AT Thru-Hike (Prep In Progress)

**This page is old. For the foreseeable future, I will not be doing a thru hike, of the AT, or any other long trail… just section hiking for me until life presents other options. However, I am leaving this page here for the sake of nostalgia. I enjoy reading through my old post, especially when I dream(ed) so big. Please keep in mind if you read through this though, it is old, which means outdated. Some links may not work, and the gear list is outdated. If you have questions, feel free to post them below and if I can help with up-to-date info, I will be more than happy to do so! Thanks. (9/12/16)**

Can you imagine what it would be like to take that first step from Springer Mountain…the thoughts rattling inside your head…pure excitement, wonder and awe, lifting one foot at a time and placing it in front of the other…eager to see what’s around the next corner…but not too eager to miss what’s in front of you at the moment…every step laid out before you and waiting for you…on the continuous footpath that leads from Georgia to Maine…

When I first started this blog, all I could think about was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, and to this day, I still find myself thinking about this, a lot… Also, this time of the year happens to be an inspiring time for any would-be thru~hiker. This is the time of the year that hikers begin their journey north, from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine. So, for the would-be thru~hiker (me) this time of the year really gets our brain to itching…

My goal is to thru~hike this trail, from one end to the other, at one time in the year 2013. Last year, 1,460 people set out from Springer Mountain in Georgia to accomplish the same task I am planning to do, but only 349 people were able to complete the entire trail. This clearly shows that people get off the trail for many different reasons; some which cannot be helped (such as injury), but some that can be (such as ill-planning). For this reason, I am planning as much of my trip as I can now. I am getting prepared. (For more stats click here.)

By planning, I mean there are numerous things I am currently doing. For instance, I am following others hikes (such as Wallace & Annette Hunters current AT thru~ hike) and learning what works for them, and most importantly, why it works. I also study other people’s gear list which have already successfully hiked the trail. Of course I read books by people who have thru-hiked as well as stories and even other people’s blogs on the net. As well, Trailjournals offer some nice insights and offer nuggets that can make you aware of the simple things overlooked. I also enjoy hanging out in backpacking forums and asking questions and just reading everyone elses thoughts on everything from gear to, well… there are a lot of things discussed in the forums… 🙂

Now I know that simply reading about it will not necessarily prepare me for the trail, so I like to take every opportunity I get to try out my gear. Also, testing my gear may not always be out on the trail somewhere…I have been known to sleep outside in my yard on many a night. But I get a feel, a personal understanding on how the actual gear works for me, which is very important. Finding out that a sleeping pad doesn’t keep my bum warm in the field is something that can easily be dealt with before I get on the trail. So, I try out my gear first, before I need to rely on it.

On another note, I have come across a lot of stories of how people simply packed a bag and headed out on the trail and some have made it. So, in this light, there is obviously a bit of luck that can go along with the journey… I am just hoping that I can use my share of luck on things that I really need it for, like finding that ride into town 5 miles away after hiking in the rain for 4 days, while everything I own is soaked and I’m cold… Just sayin’…

So, after all of that, what is the Appalachian Trail? As can be seen from the map below, it is a continuous footpath that leads from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt Katahdin in Maine.  The trail is, on average, 2,175 miles long, however, this figure is subject to change at any given time due to rerouting/maintenance of the trail. And if your curious, it takes approximately 5 million steps to complete the trail…

The trail winds through 14 different states :

  1. Maine (281.4 miles)
  2. New Hampshire (160.9 miles)
  3. Vermont (149.8 miles)
  4. Massachusetts (90.2 miles)
  5. Connecticut (51.6 miles)
  6. New York (88.4 miles)
  7. New Jersey (72.2 miles)
  8. Pennsylvania (229.6 miles)
  9. Maryland (40.9 miles)
  10. West Virginia (4 miles)
  11. Virginia (550.3 miles)
  12. Tennessee (287.9 miles)
  13. North Carolina (95.5 miles)
  14. Georgia (76.4 miles)

*Mileages taken from the Appalachian Trail Conservancy site.

Other than this, the trail also crosses through 6 National Park systems, 8 National Forests, and numerous other state and local forests and park systems.

Regardless of how unseemingly long this foot path is, following the trail is quite simple. There are some 165,000 (+/-) white blazes painted onto trees, rocks, roads, posts, and no telling what else along the entire trail. So, to get from one end to the other, all one has to do is to simply follow the white blazes… And if you need a break along the long, winding trail, there are 250+ shelters, lean-tos and huts along the trail, spaced out on average between 8 – 12 miles apart. These structures are generally open, three-walled structures with a wooden floor, although some shelters are much more complex in structure.

Cosby Knob Shelter on the AT in the Great Smoky Mountian National Park

As far as the trail itself, there are quite a few ups and downs along the entire trail (which does well to rival their bigger brothers in the west). It is said that the “hardest” sections of the AT are at each end of the trail, with the “easier” section being in between. The climb out of Georgia is quite tough (I have experienced this for myself) but they say that the trail leading out of Maine is a little tougher. There is some theory that this is one reason most hikers begin NOBO (North Bound) rather than SOBO (South Bound).

