How far could I expect to go?

12:23 p.m. on June 21, 2010 (EDT)
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A question for those who have hiked the AT. My wife and I both have North Face Terra 30 backpacks. What would be a reasonable distance that could be expected using these packs? We are thinking about our first attempt at hiking, starting on the North Carolina border and moving north. I understand that I have to make a effort to get both of us into shape to even trying this. Thanks for any advise....Mike

12:58 p.m. on June 21, 2010 (EDT)
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First off IMO is your physical condition is you first and most major factor, what can you handle you don't want to hike yourself in to the ground and get someplace you cant get out of. Next is time of year along with weather conditions. Another major factor is how much gear weight are you carrying along with is it packed right and how much does it weigh, can you carry it long distances. Im sure there are more factors but to me thous are the main ones.

I would recommend taking some weekend trips to some place that is not to huge with easy to moderate terrain this will help you gauge how far you are comfortable going basically a personal benchmark. Then you can go from there as far as modifying your travel times & distances in conjunction with gear, weight, terrain etc.

Example: I have a place here I take first times or people like yourself that have been out of it for a while and are not sure as you are. I plan the weekend with 3 meals a day and hiking snacks etc. In this place I let them set the pace we can go 3 miles or 18 miles or anywhere in-between its up to them.

1:22 p.m. on June 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks for the reply, I am going to start speed walking and also just some walking with my pack on. Some general strength training with light weights, and of course try to loose some weight. I was thinking about two out and two back. Not sure if this pack is large enough to carry food for that time period. I have ordered the AT guide for the area I want to hike. NC border and north, not sure what the area is like as far as terrain. Again thanks for the reply.....Mike

2:13 p.m. on June 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Just a quick note on pack bag size I have a 82Liter pack and when I pack for a 5 day solo trip I have a good amount of room left over and I generally over pack. A lot of it depends on what gear you are going to pack some gear take a larger volume but do the same job. So just keep that in mind when picking out your gear also weight is a consideration.

3:50 p.m. on June 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Make sure your comfortable with the weight and the weight distribution if you have never done any distance with your new packs I would suggest that you weight your packs down with some ballast and go for some day hikes in a local park on some of their back country trails to see how your packs ride and to make adjustments to your packs belts and harnesses, work towards being comfortable with your pack and how it rides then pack you backpack as you would for a 4 or 5 day trip and again go for a local hike. This will help you acclimate to your new packs and help you adjust to getting back into the swing of things and carrying a load for distance, as with anything the breaking in period is critical weather it is your gear or your body take it slow and enjoy the time outdoors, nothing worse than over doing it and getting hurt and then getting gun shy to even try it again

8:31 p.m. on June 21, 2010 (EDT)
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Thanks for all the advice, today the temp was 99 that felt like 110. But I am going to do just what ranger said, that is get my self built up for a hike. I have a lot of survival gear in my pack that I have to take out to make room for food. Again, thanks to all. I am also looking for a small tent and sleeping bag.

1:24 a.m. on June 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Do you want a one or two person tent if you are looking for a 1 person tent I will recommend a Eureka Spitfire it is very light and simple but does the job very well for a 3 season tent.

As far as a sleeping bag goes it all depends on how heavy of a sleeping bag you are looking for.

8:36 a.m. on June 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Mike Cipriani:
I checked out your profile. I am guessing you have limited back backing experience(?) As one old guy to another, this speed hiking thing is for young folk who haven’t yet discovered the pleasure of slowing down and smelling the flowers, IMHO.

Taking advice how far you can go from your buddies here on the forum may not be a good idea. We all have different physical capabilities, and carry different kits. I could tell you I have covered twelve to twenty miles a day in my youth on some treks while shouldering a sixty pound bag, but it would be insane for me to attempt that again at my age, regardless of fitness.

But if you are still intent on setting a personal record, spend a season doing some weekender jaunts, and perhaps one extended trip. These outing will tell you what you are capable of.
PS: I have an eigthy year old bambo fly rod, inherited from my grandfather. It is a fine piece of craftsmanship. Your passion is our pleasure!

