Preparing for a 2017 Thru-hike

My goal is to help a few hikers prepare especially if you are not lightweight backpacking.

The Major Players (same gear as 2014)

Osprey 50 L Pack, this held up well
Big Agnes Copper Spur and Tyvek footprint
Marmot Helium Sleeping Bag 15 Degree Down
Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad

Notes: I would purchase a ZPack Arc Haul if I had extra money just laying around and I would trade out my sleeping bag for a zero degree quilt.

I use the brain of my pack to hold a Platypus that I in-lined my Sawyer Mini into the drinking tube. I use a camera bag on each front strap, one for my phone and ID and one for my ipod. My tent will strap to the back of my pack instead of inside. I use a compact trash bag to line my pack with to keep everything dry. In 2014 I purchased a fleece blanket along the trail and loved it, but took up too much room and was heavy. I few months ago I picked up a an super light down quilt at Costco for 20.00, this should work or I will have to buy a fleece blanket somewhere along the way.

I removed the zipper on my sleeping bag because I would feel it as I tossed and turned. If I had the money I would buy a quilt instead of bag, I just cant sleep in a bag. I made a tent footprint out of tyvek., customizing enough for the vestibule and my gear! It was crazy cold in 2014 and the best item I had to keep me warm was an emergency blanket, but damn that was noisy as a chip bag. People snore, people toss and turn on noisy sleeping pads and some just talk loudly, big deal just wear ear plugs and try to sleep.

Clothing

Icebreaker compression pant
Icebreaker tech short sleeve
Glove liners (these saved my hands in 2014)
Salomon XA Pro 3D with Superfeet (can’t talk me out of these)
Darn Tough Socks
Dirty Girl Gaiters

Notes: I wore my Dirty Girls and my glove liners continuously. I loved my Salomons and highly recommend them with Superfeet insoles. I never had a problem with blisters so my advice is… never walk with wet socks, stop and put those dry ones on. Stop as soon as you feel a hot spot, place mole skin over a hot spot. I did say stop right? STOP! When you rest take off your shoes and socks, lay back and elevate those feet. As you break into your shoes and your feet toughen up having soaked feet will not be a concern for blisters but istead watch out for trench foot. This is caused by prolonged exposure to damp, cold, unsanitary conditions.  The foot become numbs, changes colour, swells and starts to smell due to damage to the skin, blood vessels and nerves in the feet.

Tummy issues: Diarrhea is horrible to have on the trail, become an expert and throwing that pack off your back within seconds. You may also want to have a second pair of pants/shorts in your pack just in case you have an accident. Gallon size ziplock bags will come in handy if you have messy and wet clothing. I took dried out wet wipes with me in a ziplock and would saturate them as I needed and also in my ziplock was a small spray bottle filled with alcohol for my hands and gear.

Camp Clothes

Mountain Hardware hooded down jacket
Crocs – camp shoes/water shoes
Trail Dress and Duofold base layer top and pant
Wool socks

Notes: When I got to my campsite I set everything up, then changed into my camp clothes. I used my base layers at camp with a trail dress over them if it was cold and then my puff jacket. I would set up a line of paracord to hang my damp clothing on and if it was raining I had rigged paracord in my tent so I could hang them inside. I slept with my dry hiking clothes in my sleeping bag. I enjoyed having a trail dress, I could hike, do laundry, sleep in it, go shopping and go out to a pub in it.

Cooking/Camp

MSR Windburner personal stove and fuel
1 Bic mini
Titanium long spoon and collapsible silicone bowl
Aloksak Bag
13 liter Sea to Summit Dry Sack (food bag)

Notes: I started out with a tuna can stove setup, and I changed that out right away. There were a lot of times I didn’t feel like cooking but when it was really cold I needed heated foods and beverages. As the weather got hotter, not so much but I stilled carried my stove system and would do it again. My tent has a vestibule and it is so easy just to heat up water without getting out of your tent. A coffee and cocoa mixture first thing in the morning was the best! In the evening I heated water for Emergen-C and then made my dinner. I enjoyed filtering water, cooking and eating with other hikers at the shelters. We shared stories of the day, wrote in the shelter journal and  looked out for one another.  There were also times when I just wanted me time, I ate a snickers and went straight to sleep.