The net elevation gain and loss of the entire trail has been debated, but I have not found a source that is definite. In one thread on WhiteBlaze.net, one poster has stated this:

NOBO:
Total Ascent: 629899 ft
Total Descent: 628623 ft

SOBO:
Total Ascent: 628546 ft
Total Descent: 629832 ft

As well, in that same thread another poster stated that according to a November 2008 edition of Backpacker magazine, the elevation change of the AT is 515,000 feet. Also, just reading though some of the other post in the same thread, others have said that it is “91 vertical miles” and even “14-17 Everest summits.” How true any of this is, I haven’t a clue. But what I do know is that the lowest elevation the AT reaches is 124 feet which is located at Bear Mountain Bridge which crosses the Hudson River in New York, and the highest is 6,625 feet which is when the trail crosses over Clingman’s Dome in the Great Smoky Mountain National park in Tennessee. And the AT bounces all over the place between these two elevations…

So, as you can see, the Appalachian Trail (or simply referred to as the “AT” by hikers) is a lot of trail! And this amount of trail, along with the estimated 2-3 million visitors which hike a portion (or all)  of the Appalachian Trail each year, requires quite a bit of maintenance. So, to do this, the trail is maintained by a variety of citizen organizations, environmental advocacy groups, governmental agencies and individuals as well as 31 trail clubs. Annually, more than 4,000 volunteers contribute over 175,000 hours of effort on the Appalachian Trail, an effort coordinated largely by the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) organization.

So, now that you know a little about the AT, you may or may not understand my desire to hike this trail. God has given us a beautiful world and the AT is a footpath which gives us a glimpse at a tiny portion of that gift, regardless of how long the actual trail measures. I want to spend time out in the mystery. I want to experience the joys of “sleeping with the trees” and then waking up with the smell of wildflowers in my nose and watching the sun light spill over the mountain crest. I want to look down at the top of the clouds as they are caught between ridge lines, and then to watch them as they gently flow over those ridge lines like waterfalls…

So, I am preparing. The biggest part of my preparation at this time is my gear. At this point there is no reason for me to prepare for my meal plans, and to plan an actual hiking itinerary would be futile (although some may disagree). I will begin planning my meal plan towards the end of next year since at this point I plan on using mail drops to replenish my food supplies. And as far as planning an itinerary, well, I will take it one day at a time.

But my gear selections, well I can start preparing this. Heading NOBO from Springer Mountain the first normal stopping point is about 30 miles up the trail, at an Outfitter called Mountain Crossings which is located at Neel’s Gap. (The trail actually goes right through this building, pretty cool!) The staff here “evaluates over 500 packs each year and ships back over 9000 lbs of gear from the store.” That’s a lot of gear, but it’s because many people begin with way too much gear. As well, the staff here will help to outfit hikers with more appropriate gear if needed/wanted. So, my goal at this time is to take the very long amount of time I have until my thru and properly evaluate my gear to begin with. By doing this, I will save myself time and money, as well as undue misery due to hiking with poor fitting gear, or gear that simply does not work, and not to mention from carrying a much too heavy load! Now this is not to say that I will eliminate every possible problem, there is always potential for gear failures, and especially on this long of a hike, but by doing this I will eliminate the obvious ones.

At this point, I have already upgraded much of my gear that I initially bought, however, there is still more that I plan on upgrading for use on my thru (about $1000 more). A great way to keep up with and to plan this is to simply use a Spreadsheet Document and lay it all out there. Using a Spreadsheet Document is nice because I am able to plug-in formulas to do all of my calculations for me. I had previously been using a simple Word Document and while it was simpler to use than the Spreadsheet Document, I quickly tired of the constant recalculations. So, last night I sat down and finally decided to tackle the Spreadsheet…

Gear List Excerpt ~ For Full Gear List Click On Picture Or On Link Below

So, I have finally gotten my gear list on a Spreadsheet Document that is simple for me and I can go thorough it rather quickly to evaluate many different aspects of my gear. Plus, since I am still testing out what gear works for me, I can very easily make changes and the formulas will take care of all the hard work! If you are interested, my full gear list can be viewed by clicking on the link below:

AT Thru~Hike Gear List

As for other details, my wife will drive me to the trail head near Springer Mountain sometime in April to begin my NOBO hike, although being the amount of time between now and then, the date is still not set in stone. And since my wife will not be joining me on the hike, she will be able to handle/ship all of my mail drops for resupply, so that will be a great help. As well, she will also be at the house to keep everything going smooth there too while I am away. Of course though, she and my children will drive up and meet me as much as possible, and she has agreed to even hike small sections of the trail with me so that will be nice. As far as time planned to hike the trail, I am estimating 4 1/2 months of actual hiking. However, I am going to request off 6 months from work so that I will have some time before I head out on my hike as well as a few weeks at the end before I have to go back.

So, anyway, I have been in deep-thought recently about my thru~hike and wanted to share my thoughts and my “progress” so far. If you have any questions please feel free to post them below and I will get back to you!

Thanks for reading…

~Stick~

38 Responses to AT Thru-Hike (Prep In Progress)

  1. Pingback: September 2016 AT Section Hike: Sam’s Gap to Hot Spring’s… & Other Things In-Between!!! | Stick's Blog

  2. Tim says:

    Hi Stick,

    Just a few gear/health tips from an accomplished (old fart) AT thru-hiker, if you are still planning to make such a hike.

    I think light trail runners will work right up to the 501 Shelter in PA on a northbound. You might get 300-400 miles a pair. Once you cross 501, you immediately start to get those boot eating rocks, pointy little rascals buried halfway in the soil, spaced so you can’t walk between them. If you don’t have a fresh 5 mm Vibram quality tread with a plate or a shank between it and the mid-sole along with a good toe protector (like on a Keen), you’re going to be feeling every one of those including the loose rocks you put through the uprights on a night hike (goal!), and they don’t stop at Delaware Water Gap, PA either. They recur on and off in NJ after the bridge for quite a ways. Whereas you might get 700-800 miles out of 5 mm of tread, expect a few hundred less because of these godforsaken rocks.

