Forum Index » General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion » Ultralight hiking the Appalachian Trail


Display Avatars Sort By:
Thomas Hammel
(TSHammel) - F
Ultralight hiking the Appalachian Trail on 03/04/2011 12:56:35 MST Print View

Hey everyone-

I'm months away from graduating from San Diego State over here on the west coast and I thought this could be one of the better places to plan my next move. I'm a third year senior and have no intention of tying myself to a desk job in a grim market come May. I've recently converted to the Ultralight school, and I want to spend the rest of my summer on a single trail, with a single goal. I've been running through my different options on the East coast, because I want to end up moving to D.C. once the journey is done. The Appalachian Trail immediately stuck out to me, but I've never done anything close to this level of magnitude. I've come across a beginners guide to the trail written by the guy who originally got me into Ultralight, but I'm searching for more reading on the methods & prep in the context of the AT, so I thought I'd come to the community of experts.

Anyone have some links, or guru advice off-hand? Any guidance would help. Thanks!

Here's what I've started with:
http://www.atlasomega.com/2011/03/appalachian-trail-ultralight-hiking-guide/

Chris W
(simplespirit) - MLife

Locale: WNC
Re: Ultralight hiking the Appalachian Trail on 03/04/2011 13:07:00 MST Print View

Honestly, aside from having the funds and gear ready, and assuming you have no special needs, you don't need to plan much. You'll cross a resupply point every 3-5 days with the rare exception so mail drops aren't necessary. You'll need to plan your gear around your potential start and finish time accordingly of course. Otherwise, wing it and have fun. You can push it and finish fast, or take your time and enjoy the trail life.

Oh yeah, make sure you carry some kind of shelter so you can be self-sufficient. Don't be the guy who shows up at a shelter in the middle of the night and asks if anyone has a tent, and can they please use it because you don't have one.

There are lots of book details you might want, like requirements in the Smokies, etc. but that's standard info.

Edited by simplespirit on 03/04/2011 13:10:56 MST.

Eric Blumensaadt
(Danepacker) - MLife

Locale: Mojave Desert
Whiteblaze on 03/04/2011 17:07:37 MST Print View

Tom,

Go to Whiteblaze.net, (the AT forums) and ask your questions on the appropriate forum. I've backpacked large sections of the AT and have used a mail drop.

Get the current spiral bound AT trail guide for info on towns and their facilities.

Buy the little book "Freezerbag Cooking" and make up some recipies at home to test them. They will be far tastier (and cheaper) than standard freeze-dried meals.

Also train a LOT with the load in pounds that you plan to carry to get in shape - especially your feet. Do shakedown trips to check for gear problems.

Begin your AT trip with no more than 10 to 12 miles a day for the first few days, then gradually lengthern your mileage.

Take an insulating jacket (like a down sweater) for camp use & to stretch your sleeping bag's temp. range. And a pair of light polyester long john pants will make a big difference in sleeping on the cold nights you'll have early in the trip.

Think seriously about getting a Packa nylon rain parka/pack cover. They are a geat invention and not too 'spensive.

Take all synthetic clothing unless merino wool is a must-have for you. Wool blend in your socks is fine. And bring a light poly or wool stocking hat or Peruvian styel hat for sleeping on cold nights.

P.S. Have Fun!

Edited by Danepacker on 03/04/2011 17:09:16 MST.

a b
(Ice-axe)
Awol's AT Guide on 03/04/2011 17:29:28 MST Print View

I can vouch for the AT guide being pretty awesome. I am about to begin my AT thru hike this March and Awol's AT guide has been a great help in planning. Particularly as it demonstrates the AT has abundant opportunities to resupply along it's length. The only boxes i will be sending will be for replacement shoes for my wierd-ass feet.
Anyhow,
I think the spiral un-bound edition would have made sense but i got the bound copy. It is about 5" X 7" and weighs 8 ounces. It is basically a very extensive "Data" book and town guide. Instead of maps it has elevation profiles and data points. Every few pages there is a full description of the data point and towns on the previous pages. It is availiable in Northbound(NoBo) or Southbound(SoBo) versions.
I am still on the fence about maps. I have a complete set of the ATC topo maps for the whole AT but everyone and their brother keep telling me i wont need them.. this makes no sense to me coming fresh off the CDT.
Anyhow, Awol's AT Guide is 20 bucks. Hilariously it comes with a ziplock baggie!
The full set of ATC AT maps can be found used for anywhere from 100 to several hundred dollars.
My AT veteran hiker buddies keep telling me the AT is so well blazed(white paint marks on trees) that it can be hiked using just the AT guidebook and it's elevation profiles.
I still can't believe i wont want the maps.. just does not compute.
Whiteblaze has been an awesome resource for information. Just be ready for a LOT of different and conflicting opinions.
The email list server called AT-l run by backcountry.net can be a great place to ask trail questions.
Well.. 10 days to go before i pass under the arch at Amicalola Falls and start my AT hike!

