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am I ready for a long through hike?

I have never hiked per say. I have spent alot of time hunting dragging deer a long ways, and lots of winter camping. I recently got it in my head that I would like to prepare for the Appalachian trail. So I gathered up what horrible gear I have. Strapped it on my back using a wretched broken military bag. All together weighing in at 40 lbs. I found a 10 mile trail that climbed 1,750 feet down to 0. Back up to 1,500 feet, down to zero. I was able to complete this in 6.5 hours. Completely spent. I did wake up the following day, and force my self to walk 5 miles on fairly flat ground. Knowing that I need new gear ( I already burnt those horrible blocks of wood I did call shoes). Am I on the right path to obtaining my goal? I am 43 years old. My strongest attributes would be outdoor living. I have camped, sustained off foraging, hunting, boiling water. Just never did muc9h hiking. I use to look at climbing hills as stupid. I live in Pennsylvania so just walking up our drive ways would be like mountain climbing for mid westerners.

You're not ready for a long through hike...not if ten miles exhausted you and five miles the next day took a force of will.  That's the bad news.

The good news is that you are on the right track.  Drop some weight from the pack, add in some fitness (no better way to do that than to keep hiking) and get some shoes the will work for you, and you are well on your way.

Baby steps...but keep taking those steps.

Some people start the AT with no experience and a bag full of gear they don't know how to use. A few of those people even make it beyond Neels Gap, but all generally come away with tales of suffering and woe and those who go on often spend a fortune swapping out all of their gear.  The more time you spend backpacking small trips, the better your long distance hike will be if you decide to do one.

Find places you can go that are short distances and just work on setting up, camping and packing up in the morning. Use your back yard to test things if you can, but learn your gear so that the "chores" can be done fast and well. That saves time to eat, drink and rest in camp which is the most important part of distance hiking, recovery. Puttering around is fine for regular camping, but on a long hike you want to get off your feet as much as possible in camp.

Then you can start going on longer trips which will help you figure out what your body needs to eat to keep going. You will also have time to question whether you really want to hike for four months when four days in bad weather seems too long. Get out there, have some fun and whether you do the AT or not, you will have seen some pretty places, maybe met some nice folks and certainly had some quality time with yourself. Enjoy!

You are not ready yet, but you could be with some new equipment and an exercise program.  The hardest part is mental. 

Your on the right track but not ready. Like said and this is well documented what I am telling you buy all your gear like sleep system , Water treatment and trowl and clothing and shoes. Last thing you buy is your pack. You want all your gear and including your food and food bag to fit. The first place to research the trail is the ATC website..I would look into their LNT Video and learn that,,,,I would suggest the Whiteblaze.com which is the Appalachian trail website for people to discuss gear  and the trail. Some statistics for you 25% that start a thru hike make it...Like PPIne said it mostly mental but there is a percentage physical..Being in shape to hike 13 miles per day and doing it you will complete a thru hike. as you dont get sick or hurt or quit. BUt its mostly mental to go in any weather and hike a certain amount of miles per day in Rain and hot humid temps...Test your gear like Longstranger is saying and know your gear is true. The truest most sincer advise I was given ever by former thru hikers was use your gear and see what works and watch your weight...Meaning I tested over weekend s and weeks to see what would work and what I wanted to carry for Luxary meaning for pleasure...I carried a book to keep me occupied on Days I was not hiking  or at night. I would suggest getting the AT Guide or the Appalachian Trail companion as a guide and the Gutthook AT app. That app during certain times a year is discounted to save money on a purachase. I had the  app didnt use it on my hike..I got it when it came out the first couple years. Now hikers use it for the comments section cause they Tell of water sources being good or bad. Plus things have changed hostels want you to check for availablity as soon as possible with the new covid restrictions..More hikers are using shutttles now than before to see shuttle providers there is a list downloadable on whiteblaze,com I hitch hiked everywhere off trail to get around..Alot of people close to rrails will pick up hikers to give them a hitch to town...I hitched into Gailinburg and then I hitched out but you better make sure your outside city limits or a ticket or jail...Research everything. I cant reemphise using your gear and LNT. Know this saying NO pAin NO rain NO maine..

So you want to be a beast of burden!
Ten miles with a 40 pound pack is good at your age!  The trick is stringing together back to back to back days of similar distances.  That and boots that don't maul your feet and a pack that doesn't ride you like an evil in-law.  

Conditioning is as much getting accustomed to the abuse of schlepping a pack, as it is gaining endurance and strength.  IMO the suffering is unavoidable!  We all tend to push ourselves, and as a result get gassed by the day's end, no matter our level of fitness  The difference is how far we get.  Know your limits and plan accordingly.  Make sure to get plenty of rest, eat well and stay hydrated. 

