Sleep System

On the trail, you are definitely going to need some good sleep. At first, you might be anxious, excited, or scared so sleeping won’t come as easily. You will learn after hiking even just a week that you will be tired and you can sleep! You still want to be warm and comfortable so you can get a good night of sleep. This post will take you through sleeping pads, bags, other accessories and then etiquette at camp. Everyone sleeps differently and may need their own camping spot, and some can sleep in a shelter full of snoring people. You should definitely try both experiences at least once!

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All kinds of sleeping bags and pads here!

Sleeping pads
Sleeping pads are important because they insulate you from the cold ground. Even in the summer, it is important to have something between you and the ground to keep you dry, and comfortable. The question is, what kind of sleeping pad do you want? There are really two types of sleeping pads, inflatable ones, and foam ones. The more comfortable option is going to be the inflatable pads. These you either blow up yourself, or they self inflate. Inflatable pads are more expensive, but more compact. These are great for those that may need a little more support when they sleep. Self inflating pads are slightly heavier but require less work. Be sure to look at the R-Value, or temperature rating. You can get a super lightweight inflatable pad for the summer so it feels like you are sleeping on a cloud. There are also lightweight pads rated at 0 degrees that are great for the winter. When you purchase an inflatable pad, get a small repair kit just in case you spring a leak. Sleeping pads are usually made from durable material but you never know when you might accidentally poke your pad with a sharp stick, or even a knife.

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So many different sleeping pads!

The foam pads are the most simple, cheap, and lightweight. They will not have as much support as the inflatable ones,  but if you’re a hard sleeper, these would work for you. They are bulkier and might need to sit on the outside of your pack because of their size.

All pads are going to come in different sizes. Usually the sizes you will see are long, regular, and short. Long is going to be ideal for tall people, regular for all others, and short for the hardcore hikers who don’t mind if their legs hang off the pad. As long as your back and hips are supported and insulated, your legs will be fine. One recommendation I have if you decide to use a short sleeping pad, is put your pack at your feet so they can rest elevated on the pack. If you need more support and comfort then go ahead and get one that fits your body size.

Thermarest NeoAir Xlite – This delivers more warmth and comfort per ounce than any other three-season inflatable pad available. It weighs between 8-16 oz depending on the size you get and it is rated around 20 degrees. You can definitely take this on a longer backpacking trip and be comfortable, yet lightweight.

Thermarest Prolite – This self inflating three-season pad is also lightweight and rated around 20 degrees. All you have to do is lay it out, open the valve, and let it inflate. It weighs between 8 – 22 oz depending on size but the regular size is only 16 oz. It does not pack up as small as the Xlite but it is less work to inflate.

Thermarest Z-lite – This foam pad is lightweight, and durable. No need to worry about leaks in this pad. It weighs 10 – 14 oz but can sit on the outside of your pack, and all you have to do for set up is unfold it. This pad is ideal for thru hiking because it is durable and easy. It’s also cheap! If you’re they type of person that can sleep anywhere, this pad will be perfect for you.

The recommendations here are all made by the brand Therm-a-rest. These are the most popular pads and the ones I’ve had the most experience with. We also sell Big Agnes pads in the store. These pads are probably the most comfortable because they are thicker and better insulated so they can hold up in winter conditions. We have the Insulated Double Z and the Insulated Q-Core SL. Definitely check these out if you want to sleep on a cloud while still carrying a lightweight pad.

Sleeping bags
This decision can be vital to planning your hike. You need to check ahead of time to see what temperatures you will be dealing with on the trail and plan accordingly. One of the worst things that can happen is not being able to sleep because you are cold. I have experienced this and it is no fun! There are many different degree bags you can choose from. A general guide for determining sleeping bag temperature is:

-Summer – 32 degrees and higher
-Fall and Spring – 10 degrees to 32 degrees
-Winter – 10 degrees and lower

Of course, these will change depending on where you are going but try to keep these in mind as the basis. There are three types of bags you can get; down, synthetic, or a combination of both. Down bags are going to be lighter and keep you warmer. Synthetic bags are quick drying and can still insulate when wet.

Down insulation is easy to compress, lightweight, long-lasting and breathable. When you unpack a down bag, the feathers fluff up, so to speak, which is what keeps you warm. When looking at bags you will see the term “fill-power.” This is the term used to measure the down’s ability to loft, and thus trap heat. It is calculated by how many cubic inches 1 ounce of down can fill in a testing device. For example, an 800 fill down bag rated at 20 degrees is going to be lighter, and slightly warmer than a 600 fill down bag rated at 20 degrees. There isn’t much difference just the 800 fill down is the better quality. Down is going to be more expensive and you need to be sure to keep it dry.

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Down fill-power

Synthetic insulation is going to be sturdier than down. It is a good choice if you’re looking for a cheaper option or if you are planning to be in damper, wetter climates. It dries quickly and can last a long time. It will be bulkier and won’t be as warm as a down bag, but if you don’t need a super warm bag then this could be good for you.

Some bags now combine down and synthetic fill. These hybrids can provide the benefits of both materials and offset the imperfections.

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Down vs. synthetic material

There are other features of bags that you will need to consider. The size of the bag is going to be important. All bags are going to be different lengths, and sometimes different widths to accompany all sizes of people. Be sure to get the appropriate size for your body and comfort zone. Check out the zippers as well. They are usually on the left or right side of the bag so that if you want to zip up with a partner, you can do so if your zippers are compatible. Look at various drawstrings the bag may have. Some come around the neck, or hood, so that you can tighten them up when it is cold outside and no cold air can get in.

Sleeping bags can be a difficult decision. Going to the store and checking them out for yourself is going to important. We have some of our recommendations below.

Western Mountaineering Ultralite – This 20 degree sleeping bag weighs only 1 lb 13 oz and has 16 oz. of high lofting down that pumps this bag to 5″. The full down collar helps to seal in heat around your neck without adding excess bulk. This bag is perfect for a long hike because it is versatile in colder and warmer climates, packs up small, and is super comfortable. I have had mine for almost ten years and it lasted a thru hike and I plan to keep using it. Western Mountaineering can be a little pricey but it is definitely worth it.

Western Mountaineering Megalite – This 30 degree bag is cut to suit large folks so they too can enjoy the benefits of super lightweight bags. No claustrophobia here with 64″ of shoulder girth tapering to 39″ at the foot. It weighs only 1 lb 8 oz and you can pair it with a sleeping bag liner for the Spring or Fall when it gets chilly.

Big Agnes Boot Jack – This 25 degree bag is made with Downtek. Downtek is a treated down that makes it water resistant. If the down gets a little wet, it’s no big deal! It will dry quicker than untreated down bags and it won’t damage the down. It weighs a little more at 2 lbs 6 oz but the price is definitely better for your wallet.

Sleeping quilts
A down backpacking quilt is much like the down quilt you would use on a bed. Just like a bed quilt, you don’t sleep on top of it since the down under you is compressed and doesn’t keep you warm. For a bed, your mattress keeps your bottom-side warm, and for a backpacking quilt your sleeping pad keeps you warm. Not having down on the underside of a quilt saves cost and weight. Quilts are rated similarly as bags so keep an eye out for the fill-power and temperature rating. Most people worry about drafts coming from the sides of the quilt, but most models now can come with straps to strap the quilt around your sleeping pad, or you can just tuck the quilt up under you. They can also include a zipper, or drawstring at the bottom to form a toe box to slip around the end of your pad. The quilt can be a great choice for three seasons because you can use a liner and make sure the quilt is tucked under you if you’re cold, or just drape it over you when you’re hot! They do not have a hood so be sure to pack a warm hat if you know it’s going to be colder. They are definitely becoming more popular in the hiking community because they are lighter and cheaper.

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Down quilt

Sleep accessories
A sleeping bag liner is something you should use. They can add warmth and also protect your bag from your stinky self. Here are the types of liners you can look into.

  • Silk: Very lightweight (about 5 oz.) and compact. Silk helps insulate in cold weather but is absorbent and breathable in warm weather.
  • Cotton: Strong, durable and absorbent, but not the lightest or most compact.
  • Fleece and microfleece: Warmer (adds up to 12°F) and heavier. Fleece is soft, moisture-wicking and quick-drying, but the mid- and heavyweight varieties are bulky.
  • Synthetics: Moisture-wicking and breathable, which makes these ideal for humid conditions. They offer some stretch, too, which is nice for restless sleepers.
  • Insulated: This adds up to a claimed 25°F of warmth, so you can greatly extend the range of a lightweight bag. It uses hollow-core fiber insulation which helps it dry 50% faster than cotton.

A pillow is a luxury item that isn’t necessary, but if you need that extra comfort, there are some lightweight pillow options out there. Earplugs and headphones could also be used. If you are a light sleeper but plan to camp around others, these things can help block out the snoring campers.

Hope this post helps guide your backpacking sleep system! Again, if you want any advice, information, or any demos, you can come by the store here or give us a call!

Tents, Tarps, and Hammocks, Oh My!

A big decision for the trail is what type of shelter do you want to carry? There are many different types nowadays. This is something you will have to discover for yourself which you may like the best. Shelters are important to protect you and your possessions from the elements, but they are also great for privacy. This post will help you figure out which system you may want and will include some of Mountain Crossings recommendations.

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Tent city in Damascus Virginia for Trail Days

To carry a shelter or not?
The Appalachian Trail has shelters along the trail that could be between 3-20 miles apart. The shelters are three sided, and have one big platform where 6-10 hikers can lay their pads out to sleep. Of course shelters vary in size and structure. You could come across a shelter that has three stories (Plumorchard in Georgia) or one that can only fit 4 people! I have met few people who rely solely on these shelters and do not carry their own. Is this a good idea? It depends on a few things. First, when are you planning to hike the trail? If you are starting NOBO in the spring, it’s probably not a good idea to rely on trail shelters since they can fill up quickly. If you start a flip flop in spring, then you might be able to get away with snagging a spot in the shelters. You also need to be willing to plan your days around shelter hopping. If the next shelter is 20 miles away, then you will need to be able to go the distance to make it there. If a shelter is full, you need to be willing to push on or risk sleeping in the open. Shelters can be really convenient because most of them have a privy and a water source, but you could be missing out on other great camping areas. Personally, I think it is smart to bring your own shelter even if you don’t use it every night. There are some very lightweight shelters out there that are dynamite.

Tents
This is the most common shelter hikers are carrying on the trail. Tents come in two forms, double or single-walled. Double-walled tents are what most people think of when they hear the word “tent.” This means there are two different fabrics protecting you from the elements. It consists of a tent body and a rain fly. The body is usually made mostly from mesh material to allow ventilation and prevent moisture from condensing inside the tent. Your body puts out a surprising amount of moisture through your breath and perspiration so ventilation is very important. The rain fly will go over the body and protects you from outside weather. A single-walled tent only has the tent body which acts  mostly as a rain fly but has some mesh areas that are strategically placed to allow ventilation. Tents can also be free-standing or not. Free-standing means it contains poles that make it stand on its own and can be picked up and moved easily. Non free-standing requires the use of a guy line, stakes, or trekking poles to stand up. Once it is put up, it would need to be taken down if you need to move it.

Both styles of tents are great! Double-walled, free-standing tents will weigh a little bit more but they will be the easiest to put up and manage. The single-walled tents don’t provide as much ventilation but are usually lighter in weight. Non free-standing tents are also lighter because they don’t need the big tent poles to stand. It all depends on you. If you want something easier, and fool proof, go with the double-walled, free-standing tents. If you’re willing to experiment with trekking poles and guy lines, get a lighter weight single-walled tent. I’ve included some recommendations of tents below.

Big Agnes Copper Spur – The one-person style is pictured below. I carried this tent on the entire Appalachian Trail and never had any problems. It was so easy to set up and I could keep all my belongings in it. The two and three-person styles are great because they contain two doors and vestibules so they are ideal for couples. The one-person tent weighs 2lbs 8oz packed.

Big Agnes Fly Creek – This tent was the most common among AT thru hikers in 2016. The two-person model is lightweight weighing in at 2lbs 5oz packed and it can fit all your gear inside. This is also a double-walled, free-standing tent so it is easy to set up. This one differs from the Copper Spur the most in the opening which opens at the front and not the side.

Tarptent ProTrail – This single-walled, free-standing tent is only 1lb 10oz and uses trekking poles to stand. It is a single person tent and ventilates well. It has a bathtub floor and holds up in a storm. I know people that use this tent and love it.

Tarps
These are becoming more and more popular on trail as hikers are deciding to go ultralight. Tarps can sometimes weigh only 4 ounces! They are exactly as they sound, just a tarp. There is no body, ground sheet, or poles that go to tarps You use your own trekking poles to set them up and guy lines to tie them down. Tarps are definitely the most tricky shelter. You need to practice your knot tying skills and practice setting up your tarp before you get it exactly right. In order for a tarp to work the best, it needs to be taught. Even the slightest bit of slack can make it noisy in the wind. Knowing certain knots, such as the truckers hitch, can help you adjust your guy lines easier to make it taught. You may also want to acquire a piece of Tyvek or related material to use as a ground sheet under your sleeping pad as well.

Tarps are not for the faint of heart, and not always the best depending on where you are hiking. In the middle of summer on the Appalachian Trail, you would definitely need to get a bug net to go under your tarp. If you are going to be in fierce climate conditions, consider getting a bivy sack to protect you and  your sleeping bag through the night. All in all, tarps should be more carefully thought out and practiced. Once you get a demo on tarps and practice putting yours up, they aren’t so bad. In fact, you will grow to love them because they are lightweight! I encourage everyone to at least look at some tarps and consider them. Do not be afraid!

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Simple tarp

Hammocks
Who doesn’t love slowly rocking yourself to sleep? Hammocks are the rage nowadays because they are comfortable and you are suspended above the ground! Most people I’ve met that use hammocks say they just sleep better and are more comfortable in hammocks. They can be set up on rocky, or hilly terrain but the catch is, you need trees. The desert would not be a good place for a hammock. Hammocks need the straps for the trees, and a tarp you set up over them to protect from weather. You can usually fit your pack underneath the hammock to also protect it from rain or snow. In the colder months, an underquilt is needed to insulate you from wind passing underneath you.

It isn’t difficult to pick a hammock because all designs are so similar. Eno and Yukon Outfitters are the brands we carry in the store. Eno is the most popular brand but you need to buy all the parts separate. Yukon is made in the United States and some of the hammocks have the straps and carabiners included. Both brands can be as light as 1.5lbs and they also have some larger hammocks made for two people.

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Two hikers enjoying lounging in their hammocks

How to decide
It all comes down to personal preference. You should really get a demo, or test these shelters out to decide which one you might like best. We are happy to help you decide so stop on by the store for a demo, or any other shelter advice you may need!

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MTX employee Carlie does a tent demo for a hiker

Packs and packing your pack!

One of the main items you need for backpacking is a pack! Who would’ve thought that you need a pack for backPACKing. The pack is vital because it becomes a part of your body and contains all of your belongings. It can be difficult to figure out which pack you may want for yourself. There are many different brands that are all great, but vary between styles, features, and fits. This blog post will tell you what features to look for in a pack and we will recommend some of our favorite brands. We will also tell you our method for packing your pack. It can really make a difference if you pack it correctly.

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Granite  Gear pack with a view

Starting off
First off, you need to figure out what kind of trip you are planning. Do you want to be ultralight? Do you want to carry more luxury items? The gear you plan to carry, and the length of your trip can determine the pack capacity you will want. Anywhere between 30 – 80 liters is the range you will be in. For a one nighter in the summer, you could get away with a 30 liter pack if you are ultralight. In the middle of winter for a few day trip, with some luxury items, maybe an 80 liter pack would be more your fit. A good medium would be between 50-70 liters. This way, you can use the pack year round and fill it to the brim, or maybe have more wiggle room. Just listen to yourself and know if you want to have a lighter pack, or if there is no way you are going to give up some of your luxury items.

When you go for a pack fitting, bring some of your gear with you, or bring some fillers so you can try on the pack with the amount of gear you are planning to take. It is important to get a feel for what it’s like when packed. Wherever you plan to get your pack, have one of the employees help you. You need someone to measure your torso and help you learn the best way to put the pack on and tighten all the straps.

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Having a professional with your fit is important

Pack fitting
Your torso length is going to be the most important measurement for your pack fitting. Once this size is determined, depending on which brand you like, get your size. Sizes can vary between brands so be sure to check. When you put on the pack, naturally you will lean forward to compensate for the weight on your back. From here, you will want to go ahead and buckle your hip belt and tighten it. You want most of the weight to rest on  your hips rather than your shoulders. Then you can start tightening your other straps so that it fits properly. Here is a description of some other the other straps you will want to tighten.

Load Lifter Straps: These straps connect the top of the shoulder straps to the top of the pack, and when tightened correctly, they prevent the pack from leaning away from your back. Ideally they should be positioned at a 45 degree angle.

Sternum Strap: The sternum strap clips over the chest, connecting both shoulder straps in the front. This enhances stability. Some packs allow for this strap’s height to be adjusted to that it sits comfortably on your chest.

Compression Straps: These tighten along the sides of a pack. They should be extended when a pack is very full and cinched down when a pack is almost empty. These allow for the wearer to achieve a balanced pack even if it is not completely loaded down. These are one of the main features that make a pack versatile enough for a day hike or a multi-day trip.

Hipbelt Stabilizer: This strap can be tightened around the hipbelt, improving balance and comfort.

Again, having a professional help you is important. Here is a video to help illustrate.

Pack features
What do you want in a pack? There are many different styles and features to decide between. You can have the bare minimum, or all the bells and whistles. Pockets are probably the most noticeable and useful features. Here are examples of pockets you might see on a pack.

  • Side pockets – ideal for water bottles and snack.
  • Front pockets – usually one or two and good for extra items you might need during the day such as rain poncho, headlamp, etc.
  • Brain – removable, but can fit a water bladder, or light jacket in the top
  • Hip belt pockets – some packs come with built in hip belt pockets, or you can purchase a detachable one. These are ideal for chapstick, camera, maps, etc.
  • Water bladder pocket – this feature is in some packs and is located on the inside of the pack right on your back. It is designed for a water bladder and there is usually an area where the bladder hose can come through the top.
  • Wallet pocket – this is usually a very small pocket on the inside of the pack to keep valuables such as wallet or keys.

Here are some other pack features you may want to consider.

  • Frame vs. frameless – frameless is only for experienced, ultralight backpackers. Most packs nowadays are internal frames. These can usually be removed and are made of plastic or related materials. You can also look into external frame packs if you are old school.
  • Trampoline back – this feature allows the pack itself to sit off your back to allow ventilation.
  • Sleeping bag compartment – some packs contain a separate space on the very bottom of the pack designed for your sleeping bag. There is usually a zipper on the outside to access this compartment.
  • Extra straps – most packs already have the compression straps along the sides, but some contain extra straps for sleeping pads, tools, or water bottles.

Of course, when you are deciding which features you want, keep into consideration that they can add weight. They may seem nice when you are looking at them, but really think about if you will use them and how much they can benefit you.

Packing your pack
This part is vital for how the pack sits on your back and feels as you are hiking. The diagram below shows the proper weight distribution you should have for your pack. Ideally, you want your lighter stuff on the bottom, heavy stuff resting in the middle on your back, and medium weight objects on top. Here is a quick overview of items you might include in these areas.

  • Bottom – sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes
  • Middle – food, tent,
  • Top – first aid kit, stove and pot, jacket
  • Outside of pack – water, snacks, map,

It can take a while to really get a feel for the best way to pack your pack. It is not always going to be the same. You will want to carry some items on the outside of your pack for easy access, but try not to get carried away. If you don’t use it during the day while hiking, pack it away.

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Another great trick for packing, use a trash bag liner to line your pack. This keeps your stuff dry and it acts as a stuff sack. You can take your sleeping bag, clothes, sleeping pad, etc out of their stuff sacks and just cram them all into your trash bag in your pack. This trash bag will not be opened until you get to camp so if it rains, the important stuff stays dry. It also helps fill gaps that may be in your pack. When items are in stuff sacks, they each become a certain shape. These shapes may not fit together too well and will leave some gaps. When you take them out of these sacks and virtually put them in one sack (your pack) they can all mold together and fill that space.

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Packs, packs, packs

Pack Recommendations
The packs we carry in the store include Granite Gear, Osprey, and ULA. These brands are the most popular in the hiking community right now. They also cover the variety of packs I have talked about in this blog. If you want a more ultralight pack, the ULA OHM or the Granite Gear Virga 2 are lightweight, frameless, and have just three pockets. We also have some of those packs that contain more features such as the Osprey Exos and the Granite Gear Lutsen. Here are some of the staffs personal favorite packs.

Granite Gear Crown VC 60 – I carried this pack the entire trail. It weighs two pounds and is 60 liters in volume. It has three pockets total and I was able to get the women’s style that included a slightly wider and more padded hip belt. The roll top acts as a compression so the pack itself felt like a big stuff sack. The pack is made from Cordura fabric which is very durable and there have been no rips or tears in the whole time I’ve had it.

ULA Circuit – This 68 liter pack will not disappoint. Owned by several of the employees it has three pockets total, two side pockets and one large back mesh pocket. The side pockets are solid and made so they won’t tear even when you’re cramming water bottles and snacks into them. The back pocket is mesh and can stretch and ventilate wet items. It also has the hip belt pockets to carry easy access items such as a map. It is a roll top as well and the pack is made from Robic fabric so it is super durable.It weighs just 2.5 pounds.

ULA Catalyst – This pack is slightly larger and heavier than the Circuit. It weighs 3 pounds and has a 75 liter capacity. This pack is definitely a popular one for starting out. It is large enough, but still light, so you can carry a few more items. You may not have all the lightest weight gear so this pack is perfect because it can carry up to 40 lbs. It has similar features as the circuit such as the pockets and roll top, it is also made from Robic fabric.

Osprey Exos – This pack has a 58 liter capacity and weighs 2.4 pounds. It was the most popular pack on the Appalachian Trail in 2016. It has the trampoline back to keep the pack off your back and allow ventilation. It has three mesh pockets, two on the sides and one on the back. It also has the hip belt pockets and several additional straps to tie on extra items if need be. It includes a removable floating top lid with an internal key clip and underlid zippered mesh pocket. The pack is made out of High Tenacity Nylon.

These are some of our favorites but there are so many more! You can check out this post by “The Trek” that shows what backpacks were the most popular on the Appalachian Trail from 2016 thru hikers.

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We hope this has helped you with your pack decisions. Please stop by the store or give us a call for more information or if you want to do a pack fitting! Remember we also do pack shakedowns in the store and we have the virtual shakedowns if you don’t live nearby. Check back next week for more information on gear you will need on the trail!

 

New Year, New Thru Hike!

Happy New Year! It is officially 2017. This New Year brings new adventures for many of you. This could be the year you have planned to thru hike, or it could be the year you decide you want to in the future. Either way, at Mountain Crossings, we love thru hikers and we love to help them in any way we can. All of us are experienced AT thru hikers and we are here to give advice, and encouragement for you this year. This blog is going to talk about some of the stages of deciding to thru hike, and beginning to plan. In the weeks to follow, we will also feature blogs related to what you might need on your thru hike, and what you will encounter out there.

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Deciding to thru hike
This might be the biggest step to planning your hike. For some, they’ve wanted to do it all their lives and have been planning for it for years. Others may just not have anything going on so they decide to hit the trail, and others may be recovering from past traumas. Whatever your reason, it can be a tough decision with many sacrifices.

For me, I had always wanted to hike the AT. It wasn’t until I was living and working in the corporate world in the city that I really decided I wanted to pursue my dreams. I quit my job, moved out of my apartment, and hit the trail! The decision was super tough because I was comfortable in my current situation. I just knew if I didn’t decide to hike the trail now, then in ten years or so I would look back and regret it. That is the advice I give to anyone considering a thru hike, how will you look  upon this time in your life, will you regret not exploring? Six months really isn’t that long in the grand scheme of things. A lot of people do have obligations such as family, career, or house. If you don’t feel you could leave these things behind, don’t go. But if you know they will be waiting for you when you get back, then don’t use them as excuses not to pursue a thru hike. Try to weigh the positives and negatives of this six month journey.

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Contemplating the trail

Telling family and friends
This part can be easy, or difficult, depending on who are your loved ones. People will think you are crazy, or awesome, or maybe both. The important thing is, try not to let what anyone else thinks affect your decision. It helps to have some support back home, in case you need someone to send you different gear you already have. Having the encouragement from home also helps. If you know that whoever might be waiting for you is proud of you, and wants you to finish, it can make the hike better. When others are missing you and telling you to finish up and come home, it can make you anxious. Try to let others know that all you want is support and understanding.

Be sure to tell your work, or whoever you may have obligations with about your hike. I told my work a few months in advance so I could help hire a replacement. They were appreciative and excited for me. Not everyone is in the best work situation, but still try to think about how leaving may effect the business. If you are paying bills, living with others, etc, then let them know and figure things out before you leave. This may seem like a given, but when you’re anxious, you can make rash decisions.

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Mental Preparation
Of course, you want to make sure you have all the right gear, but we aren’t going to get in to that right now. You need to prepare yourself mentally more than anything. The first thing you need to do is go out for an overnight test hike. Even if you don’t have the best gear yet, make sure you at least like to backpack. I’ve met many people who start thru hiking without any previous experience and they quit early on. Some of these people end up loving it and go the whole way but why risk it? Get yourself out there one weekend and make sure you’re into it before you try to hike 2000 plus miles.

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2000 miles is a lot!

Know that the trail is not going to be easy. You will have aches and sores, it will be sunny and cold, it will rain, you will be tired. You may not know ahead of time whether or not these things will wear you down. Mentally prepare for this and try to have the mindset that it isn’t going to just be fun and games. You are able to stop in town as often as you want to recharge yourself.

Keep your motivation in mind while preparing for your hike. If you decided to thru hike because you are unhappy in your current situation, keep reminding yourself that. You will constantly have to remind yourself on trail of your purpose out there as well. Once you lose your reason to be out there, you will find yourself wanting to quit.

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The trail is not easy!

Online Preparation
This is probably the biggest way people are preparing nowadays. Reading this blog could be one way you are prepping for your hike. There are numerous other blogs to read and watch and they can be super helpful. Try not to get too involved with reading things online. Everyone is going to have their own opinion about gear, about the trail, yada yada yada. You really need to get out there and experience it for yourself. It helps to read reviews and experiences, but don’t take them all to heart.

I found myself on a hiker forum called White Blaze. This can be very informative and fun to read! But, it stressed me out. People would sometimes get in arguments, there were conflicting views on everything, I didn’t know what to believe! I definitely found some information helpful, but I also decided to just go with what I knew and I would figure some things out along the way.

There are some great books we recommend. Read our previous blog post on books to get you inspired, and prepare you for the trail!

Physical Preparation
Getting out on the trail for one or more shakedown hikes is important. You can see what it’s like, and how your body responds. Of course it is really hard to prepare your body to hike over 2000 miles, but being in some kind of shape helps. More importantly, making sure your shoes are right, and knowing some basic, pre-workout stretches. You wouldn’t believe how much stretching while on the trail helps your body. Your feet are very important. Blisters are no fun and you do not want to get them. Whatever shoes you decide to get, make sure they fit right, and they are  broken in. You should be wearing them fairly frequently before the trail to make sure they are right for your feet.

Financial Preparation
Even though you are living in the woods, you still need money. To hike the trail comfortably, I would say having $1,000 a month is good. Of course you can swing it either way. You can save more and be able to stay in town more, or you can get by with a lot less. It all depends on how often you want to stay in a hotel/hostel, and go out to eat. I will say, it is fairly easy to go into town. Even if you planned to stay on trail more and not spend money on town stops, it can be tempting. Have yourself a little extra for just in case stops and possible emergencies.

Resupply food is a must always, and you might need to spend some money on more gear such as shoes, or new water filter. Just be sure you know what kind of hike you want to have and save accordingly!

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Check back next week! We will be discussing some important gear choices that you will need and other experiences you might have on the trail.