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first time hiker help me out with some basics so i can enjoy it as much as you guys
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jeffrey hattem
(hattemjeff) - F
first time hiker help me out with some basics so i can enjoy it as much as you guys on 07/21/2012 14:19:32 MDT Print View

I'm planning to do my first more than a day hike this summer. I want to hike the Appalachian trail, starting in north Carolina, for 2 or 3 weeks next spring. I'm not asking you guys to do all my research and planning for me i am a capable human being. just asking for some tips and pointers from the pros.
first off what does a light weight outfit of quality typically cost.
second what are some good start points in NC, i plan on stopping in towns to reup on food and supplies, so i would like an area that has good routes for that.
third give me any info you think i would find useful and just help out an eager person trying to join the sport.
thank you for the help

UL on 07/21/2012 14:39:05 MDT Print View

As far as UL, it can cost from $400 to $2000, depending on what you want to spend. UL gear does not have to be more expensive than heavy conventional gear, much of it is cheaper. An alcohol stove for instance. Figure out what you want, wait for sales, buy some quality gear used and you can do it for a price you will be ecstatic with.

You will have to define "spring". Spring meaning March or April will expose you to very cold weather and possibly snow thru the highest elevations 5000-6000'. Early summer, ie May, is more temperate. In any case, spring means a high quality good bag if you are to survive the cold nights, and that isnt cheap if its UL. You cant scrimp there. Most popular is the WM Ultralite.

You need to think about what you want to see to decide. Some high points to consider are GSMNP, Roan Highlands, Grayson Highlands. Smokies are a pain with overcrowded shelters during thru-hiker season. You need to know how long you will go, to know how far you will go, and know the miles per day you are capable of.

If you ask on Whiteblaze, you will get plenty of advice.

There is no problem with resupply on the AT during thru hiker season. You will have to hitchike to town or walk 2-10 miles much of the time.

Get AWOL's 2013 guide when it comes out. Or get a 2012 version now, it has all the info on planning you need.

In NC/TN the most popular places to start from/resupply/end are: Most of these have shuttle services

Hiawassee, GA
Franklin, NC
Nantahala Outdoor Center, NC
Fontana Dam, NC
Newfound Gap - Gatlinburg
Standing Bear Hostel
Hot Springs, TN
Erwin, TN
Roan Mtn/Elk Park, NC
Hampton, TN
Damascus, Va

Edited by livingontheroad on 07/21/2012 14:50:35 MDT.

Brian Johns

Locale: NorCal
Forums and Gear Lists on 07/21/2012 14:59:04 MDT Print View

Join this forum and read the articles for members. Then get our gear on the cheap in the Gear Swap portion of this forum. I suggest - as you likely know - getting a very light "Big Three" to start. Try an Enlightend Equipment Revelation X quilt for around $180, a tarp tent and inner net for $200 - $500 depending in the design. And once you have those two and an ideal of how much food you'll need (1.5-2 lbs./Day) get a pack that will hold it all with room or the extras. You'll also need a sleep pad. Try a ridge rest or Z-pad for cheap and comfortable, or something a little more comfy like a Thermarest Neo Air or synmat UL 7. For some of us, a little extra weight is okay of it means a better night's rest.

On the AT a bivy and tarp might be best (even a ponch tarp like the SMD Gatewood Cape) as you'll likely be sleeping in shelters. A member here has some very nice light bivies in the Gear Deals thread.

If you can get along with alcohol stoves, the trail designs caldera keg set up van be had for $50 or so. I you get the titanium version that packs better, closer to $80. Or use a canister stove and get the snow peak starter kit (light, titanium, pot/spoon/stove combo). Either way, a whole kitchen set up can weigh less than 1/2 a pound and do all you need to prepare simple meals and hit drinks.

Gossamer Gear has a very good video of what's in Glenn's pack that will give you a very good idea of what the necessities are and what you can do to keep weight down. Luckily for you, water weight will not be an issue on the AT, but you will need a filter, I'd look at gravity filters like the sawyer squeeze or Seychelles in line filters you can attach right to your platypus. is a great resource too.

Harald Hope

Locale: East Bay
basics on 07/21/2012 17:41:26 MDT Print View

Opinions will vary, so that's important to realize. I've, for example, been trying the neoair out, and find it to be about the worst sleeping pad I've ever used, first time in my life I've found myself pining for my old 3/8" closed cell pad, literally. Way too narrow, way too high, and if you move when you sleep, you just fall off it. I'm reasonably short and my feet hang off the end, which is silly. Determine how you sleep BEFORE you buy the pad. If you move around a lot at night, don't bother with the neoair, it will make you ill and seasick, like all air mattresses that are not foam cored. Best test: at your house, sleep on a hard floor on a foam pad, if you can sleep on that, great, you're set. If you want a bit more, the thermarest prolite is pretty nice, in my opinion more comfortable than the neoair at regular size. Depends on your weight too.