9:20 a.m. on June 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Off Topic: Is that a Morgan hand mill?

12:44 p.m. on June 22, 2010 (EDT)
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One way you can increase both your daily mileage and the amount of days you spend out is to use small 3 sided shelters along some trails called lean-to's. Their locations are often noted on maps, but there is always a chance of obsolescence if the maps are old, in which case asking a local or park official is the best way to be sure. I have a Terra 40 and I know that my big tent gobbles up the majority of my space and adds a lot of weight.

Then again, many areas do not have any lean-tos at all.

Good luck!

1:34 p.m. on June 22, 2010 (EDT)
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I wanted the Terra 40, but all they had was the 30. My co-workers gave me a gift card for Dick's when I retired. So that is what I ended up with, and that is what a bought for my wife also. Do you carry the tent inside your pack? I figured I would tie it on the outside bottom or maybe drapped over the top of the back. Then I could tie the sleeping bag on the bottom.

1:47 p.m. on June 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Curt, no it is not. I use a standard Stanley block plane, to get down to within a few thousands of an inch and finish off with a LieNielsen rodmakers plane. I have seen the Morgan hand mill on other web sites, it looks pretty cool. I do not use any power tools at all, it is all hand made. I am working on a one piece 6' Lee Wulff Giant Killer right now. I just took it out of the string yesterday and did my first sanding this morning. A power house 6/7 wt rod, can't wait the get some big fish on it.

2:50 p.m. on June 22, 2010 (EDT)
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I sometimes assist in gluing and straightening for a friend and he uses the Morgan. Bill and I've packed into several places for fishing including Sylvan Lake in the Beartooths for Golden trout. Have fun on the trail.

3:05 p.m. on June 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Mike if you were asking me if I carry my tent in my pack. Yes I very seldom tie anything to the outside of my pack every thing goes inside but in some circumstances attaching gear to the outside is fine. But then again I have a small & light tent because most times I am solo if I am going with some one I take my 2 person then and split it up one person carries the poles the other carries the nylon or I carry the tent and less other gear basically I even out the weight of both packs as far as the group gear goes. IE im not carrying your deodorant and 3 changes of cloths for a 3 day trip or more gear weight because you have to change you cloths that much.

9:31 p.m. on June 22, 2010 (EDT)
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Mike, keep walking and carry your full pack. How far you hike in a day will be influenced by the weight of your pack. It concerns me to read about "a lot of survival gear"/ Remember the AT is never far from roads or towns. Band aids for blisters is about all I carry!

Look carefully at the profile of the trail as found on the AT maps. Hills ahead of you at the end of the day are steeper than the steep hills in the morning.

If you cannot fit in any "shakedown" hikes, don't worry. You will get practice fast. If you pass through towns send extra gear, stuff you have not used, home. For example there is an outfitters right on the trail in Hot Springs. The folks there speak daily with AT hikers.

The majority of hikers that I saw leaving the trail discouraged have been those whose packs became too heavy.

My favorite example of this is a guy I met who set out to thru-hike, but ended his hike after only a couple of weeks. His knees gave out. His pack was too heavy. Later that year he met with a thru-hiker, modified his gear list, went back to hike the trail. In one summer he hiked from GA to Harpers Ferry, the next summer he hiked from Harpers to Maine, finishing the entire trail. He was 82 years old at the time!

It is not only old guys who start out with too much gear. I have seen it happen to young guys, too.

Really take a close look at all you have in your pack. If in doubt, leave it out.

Here are a couple of sites dedicated to assist AT hikers. I highly recommend the "Thru-Hikers Handbook" It shows mileage, stream crossings, altitudes, trail profiles, town information. Do not carry the whole book with you, however. Zerox the pages you need for your specific trail section. Note articles on "Packing Lists" in lefthand column links. Check the spelling, so not to confuse you with this site!

3:55 a.m. on June 26, 2010 (EDT)
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I'm certainly not the most experienced person here, but IMHO the bulk of your sleep system and tent, and how you carry or rig it, will determine if you can do this with a 30L pack. I would consider going tentless and sleeping in the shelters, taking whatever measures you deem necessary against bugs.