    Maine is famous for roots, and you need some protection there too, but a stabilized/protected trail runner will work okay there. NH and ME have some slippery rocky alpine sections, and the planks designed to keep you out of knee deep bogs through New England are slippery than hell ( I should know, I’ve slid the full length of one with cat like recovery), so make sure your rubber/tread can grip well when wet. A shoe that drains well and can be taken off easily is great to have, as well as a few extra dry pairs of low cut socks because you have about 10 substantial river fords to make in Maine. I got lucky drought kept the depth levels down a bit. Try to time your ferry crossing with the times the AT ferry/canoe driver is available.This river is DEEP and WIDE and the dam is released every now and then. It’s much too dangerous to swim across. The canoe has a white blaze in it because it is considered to be part of the trail. Everyone should use it.

    They’ve made some improvements to the external side of cuben pack fabric, so my advice might be a little out of date, but I asked manufacturers if a cuben pack can make it the whole way of an AT thru-hike, and they advised against it. It depends, I guess. Maybe you have better advice from people who have actually gone the distance with such a cuben pack. A lot of this ultralite gear works fine in the short run, deceptively promising to go the long haul. Most people who use this gear never take it on a 2000 mile thru-hike, so their experienced is applicable only to short hikes. I had a durable, famous label pack, and I STILL had field repairs (in Maine) to zippers and strap attachments (not the fabric though), to the point the manufacturer was kind enough to replace the pack free of charge. They do take quite a beating over the long haul.

    For 4-1/2 months, you’d be averaging about 16 miles a day or 8 hours of hiking, so you may not be expecting to night hike. But if you do, consider my experience with the Princeton Quad. It was just bright enough for safe hiking with the chip regulated phase of the battery life (alkalines in my case), but as soon as the voltage dropped to the point I lost regulation (at about 30-35 hours of use), the light began to progressively dim and was inadequate after a couple hours. I could still walk, but it was very difficult to see. I used the lowest setting for extended battery life. The other settings drained the batteries too fast, and I could stretch the regulated span of life over 12 days that way. After regulation was exceeded, I’d leave the batteries in a hiker box, as they still had a good amount of life left. If you look at the lumens rating for the low setting on this model, I would consider anything lower than that inadequate for safety (e.g., tripping over roots and rocks). If your lamp isn’t regulated, then expect the lamp to dim gradually right away. That’s why I wouldn’t carry the Fuel except for occasional use in camp or to the privy. Doing it again, I’d get the tactical version of the Quad with the filters because the low setting is too bright for unfiltered use while settling in and others are already trying to get to sleep. I’d use the lithium batteries option because they are lighter and hold their voltage better than alkies, but be careful to follow USPS regulations for mailing these in your drops. I don’t believe you can send lithium batteries air delivery, so the package should be marked for Ground Delivery Only as instructed by the post office, and there are other rules for indicating on the box what is in the box, and rules for how those items should be double packed or stabilized in the box. Give your drop at least two weeks to get to its destination, and try not to leave a package not picked up longer than 30 days. As long as the box isn’t opened, you can bump the package ahead or have it sent home free of charge. You need a driver’s license to pick up the package.

    Food kept in Ziploks for a long time (months) starts to taste like plastic. There is a chemical in the plastic that seeps into dehydrated food over time. Next time out I’d use vacuum sealed food and make sure that chemical isn’t in the vacuum bags. I’m sorry, I can’t remember what the chemical is called, but if I remember correctly, I think its purpose is to keep the plastic soft and flexible.

    At a minimum you will need about 1.65 lbs of dehydrated food (including cereal, dried fruit, peanut butter and candy or granola bars) each day for 16 miles a day. I discovered that at mail drops, I could eat from a store or restaurant, do my laundry and eat again before heading out. A Burger King Whopper, large fries and large milkshake is about 2200 calories. Your hike needs about 4100 cal/day. You can subtract those calories from your pack. Granted, you still carry the weight as food or fat, but it’s inside you now, not pulling on your pack straps and making you a cranky toad. There are also spots between drops that you can get additional calories. If you plan ahead by identifying food sources along the trail (like delis and convenience stores along the route or even nearby hostels), you can greatly reduce how much food you carry. For example, you can buy candy bars and bakery items at the lodges in the Whites, even bum free food they don’t want to throw away, and there is a cafeteria/lodge with all sorts of hiker services available at the highway crossing of the last 20 mile leg of the section. These mountains are steep and tall, so the better you plan, the less weight you’ll have to carry UP these tall, steep alpines.

    I felt just having blazes, printed elevation profiles and the AT Thru-hiker companion was sufficient for most of the trail, BUT in the least, do bring a set for the 100 mile section of the Whites (mercy!). The trail here has signs that are very confusing because the original names of trails seems preferred over the AT which adopted them, and there is no consistency from sign to sign with what a lateral arrow or a vertical arrow with respect to sign placement mean. Fore example, I came to a trail junction on top of a ridge; 90 degrees to the right was a sign that you had to turn to face and read. It was intended that I turn right (direction I was facing while reading the sign) and go down the side of the mountain (which at the time was more of a waterfall than a trail). The arrow pointed to the left, so I followed the ridge trail in the direction of the arrow down the ridge instead of choosing the trail opening the arrow pointed at. I lost 3 hours that night recovering from this mistake. Remember, I said “consistency”. In other places, the arrow might mean follow the direction of the arrow. “Too many kooks, haha, spoil the broth.” They need to have consistent rules for guidepost interpretation. An error out here takes a long time to fix because the inclines slow your average speed to half the normal rate.

    PA is easy to get lost in as well, as the state forest boundary markers are white, placed on trees at about the same height as the AT white blazes. They are just a little wider. What makes this such a problem is when the old AT blazes are painted over, they tend to be a little wider, too. Who plans these things? Is it too hard to have an orange blaze for state forest boundaries?

