If you are preparing for an Appalachian Trail thru-hike in the spring, you are only sixteen weeks away, or less. If you are serious about completing the A.T. by next fall, you would be wise to do these five things now.
1) Practice Moderation Over the Holidays. You are in training; don’t gain extra weight. If indulging yourself during the holiday season means that much to you, tell yourself you will indulge next year. Just think: If you wake up on January 2nd with ten extra pounds to lose, you are going to make it extra hard on yourself for a thru-hike.
2) Get That Pack Weight Down. If you may not need it, don’t bring it. You won’t need a GPS. Forget any fancy electronics–at least for now. Bring your journal, but not a novel. Once you’re out there, you own what’s in your pack; bring only the raw essentials. You can check emails somewhere in town. You will be too tired to read in those first few weeks. Tell yourself, “maybe later.” For now, shave every once.
3) Break in Trail Shoes Rather Than Boots. (Boots are Heavy) This item may raise controversy, but I stand by it. The idea complements number two above. If you can get your pack weight under twenty-five pounds (not including food and water), you will do fine in good trail shoes. Trail shoes, because they are lighter than boots, will make a huge difference in how much mileage you do and, more importantly, how tired you feel at the end of a day. Check with REI, EMS, and other outfitters.
4) Do a Shakedown Hike With Overnights and Cooked Dinners. Don’t try to wing it on the trail; be ready. Now is the time to experiment, test your gear and equipment, and develop a routine. The idea is to make it easy on yourself once you hit the trail.
5) Read and Study From www.trailjournals.com This is where you can examine the gear lists of successful thru-hikers. You read their accounts and absorb their experience. I can’t tell you how helpful this website has been for me on every long-distance hike I’ve done.
Stay focused during these next months. You are attempting something big, and your preparation will make a difference. Happy Veterans Day.
Top photo is the A.T. (Franconia Ridge) in New Hampshire.