November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
Are 20 mile days possible?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Barry Westbrook
(BarryBiceps) - F
Are 20 mile days possible? on 03/30/2009 14:15:48 MDT Print View

I'm planning on a 240 mile trip in two weeks from the southern tip of the AT at Springer Mountain, Georgia to Davenport Gap in North Carolina.

I've got a lot of backpacking experience and have been training for the last few months for this trip.

Is it possible to complete this trip this fast or should I reconsider? And what should the max weight in my pack for this kind of distance? I've never done a trip this ambitious.

b s
(smyth) - F
Re: Are 20 mile days possible? on 03/30/2009 15:00:12 MDT Print View

At the start of an '05 thru, I crossed Davenport Gap on my 21st day. Consider that:

a) I had not done any major training;
b) my pack was not yet too light (~35 lbs.);
c) I started from Amicalola Falls SP (extra ~9 mi.); and
d) I took several very short days when resupplying and due to some heavy snow in the Smokies.

I'd say it's possible and that it's worth a shot. I'm assuming you'll have some type of shuttle or pick-up scheduled?? If after a week or so you clearly see you're not going to make it, you could always adjust your pace and change your out point to Fontana Dam or Newfound Gap.

Your max weight will vary depending on how often you plan to resupply. If you're willing to hitch, there's pretty regular resupply points through that stretch if I remember correctly.

Good luck. Enjoy your hike.

Edited by smyth on 03/30/2009 15:02:33 MDT.

Barry Westbrook
(BarryBiceps) - F
reply on 03/30/2009 20:23:18 MDT Print View

Cool. Thanks for the comment, that's encouraging to hear.

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Are 20 mile days possible? on 03/30/2009 22:05:29 MDT Print View

There are certainly plenty of people who have done that section averaging 20 miles / day. Physical prep is a good start. The biggest issue for most people is mental.

For other people's experiences see

As far as how much weight... my vote would be as little as possible while not going crazy with resupply stops. Theres been a bunch of research which suggests that to minimize fatigue you should carry less than 10% of your lean body. For me, that around 17lbs. I have certainly noticed that I have a lot more energy at the end of the day carrying a 17lb pack as compared to similar days carrying a 25lb. You millage might vary. A few thoughts about lightening your load. This is a good site to learn more.

Zack Karas
( - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
20 miles/day on 03/30/2009 22:28:49 MDT Print View

You can absolutely do it--just make sure that you are climbing and descending often in your training, or at least doing lunges at home with your pack on. That section has some steep parts and I remember my knees hurting me a bit (this way pre-ultra light for me). If you are in shape and have a light pack (and the AT is definitely an easy place for light packs) then you could even do 25s. Have a great trip!

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: Are 20 mile days possible? on 03/30/2009 22:32:11 MDT Print View

Yes they are possible, and it is not necessarily dependant upon great physical conditioning. It is dependent upon managing a reasonably 'light' load. Going light is not necessarily the key. The key is having the experience and confidence that a lighter load will enhance and improve your hiking efficiency. One must have confidence that the lighter load will work day in and day out. This includes being able to eat nutriously to stay in good health and condition. It is going to be hard to drop from a 35lb load down to something below 20lbs in a short period of time, unless you are honing your skills with lighter equipment as a part of your conditioning program.

Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
Re: Are 20 mile days possible? on 03/31/2009 15:57:41 MDT Print View

20 mile days are definitely possible. 2 weeks of 20 mile days back to back is a bit harder. The only things a person really needs to do this, though, are a really high tolerance for pain and an ability to fend off boredom. It's not as easy as it seems--not nearly--but a mantra that helps me sometimes is repeating to myself "if I can do this for an hour, I can do it for another hour." In all honestly, I do believe that the majority of the hikers who attempt a thru on the AT are deterred by boredom (or the prospect of several months of boredom).

Hiking 20 miles in a day really isn't that hard. All you've got to do is wake up at dawn, get on the trail as soon as you break camp, hike all day long, and make camp at dusk. In the Spring, when days are about 12 hours long, I've done 25 mile days at a pretty leisurely pace. It's the "hike all day long" part of that simple description which can't be underestimated. A relatively light pack is a given, and it's assumed that you're healthy enough for backpacking if you're even considering 20 mile days. The AT certainly has some elevation gains, but take these slow enough that you aren't sweating very much more than you would on flat terrain and you'll be just fine with your schedule.

So let's assume that you can do this without tiring yourself so much that you have to take a rest day in the course of the 2 weeks... now all you've got is 2 consecutive weeks of doing nothing but walking forward, of putting one foot in front of the other in hopes of reaching more trail to put one foot in front of the other on top of until you get to more trail and so forth. Of course, we all know that there's more to backpacking than this mundane description implies, but that's how your body can see it unless you have a strong sense of determination and can ignore that little voice in your head wants you to stop, that says this is far enough for today, and so forth. It's all about mental preparation.

