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
Display Avatars Sort By:
Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Unsupported / Unresupplied - Rules on 04/27/2007 08:14:03 MDT Print View

Un-Supplied Un-Supported Rules of the Road.


Glad to see this come back up. I have been thinking about this subject since it first came up and we are moving closer to the "season" for a hike like this.

I would like to see work out a definitive set of rules for this type of hiking.

From an article about this style of hiking: "Demetri Coupounas hatched the idea of what he calls "Alpine-style thruhiking" years ago as he watched friends go through the logistical gymnastics involved with long hikes and trying to figure out just how much they could carry."

How about a Podcast on the subject with Demetri Coupounas, Ryan J., Roman Dial, and others ?? about their ideas for "Alpine-style thruhiking" and what they think the "rules" should be etc. They may prefer a different term then "rules" but I think this way of hiking needs some "can and can not" structure.


How Far How Fast

About Food

A Plan for 700 to 800 miles on the AT

Other places:


The "How Far? How Fast?" Challenge

Here is a start:

The following are from Roman Dial and found in reference "E" above.

1. "self-contained" travel means they (you) start with the food and gear necessary for the duration.

2. carrying all the gear and food that you need without resupply.

Edited by bfornshell on 04/27/2007 08:17:59 MDT.

Kenneth Knight
(kenknight) - MLife

Locale: SE Michigan
Unsupported / Unresupplied - Rules on 04/27/2007 16:09:17 MDT Print View

Bill, a discussion podcast about the rules for this type of long-distance hiking could be quite a lot of fun. Do you have a reference for the article Coop wrote coining the term "lpine-style thruhiking?"

I can think of a few people that would likely have interesting things to say on the topic. Some might be a bit shy on mic (I know of some that would be), but it's a worthwhile idea to pursue. Sadly one of the best people to get involved with this would be Andy Skurka but he's now engaged in his Great Western Loop hike. But hey you can't have everyone you want all the time.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Unsupported / Unresupplied - Rules on 04/27/2007 17:36:49 MDT Print View

Hi Ken,

If you go to this GoLite web site and click on the reference that lists
Burlington Free Press it will download a PDF of the article where it gives Coup credit for that term.

That same page has a Podcast from Andrew that was made for "Practical Backpacking" just before the start of his current hike.

This came from Coup's article about his Colorado Trail Alpine Hike.

"ALPINE STYLE THRU-HIKING MEANS UN-RESUPPLIED BUT NOT UNSUPPORTED When I came up with the phrase “alpine-style thru-hiking,” I thought of it as un-resupplied and unsupported. ........" [You have to understand what he is talking about is something like a phone call from his wife.]

This is on page 3 of another PDF from this

I agree that Andrew would be good to have on a Podcast about this subject but I know he is currently on his long hike.

Adam Kilpatrick
(oysters) - MLife

Locale: South Australia
Re: Re: Re: Re: re:Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 04/29/2007 03:06:10 MDT Print View

I totally agree with Roman (and wife)'s comments about taking care of your body and psychological strength.

In the early parts of each segment pack loads are going to be high. With the hilly nature of the AT (so everyone keeps saying-I havent been there) I would assume that there are going to be continuous inclines on which walking speed is going to dramatically cut. In order to maintain richards 3.0 mph speed, you are going to have to pick up the pace somewhere. Trying to maintin mileage early on with heavy pack but running or shuffling will have huge strain on joints and muscles. Running with 30+kg is certainly an interesting experience if you ever try it. I think the risk factor for injury is probably too high to do this early on in each segment, so mileage would have to be made up when pack weights are much lighter towards the ends of each piece.

Mental toughness can overcome some pretty huge obstacles and lacks of physical capability. I agree with Richards assessment (assuming calculations are correct) that the average 30 year old could do this; assuming they have the discipline and mental toughness for it.

Richard: I didnt notice, but do your calcualtions say that there will be any body fat useage to achieve those figures? If there isnt then I am guessing that each leg could be a fair bit longer, as long as muscle mass isnt lost?



Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Unsupported / Unresupplied Hike on 04/29/2007 15:29:06 MDT Print View

Possible Pack for an AT Un-supplied / Un-Supported Hike:

First option for a pack. When the Mountain Hardwear Exodus series of Backpacks came out I thought the Harrier might make the basis of a good pack for a heavy load. The stock pack comes apart as a frame and a pack bag. It would be easy to make a Cuben Pack Bag and the Frame can be lightened a bit without to much trouble.

Last December I was able to buy a Harrier at a really big discount. I have several plans for the stock set-up. The first is a new and much lighter pack bag. I have a prototype made and will make the real thing out of some of my "stronger but still really light" Cuben Fiber.