    If you are using a ground cloth and tarp, do yourself a medically cost saving favor and keep the ground cloth sprayed with tick repellent (the kind that dries on your clothes for 6 weeks). I found tiny tick nymphs on my thumb waking up one morning after bivouacking in northern VA. The rangers had Lyme disease warning posters up that indicated people were contracting the disease even this far south. Used to be it was only New England. You can buy a gallon or so of concentrate online for $30 or less and make your own dilutions of dry on spray for clothes and gear much, much more cheaply than the product you get in camping stores. To reduce idle time on the trail, soak your initial set of clothes at home, and rotate to a fresh set every 5-6 weeks, same with a fresh ground cloth. You need several hours of drying time before the article is safe to use.

    Finally, make SURE you are always well hydrated. That thin, washed out, hollowed eye look in the faces of hikers who have been on the trail for a while isn’t just under-nutrition. You can lose tens of pounds of water very early in your hike unawares, and the dehydration can make you feel sick, exhausted and send you home or to an ER real quick. The nasty thing about this is people for the most part don’t understand that they need salt to correct this problem, otherwise the water they treat themselves with passes right through the gut, blood and kidneys without ever getting pumped into the cells which are dehydrated. 4-5L a day for a 16-20 mile hike is a good starting point, more obviously if you are sweating profusely. I’ve seen hikers who drank it up in a town bar, then keeled over and nearly “died” at the top of their first peak because the alcohol took a lot of their cellular water down the urinal. The cells need adequate water to function properly. It’s like driving on fully flat tires.

    Those are some of the things I learned from my AT thru-hike. I hope it can spare you some of the suffering it took me and others to learn those things. You probably already know some if not all of these things having researched hiking as long as you have. Good luck in whatever you end up choosing to do.

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  3. Luke says:

    Hey Stick, great website 🙂 what are your current plans for the JMT? i’m planning to do it in 2014 and would like your insight on gear, food drop strategy etc.

    Keep up the great work!

    Luke

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    • Stick says:

      Luke,

      To be honest, I haven’t given the JMT any detailed look just yet. It is on my list of trails I want to hike, but it is out of my range for the moment… This year I am looking to hike the Wonderland Trail… So, I can’t really share much info on the JMT at this point, sorry. Good luck in your trip planning and hike though!

      ~Stick~

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  4. leaf says:

    I know you are not Thru hiking this year but was curious if you thought about section hiking the beginning. I know I won’t be able to thru hike this year but was wanting to go from springer to the smokies. I was curious if you have given any thought to it? I am wanting to hit spring on springer, April fools in Franklin, founders bridge fest, and trail fest in hot springs. I have yet to step on the AT but I at least want to do a good section this year.

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    • Stick says:

      leaf,

      I have actually got just about every bit of it done between Springer and Davenport, however, this has been in multiple trips. I have done a few sections a few time between there too. Anyway, good luck on your first section. That will be cool if you can get enough time to make it the entire way! Good luck!

      ~Stick~

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  5. Chad Ashton says:

    Great reading the article and all the comments. The AT is on my bucket list. It’s one thing I want to do maore than anything. Right now however isn’t the best time because of kids…it would be soooo hard to leave my 6 and 2 year old for 6+ months.

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  6. Peggy says:

    I’m writing to tell you about my friend, Clinker, who will fulfill a 13+-year dream to thru hike the AT, beginning on her 63rd birthday, April 5, 2013. I’ve read through some of your blog and she, too, has hiked LeConte several times and has inspired other women to join her there. She continues to inspire women to fulfill their dreams, whether hiking or other pursuits.

    Not only will she hike while on the AT. She is turning this into a creative adventure. While keeping to ultra-light, she plans on photographing her journey and writing haiku to accompany the photographs. When she returns, she will be hosted by the National Center for Nature Photography for an exhibit of her work. She also plans on using the images and her journaling to make presentations to others, especially other women, on ultra-light guidelines.

    She is using the crowd-funding site, Kickstarter, to help with the expenses for this creative pursuit. If you don’t mind a plug here, she’d really appreciate you sharing her project here, which runs until Dec. 17. Thanks.

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    • Stick says:

      Peggy,

      It sounds like your friend is going to have a great birthday present! 🙂 It should be exciting.

      As far as the link, I will check it out. I can’t promise that I will get anything up on my blog because believe it or not, I am pretty behind on posts…and we are getting busier at work, plus the holidays… but I will share it on my FB and Twitter page!

      Thanks for visiting my site, and I wish your friend the best of luck in her journey!

      ~Stick~

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    • Peggy says:

      Thanks, Stick. I will pass on your good wishes and your support. Neither she nor I have built up a social network on Facebook/Twitter (old school folks, I guess). But I do see the value of that networking for things like this. Others pitching in on those fronts is definitely appreciated. Have fun today.

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  7. "Chief'" Luke Schmidt says:

    Wonderland Trail sounds like fun. If you want a good trail close to home you might consider a loop along the AT and Iron Mountain Trails in southern VA. Here’s a trip report I did on it.

    http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=65142

    We shortened the loop a bit. I believe starting at Damascus would give you a 60 mile loop. And a second loop can be done going south of Damascus. If you did both together you could start in Damascus, come back and resupply there, and then come back to Damascus again.

    Another fun area I noticed you haven’t been is the Shining Rock Wilderness. In my opinion the scenery there is the best I’ve seen in the southeast (Grayson Highlands is a close second). Here are some pictures.

    http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=63752

    Hope this gives you some ideas. Let me know if you ever want down and dirty info on the CT. By the way I dig the family trips you do. My favorite trips are trips with family or friends along. I don’t know how much your boy likes hiking but in a year or two he could be ready to do some serious hikes.

