Not all good gear needs to be expensive! One of my favorite hiking shirts I picked up last year, it has the very odd name 32 Degrees by Weatherproof (what on Earth could this mean?). I actually bought it at Costco in one of each color, white and black, on sale for $4.99.
One of the more interesting rituals of long distance hiking, and especially thru-hikes, is the use of Trail Names. There are many reasons this has become accepted practice from the basic idea of taking on a new identity to the concept of social leveling…plus it’s just fun! If I introduce myself as “Dean” to someone I meet on the trail the other person has really learned nothing about me…but if I introduce myself as Bug Juice there is an instant understanding, even if they don’t know the backstory of the name. Speaking of which…where exactly did the name Bug Juice come from?
What is that Red stuff in the tube?
Many people out West where I live are naive to the brutal nature of trails on the East Coast. Switchbacks were not in the trail builders lexicon when they built the A.T. Many trails out west were built with horse and stock animals in mind making the grades gentler and the overall trail conditions more accommodating underfoot The trails I have often hiked back East in the Adirondacks or the Whites go straight up the mountain regardless of the terrain or angle.
To give this some perspective, the Pacific Crest Trail is ~20% longer (2675 miles) yet the AT has 60% more elevation gain. The Continental Divide Trail is over 40% longer (~3100 miles) but the AT gains almost 30% more elevation. Here is a link to a good website by the Appalachian Mountain Club with some of these stats: AMC
I’ve always been of the mindset that if I had enough time to train everyday hiking 15-20+ miles I would have already started my trip. Considering that, I do think it’s a good idea to be in decent overall shape and get some miles in with a pack on to reduce the stress your body will feel day-one.
Hiking up Mt. Royal in Frisco, Colorado
The total length of the AT changes a bit every year as the trail is improved or re-routed. The latest number I’ve read is a total distance of 2187 miles from Springer Mtn., Georgia to Mt. Katadhin, Maine…something like 5 million steps. I will definitely admit, this map is a bit intimidating!
The AT Guide by Awol
Compared to some of the other Long Trails (and some shorter trails) there is far less planning that needs to be done to take on a Thru Hike of the Appalachian. A great resource for planning (both before and during the hike) is The A.T. Guide by David “Awol” Miller. It is incredibly detailed and displaying so much information has been well thought out, not to mention he updates it every year with additional online updates in between. Towns along the way are readily accessible every 3-5 days and no permits are needed before departure, so it was simply a matter of making the personal commitment and booking a plane ticket to Atlanta. Continue reading
Lightweight and Full Featured
The REI Flash 45 Pack is a fantastic lightweight, full featured pack capable of carrying a thru-hiker load if you can pack efficiently. I have had many packs over the years and each one seems to either represent improvements in technology and/or serve a specific need.
If this link to the REI Flash 45 no longer works unfortunately it may have been discontinued…in the meantime it’s on sale for $64 !
This is not me…maybe 15 years ago!
The MEC T3 Hoodie is a terrific base layer that is impressively warm considering its minimal weight (7oz / 205gr). It is very similar to Patagonia Capilene Thermal weight but about half the price with better features (Canadian $ is weak so you get more for your money even after $15 for USA shipping)
I really like the fitted hood as I can wear it under my ski helmet on cold days (rather than bringing a balaclava). I also appreciate the extra long zipper (just above belly button) as it aides in ventilation. The thumb holes are more robust than on most shirts and with the extra long sleeve length it definitely helps to keep your hands warm. I haven’t had an opportunity to really test out the wicking/breathability of the shirt but the waffle knit helps to promote airflow.