Second option for a pack is a
McHale Pack. I don't have one and don't know what Pack in his lineup of Packs might work for me. He makes great packs and some of them are close to the weight range of what the stock Harrier pack is.
NOTE: To Ken, Mchale would be a good person to add to your Podcast list.

Third option is the
ULA Arctic Dry Pack that is being sold by and coming out in a few months.

I have been on a fitness program to help me hike 25 to 30 miles a day. Today I started carrying my Harrier pack at a weight of about 12 pounds. I will add 6 pounds a week till I get up to 60 pounds. I have a walking route that goes up and down some hills and is about 5 miles long. I walk this route twice a day and also workout at a Fitness Center about 1 hour four or five times a week.

Edited by bfornshell on 04/29/2007 15:30:49 MDT.

David Wills
(willspower3) - F
Unsupported / Unresupplied Hike on 05/20/2007 18:41:50 MDT Print View

I just got back from 16 days on the AT in which the first 11 days and 160 miles were without resupply. I did get a gatorade and icecream and Neels gap and hit up the all you can eat buffet at NOC, but had 2 or 3 meals left over when my buddies came to resupply me at Fontana. I began with 30 pounds or so of food and 10 lbs of gear. roughly 4000 calories per day (i require more calories than most due to an already superfast metabolism and having very low fat safety reserves). I kept my average mileage to 15 or 16 due this being my first hard exercise since my recent tendinitis recovery along with my lack of proper training due to it. While this is very scaled down compared to any kind of unsupported/unresupplied thru-hike of any trail, my biggest impression of this style of hiking is- it sucks for the hiker!
To me, the only redeeming value of this style of hiking is you don't have to go to towns which makes logistics easier.
The reversion to 40 lbs on my back was depressing and taxing on my muscles and infrastructure when pushing any kind of what i would consider big miles (first full day was 19 miles, 39lbs and very harsh). It was also depressing that I found the limit pepperoni can be open before going bad (5 days or so), and even more depressing I couldn't find the limit of Velveeta (over 11 days). I also had to bust out my 2 lb pack which increased my base weight significantly. Luckily (?) my base weight dropped when my silk hammock ripped at both ends on two separate occasions on day 8 and got chunked. While the trip was more than I could ever ask for, I feel this style of hiking, while having a cool/high 'can it be done' factor, is completley impractical for most hikers in most situations.
Only a few examples where I find it could be useful include: hikers without adequate support networks for resupply, trails in far off locations/no resupply availability, super-athletes to set records, macho-challenges, hatred of grocery stores or post offices, or an interesting experiment for someone to try.
A few things I did that I felt helped nutritionally was protein shakes every night before dinner (reduced sore muscles compared to normal), multi vitamins, and 800mg Tums for calcium each day. I do think that for all practical purposes, I will keep my supplies to 5 days at a time tops. from now on. Good luck to other trying to hike 1000 miles plus on one load.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Unsupported / Unresupplied Hike on 05/20/2007 20:03:32 MDT Print View

"my biggest impression of this style of hiking is- it sucks for the hiker!"

I heartily agree, especially when I think of the up/down-repeat ad infinitum killer ascents of the southern AT.

"Only a few examples where I find it could be useful include: hikers without adequate support networks for resupply"

I'm sort of in this boat during my Sheltowee Trace thru-hike starting next week. Because of so-so (at best) resupply options, I'll be hiking two back-to-back 7-day sections (108 miles in one, 104 miles in the second) in order to avoid to get far off-trail or hitch-hike for resupply. But the Sheltowee is a "foothills" hike with some moderate lower mountain ascents, very unlike the "energizer" of up-downs in Georgia and the AT in NC.

BTW, did the shelter system help out after losing your hammock, or did you get another shelter?

David Wills
(willspower3) - F
Re: Re: Unsupported / Unresupplied Hike on 05/20/2007 20:19:27 MDT Print View

Thats pretty funny, I was planning on thru-hiking the sheltowee trace trail with my 11 days of food i bought, but my ride to Kentucky bailed the morning I was leaving so i drove the 30 minutes or so to Springer to improvise a trip.
I think my calves grew a few inches in diameter because of those hills. Now if I could just keep them that big...
I had a 6.5' x 10' tarp for over the hammock. I used it when I wasn't in the AT shelters. I wrapped up in it a few times when my 45* quilt didn't meet the unexpected sub freezing temps I ran into at high elevations. The weather was great though, so the lack of groundsheet was no problem.
Good luck on your thru-hike, and if you are printing the maps off the website, be sure to use a color printer. I didn't and was envisioning lots of 'winging it' situations before my plans got changed.

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Unsupported / Unresupplied Hike on 06/08/2007 15:50:39 MDT Print View

I'm not in your guys' league and I hardly have a right to comment in this thread. But here I am doing it anyway.

