So, here's the setup. My girlfriend and I would like to go somewhere warm during her winter break from school. She's inexperienced with backpacking but capable and very interested. I've been delving into UL and SUL pretty much since I was 16, so I'm carrying some experience. We had intended a road trip to the southwest with some backpacking here and there, but then the car exited the stage and we don't want to rush on buying a replacement. Our budget is also rather low; I've traveled longer for less but it's something we want to be conscious of. So it was wonderful to discover that Megabus (who I use all the time) just extended their service lines all the way down to Orlando, which made me think, of course, of the Florida Trail.
We would like to spend a few weeks on the trail, at a slower pace, probably ~10 miles per day. Less of a challenging expedition, more of a vacation. After all, she's new to this, and I just got over an illobital band issue. No need to bring it back. It looks like the trail is beautiful, and we're both "easily amused," so to speak; doing big miles is fun, but so is slowing down and exploring all the little things there are to see. So I'm not too concerned about being truly ultralight or having the perfect gear list, but I do want to make sure that we're prepared for some rather unfamiliar trail conditions, and get some advice from those that know the trail and climate.
I'm thinking the southern portion of the trail is our main target. I have relatives in Orlando who I ought to drop in on, and to my knowledge the trail does pass through or near the Orlando metro region, so it would be easy enough to get a ride to a trailhead. Would a loop from there down around Lake Okeechobee be worthwhile? Would hiking on either of the other branches (south to big cypress or east to the coast) be advisable? At our pace, might it be better to get a ride to the southern terminus and hike north to Orlando? Any interesting off-trail side excursions we should consider (wilderness or civilization are both fine)?
Gear-wise, both being about 5'7" and thin, here's what we're working with:
Shelter: Tarptent Rainbow. We both fit just fine. I suspect I'll keep a spare shirt handy at night for wiping down condensation.
Sleeping: Golite 20 Down Quilt. Yes, we actually do sleep together under this quilt on a regular basis. I'm usually slightly to warm, she's usually slightly chilly, not uncomfortable either way. Comfort for us seems to be down to about 30 degrees because she's always cold. For this reason I'm considering also bringing a thin fleece bag I've got from walmart, around 2 pounds, warm and versatile in combination with the quilt. Would most agree that down, while not ideal, is workable for the FT? Thoughts on the fleece liner?
Sleeping on CCFs.
Packs: I've used my Granite Gear Vapor Flash from mountains to deserts to beaches and cloud forest. I imagine it can probably handle Southern Florida as well; maybe not the best or lightest, but it'll do well enough. For a less-dialed trip with a beginner I find its versatility reassuring. As for her, I've got a small collection of other packs I'll have her try on; if nothing really fits well, I'll probably turn this into a question.
Clothing: Obviously no cotton. Would it be better to look for some loose-fitting, cool full-coverage clothing instead of shorts, for sun and bug protection? Warm baselayers are in good supply for when temps drop, but my go-to insulation layer is a little Land's End down puffy. I've used it successfully (and carefully) in rainy situations before, but would it be a no-go for the FT?
Rainwear: I've given up on WPBs for now, especially on our budget. Probably just going with plastic raingear from walmart... I've been using it since the spring, it's not the best thing ever, but it's always kept me dry enough. How much rain should we expect?
Footwear: We've got plenty of thin merino socks, the shoes themselves are a question though. I've read reports of hiking through lots of water. I'll probably stick with my Inov-8 Baregrips, as they're all mesh and dry very quickly. Right now she usually hikes in my old Inov-8 Roclite 370s... they're pretty breathable but I don't think they'd be great for going in and out of water. We'll probably want to get something different for her. Any recommendations?
Water: I usually just bring a couple liters worth of gatorade bottles, I have an old Katadyn pump filter but I'm considering chemicals instead. That filter's pumped water on three continents and I imagine it's probably past replacement time... and much heavier than tablets or drops. Thoughts?
Cooking: I'll probably put together a little alky. I've made them before, just lost them since I mostly go cookless when solo. Maybe I'll get a little pot and little frying pan. Not worried about being ultralight in this area, and I really like to cook a hot meal, so... idk, I'll probably be carrying plenty of rice, ghee, and maybe eggs for a few days after resupply points? Speaking of which, how frequent is decent resupply access (particularly with eggs available)? Along with typical trail mix, teabag-style coffee, occasional greens, whatever. Additional question, what's the stance on campfires along the FT? Illegal? Frowned upon? Useful? Pointless? Encouraged? Better to know going in, I figure.
I'm not inclined to worry too much about weights at this point, perhaps once the issues above are worked out. The low mileage makes it less critical. Any insight into safety concerns (ticks, snakes, gators, less-genuine rainbow family members) is appreciated as well.
I know that's a lot of questions, so thanks for any insight you might be able to offer. Hope everyone's having a good thanksgiving!