Decide on a few things: if you are going to use trekking poles or not, if you are, your knees will thank you when you get older, significantly, but you can also use a range of tarptents that are trekking pole supported, that saves you about 8 oz give or take. If you don't use trekking poles, I don't find the straight pole trekking pole replacements these guys offer for their tents very convincing, I wouldn't use them myself.

Check out what tarptent offers. I'd avoid any shelters that don't have integrated bug protection, the east coast has a lot of ticks and bugs, and lyme is not a joke, so don't pretend you will sleep without a bug shelter built in ever, unless you really want problems. Henry offers some really nice trekking pole supported tents, see if anything he has rings your bell. His stuff is nice, and is not a huge learning curve up from standard backpacker gear, non light, it's pretty familiar terrain, and you'll be FAR happier in one of his tents on a really nasty rainy day than in some tarp/bivy combo. The contrail for example is a very basic tent that is trekking pole supported and quite light, but low and maybe not as neat as his new Notch, which seems far more storm worthy to me.

I'd spend the most on the sleeping bag, that's where I found when I was moving to light gear I made the most expensive mistakes.

Also, remember most posters here in these forums have a hard time separating their own preference for ultralight backpacking and the sacrifices that requires from general lightweight backpacking, which is the forum you posted in, so take some advice with a large grain of salt. Whiteblaze forums do not seem as prone to this confusion so also ask there and compare the answers you get.

I'll second the alcohol stove recommendations, that's a very nice way to go, but do make very sure to practice with it a lot before you set out, they need real wind screens in the wind, and expect monstrously huge performance drops in wind, so learn about that. But they are very nice. For solo use, you can do 2/3 oz per meal, including warming 8oz of water for tea or whatever.

I find that a very nice light setup, which most backpackers except the ones here as a rule would consider ultralight, is around 12 pounds base weight. That is very comfortable to carry, means 1 week of food water and fuel puts you under 25 pounds easily. Nice packs that might feel familiar to you are ULA, they strike me as a nice balance between weight and functionality, and are very well regarded here.

Keep in mind with quilts, like with sleeping pads, it depends on how you sleep, your style, so while the quilt recommended above is a really good deal, if you prefer a sleeping bag, look at western mountaineering, those are nice bags, and you won't ever regret buying one, plus you can resell them easily if you feel you want a quilt instead.

Other really nifty things are done by people on these forums, the big dig titanium trowel is very cool, and it works, and is super light. Lawson mountainfitters has lots of neat and practical and nicely priced things, for example.

To give you an idea, here's my current setup, give or take:

pack: myog, 18.5 ounces, holds 25 pounds just fine, less is a bit better. ULA will be about 2 pounds, give or take, but will probably give better support than a 18, 19oz pack.

sleeping bag: western mountaineering summerlite, 19oz, great, might be the best out there, hard to say.

pad: probably going back to thermarest prolite, that's 16oz, or the short one, which is 11, plus foot padding, which I use for my frame internal pack structure too.

cook set, complete, 12 oz give or take, alcohol stove etc.

tent: tarptent rainbow, 2.25 pounds give or take, a bit overkill, I would try to go lighter for a multiweek hike I think, but it is very roomy and nice to be in.

ground cloth, polycryo ground sheet from gossamer gear, these things really work, amazingly enough. weighs almost nothing.

sawyer squeeze filter, this thing is great, it rocks, my favorite piece of new gear. Requires backflushing every week or so with the syringe, but otherwise it's great. weighs almost nothing.

with this type of setup, my baseweight is 12 pounds, give or take, I consider this very practical and doesn't involve any particular sacrifices in functionality.

Ryan C
(radio_guy) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: first time hiker help me out with some basics so i can enjoy it as much as you guys on 07/21/2012 20:55:29 MDT Print View

Advice here is good. I would highly recommend paying for a membership and reading some of BPL's articles. They can end up teaching you many things and save you lots of money on gear. They may even give you some ideas for future trips.

Buy good light gear from the start. Good fitting packs are important. Resist the temptation to throw in "just in case" items that you will probably not need, they increase pack weight and clutter. Experiment with your gear at home and know it inside and out. Some things can be multi-use, such as a tent stake for a trowel or a sleeping pad for a pack frame. Heavy boots are usually overrated for most circumstances (try trail runners). Repackage soap, DEET, water purification drops, and similar items into smaller containers or bottles for less weight and bulk.

Tarptents are great. Western Mountaineering is great. Mont bell makes some awesome lightweight insulating jackets. For high tick areas, try clothing treated with Permethrin. Don't wear cotton unless you are in the desert.

