes during the winter. But even that is just a taste of what winter hiking is all about.

    Thanks for the tips.

  4. #4
    Registered User Ehrickah's Avatar
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    The other thing two is that we would like to do 8 miles a day in the beginning. I don't know how feasible this is going to be starting that early. it may take us longer to do the hiker than we would like if this is the case.

  5. #5
    Registered User Ehrickah's Avatar
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    Actually i KNOW is going to take us a lot longer than we want if we have to deal with the snow fall that comes in Feb. Thanks.

  6. #6
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    My two cents. March has the heaviest snowfall in the southern Appalachians. If you guys hit the Smokies in March expect snow, possibly lots of it. I like to start long hikes easy and work my old, out of shape body into trail shape slowly. What you guys are doing would be the exact opposite. I do like winter hiking, but breaking snow on the trail is extremely taxing. Not sure I'd want to start a 2000+ mile hike like that. But, having said that, it may well turnout to be one of the most interesting times you spend on the trail. Go for it!

  7. #7

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    You'll freeze your azz off with a 20 degree bag in February.

  8. #8

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    I'd tell your friends that THEY can start in Feb if they like, but YOUR going to start in mid March and that you'll catch up to them quick enough, IF they happen to still be on the trail.
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  9. #9
    PCT, Sheltowee, Pinhoti, LT , BMT, AT, SHT, CDT 560 miles 10-K's Avatar
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    If I were starting a NOBO I'd start in May.

  10. #10
    Peakbagger Extraordinaire The Solemates's Avatar
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    we started 1 feb. wasnt a big deal, and we did it in a big snow year. had 3 foot drifts in places. but we had lots of winter experience. no way that i'd take a 20-degree bag though. you need a 0-degree.

    if we were to do it again we'd start either New Years or Mother's Day if going nobo
    The only thing better than mountains, is mountains where you haven't been.

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  11. #11

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    I have done a fair amount of winter hiking - used to love it - but age has taken the edge off the enjoyment of it for me. I remember one Easter Sunday Eve spent in the Wayah Bald stone shelter, with the inside coated with about 1/2" of ice. We pitched our tent inside and took our flies off and tried to secure them over the windows to keep the wind out. (And that was supposed to be a spring hike.) I could go on and on. Everything takes longer in the winter, even the simplest things, and the necessary pack weight is greatly increased. You'll learn all this soon enough, as you go along. Just get good boots (yours sound OK), don't forget the gaiters, layer up and, for God's sake, get a bag suited to those temps. 20F is not going to cut it...

  12. #12
    Registered User Ehrickah's Avatar
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    thank you for your comments everyone this really helps. i figured this would be what i needed to hear. i guess it was just my novice to winter hiking getting the best of me! i just need to be better prepared

  13. #13

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    I'm starting early February. Going slow. Take a look at these FTRSS BAGS. http://wiggys.com

  14. #14

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    Your friend who runs 100 miles a week is likely to be bored as heck doing only 8 miles a day to start. If it's cold you want to spend more time hiking and less time camping (camping involves sitting around and getting chilled if it's really cold).

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by map man View Post
    Your friend who runs 100 miles a week is likely to be bored as heck doing only 8 miles a day to start. If it's cold you want to spend more time hiking and less time camping (camping involves sitting around and getting chilled if it's really cold).
    That may or may not be true. When I was running about half that, it always disappointed me that more of my conditioning didn't port over to backpacking. I finally understood that, although the aerobic oxygen transport system was in good shape, running is hamstring heavy (particularly since he's running in FL, as opposed to hilly areas). Backpacking in the mountains is very heavy on the quads. It always seemed that I spent the first several days stretching out my calves, hams and lower back, and it hurt like hell...

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by 10-K View Post
    If I were starting a NOBO I'd start in May.
    Agreed, starting real early is not the way to deal with the crowds, the way to deal with crowds is to go southbound, or start late, not early.

    It does not sound like anyone in your group has long distance hiking experience or winter backpacking experience. Day hiking in winter is one thing, when your car, a hot coffee and a shower are a few hours away...this will do little to prepare you as hiking is mainly a mental thing, not physical, although obviously the more trail fit you are the better, being an avid runner won't necessarily prepare you for the trail.

    If you are worried about crowds, go south or start in very late April or early May, you can always flip. Both starting times mean having more time to save money, and these days most people need 4-5 grands for a thru-hike.

    I would not expect to stay with your friends, and I would definately not share a shelter with them. The 3 of you should go self-sufficient and 'plan' on hiking together, everything will be different to what you think it will. Get a down bag, on footwear, remember how heavy your boots will be when wet, remember you lift your feet 1500 times per mile, consider that.

    Good luck! Long distance hiking is an amazing experience!

  17. #17
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    Most of the time the hikers who start this early don't make it. They expend so much energy fighting the deep snow and cold that they drop out early. If you don't beleive me check out the early starters on Trail Journals. Most of the early starters who make it have lucked into some good weather or they use the run and duck method which means you look for a short period of good weather in the forecast and then go fast to the next trail town or hostle where they live until the weather clears. If you are serious about making it to Maine then be serious about your start date. No earlier than the last week of March.

  18. #18
    Registered User Ehrickah's Avatar
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    It seems to me that if we start this early we need a verrrrry large amount of experience with winter hiking. I talked to my friend about it last night and hes still very adamant. He said he has winter camping experience but i do not believe purely because we grew up together and he never once told me about any of his experiences. This troubles me. I don't think he really knows what hes getting into with winter camping. I understand most of it is mental, and all three of us are confident we can hike the trail all the way, but start date is my only concern. I dont want to get down to FL and have to bum around for weeks on end waiting to start because of snow. Not my cup of tea. it'll be a waste of money. Money i don't have.

    so with that being said, any recommendations for gear for winter? what is the southern portion like Feb-May? Do i need a -40 bag to start in winter/march? or just 0? i can mail my 20 bag up further to swap out as the weather gets warmer. What about boots? How well does leather really hold up in snow?

    Ive debated doing a solo hike, purely based on my current level of experience with hiking, starting it differently than they want. But also for spiritual purposes as well.

  19. #19
    1,630 miles and counting earlyriser26's Avatar
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    I have hiked the Smokies 7X, but only once in Mid-March. That year we had waist deep snow in many sections. The snow was so bad half our group quit and we spent a few 12 hour days hiking 7 miles. You would likely hit the Smokies between the 7th and the 15th of March, you can do it, but be ready.
    There are so many miles and so many mountains between here and there that it is hardly worth thinking about

  20. #20

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    If you start in February you more than likely will not miss the crowds...you will only spend more money or quit. Your hiking hours will be shorter due to the time of year and with a 20* bag, you will be spending alot of "down time" (zeros) in towns to avoid the bad weather. This will cost you not only money but enough time that the crowd will catch and probably pass you.
    I love winter hiking and camping, in fact I rarely back pack in warm weather unless I'm thru hiking but backpacking in cold weather and hiking the first 4 months in cold weather are two different things.
    I would seriously consider starting may 1st after the crowds or go southbound as earlier suggested.

    geek

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