Ibuprofen and Bynadryl – helped me get to sleep in the first few weeks but use these wisely. There will be a few who smoke and drink at the shelters and on the weekends you will find families, scouts and parties at the shelters. I stealth camped a few  weekends just to avoid the crowds since my sense of smell had gotten sensitive to cologne and laundry detergent.

The Rest

Dr. Bronner’s soap, toothpaste/brush, liquid bandage and comb.
Anker external battery (3-4 charges), USB cord
Ipod with ear buds MUST HAVE
Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack, small(for sleeping bag)
Black Diamond Trail ergo cork trekking poles (use poles, even on Katahdin)
Zpack backpack rain cover and a rain skirt
Two compact trash bag
Bandanas
Black Diamond Storm headlamp
Sawyer filter/LifeStraw
Smart water bottle w/sports cap
Platypus bag
para-cord
Repair kit
Leatherman
Sport Stick (stretch, massage) and knee wraps MUST HAVE
Ziplock baggies for packing out and protecting cards and electronics.
AWOL guide and Guthook’s Guide app on my phone. MUST HAVE

Notes:I listen to music all the time and use my ipod so that my phone battery stays charged.I keep my phone on airplane mode and use the camera and Guthook’s guide as necessary. Verizon works really well all along the trail.  I had a kindle with me for the last three months and loved it. Having a massage stick for my restless legs and for stretching is a must for me.

Water: finding it, carrying it, filtering it and having enough at camp for cooking, drinking and for breakfast was at the top of my list of importance every single day. I used my  titanium cup for scooping water into my platypus, then used my mini sawyer filter to clean my water.

Food

I enjoyed tortillas, cheese and fritos with hot sauce, mac and cheese, ramon, tuna and spam packets, nuts, candy, nuun hydrating electrolyte tablets, instant coffee, powder meals, pepperoni, instant potatoes. Foods simply cooked by the boil and soak methods made life wonderful and my tummy happy.

Peanut butter on everything, granola bars, pop tarts, tortillas or just by the spoonful! I like the plastic jars of peanut butter and when you are done you can make someones dog very happy licking that jar clean. Grab packets of honey, jelly, sauces and butter. Olive oil is great when you need more calories and when your meal is a bit on the dry side.

Random thoughts

I didn’t do the approach trail in 2014 and I wouldn’t do it this year either. I will just focus on getting to the first shelter from Springer Mt.at somewhat of a normal time. Army soldiers were doing their mountain training on my first hiking day and was in awe as I watched them running up the mountain fully geared while I was moving at a snails pace. When I got to Mountain Crossing I rewarded myself with a resupply box I had mailed beforehand and then used the same box to send items home that I didn’t need.

Hiking the AT is hiking not camping. Plan your items to reflect that then add your luxury items if that is what it takes to keep you on the trail. Never quite on bad day, when your wet, cold and hungry. Look behind you every so often so if you get slightly off trail you will recognize a tree, a fence a rock and know you are heading the right way. If you have a bad since of direction, just don’t go to far off the trail when relieving yourself or stealth camping. Hike your own hike and just have the time of your life!

Bringing a Dog

I have very few regrets taking my dog Jake in 2014, it was indeed awesome but I also experienced the hardships of long distance hiking with a dog. I often panicked when the afternoons became searing hot and the next watering hole was over nine miles away. Oh don’t get me started on those darn insect swarms and ticks. I was always aware of snakes, porcupines, bears and injuries that would take us both of the trail. I missed the freedom to enjoy restaurants, pubs and day trips. However I believe Jake had the best six months of his life, the adventures, the people and the bonding. There is a small part of me that that feels it may have been selfish to take him, but still I have no regrets.

What I would do different

I would start out just a bit lighter than 50 lbs and stay around 30-35 lbs. I will never be a ultra light backpacker, I just have too many comforts items that  I would rather not hike without. Those items kept me from quitting when times were at their toughest.

I would stick with my tent. I loved the hammock, but felt more at home and appreciated my privacy in a tent. I would totally bring and very light weight hammock for afternoon breaks. I would find the quietest sleeping pad possible, because pad crunching as you toss and turn is not pleasant for those around you trying to sleep.

I would plan to stay in town as little as possible. One day was never enough and well that meant spending more money. If I was taking a dog again I would make sure his pack had a harness so that lifting him up rocks would have been easier. Maybe I would bring a cat! He could eat mice every night!