As rambler wrote, you will get training on the trail. All you have to do is make it to the next shelter. If you have a tent or other shelter, you don't even have to do that. It's also a good idea to take rest days once in a while to let your muscles recover and build.

Resupply is plentiful so you don't have to carry much food or fuel (you could also consider going stoveless, which personally I would only do in the summer, because it's psychologically beneficial to me to have hot food).

Basically, if you can make it to the next resupply point, you can make it to Katahdin. Except that I, personally, would probably not be able to squeeze into a 30L pack except during the summer, because of the extra clothing for temperature variation and bulkier sleeping bag. But, I don't use down gear, which is more compact than synthetic, and I carry relatively bulky food and the extra fuel to cook it with. The rest of my kit is light and small; I can post a gear list if you'd like. But the best way is to take a "shakedown" trip.



10:10 a.m. on June 26, 2010 (EDT)
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I read about Hobo stoves that burn wood. I even made one from a coffee can. Can you use these, or are they considered open flame?

11:27 a.m. on June 26, 2010 (EDT)
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I would think that would depend on where you are going and to what elevation. I would recommend calling the Parks dept or DEC for that area.

9:04 a.m. on June 28, 2010 (EDT)
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I have been reading three web sites and I see what appears to be an opion that the trail is not a wilderness experience but a walk in the park. One person talks about survival gear you should take and then all kinds of folks jump all over him. Saying you don't need to carry unnecessary items. Things like an axe or a knife, I for one would never think about going into the woods without one or the other. And if I do get to hike this trail I will have both. What are your opion's?

3:06 p.m. on June 28, 2010 (EDT)
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For me, an axe is never worth the wieght unless maybe for winter camping and I doubt even then. As for a knife, I don't leave my house without at least a pocket knife. I've been known to carry a bigger knife while hiking but for the most part a good sharp pocket knife is all I carry.

When it comes to long distance thru hikers most of those guys have trimmed there wieght down to the point that all they carry is a razor blade instead of a knife. It all comes down to what you are comfortable with and willing to carry.

To quote a saying a friend on mine on another site always says:

Buy the best gear; Take what pleases you, Hike safe, Eat well. It weighs what it weighs - Nobody is asking you to carry it.

7:32 p.m. on June 28, 2010 (EDT)
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..One person talks about survival gear.. ..Things like an axe or a knife, I for one would never think about going into the woods without one or the other...

Knife yes, axe or hatchet no. And a pocket knife is sufficient; I never had the need for something more substantial in over forty years of back packing.

For starters you don’t harvest standing wood, even if it is dead wood still attached to the tree. As for fallen wood, you can bust up fairly large limbs manually, by several methods, ranging from karate like kicks, to swinging it and cracking it over a rock, to using two trees as a force multiplier to snap thicker limbs. You don’t need and shouldn’t consider burning anything thicker than what you can break anyway. Think Indian fire (small for warmth), compared to cowboy fire (big for visual effect).

As for survival gear, at some point enough becomes too much. A week’s emergency rations for a weekend trip is a no-brainer overkill. Many times circumstances will tailor what is deemed appropriate. I would not take rain gear to Death Valley in June, or a snow parka to the Okefenokee Swamp. I would not take a snake bite kit, even if I were staying in a snake pit, because this item, like the survival compass mounted to a steel knife, is useless crap. These are all common sense judgments, though some may wish to differ. Other items, such as a space blanket bivy, blood clotting agent (ah yes, search the forum threads on this one), rope and extra gloves are more subjective judgment calls, while carrying a whistle, the means to start a fire, and a means to carry water sufficient to get you from point A to B are considered mandatory. Keep in mind the more you carry the more stress you sustain and being over stressed is a contributing factor to many back country emergencies.

11:57 p.m. on June 28, 2010 (EDT)
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An axe is heavy and unnecessary IMO. Some trail buddies and I did start a fire once for kicks and giggles, but we used dead branches that we found on the ground and could be broken by hand or foot. I'm not a very good caveman anyway...