First, it's totally fascinating to me that the acknowledged gurus of light backpacking are pondering what they could do with a 75lb pack! It's like you've come full-circle, so-to-speak.

Skurka, Dial, Jordan, Fornshell, Bell, Moak, Nisley, the list goes on. Conversing on the possibilities of what kind of a trip could be had if one was carrying the maximum cartilage-grinding load possible. Surprising!

I don't mean this to be in any way disparaging. I think that this concept is a natural extension of the power of lightweight backpacking: you can use lw backpacking to cover more miles in a given time, to have more fun in a given mileage, or to reach otherwise unreachable destinations. You guys have done the first two ad infinitum, and now you're exploring the third.

I found this thread this morning and I've read every word of it; I can't wait to read more of everyone's thoughts and specifically of Bill's experiences!

My only contribution to the brainstorm is regarding nutrition: If I were training for an epic unsupported through-hike in Alaska, I imagine myself doing two types of training:

Phase 1) Mental conditioning: Of course a person has to actually do a 780 mile hike to see whether they're able (and willing) mentally. To practice the toughness and pain tolerance needed, the techniques, etc. And to work out exactly how much and what to carry. This is what you're talking about now.

Phase 2) Physical conditioning: Over the next year I think would train my body. I would walk long distances with a heavy pack *but* I would come home to eat every night! Huge amounts of nutrient-dense food, fresh food, sports drink, sports conditioning powders, vitamins, etc. Foods that are not available out of a pack would build (and rebuild) my body faster and better than the instant mashed potatoes and snicker's bars that ld hikers live off of. There's also massage and physio at home to nip any nascent injuries in the bud before they become problems.

I think that Phase 2 would be critical for such a hike. Because trips like that break the body down.

I think that your physical training shouldn't consist solely of thru-hiking, because thru-hiking itself breaks the body down. I think you'd want to eat 2 excellent meals a day and sleep in a real bed at night during the "buildup" phase. Plenty of time for suffering later!

/my 2 cents CAD

Brian James
(bjamesd) - F

Locale: South Coast of BC
Re: Unsupported / Unresupplied Hike on 06/08/2007 15:56:32 MDT Print View

PS At the risk of being negative, that was the first thread I've read at Whiteblaze and also the last! :)

Edited by bjamesd on 06/09/2007 04:30:19 MDT.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Re: Re: Unsupported / Unresupplied Hike on 06/08/2007 21:10:34 MDT Print View

Actually most of the guys at WhiteBlaze have dreamed big and already done one or more thruhikes.

If you were there, having already walked a few hundred miles, and saw someone intentionally bypassing a host of simple resupply options, you'd think they were a bit nuts. (Actually more than just a bit nuts).

To me, the AT is one of the worst places imaginable for an unresupplied endeavor. It's almost pointless. Especially when there are more remote trails like the Colorado Trail or John Muir Trail where resupply options are NOT so readily BUT which also offer a decent number of bailout options if things go badly.

This isn't to say the regulars at Whiteblaze are not fairly clannish. But having thru-hiked the AT and rehiked certain great parts of it again, I understand where they are coming from on this topic. It's really not the best venue for experimenting like this. It just goes well beyond artificial IMO.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Unsupported / Unresupplied Hike - It is back Coup is on the AT on 03/25/2008 01:09:12 MDT Print View

Demetri Coupounas-etc,etc

March 21, 2008

The Appalachian Trail Without Re-Supply

At sunset tonight, Demetri Coupounas, the president and co-founder of GoLite, with the weight of a small person strapped to his back, will set out to hike the Appalachian Trail. For 40 days and 40 nights, Coup will take the classic American pilgrimage—with no re-supply—as an elaborate field test of GoLite’s products. While 127 pounds (eight of them are chocolate!) is, to most, not a particularly light cargo, his journey is meant to affirm the company’s core values—that the outdoors is a lot more fun once you take a load off. He’s commemorating the 10th anniversary of GoLite, which he founded with his wife and late father, while hoping that by the end of his trip, on April 30, he will have broken the current 620-mile World Alpine Style Backpacking Distance record by at least a couple hundred miles. [quote]

Did we all miss this?

Mark Verber
(verber) - MLife

Locale: San Francisco Bay Area
Re: Unsupported / Unresupplied Hike - It is back Coup is on the AT on 03/25/2008 09:06:06 MDT Print View

> his journey is meant to affirm the company’s core values—that
> the outdoors is a lot more fun once you take a load off.

Carrying 127lb day one, and more than 30lbs for the first 35 days? I suppose you can torture yourself for 80% of a trip and then enjoy the last 20% and say "look how much nicer it is with a small load".

This seems like a silly publicity stunt... and a amazing feat if Coup can do this given the speed and the extremely high load. I remember in the 80s carrying a 80lb pack... 10 miles / day was all I was up to.