I would make an effort to be at hiker feeds and holiday events and most of all write clever stories in the shelter journals and hostels.

My Gear as of 4/15/14

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Since I am waiting out weather here in Damascus I thought I would take pictures of my current gear.

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I have set up my sleeping bunk with my Helium sleeping bag, Thermolite liner and Thermorest stuff sack pillow and my electronics. Jake has is own comforts also.
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July UPDATE: Winter gear for Maine
Big Agnes Copper Spur2 (keeping Jake warm)
Osprey 50L (I would have liked to try ULA Curcuit)
Marmot Helium Sleeping Bag 15 Degree Down
Fleece blanket (instead of a liner)
Klymit Static V Sleeping Pad

Clothing Wearing
Skins A200 Thermal Compression pant
Minus33 Merino Wool Midweight Crew
Icebreaker Women’s Tech Short Sleeve
Glove Liners
Salomon XA Pro 3D
Darn Tough Sock (2 pair)
Wool Socks
Dirty Girl Gaiters
Precip Rain Jacket
Superfeet green

Camp Clothes
Mountain Hardware Hooded Down Jacket
Vivobarefoot Ultra Thin – camp shoes/water shoes
Trail Dress(wore this to sleep in when doing laundry)

Cooking Kit
MSR Mini Pocket Rocket
1 bic mini
Snow Peak Titanium 700
Optimus Titanium long spoon
2 Aloksak Bags(slept with food bag)
13 liter Sea to Summit Dry Sack (food bag)
Thermarest dry sack/pillow

Sawyer Squeeze
Steripen Adventure Opti (in addition to my filter for New England)
1 Platypus bag for non filtered water
1 1L Platypus bags with handle
1 Smart Water bottle
Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint soap
Wipes and hand sanitizer
Nail clipper
Comb
Toothpaste/brush
S4 phone with Seidio CSWSSGS4-BGOBEX Waterproof Case
Ipod classic 160 GB Black (7th Generation)
Cords/batteries

First Aid
Ibuprofen
Supplements
Sewing needle/thread
Safety pins
Duct Tape (placed on poles)

For Jake
Immunization papers
Musher’s Secret
Ultra Paws Durable Dog Boots
Tick Stick Removal Tool
Leash
Wolf Packs Banzai Medium (wish it a handle)
Folding travel bowl
Preventic Tick Collar
SENTINEL Heartworm and Flea Tabs
Bayer Advantix II 4-Month Dogs Over 55 Lbs

Miscellaneous
Sea to Summit eVent Compression Dry Sack, small(for sleeping bag)
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
Zpack Backpack Rain cover
2 Compact trash bag (one for wet tent/hammock)
Bandana
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp
AWOL 2014 (3rd section)
MSR Packtowel
50 ft. para-cord
Repair kit
Leatherman
Sunscreen
Deet lotion
Sport Stick (stretch, massage)

The Princess Tour

tiara

I met A.T. hikers, a Mother and daughter team that did over 800 miles going southbound last year.They started northbound at Springer Mountain just a few days after my start date.
the night we had the really bad experience at the Plumgrove shelter. Together we decided to flip flop the next portion of the A.T. by slack packing to avoid a group of hikers that we felt unsafe being around.

We dubbed ourselves the Princess Tour when we took our first zero which included a luncheon while allowing knees and feet to heal. Every zero day we take includes offering hikers a ride for resupply or a trip to an outfitter.
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We skipped the Smoky Mountains because of the freezing weather we saw coming in. Instead we shuttled hikers around the Smokies, took a couple to Knoxville because they were going home, gathered hikers for resupply and took Britican and his son Rugby back into Smokies from Gatlinburg (they are guys I rode with from Texas to Georgia).
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Today April 15th, my trail family went home. I will continue on and as I do I would like to thank Flash and Noodle for all the advice and fun times we shared. In the last few weeks I learned what true trail magic is all about. Flash helped me pick out my trail runner’s, let me borrow her Leatherman for the rest of my hike, suggested better ways to prepare my meals, helped with my resupply boxes and showed be a better system of packing my gear since I purchased a smaller pack. Flash and Noodle made me laugh and provided slack packing through some hard sections of the trail. They allowed me to yellow blaze (skip sections via car) when weather was miserable like today. They showered Jake with affection and I am grateful for their kindness.