As for your specifics:  I checked our your profile photo.  Your pack will ride better if you lash the external baggage to the top of the pack.  Ideally you want to get the weight over your hips so you can stand more upright.  The stuff you lashed to the rear facing side of your pack forces you to bend excessively at the waist to maintain balance.  That alone will wear you out.  Likewise folks will advise you get lighter gear, and that'll help.  As a big dude, however,  you can probably shave much more weight off you feet by losing body weight, resulting in a double benefit of hauling less weight, and imposing less demands on your heart and lungs to muster the effort.

Ed

Many people start their trips in average shape.  They go slowly at first and pick up momentum.  In a few weeks, 15-20 miles a day.  Many go 25 miles a day and the fast people like 30. 

Eds correct most people will tell you to keep your gear low ...How do you do that buy a scale and weigh all your gear...Use Lighterpack..com to keep a list of your gear...On average most AT thru hikers packs start at 25-30 pounds By the time they hit Mountain  Crossings they have an idea of what they need...When they get to Virginia is when they dial back more gear get rid of the winter gear their hauling...PPine is correct being a tortous to start is recommended and then when you get your trail legs you venture into More miles..BUT 13 miles per day you still complete a thru hike as long as you stay healthy...The reason why we recommend to use and train with your gear. It becomes second nature for you. By far the biggest obstical is rain and the human mind. You have to stay positive to finish...Also lighter gear isnt a 100% on completion. In 2008 it was the worst weather on record on the AT the lightest gear at the time for shelter was a tarp more tarp users that year than any other year. TO this day that year had more completions than years presceding it. Its still higher than present day. Say when we say its mental its is the numbers prove it. 

Welcome to Trailspace, Jacob!

Do you have any local hiking clubs, groups, stores, etc near you? If so, you could join some of their hikes and gain more experience and advice in person. Some groups, orgs, libraries and others may even have gear you can rent or borrow, so you can try out different options.

As others have said, carrying less weight is generally more comfortable (obviously), but you still want to make sure whatever gear you use (especially your backpack and shoes) are comfortable for you. Fit is essential, and everyone's body and preferences are different.

There's a lot of advice and encouragement already from the folks above. I'll just add that getting out there safely over and over again is what will get you ready to do longer trips. Keep building on what you're doing, and let us know how it's progressing.

Good luck and have fun!

To build on what Alicia said, check Meetup for local hiking groups. When I lived in southern Maine I belonged to 2 of them and we did stuff year-round. Farther north I haven’t found any and there was no interest when I started one. That was a bit of a surprise even given the extremely small population here (~50K for the whole county), being right in the middle of the mountains and the great north woods. 

Once you’re comfortable in good weather and have a packing list and system that works, start day hiking in bad weather. At the very minimum you’ll find out whether or not your waterproof shoes/boots really are.

Thank you all for your advice. I will continue training, and slowly buying more gear. Up until now. My hear has always been for multi days in the woods, but not much hiking. Thank you all.

Jacob davis said:

Thank you all for your advice. I will continue training, and slowly buying more gear. Up until now. My hear has always been for multi days in the woods, but not much hiking. Thank you all.

 Slowly is the best way to buy gear. Take your time and really think about each purchase. The reviews here at Trailspace have saved me a lot of  money over the years. Whenever I start thinking I really should buy something I make sure to check what other folks have said about it here. Many times I've learned from others experience via their reviews before making a decision.

When you do start picking up some new things and have used them a bit consider coming back and telling us about it in a review. The wealth of knowledge Trailspace has it its database comes from real people saying what they really think. Be safe and have fun out there. Feel free to ask more questions. As you can see there are plenty of folks here happy to tell you what they think :)

I think you received a good deal of sound advice here. If you look carefully it says that experience is the best teacher.  Doing a through-hike is like sailing around the world. It is something you work up to and prepare your equipment for. Because your goals and ethics are probably different than others, only you will know when you are ready.  If you haven't read a few books about that particular trail you certainly should.  Keep a journal every time you go out and record your feelings, as well as the equipment you didn't need and what was essential. 

LoneStranger said:

When you do start picking up some new things and have used them a bit consider coming back and telling us about it in a review. The wealth of knowledge Trailspace has it its database comes from real people saying what they really think. Be safe and have fun out there. Feel free to ask more questions. As you can see there are plenty of folks here happy to tell you what they think :)

Yes, please! (I write this knowing Jacob has already helpfully reviewed his own tent.)

The more people who share their voices and experiences through reviews the better for all community members.

Even if a product is already reviewed, you can do so too—whether you agree, disagree, or just differ slightly from the other review(s). This adds more nuance and info for readers, and also helps with ranking products.

Also, you do not need to be an expert to review your gear. Just be honest and straightforward about your experience level and your use. It's helpful to know how gear works out for different people in different places with different expectations.