As for a knife, I carry a multi-tool but only the knife really comes in handy on the trail. I think I'm going to replace it with an actual knife, the tool is way too heavy. In a town I like having the bottle opener but I can always carry a separate one--there are light aluminum ones for sale at every gas station.

Even on a day hike, I always carry:

- whistle
- watch
- firesteel (I need more practice with this)
- hand sanitizer (doubles as a fire starting aid)
- iodine
- spare water container (to gather untreated water for cooking or in case water is more rare than anticipated and I want to carry more between sources)
- mirror (this not only signals that SAR helicopter but is also great for finding bugs in my eyes)
- first aid kit including dental anesthetic and epoxy
- cell phone (turned off) and emergency charger w/batteries (on the AT you can often get signal on hilltops)
- headlamp
- rope (multi-use but primarily for hanging food)
- krazy glue (mainly for shoes)
- duct tape
- compass

Even if I feel I don't need insect repellent, I bring a tiny 1 oz. sprayer of the stuff just in case, primarily for psychological reasons if the insect army launches a surprise attack. The same goes for sunscreen.

I should carry a needle and thread or dental floss, but I admit I haven't so far. I should also carry a bivy sack or space blanket or tarp or something, but not on a multi-day hike like the AT because the 0th Law of Hiking is to never become separated from your pack. It's got your stuff.

I carry my extra food stored in adipose tissue ;-)



12:08 p.m. on July 5, 2010 (EDT)
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For me, anyway, the real determining factor in how far (or how long) I can go is that of how much food I can carry. I don't know if you will use bear canisters where you're going, but they impose a rigid limit on space available for food. When I last went backpacking I found I couldn't get more than 3, maybe 4 days of food + other odor items such as bug spray, toiletries, etc in my canister.

And I guess another factor would be what your other gear is like ... eg how much space / weight will your tent, sleeping bag, pad, etc, consume. What will the weather be like ... so do you need to carry lots of extra clothe ...etc...

Then, as others have said, what's your fitness level, and are you of the "must pound out 25 miles per day" or the "take my time, take photos along the way, and enjoy myself" mindset?

There are lots of factors beyond pack size that'll determine how far you can (or will) go :).

12:50 p.m. on July 5, 2010 (EDT)
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Tons of good information, thanks to everyone. So as I have said I will do some one night hikes first, then some two nigher's. One thing Bheiser1 added, that I did not think of, was "other odor items such as bug spray and such." I was not aware that those had to be put in with your food for safe keeping. Or looking at it from another angle, keeping safe. I will not be using canisters because of the bulk. So what do I need to use, a water tight bag of some sort?

5:59 a.m. on July 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Mike Cipriani said:

..I will not be using canisters because of the bulk. So what do I need to use, a water tight bag of some sort?

Do not know the regulations on the AT, but you are required to use a bear canister on some venues. Some venues provide convenient food lockers or bear lines to bear proof food. Check with the authorities before your trip. When you don’t use a canister, and lockers or bear lines are not available, you should place your scent items in a stuff sack and hang it from a rope in such a manner that critters cannot get access. If in bear country that means suspending it higher than the bear can reach, far enough away from tree trunks, etc, such that it is beyond lateral reach from such objects too. Cinch the opening shut to discourage birds from getting at your stuff. If you are worried about rain, place the stuff sack in a trash bag prior to hoisting.

The typical method for hanging food is called the counter balance method. It consists of stringing a rope over a tree limb, tying a sack of food to one end of the rope, hoisting it up high, then tying another bag of food onto the other end of the rope, then using a stick to prod the low hanging food bag up beyond the reach of all critters. If you do this properly, both bags of food are up out of reach. IMO this method does have some drawbacks. Most of the time I have seen this method used the bags were not high enough to be beyond the reach of bears. And since this method relies on trees the bags often were still accessible to tree climbing bears, because the bags were not far enough away from tree trunk or limbs. Lastly the rope saws at the tree limb, damaging it and sometimes getting stuck, causing a real hassle.