I totally understand why some routes would be done without resupply given their remote nature... but the AT isn't one of them. Seems like doing 2-3 food resupplies would have dropped the weight down to something reasonable, with minimal interruptions.


Edited by verber on 03/25/2008 14:36:35 MDT.

Thom Darrah
(thomdarrah) - MLife

Locale: Southern Oregon
Unsupported thru hikes on 03/25/2008 10:03:36 MDT Print View

Dan Mchale has an interesting thread on his site regarding this very subject. Go to, click on gallery and go to "1969 muir trail thru hike".

Sam Haraldson
(sharalds) - MLife

Locale: Gallatin Range
Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 03/25/2008 11:55:29 MDT Print View

> 620-mile World Alpine Style Backpacking Distance record

Is this held by Roman? I can't find any references to such a record. Thanks for pointing this out, Bill. That was the first I'd heard of it.

Bill Fornshell
(bfornshell) - MLife

Locale: Southern Texas
Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes-Where is Coup? on 03/25/2008 13:20:43 MDT Print View


How could this fall below the radar?

I am disappointed in you all (staff in general not any one person - Sam).

Does it now take White Blaze to alert us to backpacking news?

Is White Blaze becoming the "backpackers" place on the web?

And I, am still paying for this?

Jonathan Ryan
(Jkrew81) - F - M

Locale: White Mtns
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes-Where is Coup? on 03/25/2008 14:09:34 MDT Print View

I think we are all to blame Bill, I saw this on the other day and did not even think to report on it. WTF was I thinking :/

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes-Where is Coup? on 03/25/2008 14:27:00 MDT Print View

Let's see.... 127 pounds of food and some gear...

Never even crossed my mind that this is "backpacking light".

Anything here that I can learn from? His gear list - maybe. Human physiology - maybe, if he is willing to share info.

Did Golite send out media packets to anyone beside Outside? Nope!

Amazing, yes. If he walks through that much food at 30 miles a day, it will be incredible.

Embarrassing oversight? Hardly.

Devin Montgomery
(dsmontgomery) - MLife

Locale: one snowball away from big trouble
Re: Unsupported/Unresupplied/Thru-Hikes on 03/25/2008 19:02:09 MDT Print View

This brings to mind the many "evolution of man" illustrations - starting with the knuckle-dragging ape on one side, with each figure becoming more erect until reaching modern man on the other. I know I've seen parodies of various kinds, but can't remember if I've seen one particular to backpacking - it would be fitting.

As for this particular endeavor, I'm a bit ambivalent. This guy is doing something to remember his father, and there is symbolism of where the industry started (huge packs) vs. where it is now (...light) with a significant boost in popularity from Golite.

But I do find calling this "alpine backpacking" a bit of a misnomer - "alpine" comes from a particular style of mountaineering where climbers carry all of their own gear, as opposed to using fixed ropes and porters. It's similar in-so-far as it's self contained, but more inherent in the idea of alpinism, even used loosely outside of strict mountaineering, is the remoteness of it. What gives alpine style mountaineering its appeal is its simplicity, its elegance, and its ability to allow those who practice it to travel to remote ranges without the absurd footprint of the heavier caravans.

Those benefits seem seriously diminished when hiking long distances, un-resupplied on an established trail, simply for the sake of going un-resupplied. Sometimes, like when carrying 127 lbs, it would simply make more sense to re-supply at a convenient point. On the other hand, I think that going un-resupplied into true wilderness where resupplying would be cumbersome is a sensible pursuit, as is alpine style mountaineering. It allows one to venture farther and to subsist longer relying on only themselves. Good training for that kind of excursion might be an un-resupplied hike on a conventional trail where support is available if things go south.

Shawn Basil
(Bearpaw) - F

Locale: Southeast
Will the pack and body hold? on 03/25/2008 20:27:36 MDT Print View

5 days into the hike and Coup has not made the 30 miles into Neels Gap. For those who have hiked the "energizer" of unending straight up and straight down that is the Georgia AT, this may not be all that surprising, considering he is carrying over 120 pounds.

My first thought, in all honesty, was will the pack survive? This is a stock GoLite pack, which we all know means it is designed to hold no more than about 35 lbs. I can't imagine the pack holding up to this sort of load.

And the more I think on it, I wonder if this will create undue complications for Coup's body. This isn't the same as the Colorado Trail load Coup carried in 2004, where he overloaded the pack but still carried less than half his starting weight this time. Will he suffer nerve damage from too much cutting pressure on the shoulders? Will the lower extremities hold up to this weight on just trail runners?

Coup is a remarkable specimen. I would never argue this point. But will his body and equipment hold up to this incredible test? Time will tell, but I have to wonder on this one......