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    • Stick says:

      Chief,

      Thanks for the links. I will check them out! Also, if I get up into the VA area, I really do want to do the Grayson Highlands… I debated it instead of our recent hike, but I am a long ways away from any of the AT, so distance is a factor. However, we were very happy with the Roan Highlands! 🙂

      However, there are some areas that I need to get filled in throughout the lower section. Not too bad, but I would like to fill them in…

      Thanks again,

      ~Stick~

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  8. "Chief'" Luke Schmidt says:

    Hey Stick I discovered your blog when another hiking blog linked to it. Looks like you called off the 2013 AT hike and for reasons I think are very legitimate based on personal experiences. Let me tell you why you are correct!

    I did most of the Colorado Trail in 2011 (Denver to Molas Pass or 409 miles). I had to bail because I aggravated an old ankle injury and could barely walk. I went back this September and did the last 76 miles over 4 days.

    I think you were correct in saying the mental challenge is the big thing. I knew how to backpack when I was on the CT. But I almost bailed several times, not because I was scared but because I was “bored.” It was not that I didn’t like being on the trail, it was just that I missed being around family, friends, church and fresh food. This is coming from a single guy. For someone with a wife and kids I imagine this would be more of a problem.

    Have you considered trying one of the shorter long trails like the CT or JMT? I think your chances of successfully finishing one of those trails are a lot higher and the logistics are simpler. I really liked the CT, it is a nice trail with easy logistics.

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    • Stick says:

      Chief,

      Hi, thanks for stopping by and commenting. I appreciate your time!

      As far as the thru hike, yeah…as much as I would love to do it, I know that right now, I could not do it…not because of the physical aspect, but the mental part. I get terribly homesick even after a single day, and to be honest, it seems worse if I am alone. I have found that if I have some buddies along with me though, it is not nearly as bad…

      Yes, I would love to hike one of those shorter trails, but that is a matter of time away from work… However, next year I am planning to hike the Wonderland Trail, so I am looking forward to that at the moment!

      Anyway, thanks again for stopping by, and I appreciate your kind words.

      ~Stick~

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  9. David "Drum Stick" Cassidy GA to ME 1999 says:

    I read some of your blog. Definitely reminded me of when I was planning for my trek. Like most planners I was focused on equipment and resupply. Personally I think finances and planning to survive the mental challenges is a better place to focus FWIW. I read your line “imagine standing on Springer Mountain and taking that first step”. Seriously, imagine standing on Mount Katahdin thinkin of all those friends that didn’t go the distance. Drum Stick

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    • Stick says:

      David,

      Thanks for sharing, and even though I have not thru’d, I think that I agree with you. I have done my homework on the planning thing as you say, however, over time, I think that what will be the hardest part for me is the mental thing, right off the bat. Homesickness…missing the family…that will be the hardest part for me I think (at this point). As well, I am still just nervous being out there all alone. (This is a hard one for me to admit, but I may as well be honest about it…) I have done about 200 miles of the trail so far between Springer and the north end of the Smokies, as well as other hikes…but it is still there.

      So, for now, I have put off my attempt until I feel more “at home” in the field. I don’t want to start it only to end it a week later. TBH, I feel like I am prepared as far as the planning stuff goes (without actually setting the plans into action) but until I get somewhat more comfy, I cannot take the chance of a failed attempt…

      I do think that finances is a huge part too, however, I feel like that is something that can be taken control of a bit easier than the mental challenge.

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and commenting! I appreciate the feedback.

      ~Stick~

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    • David "Drum Stick" Cassidy GA to ME 1999 says:

      Nice to chat with you stick. I noticed that you are planning for 4 1/2 months of hiking. When I hit the trail I found that nearly everybody had identical itineraries. Six months and about 12 resupply stops. Our group kept Crossing paths with a guy that was on 4 1/2 month schedule. The guy got off the trail because he was lonely, had no one hike with…. To me the camaraderie was absolutely the best part of the whole experience. I think that beautiful family you got would be the reason to keep on pushing every day.

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    • Stick says:

      David,

      That is a good point about hiking at different speeds, as well as the camaraderie built while on the trail… and as I am sure you know, many start with a certain “plan” but I understand that the trail will change those plans… I would simply like to have a plan that is good enough to keep me going, but flexible enough to be able to bend without any tragic repercussions… 🙂 Simply put, I just want to hike the trail…from start to finish in one trip…

      Thanks for the kind words about my family…I am pretty attached to them myself! 🙂

      ~Stick~

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  10. Tyer Marlow says:

    Stick,

    Congratulations on deciding to doing to AT, you won’t regret it!

    I did it in SOBO in 2009 and my life hasnt been the same since.

    You’ve got a sweet list doing for you, really light but definitely fully equipped. I’d only have a few recommendations:

    Rain gear: first off, you WILL be rained on and get soaked no matter what. being from the SE i’m sure you know. I actually sent home my rain jacket for stretches of the trail. My vote would go to a dryducks or tyvek top, and maybe a skirt (ive never used a rain skirt so i cant really say).

    Puffy jacket: I see you’ve listed a puffy for the cold weather part, but I carried mine even through the summer, makes a great pillow!

    Water Puri: have you tried the Sawyer Squeeze? Seems like it eliminates the need for taking chemicals for anything but backup and may be a little faster than the frontier pro. I used the Sawyer inline filter for a bit but gave it up for the convenience of AM, and then stopped filtering all together in the south with all the springs. Although, i may have gotten giardia…

    Looks great all around though, good luck on your planning.
    I’m not far from you in Atlanta, maybe we’ll run into each other on the trail some day!

