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AT Thru-Hike, 2009
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Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: .
Re: start date on 01/03/2009 08:31:26 MST Print View

I think most people start in March from what I remember but you're likely to run in to snow storms in the SE mountains at least through the middle of April and your 30 degree bag probably won't be warm enough. Generally something in the 20 degree range is recommended for 3 season use here and you're probably better off with 2 bags. Something around 10-15 for your start and then something around 50 for spring/summer as you move up the coast (VA, etc).

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Bags on 01/03/2009 10:05:04 MST Print View

If you used quilts, you could stack them, and stay pretty warm with shared bodily warmth. Which is pretty fun too....and if you take too much, it's pretty easy to fix. Kind of hard to pull something you don't have out of your behind though.

Mark Larson
(mlarson) - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: start date on 01/03/2009 10:19:33 MST Print View

First: great, great list. Ditto the best move would be a switch to a lighter pack if you can/desire. An easy savings of 2 lbs; food opportunities are frequent, and I think you'll find your pack won't get filled too often. Ditto considering leaving the nice sunglasses at home.

Additional gear comments:
-The extra underwear seems superfluous to me, but you're not me :) To each their own.
-I think the Suunto watches are a bit overkill, unless you're really attached to the HR monitor functions. The AT is easy to navigate. A basic watch and compass will suffice.

If you start in March or April:
-I strongly suggest a pair of windpants or rainpants, maybe long underwear as well.
-A pair of simple fleece or liner gloves would be a smart addition.

On the AT, I've seen 30s in Virginia in late May. It could easily snow when you hit the Smokies in March or April. Also consider stopping by if you haven't already. Hundreds of AT enthusiasts there.


Patricia Combee
(Trailfrog) - F

Locale: Northeast/Southeast your call
Gear stuff on 01/03/2009 15:39:03 MST Print View

I hiked through GA in late April. The weather went from 80 degree day and 50 - 60 degree nights to 40 degree days and nights in the mid-30s with lots of wind, so be prepared for some extremes, even in April. Definitely use sunscreen or a use a bandana under your hat to cover your neck and ears. The trees in the higher areas are not leafed out yet, even in late April. Beware of the poison ivy in GA in mid to late April, it lines the trail in places, so be careful where you sit down or place your pack or "take care of business".
I like a pack with some kind of frame, but carry the lightest pack you can. A GG Mariposa is good for milder weather when winter gear is not needed, but might not have the capacity for winter gear. I saw quite a few Granite Gear and Osprey packs during my section hike this year; most folks were happy with them.
An extra Platy can be nice. Sometimes you might want to camp between water sources, and it is good to have a way to carry extra water. It is also nice to only make one trip to a spring a 1/2 mile down a steep side trail.
Whatever you decide, have fun and enjoy every minute, even the not so pleasant ones!

russ kinder
(rusty075) - F
Re: Re: re: AT Thru-Hike, 2009 on 01/04/2009 12:31:13 MST Print View


No, you're right, the weight savings are pretty big between those two packs - we're not about "drilling holes in your toothbrush" insanity yet. My point was more that at some point before a trip you have to say, "that's it, I'm going with what I've got" I think that the bigger the piece of gear, and the bigger the trip, the earlier that point needs to be. But of course its all a personal judgment call: People have thru-hiked the AT carrying alice packs and wearing bluejeans - at some point it's no longer about the gear. (actually, considering the 70+ years of AT thru-hiking, I bet that more bluejeaners have thru-hiked than ultralighters. Oh how times have changed)

As for bears: I just hang the food in a WB sack. Plenty of trees. And probably a third of the shelter locations have bear cables anyway.


Where abouts are you guys now? Might be a good idea to take your current gear and do an overnight someplace with comparable to the expected N. Georgia weather in March. Maybe find someplace with some elevation that will get you nights down into the teens?

