This post may be a long shot. I am not sure how many, if any, seasoned hikers actually read this little blog. But I have questions. Lots of them. And while I am planning to reach out directly to other thru-hikers, I figured I would put them up here, too, to hopefully generate more than a single point of view answer.
Maps and Compass vs Guidebook
While I plan to take the AWOL guide with me, for the overall knowledge it has in its tomes, I am hesitant to walk into the woods without a map and compass. Guess it is the Eagle Scout in me. Then again, I have never hiked the AT, and I have read a lot of people say maps are just extra weight and not necessary. I am torn on this. Part of me thinks that they could come in handy if I ever needed to get off the trail in between road crossings or something, especially in an emergency. And being a visual person, sometimes it is nice actually see how far a town is from the trail instead of just reading about it. Your thoughts?
Gear has become my nemesis. I love to research and buy gear. I hate the bill at the end of the month. Actually, researching gear is becoming a negative, too – there is just SO much gear out there! And for the most part, it looks like most of it is of similar quality and price. So how do you decide?
One item I am unsure of is gaiters. I see pictures with people wearing them, but a lot of the online forums say they are not useful. I have never used them before, but I have never hiked 2,200 miles, either. I am not sure if they would be useful or not.
I have always been a liner sock user. Then again, I have always been a big heavy boot wearer, too. When I went to put them on while trying on boots, there was a chuckle from the store worker, indicating I had broken some taboo about wearing liner socks. But they weigh next to nothing, and do not take up much space, so I am thinking I will throw them in and if I do not use them, it is not too much of a penalty. Bad idea?
While on the subject of footwear, I wonder if I should buy extra boots now, or wait until I need them? I know the pair of shoes I found are not easily found – Oboz is still a fairly new brand and I have only seen them in one or two outfitters. But I also understand that my feet will change size as I accrue the large miles of the AT. So I am unsure of what to do here.
The Appalachian Trail is wet. There is no denying that. So obviously, dry bags (aka stuff sacks) are an important piece of equipment unless you plan to just throw everything in a large trash bag in your pack. But I am unsure of how many and what size dry bags I need. One big one for food, probably around a 13-liter bag or so, right? One medium sized one for clothing. Possibly one for my sleeping bag, if the one it comes with is not able to be waterproofed. Maybe a smaller one for essentials like toilet paper (do not even want to think about trying to use wet paper!). But do I need more than that? Are these sizes good?
How much water should I be able to carry? I know I will have one or two water bottles for the everyday, and my filter system will have a “dirty water” bag that I suppose I could use to shuttle water to a dry campsite, but are there times when I will need more than that? I remember using big 2 gallon collapsible containers when we hiked through New Mexico, but the East Coast is a bit more adequately hydrated, I would think. Thoughts?
Here is a very serious and important question. I am tentatively planning to bring my Kindle with me, for evening entertainment. So what books do you recommend I load onto it before leaving? Or even what genres? I already have a few books lined up, but I am not sure how I will feel about reading about the AT while I am hiking the AT, if that makes sense.
I am fairly comfortable in the woods. At one point in my life, my dad and I figured that I had spent something like half of my life under canvas. But I have never attempted to hike this far before, either. My longest hike to date was the ten days in New Mexico, at Philmont, and a lot of those logistics are different because you hike with eight to twelve other people who all share some of the common items – stove, food, bear bag, cook pot, etcetera. So learning to carry a small stove, a single-portion pot, and pack my own bear bag is new to me. Here are a couple other skills I want to have an understanding of before I get out there.
Water crossings are assumedly plentiful. For the smaller crossings, I am sure it is fairly straight forward, but what about the bigger crossings you need to do? Do you just charge across? Do you take your boots (and anything else…) off and go au natural? Wear your crocks, which are loose and rather smooth-soled? I know my boots will be wet a lot of the time, so guessing I should just take my socks off (unless they are already wet anyways) and put the boots back on to cross the stream, then dry off and lace back up for the rest of the hike. But I never claimed to be an expert, so you tell me.
Does anyone do anything special to avoid thigh friction? I will have spandex-type undershorts on, I am sure – probably something from ExOfficio. Is that enough? When I used to run, I used body glide – would that be useful in this condition, or not so much? Or am I overthinking this? Perhaps it is even unavoidable, I do not know.
All of the backpacking I did as a youth was done at parks that had established campsites, with staff-maintained privies… meaning, I only carried emergency rations of TP, and never had to “deal” with the used products in the woods. So how much TP does one carry while hiking the AT? And when it is time to resupply, do you buy a 4-pack and toss 2 or 3 rolls, carry all 4, try to get someone to buy half of them? Lastly, as much as I HATE to ask, what exactly am I supposed to do with the dirty paper? Leave No Trace says to pack it out, but I do not plan to carry a biohazard suit with me, so how is anyone else carrying out this crappy paper?
Well, those are the questions I have so far. I really hope this drives some conversations. I would welcome any and all feedback, answers, advice, and whatnot. Feel free to use the comment box below or use the Contact Me page up top.
Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”