    -Tyler aka. Sisyphus -SOBO ’09

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    • Stick says:

      Tyer,

      Thanks for the info, but unfortunately, I will not be hiking the trail next year. To be honest, I am afraid of starting and then missing my wife and kids. At this point, realistically, I am not in the position to step off on the journey because of this. So, I will just have to see how things go…

      Don’t get me wrong though…this is a dream I have, and one day I will do it, but when I can I am not sure…

      ~Stick~

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  11. Dave says:

    Hi ya Stick,
    Just an observation here by a fellow AT hopeful (currently planning to hike in 2012), but it seems that maybe you’re over compensating in some areas with your gear list, while not attending to other areas with as much care. What strikes the loudest cord is that you’re putting an awful lot of money into Cuben fiber gear, while still carrying a number of traditional “heavy” extras like 20 feet of duct tape, 24 feet of extra cord, and 3 different kinds of extra batteries, and a second 3oz. cup. You could save yourself a whole bunch of weight and space in the pack by tossing the extras in your bounce box just in case you need them along the way. In any case it seems like you’ll be well prepared for the journey, trust in yourself and your equipment. Feel free also to check out my gear list (http://www.geargrams.com/list?id=4498). I’d love to hear any comments or critique you may have.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Dave,

      Thanks for checking out my list and commenting on it. To address the hike, unfortunately, it does not look like I will get to do the hike in 2013, so I am going to have to make other plans on when it will happen…

      Concerning the list, if there is one thing I do know for sure about my list, and everyone’s list, is that it will change once the hike begins. That list is comprised of what works for me now, with a few items that I still need to get. However, I have not updated that list in a while, and to be honest I need to get back to it sometime and check it out again… You should have seen the one I updated it from… 🙂

      Concerning the items you listed:

      The duct tape is listed at 20 ft, however if I were to stretch it out, it would be more like 10 at the most. I listed 20 ft but when I started rolling it out I got tired of re-rolling it pretty quick. However, at less than 1 oz, I find that this is a great thing to have with me. Especially when you need it…

      24 ft of extra cord. This is accurate, or at least it was when I listed it. Since then I have cut about 2 feet off of that for other things. However, here again, at less than 1 oz, I find that I would rather have it with me. Cord can be an invaluable thing and is can be used for a multitude of things.

      (Mentioning these 2 things, we had a hiker hike in a shelter once and the sole on his boots were completely blown out. So, we used my duct tape and rope to secure the boot back on so that he could hike out. )

      Concerning the extra batteries, I imagine that this would be something I may end up putting in a bounce box, but I am not so sure now. This is one of those things that I would figure out along the way. As can be seen by my blog, I like to take pictures and do videos, so the one extra battery for my camera is nice to have, but not necessary. IMO, the extra batteries for a headlamp is necessary. My son and I did a (unexpected) night hike a few weekends ago and I found myself wishing I had either changed the batteries before I left or had back-ups. As well, my wife has said that using the SPOT is an absolute if I plan to do this. So, again, the batteries would be a necessity there as well. I don’t think that these would end up in a bounce box because they hardly weigh anything and if the thing died on me I may be in a little trouble…

      Concerning the cup, there is not a second cup listed on my list. Only the Kupilka 21 is listed, and yes, I know that it weighs 3 oz, but that is fine with me. I love my Kupilka and it goes with me on all hikes.

      Then of course there is the cuben…yes, I like cuben and it is a great way to cut weight. And to be honest, especially now that my hike will be postponed a bit, I will probably end up hiking with a cuben shelter, as well as a few other major items… I am planning by next year to have a 5 pound summer pack, and a lighter winter pack, and I know that this will only carry over to when I do my thru.

      Anyway, thanks again for the comment. I will be sure to check out your gear list as well sometime.

      ~Stick~

      Like

    • Dave says:

      Stick,
      Sorry that you won’t be hitting the trail as planned, but it is still nice to hear your level-headed reasoning for gear choices. Some people get so defensive that it becomes impossible to have a friendly discussion on the topic. If I may counter with a response, I absolutely agree with you; every gear list if fluid and dynamic. It is a delicate balance of cumber, comfort, and cost. And I wholeheartedly expect to make changes to my own gear before (and while) thru-hiking the trail next year. Plus, I’ve already heard of a number of exciting new products and revisions coming out in early 2012.

      Concerning the classic, “but it weighs less than an ounce,” argument for carrying extra equipment, well that just tickles. It all adds up 🙂 I’ve found this to be especially true when we get down to the lower base weights. It suddenly becomes much harder to lighten the load.

      On the Kupilka as an extra cup, I should have clarified that I meant in addition to the .9L Ti pot, which after all is smaller than a Nalgene and many soda bottles, and thus should be no more cumbersome to drink from. I realize that Kupilkas have become extremely popular as of late, and understandably so, as they fit our aesthetic perfectly. However, 3 oz. is quite a bit when it really only functions as a security blanket for us coffee/tea/cocoa drinkers. All the same, I respect your devotion to it, and enthusiastically support your attempt to fulfill the challenge of a 5 lb. summer pack that will include it.

      As for the Cuben fiber, I’m not entirely innocent, myself. I’m hoping to acquire a 2012 Hyperlight Mountain Gear Windrider backpack. If you haven’t heard of HMG (the company is fairly new) I’d definitely recommend checking them out. The Windrider pack is made with a Cuben/rip-stop nylon hybrid material, which is waterproof – no need for a rain cover, hooray! Unfortunately, with the cost-to-weight ratio as it is, I don’t plan on carrying a Cuben shelter with me.