Take energy dense foods, 125 calories per ounce or better is a good target.

Edited by radio_guy on 07/21/2012 21:00:05 MDT.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: first time hiker help me out with some basics so i can enjoy it as much as you guys on 07/22/2012 18:28:50 MDT Print View

watch these!/2011/07/video-tutorials.html

read these

Edited by annapurna on 07/22/2012 18:29:28 MDT.

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Link O'Leary once again rocks! on 07/22/2012 20:39:45 MDT Print View

Anna, you never cease to amaze me. And on a quiet Sunday night? What a BPL asset you are.

Bob Gross
(--B.G.--) - F

Locale: Silicon Valley
Re: Link O'Leary once again rocks! on 07/22/2012 21:02:08 MDT Print View

What do you want to bet that she's got some kind of automation working for her? Heaven knows that the BPL search function isn't much good.


Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Link O'Leary once again rocks! on 07/23/2012 08:17:24 MDT Print View

Gary you are very kind,and for that I can see that I will be buying one of your fabulous Zia pot stands (or maybe 2).

Gary Dunckel
(Zia-Grill-Guy) - MLife

Locale: Boulder
Link O'Leary once again rocks! on 07/23/2012 08:24:24 MDT Print View

I am at your service, Anna. If you would like 1-2 pot stands, please send me a PM, and we'll work out the details of height and width you require. But hurry--I leave town in a couple of days for an extended road trip to YNP and GNP. I can make them before I go, or else when I return in September.

Link .
(annapurna) - MLife
Re: Link O'Leary once again rocks! on 07/23/2012 08:44:31 MDT Print View

I am PMing you now,Thanks!

Robert Kelly
(QiWiz) - MLife

Locale: UL gear @
Re: first time hiker help me out with some basics so i can enjoy it as much as you guys on 07/23/2012 18:42:28 MDT Print View

FWIW, did the same thing last year, starting 4/9 and hiking to Hot Springs in 3 weeks. My hike and gear list and resupply points are all available for your reading pleasure at

Kristin Jenson
(kristinjenson123) - F
Really Liked this one......... on 09/24/2012 03:54:36 MDT Print View

I would like to acquisition some ablaze way to snuff a afire 12-10 stove. I haven't been able to anticipate of a can that I could cut off and bead over a afire stove to be able to cascade ammunition aback into my ammunition cannister. I've had a brace of times back I awfully abstract how abundant ammunition I'd charge for a accurate bulk of water, and accept had to aloof let the stove bake itself out. Any thoughts?

Kristin Jenson
(kristinjenson123) - F
I am agree with these facts..... on 09/24/2012 03:56:07 MDT Print View

Decide on a few things: if you are activity to use biking poles or not, if you are, your knees will acknowledge you back you get older, significantly, but you can additionally use a ambit of tarptents that are biking pole supported, that saves you about 8 oz accord or take. If you don't use biking poles, I don't acquisition the beeline pole biking pole replacements these guys action for their tents actual convincing, I wouldn't use them myself.

URL deleted.

Edited by rcaffin on 09/24/2012 14:47:38 MDT.

Tom Lyons
(towaly) - F

Locale: Smoky Mtns.
Wet on 09/24/2012 07:13:27 MDT Print View

I live near where you plan to hike, and I can tell you that at that time of year it will most likely be wet wet wet. Spring rain season. And it really comes down, sometimes for days at a time.

So, make sure you have a good coverage shelter that can take a lot of rain(and maybe some strong wind), and also has a good bathtub-style floor or groundsheet, because you will likely need both of those to stay dry.
That is, unless you are planning on trail shelter space for your nights. If it's wet, a lot of people will be in there with you.

Even though I usually use a tarp, I think that some form of tarp-tent with bug screen and good floor might be a good idea for starting out. I usually don't see many ticks until later near June, but they might be out early. Hard to tell.

This area is quite unpredictable for weather. Sometimes we don't get the spring rains much, and other times it's like a month-long flood. So, I would be prepared for some wet, because we get rain in spring more often than not.

Edited by towaly on 09/24/2012 07:17:22 MDT.

Bob Shaver
(rshaver) - F

Locale: West
Jeffrey - did you get out? on 09/27/2012 15:40:47 MDT Print View

How was your first more than overnight trip?

The weight of 3 items will determine your final pack weight. The three items are pack, sleeping bag, and tent. If each of those is 3 pounds, 2.5 pounds, 2 pounds, or less, the weight of those items will define your final pack weight. Which weight you choose is party dependent on budget, but not entirely. you will end up with a certain weight of pack, no matter what else you do. So decide how heavy you want your pack to be, and get the weight of those three items that will get you there.

My own advice on gear for novice backpackers is in my blog, here: