Saturday, 15 November 2008

AT: Tipps and Tricks

There are loads of websites and internet forums about hiking the Appalachian Trail and therefore I do not want to go into many details here. Just some advice that might differ from what you generally hear about how to hike the AT

Harper's Ferry
Resupply: I found tons of info on where to send resupply boxes and hikers with elaborate resupply plans. You don't really need all that on the AT (if you are not on a specific diet for whatever reason). I hiked the AT without a single re-supply maildrop and did not have the slightest problem with it. You are always so close to towns that "buy as you go" is easy - I find it way more complicated to coordinate your town visits with post office opening times. You don't even need a bounce box. I hiked with the same equipment all the time except for my tent (that had to be sent away for warranty repair) and my sleeping bag (I changed into a warmer sleeping bag towards the end of my hike.

Shelters: Much of the AT image is based around its shelter and the romantic notion of the life in it. I did not like the shelters at all for various reasons: First of all there were the mice - and believe me they are a real nuisance. But by just sleeping 100 meters away from the shelter I did not have a single mouse in my tent or food on the whole trip. And by camping close to the shelter you can still take advantage of its water sources and rain protection for cooking. Also I did not only experience comraderie in the shelters - very often getting a place in the shelter resembled more of a fierce competition and occupants would not budge a millimeter to make space for newcomers. Not to mention snorers, farters, early risers and other troublemakers. Try to mentally free yourself from depending on the shelter and hiking will be a lot more stress free.

Camping: The AT was the first and only trail were I seriously considered a hammock - and if I were to hike it again I would definitely invest in one for the New England States. I have never hiked in an environment where free camping with a tent was so difficult. Either the terrain was too rocky or too steep or too forested for camping - very often I did not have a choice but to camp next to the shelter were space for tent camping had been cleared. A hammock would give you much more freedom as there are trees everywhere.

Maps and guidebooks: I did carry maps and guidebooks for the whole trail - the only reason for that being that an old hiker friend of mine had to cancel his planned thruhike due to health reasons and donated his whole map and guidebook set to me. They were nice to have, but I could have managed without them. The only essential book for the AT is a data book and town guide like the AT companion. If I was to hike the AT again I would probably just carry the AT companion and as a back up have a GPS with the AT as a track. This would just be a substitute for maps in emergencies - otherwise you really do not need a GPS for the AT.


Anonymous said...

Hi Christine,
I'd like to thank you for this great blog, i enjoy reading all of your posts and they helped me a lot to prepare my first longer hike which was the GR11 that turned out as a great experience for me.
Now i'm thinking of trying one of the american Scenic Trails, the CDT or the PCT. Did you write a longer piece about them or one of them? I don't find anything on your blog but I'd love to read your take on how these two trails match up.

Grüße aus dem Saarland!

German Tourist said...

I am glad my blog has been helpful for you. Actually I have not written anything about the PCT or the CDT on this blog - basically because I have hiked those two trail before I started this blog. But it is a PCT/CDT comparison is great idea and I might write a post about it in the near future. Please feel free to contact me directly if you have any detailed questions.