      Looking forward to reading future posts. Happy trails,

      Dave

      Like

    • Stick says:

      Dave,

      I hear ya, people do get quite defensive… Also, I figure that there will be quite a few differences to come about in the next couple of years, so I will just have to see how things go…I feel it is safe to say that I will probably try to keep up with some of it… 🙂

      I figured you would have caught my “but it weighs less than an oz” comment… good catch! I actually talked about this kind of statement in a post a while back on my blog. And I hear ya on how it all adds up, cause it does…I have worked on some gear lists for getting my pack weight down and it is amazing at how I would go through and cut fractions of an oz and get excited (which is where a few of the cuben stuff sacks came into play.) But saying that, I have got to say, I have walked out with a 20 pound pack for 3 days and it was simply great! And truth be told, I could have shaved some weight off of that too, but at that weight I am fine carrying a few luxuries. I actually did the most mileage I have done in a day with this weight (20.2 miles on the AT in GA). So, to be honest, I am only wanting to get a 5 pound (summer) base weight just to do it. (Then again, it may grow on me… 🙂 )

      I also assumed that you were referring to my cook pot as the 1st cup. And I agree with you that it is quite possible to use as a cup as well, but it is a shallower and wider pot rather than a taller narrower pot, and to be honest, I don’t really like using my taller/narrower 700 ml pot as both my cup and pot. And trust me, I have looked at the 3 oz on the Kupilka and debated it, but, I don’t know. I just want it. And like I mentioned, I am happy with the weight I am at now, but if I were trying to come off of say 50 pounds, then it would get the eyeball a little harder…

      And yes, I know of HMG but I do not have any of their gear. I actually considered this Windrider a few months ago when I got my SMD Swift, and as sexy as the cuben/nylon hybrid pack was, I went with the Swift because of it’s overall lower weight. I also like some of their shelter systems too…but considering this, I have really come to like me some hammocks… so in the end, who knows?

      And I agree, the cost of cuben shelters are quite expensive. However, for just a tarp, I think that they are pretty reasonable. Would you consider using a tarp only in cuben?

      Anyway, thanks again Dave for stopping by and again for your comments. Great stuff!

      ~Stick~

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    • Dave says:

      Stick,
      For some reason my reply isn’t fitting down below in chronological order, so here it is!
      I think one of the best advantages of the HMG Windrider pack with its cuben/rip-stop material is that it’s waterproof, thus no need for carrying or hassling with a rain cover. This also saves me weight in that I don’t need all those cuben fiber stuff sacks to keep things dry. Instead I plan to simply use a clear plastic trash compactor bag as insurance for my sleeping bag, pad, and extra cold weather clothing (down sweater, long underwear, hat, gloves, and socks) in the bottom of my pack. On top of that will be my food and cook kit in an ultralight dry bag, surrounded by rain jacket and pants. The large exterior mesh pocket will carry Gossamer Gear Spinnaker tarp and Mtn. Laurel Designs bug bivy, allowing them to be carried while wet, although they could be packed interiorly if desired, as well. Alcohol stove fuel and U.L. umbrella will fit nicely into the side mesh pockets, while camera and ditties are placed in hip belt pockets – which on the Windrider are also waterproof, so no worries there either.
      I think this also answers your question about going for a cuben tarp. I find that Spinnaker is a great compromise between cuben and sil-nylon. Like cuben it won’t stretch and sag when wet, and like sil-nylon it is more durable and less expensive. BTW have you heard of the wear and tear rate of cuben gear? I’ve heard that a Z-Pack will last 1 thru-hike, and is not necessarily expected to last any longer. I didn’t realize cuben was one-time use only! Have you heard anything similar? Apparently extended UV exposure can break down cuben, as well. Perhaps this is more of a worry for PCT hikers.
      After chopping away at my pack list some, I’m at a starting cold weather base weight of 11.5 lbs., and a summer base weight as little as 8.5 lbs. Not bad! Cheers,
      Dave

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    • Stick says:

      Dave,

      One day I am sure that I will put my hands on a WindRider, but I am not sure if I will ever own one. Also, we pack much the same, with a few variances. My packs are not waterproof so I do use a full size cuben fiber dry sack pack liner. Inside that I stuff my sleeping bag/quilt in the very bottom (and I do use an oversized DIY stuff sack for this just to give me a second waterproof layer to help me rest assured my bag/quilt stays dry). Then on top of that is usually my food bag along with my kitchen set-up and then my sleeping pad, extra clothes and maybe a few other small items. Then I roll the dry sack closed. The stuff inside the dry sack are items I will not use until I am at camp so there is no need of me being in there. Other things such as my ditty bag, TP or other items that I may need during the day goes on top. Then the top of my pack is closed. On the outside is my shelter system, my rain gear and then my water system. All of these items are things that I want to get to first thing at camp, or in case it were to rain.

      I do carry a rain cover. It is made of cuben and weighs 1.2 oz and I am happy with it. I can also use it for other things such as a place to bundle my stuff up and keep it separated from other peoples gear while I am at a shelter, or as just a little extra ground sheet under my tarp.

      As far as Spinn is concerned, I have a single tent stake stuff sack made from Spinn, and another larger stuff sack made of Spinn. I don’t think that it is quite as durable as some of the cuben though, but I am not sure if Spinn only comes in one thickness. The nice thing about cuben is that it comes in multiple weights. My cuben dry sack pack liner is made from 1.26 oz/sqyd cuben which is much thicker than the Spinn that I have. As well, the dyneema strands sandwiched between the mylar sheets in cuben results in a very strong material.

      And yes, it does say right on Joes site that the ZPacks Blast Packs are expected to last 1 thru hike, but reading through some of the reviews, even after a through it was still useable. But, that doesn’t change the fact that it is a lot of money for a pack that will only last about that long, but considering the weight savings, I think it is worth it. Saying this though, I am curious as to what kind of life span the HMG packs will also have considering that they too use some cuben in their construction. So you will have to be sure and share with us when you are done!

      That sounds like you have got a very nice pack weight and I am sure that you will appreciate that. Although you may get some weird looks from the ones that start off with 50+ pounds… just how did you fit it all in that tiny pack… 🙂

      Thanks again for the comments. Appreciate them!

      ~Stick~

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  13. Bryan G. says:

    Tried posting this on the backpacker forums, but login is broken! Consider the NeoAir All Season for year round use. The weight penalty isn’t that big compared to the NeoAir and you get an r-value of 4.9. You also get the added bonus that the All Season will have an R-value of 1.5 even when flat. Worst case scenario you have a blow out, you’ll still have some residual heat retention.

    Like

    • Stick says:

      Bryan,

      I have thought of this, but at the moment I am happy with what I have (the regular Neo and the GG 1/8″ pad), and it has proven to be efficient (for me) well below freezing. Also, I have a lot to do before I am ready for my thru. I have most of my gear covered, but obviously there are a few other purchases, 2 of them being a little big (tent ~ $295 and the SPOT ~ $300 for unit, activation and tracking…my wife says I must carry it to go, so I said ok). However, we have to pay off the rest of our debt first (which will be done by the end of next year for sure, but shooting for sooner) as well as having an emergency fund plus an emergency living expenses fund, then I have to save the money for my thru hiking fund! So, I am not looking to replace my sleeping system at the moment since it works and I have grown quite fond of it. But if I should need to do so, then I will do so with my thru hike money… Although, if any doubt creeps in I will go with the 1/4″ GG pad rather than the 1/8″ pad. Sorry for the ramble and hope this makes sense!

      Thanks for the suggestion though,

      Chad

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  14. Lynn in Ga says:

    Two Questions,
    1. What is an Instaflator?
    2. What company makes your shelter you have listed?

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    • Stick says:

      Lynn,

      The Instaflator is a piece of kit used to inflate my air pads. There are some videos out there that shows them off, and I am actually planning to do a video on mine soon. Was actually going to do one today, but I am uploading a video on my Ditty bag at the moment. I will do the Instaflator maybe tomorrow or Monday. It is nice for winter though because you do not have to use your breath to inflate your air pads which means the moisture from your breath does nit go into the pad and freeze in subfreezing temps. Also, when hiking at elevation it is good to have since the air is so thin and this way you don’t get ll light-headed blowing up your pad…

      The LightHeart Solo shelter is made by LightHeart Gear. They are very light-weight double wall tents. I want the Cuben version because it weighs so little (14 oz) as compared to the already light-weight sil version (27 oz), however the cuben is a little $$$. $575 for the all cuben vs $245 for the sil…

      Hope this helps,

      Chad

      Like

    • Lynn in Ga says:

      Sure does! Thanks.

      Like

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  16. Supesguy says:

    Just for grings and giggles, I added up your weights in case you hadn’t yet. You’re currently at 23.3 lbs. I don’t think that sounds too bad. I have a lot of similar gear and would have a tough time leaving behind much more. I’m considering taking my water filter and using purification drops as a backup in case the filter fails. I’d love to hike the AT sometime too.

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  17. Fax says:

    hi Stick,
    you do have to seam seal your tarp tent. I have a Double Rainbow and seam sealed it for a West Highland Way (Scottland) thruhike this year. But…. not good enough! One night we had plenty of rain and it was dripping inside…. Was no problem because of Rab UltraBivys, so I have to seam seal it again. Used Silnet, great product!

    I would love to thru hike the AT or PCT, but I’m from germany and so it is not easy to me. Looked over your gear list, why do you want to take a canister stove? You have to carry the canister, which is useless for itself. Thought about trying out a alcohol stove? They are great! And light, too! I love my Caldera Cone, but bought a Bushbuddy Ultra,too. Both great stoves, BB Ultra is heavier, but I don’t have to carry fuel. If I think there is not much wood on my trip I take a Supercat Stove as backup with me, which I made from a cat food can. But till today I found always some twigs to cook my food.

    Are you sure that you will need a SPOT on the AT? There are rumors that a spot is sending false S.O.S messages sometimes, don’t know if it is true, but read it on some pages in www. Try to google, I think it was from guys hiking the PCT.

    You have a really nice blog there, will read thru it the next days!

    Greetings from Germany, and keep hiking!

    Oh, and sorry for my bad english!

    bye

    Like

  18. Matt says:

    I know some people worry about the weight that seam seals use, but I am not one of them. I have some tarps that are not one solid piece so I chose to seal them. Does your shelter have any seams other than the outside edges?

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    • Stick says:

      I am with you. I do not care that seam-sealing adds and extra 1.5 oz to the overall weight. After all, I have a “shelter” to stay dry in, and this is obviously part of the deal. However, I have read that if care is not taken, it is easy to get carried away with it and you will end up with quite a few oz of seam seal all over the place. If you are going to seam seal, I would practice on a scrap piece of something-or-another before going to the real deal.

      My Kelty Grand Mesa 2 Tent came taped, and up to this point it has held well. Of course over time and use it will need to be retaped, so I just be sure to clean it after use and store it inside, and dry. My 8 x 10 sil tarp is two pieces which are sewn together down the middle, which creates the ridge line. This was sealed as well by Brian at OES (he seals all of his before shipping; the cost is already figured in). He also sealed around the reinforcements for the D loops.

      Also, note that if sealing silnylon you need to use a product for use with silnylon, such as SilNet. For other materials with a PU coating, use something such as McNetts Seam Grip.

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