Edited by artsandt on 03/31/2009 16:01:03 MDT.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Yes! on 03/31/2009 17:49:49 MDT Print View

As long as your feet and back feel good, by all means you can! :-)

Sean Walashek
(caraz) - F

Locale: bay area
to echo others comments on 03/31/2009 18:02:00 MDT Print View

Are you set on making this milage goal in a certain time or are you going with a group? It is very concivable to do even 30-35 mile days if your feet are taken care of and you power through for the whole day. What you may want to do is shoot for the larger gain days for two or three of the trip which would give you a couple days off to rest and ejoy the surroundings and break up the monotony. But to answer your question 240 miles in 12 days is possible for anyone whoe doesnt tire from walking all day, however to simply push for 20 miles a day can wear your patience for the trail. If you wake up early and hike late 20 miles a day is on the conservative side. Having never hiked the AT Im not sure about its gain but any days when you are going to be changing over 3000' in elevation expect to drop the milage a bit. You could also plan an overnight for a weekend where you hike as far out as you can in 8 hours and check the milage to get a sense of what your max milage per day could be.

Zack Karas
( - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
20 mile days on 03/31/2009 18:51:00 MDT Print View

Art--I see your point, but I don't want the original poster to get the wrong idea about doing bigger miles. Hiking all day long is not about fending off pain and boredom for me--I like the change of scenery more than sitting around camp. I can read a book anytime, but I can't explore the backcountry anytime.

I'm always amazed at just how easy it is to hike long days near the end of a thru-hike. I know the original poster isn't going on a thru-hike, but if he is in good shape and continues training, then he shouldn't have to suffer at all.

george carr
(hammer-one) - F - MLife

Locale: Walking With The Son
Re: Are 20 mile days possible? on 03/31/2009 19:02:53 MDT Print View


Edited by hammer-one on 03/31/2009 19:05:16 MDT.

b s
(smyth) - F
Elevation and 20 mile days on 03/31/2009 20:07:09 MDT Print View

"Having never hiked the AT Im not sure about its gain but any days when you are going to be changing over 3000' in elevation expect to drop the milage a bit."

That first section of AT is pretty unforgiving. I'd say that doing 20 miles a day you'd be averaging around 4000' in elevation gain per day. Some 20-mile stretches will push 5000-6000' in a day.

Barry Westbrook
(BarryBiceps) - F
-- on 04/01/2009 13:12:20 MDT Print View

"Are you set on making this milage goal in a certain time or are you going with a group?"

I'm hiking it in 14 days and not with a group. There are a few days where I'll have lighter mileage, like 16 and two where I'll have 23. On the 10th day, I'll rest at Fontana Dam and hike into Fontana village for supplies. Some days will be easier than others.

My training involves lots of squats, back and ab exercises, along with running, Yoga, and running stairs with a 45lb pack.

For those of you who have hiked this section before, will I need a tent? All the thru hikers should be gone by this time so I don't expect the shelters to be crowded.

Zack Karas
( - MLife

Locale: Lake Tahoe
20s on AT on 04/01/2009 13:24:02 MDT Print View

Carrying a shelter will help you make the most out of available daylight and give you the convenience of making camp where you want to. The spacing of AT shelters can be all over the place, where if you didn't have a shelter you might be forced to hike a shorter day than you had intended, or make you hike a huge day to get to the next shelter. It's definitely not necessary, though.

Edited by on 04/01/2009 13:24:43 MDT.

b s
(smyth) - F
Re: 20s on AT on 04/01/2009 14:21:52 MDT Print View

Zack is right on. There are plenty of shelters through that first stretch so it's not necessary but I would carry something. The weight penalty for carrying a light tarp or tent will be greatly outweighed by the flexibility it provides. Well, I guess it also depends on what your tent options are. If you've only got a four pound family tent, then I'd leave it home or look for a lighter alternative.

Art Sandt
(artsandt) - F
Re: -- on 04/01/2009 15:41:11 MDT Print View

"For those of you who have hiked this section before, will I need a tent?"

Unless you actually enjoy sleeping on wood boards in a disgusting mouse-infested shelter with other smelly, snoring, and farting hikers. Also because you're going to be doing some pretty long days, and you might reach a shelter at mile 17 for the day, but still have 3 hours of daylight left in which you might get another 6+ miles under your belt. But it's generally considered one of the few minimum requirements for backpacking to bring a shelter of some kind no matter what. There could be a bear in the shelter you had planned to crash. Or worse, drunk people.