Edited by rusty075 on 01/04/2009 12:37:15 MST.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
AT Hiker on 01/16/2009 07:14:23 MST Print View

Here is a site on weather averages along the AT:
The Great Smoky Nat. Park website has weather averages for the Park.
Two years back GA had snow and its coldest weather since 1940s.! I was also surprised from a comment from Central VA about not much rain. I have experienced several days straight of rain hiking the AT in VT in August! But, I met a thru-hiker in Maine who said he had so much rain hiking through the spring that rain did not bother him any more. Needless to say, it was raining that July day.
As for your list. You are well prepared. Eventually you might replace the Montbelle UL with a light fleece 100wt., or a lightweight wool sweater and a windshirt, like a Golite Wisp that you can stuff into a pocket when your not wearing it. Do not worry about the Cap 4 smelling. If you are sweating in it, take it off. Golite DriMove t-shirts, however really do not smell, at least for several days, unlike Caps and other polypro. I assume the MH Quark Shell is your rain gear.
Many do not use rain pants, but I use them as long pants for warmth as much as for rain. I added a 12" or so zipper ion the lower cuff of the Golite Reed, so they can be put on or off over footwear. I do nopt carry any other long pant.I also use the Packa as rain gear and it hangs down over my shorts (Rail Riders)
As for head lamps, the ones that are smaller than the Titka are great for around camp and I have used them to hike. But, not any more. They are great looking at the trail near your feet or just ahead, but not for looking long distances, for example if you are looking for a trail marker. Those colored light Photons are great, but be warned that they change the color of white trail blazes!
I like small stuff sacks for different gear/clothes. It makes things easier to find, adding a little organization. I use a floorless tarp, but having a floor cover just a bit larger than my sleeping bag is a big help when the ground is wet. It also keeps the dust from shelter floors off my bag.
# Liters of water in my platypus at night is enough for dinner and a start for the next day. Murphy's Law has most water sources down a long hill fropm the shelters!
The only gear I do not see is something for your hands. At least I would suggest liner gloves and a waterproof shell. My hands get cold quickly. I have had my fingers in a spring rain too numb to open zippers or tie laces or hold a match. You will need them in September in Maine.
The main advantage of a frame in your pack is the lifting of the weight off your shoulders. It helps to have another option of carrying the weight toward the end of a long day, but be lightweight about it. Golite or GG. Frameless can often sag down over your butt, but I use them even in winter (Golite Odyssey) and often use a fanny pack to help with lift. The Gregory Shasta has a frame that is macho, but too heavy! Anyway go with what you have. You will figure out what works. (I swithced out of my Golite Breeze for a GG Virga half way through the Smokies!) Although you might you might want to carry 10 days worth of food sometimes just to avoid towns, you rarely have to carry more than five, and often just 2 or 3 days worth as the trail goes right by food supplys. Have fun. You are in for a great experience.

Edited by rambler on 01/16/2009 07:22:20 MST.

Ed Barkowski
A few more Q's on 01/17/2009 12:10:21 MST Print View

THANKS to all who have posted! The feedback means so much.

I have a few nit-picky questions left:

1. I've added food, water and fuel (alc) weight estimates to my gear list. Could someone take a look to check accuracy. On the AT, I'm GUESSing restocking occurs an average of every 3-4 days. Have I guessed too much weight?

2. Trekking poles: Mine are heavy. I've never used UL poles, and I certainly love Gossamer Gear's options. Should I switch to them, or are poles less of a real concern?

3. Regarding my pack (Nimbus Meridian): It's a good-looking, well-built pack...but heavy! If I have the option to switch to the Vapor Trail or (more enticingly) Gossamer's Mariposa Plus, should I? I'm leaning toward the Mariposa, but I've never used a "frameless" pack. I think the volumes are all fairly comparable, and I've heard "I NEED a framed pack for the AT" - I just don't quite believe it.

4. For the cup/bowl...has anyone used a cut-down Platy or Nalgene bladder to extended trips? I read that Carol C uses this method with success on shorter voyages. Maybe just ditch cup altogether and both eat directly from cookpot?

5. Lastly - and perhaps least importantly - socks. How many pairs do each of us take? 2 or 3? Details, I know.


I *heart* BPL

Edited by edbarkowski on 01/17/2009 12:34:30 MST.