Jacob like alicia is saying add to the reviews as your using your gear it helps other backpackers. I know quit a few hikers that have done some of those reviews and they have hit alot of miles as well as small trips.It  adds up. I just started reviewing gear I have and found out some isnt made anymore...BUT my gear is light and multi purpose and can be used for a thru hike...Keep working on the hiking best training for that is hiking. Like Lonestarnger says ask questions if you have any...

Oh my goodness. I never thought I would have such a warm welcome, and so may great ideas. Thank you. To each and everyone of you.

Jacob davis said:

Oh my goodness. I never thought I would have such a warm welcome, and so may great ideas. Thank you. To each and everyone of you.

 You're welcome!

What I like best about Trailspace reviews is that you don’t see any like the 1st and 3rd reviews in the image below. Honestly, I’m not sure why Moosejaw even published them when the writers said they haven’t even used the bag yet. A sleeping bag is probably the single piece of gear that’s most likely to ruin a hike, if not end your life, if it doesn’t perform as expected, and honest customer reviews are a big part of making the decision on which one to buy. That’s not the first time I’ve seen reviews like that, and not the first time on an outdoor gear retailer’s website. 

 

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Im sorry but i think i am the only one that got the getting rid of his brick shoes

One of the biggest no no's in hiking for a long distance is going out and buying brand new shoes or boots & then going on your adventure.

You first need to break into your new foot wear which usually for me  it takes a month of wearing them for awhile each day and  using shoe horns to stretch them  etc   nothing is worse then being on your trop and getting blisters and aches n pains in your feet

Re weight of bag I had major back surgery about 7 years ago and ended up with nerve damage from neck to ankle  on my right side. It altered the way i do out door activities  as lifting is more of an issue now.  I re thought all of my previous gear choices over the years  and now i have all new gear.

I literally replaced each and every gear piece i own   an extremely ultra -light weight backpack, ultra -lw hammock, Ultra -lw cooking mess kit and stove, head lamps  you name it  got my pack to under 18 lbs  w/o food including my solar/crank powered  Am/Fm world radio /charger

even trekking poles and clothing and it made a huge difference with the ultra lightweight gear for me

Do some day hikes, preferably with your backpack full. You'll be fine if that's all you do, you don't need tons of training. Just take the first few days of the actual trip slowly, that's when the training happens.
Also, make sure you know how to use your gear.

Michael -Survival Intuition said:

One of the biggest no no's in hiking for a long distance is going out and buying brand new shoes or boots & then going on your adventure.

You first need to break into your new foot wear which usually for me  it takes a month of wearing them for awhile each day and  using shoe horns to stretch them  etc   

  I've had no problems taking brand new trail runners out on the trail. I'll wear them a little before the trip, a dayhike or just around the neighborhood, to make sure the fit is right, but trail runners don't need breaking in and certainly don't need a month of stretching (trail runners shouldn't need any stretching).

JRinGeorgia said:

Michael -Survival Intuition said:

One of the biggest no no's in hiking for a long distance is going out and buying brand new shoes or boots & then going on your adventure.

You first need to break into your new foot wear which usually for me  it takes a month of wearing them for awhile each day and  using shoe horns to stretch them  etc   

  I've had no problems taking brand new trail runners out on the trail. I'll wear them a little before the trip, a dayhike or just around the neighborhood, to make sure the fit is right, but trail runners don't need breaking in and certainly don't need a month of stretching (trail runners shouldn't need any stretching).

Yea JRinGeorgia  Trail Runner shoes are made out of breathable materials like polyester, nylon , and nylon mesh and since they are not made of leather so they are good to go right after the 1st day.

Jacob mentioned he was using a military bag, and throwing away what he called his wood block shoes and most people that are former/active  military tend to use leather boots, shoes which need to be properly  stretched.  

Someone with the hiking experience like yourself that has spent years if not decades hiking tend to find the perfect hiking boot that isnt made of leather and you could just swap them out for a new pair  on the fly.  

Micheal misconception My boots i wore when I was in were given to people I served with that needed new boot and my uniforms... Uniform allowance each year isnt that much to  up keep your uniforms...Plus the average long distance hiker tries to go as UL as possible to include shoes. NOt many wear a boot cause trial runners dry out faster...Yes I own a pair of mids since theyre required for trail maintenance...With todays lighter materials and Average duration of a shoe it could go eirthier way....

I bought my Lowa Camino GTX 4 years ago this weekend, wore them on an easy 2-3 mile walk the next day, and the next weekend hiked 5374‘ Mt. Monroe NH in them with no foot problems besides a possible potential hot spot that I taped at about 3 miles. My mostly-textile Asolo Fugitive GTX required much more breaking-in. Even my Asolo Alta Via GTX Mountaineering boots were more than broken-in after about 20 miles over 5 or 6 hikes. 

September 23, 2021
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