Ed Schmidt
(suttree) - F

Locale: ON, CANADA
Re: AT Guide on 03/04/2011 18:23:42 MST Print View

>My AT veteran hiker buddies keep telling me the AT is so well blazed(white paint marks on >trees) that it can be hiked using just the AT guidebook and it's elevation profiles.

I hiked the AT with only an elevation profile and I very much agree!
One funny problem worth noting:
When you wander off the trail to visit a shelter or stealth camp, be sure to remember which way is NOBO/SOBO. Never happened to me, but I remember stories of hikers who earned their trail name by waking early in the morning only to take a wrong turn and backtrack for a couple hours. Long green tunnel indeed ;)

Edited by suttree on 03/04/2011 18:24:52 MST.

John Donewar
(Newton) - MLife

Locale: Southeastern Louisiana
Re: Re: AT Guide on 03/04/2011 18:59:18 MST Print View

+1 for Awol's AT Guide

"One funny problem worth noting:
When you wander off the trail to visit a shelter or stealth camp, be sure to remember which way is NOBO/SOBO. Never happened to me, but I remember stories of hikers who earned their trail name by waking early in the morning only to take a wrong turn and backtrack for a couple hours."


A similar thing "almost" happened to us at NOBO 390.7.

The AT veers on to a jeep trail for apporximately .4 mile. Awol's guide lists the next landmark to look for as a barbed wire fence after another .2 mile.

We missed it and pressed on regardless until we happened upon the water stop at the church on Buck Mountain Rd. at NOBO 392.9.

We spotted the trailhead and were about to hike on when we saw another hiker emerge from the woods. He was headed in the direction we intended to go. We asked him if he was northbound and he said that he was southbound. :-0

We thanked him and proceeded on our way northbound.

Later on our trip we caught up with other hikers that we had met along the trail at the Kincora Hiking Hostel. We all had a good laugh about getting lost at that point on the trail. It seems that 3 different groups of hikers had all gotten lost at the same point on the AT but all of us had done it in different ways! :-)

Party On,

Newton

Piper S.
(sbhikes) - F

Locale: Santa Barbara (Name: Diane)
Re: Re: AT Guide on 03/04/2011 22:28:16 MST Print View

I met a guy in Oregon who did the same thing on the PCT! He asked me if I'd seen a lake recently. No, I hadn't. The look on his face when he realized he'd hiked 5 miles in the wrong direction! Poor guy.

From what I've read, the AT wouldn't require a lot of planning. Just hop on the trail with enough food to get to the next resupply. Lather, rinse, repeat.

Being in San Diego you could also say a farewell to the west with a hike of the PCT, too.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
When do you start, by when must you be finished? on 03/05/2011 00:01:00 MST Print View

Going truly ultralight on the AT is certainly within reach, but a significant factor for ordinary mortals is the time of year that you're hiking. If you start late enough and don't keep hiking into cold conditions on the other end, that helps a lot to keep pack weight down without too much compromise to comfort or safety.

What I suggest that you do is put together a specific gear list, very complete, with specific weights for every item. Post this here and/or on whiteblaze.net and solicit feedback. Then try out the resulting specific gear list on some sort of shakedown hike to see how well it all works for you.

Eric said:
"Buy the little book "Freezerbag Cooking" and make up some recipies at home to test them. They will be far tastier (and cheaper) than standard freeze-dried meals."

There are different approaches here, but my suggestion is to not prioritize making up specific recipes at home. I'm a big fan of the freezer bag cooking approach in general, but not of making up lots of meals and mailing them to yourself along the way. Better IMO to learn to resupply from relatively minimal sources, including gas station mini-marts, and to cook (or not cook) and eat just from those things.

Ike Jutkowitz
(Ike) - M

Locale: Central Michigan
Brian Doble on 03/05/2011 06:25:14 MST Print View

Brian yoyoed the AT and completed the triple crown ultralight style. His blog and gear lists can be found here.

http://broble.wordpress.com/about/

Not appropriate for everyone, but shows what is possible.

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Brian Doble on 03/05/2011 06:53:31 MST Print View

Brian is hitting up the AT again this year but is being a wimp and only going one way. Best of luck Broble!!!

Edited by Jkrew81 on 03/05/2011 06:54:21 MST.

Chris Morgan
(ChrisMorgan) - F

Locale: Southern Oregon
Re: Ultralight hiking the Appalachian Trail on 03/06/2011 19:08:28 MST Print View

More important question: why move to DC?