Joe Westing
(pedro87) - F
Re: A few more Q's on 01/17/2009 12:38:37 MST Print View

With an inital pack weight of 28 lbs, you may want to stay with a frameless pack. However, everyone has very different preferences on how much weight they can carry w/o a frame. Some have little trouble carrying up to 30 lbs comfortably, while others cannot stand carrying 20 lbs w/o a frame. If you are set on frameless packs, make sure to check out the MLD Exodus pack. It is a little smaller than the Mariposa Plus (3,600 cu vs 4000 for the mariposa), but it weighs less, is more durable, and is made with the legendary MLD high quality craftsmanship.

On trips up to a week I have happily used 2 pairs of socks - one pair for sleeping and one for hiking. Once I get to camp, I take off my hiking socks, soak them in water (when available), and hang them up overnight to dry and air out. However, I don't have any experience on trips longer than 1 week, so I can't comment how well that strategy would work in the long term. I would guess it would be fine considering you would be stopping in towns fairly frequently to was clothes on the AT.

b s
(smyth) - F
Re: A few more Q's on 01/17/2009 13:24:06 MST Print View

1.) I'll comment on your fuel estimate. Seems way high. I've got a full 12 oz. bottle of Heet sitting next to me and it only weighs 11.7 oz. in the original packaging. Depending on what and how often you're cooking, that alone could last 6-10 days. Denatared alcohol or Heet was available at almost every resupply in '05.

2.) I used Lekis. Not ul but worked fine. Have never used anything lighter so can't comment.

3.) Used a Nimbus Ozone on my thru-hike and enjoyed it. However, that was pre-ul days so I was carrying ~25-35 lbs. fully loaded.

4.) Eat directly from the cookpot. Unless you're going to make coffee/tea/hot cocoa, cup is unnecessary.

5.) I was happy I had three pairs. Your feet are going to get wet no matter what. Sometimes you'll get good weather and can dry out one pair while hiking in the other, sometimes you won't. I always kept one dry pair stuffed away in my sleeping bag to use in camp/shelter. Some might consider it a luxury, but it was well worth the 1.5 oz imho.

Frank Deland

Locale: On the AT in VA
gear list on 01/21/2009 06:32:22 MST Print View

Ditto on #5 above. I also recommend low-cut socks for two of your three pairs. The super low cuts are too low for me, but the styles that just reach the ankles are my favorites. Less sock means they dry out faster. I have a regular length sock for camp. I have a couple of large locking safety pins (made for diapers) to hang wet clothes off my pack. Smaller pins work, too.

For hiking poles I have used both Leki Ultra Lights and the Gossamer Gear fixed Light poles. You might not notice any difference unless you are holding one of each. The Leki poles feel heavy! Over a thousand miles, swinging the lightest pole might make a difference. Both are strong. Both companies replace broken poles fast. The Leki tips fit on the Gossamer Gear poles, so replacement parts are available from outfitters along the trail. The continually shock of poles striking the ground can cause "tennis elbow", so keep that in mind if you start to develop forearm or elbow pain. I did break a pole once, but quickly adapted to using just one.

Although I do eat out of the cooking pot, carrying another container can be useful. You can have a bowl of soup cooling as you are cooking dinner. I like flexible bowls like the Guyot Squishy Bowl and the Orikaso Folding bowls. The Squishy can be folded inside out for easy cleaning, the Orikasos can be lain flat so are easy to clean and store in your pack. When a water source is very low in the summer, like a small puddle, flexible bowls make it easy to scoop up the water. Sea to Summit makes flexible bowls, the "X bowl". Snow Peak makes a solid lightweight titanium bowl.

Once you decide on the volume pack you want, go for the lightest model. The more weight you shed, the better. A frame pack means sore shoulders and sore hips. Frameless packs means only sore shoulders. You just have to weigh (no pun intended) the advantages of both and decide. Remember, however, if you load up your pack with ten days worth of food, you only have to carry that extra weight for one day! I agree that Osprey packs are popular. One model has a ridged mesh pocket holding the pack off your back. A hiker carried his water bottle in it. The pack was large in volume, yet compact. Outfitters I've visited along the trail ( in GA, NC, VA, Harpers Ferry, PA, NY, MA, NH, ME) all carry Granite Gear models. Apologies from a gear nut!