My favorite food hanging technique is shown in the accompanying illustrations (below). This hoist can be rigged between ground structures, trees, or a combination thereof. You will need 50’ of parachute cord, 50’ or ¼ nylon rope, a carabineer or pulley, and two landscape features you can span a rope between that will create sufficient distance between hanging food and other objects.

1. Tie a palm size stone onto one end of the parachute cord (shown in red), then chuck the rock over a tree limb. Attach the carabineer (shown in blue) to one end of the cord.

2. Pass the ¼” rope (shown in orange) through the carabineer.

3. Tie the long end of the ¼” rope around the distal suspension point.

4. Tie a figure eight loop in the ¼” rope that will be used to attach the food bag. Experience has taught me the loop is usually best placed such that when the bag is hung it is relatively close to the carabineer, as shown. Temporarily attach the food bag to the loop.

5. Hoist the carabineer, positioning it just under the tree limb it is suspended from. Make sure the free end of the ¼” rope remains within reach during the hoist process. Tie the loose end of the parachute cord around a tree limb or trunk to fix the location of the carabineer.

6. Pull on the free end of the ¼” rope to hoist the food bag. Determine the proper height, then tie a figure eight loop on the rope that can be easily thrown over the end of a tree limb to secure the hoist in place. The food can be lowered by removing the figure eight loop from the limb, then using the rope running through the carabineer to slowly lower the food bag.

When disassembling the food hanging station, first untie the parachute cord, then pull it down by pulling on both ends of the ¼” rope. Removing the hoist in this manner precludes fouling the carabineer on the tree limb.

The benefits of this hoisting system are multifold: Tree damage is minimized since cordage is dragged over tree limbs with minimal weight force being applied; the chance of fouling equipment in trees is minimal, thus a better LNT method; food is easy to raise and lower requiring less exertion; this system is highly adaptable, and can suspend heavier food loads than other methods.

As for those who claim bears learn to chew through the ropes: I've heard that too, but never met anyone who personally witnessed this, or heard it second hand for that matter, so I am inclined after forty plus years of camping to dismiss these tales as urban (or should I say backcountry) legend.

BTW: don't forget to hang your trash as well!


11:36 a.m. on July 6, 2010 (EDT)
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Illustrations are worth a thousand words, and an excellent example of thinking outside the box Whomeworry.

According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy website:


Black bears live along many parts of the Trail and are particularly common in Georgia, the Shenandoah and Great Smoky Mountains national parks, and parts of Pennsylvania and New Jersey. While attacks on humans are rare, a startled bear or a female with cubs may react aggressively. The best way to avoid an encounter while
you are hiking is to make noise by whistling, talking, etc., to give the bear a chance to move away before you get close enough to make it feel threatened. If you encounter a bear and it does not move away, you should back off, speaking calmly and firmly, and avoid making eye contact. Do not run or "play dead" even if a bear makes a "bluff charge."

The best defense against bears in camp is preparing and storing food properly:
Cook and eat your meals away from your tent or shelter, so food odors do not linger. Hang your food, cookware, toothpaste, personal hygiene items, and even water bottles (if you use drink mixes in them) in a sturdy bag from a strong tree branch at least ten feet off the ground and well away from your campsite. Make sure the bag is at least six feet from both the trunk of the tree and any substantial branches -- including the branch from which the bag is hung. Black bears are crafty climbers and good reachers. Bear canisters can provide an effective alternative to hanging food bags. Where bear boxes, poles, or cable systems are provided, use them. Never leave trash in bear boxes. Never feed the bears or leave food behind for them. That simply increases the risks to you and the hikers who follow behind you. A bear that enters a campsite or cooking area should be considered predatory. Yelling, making loud noises, throwing rocks, may frighten it away, however, you should be prepared to fight back if necessary.

9:24 p.m. on July 6, 2010 (EDT)
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My policy is probably overly strict. But recognizing that the majority of my camping these days is in the Sierra, or other bear habitats in California, I will use a bear canister anytime I'm backpacking. And of course if I'm at a USFS campground with bear boxes, I put everything in there. The more concerning area is if I'm at a campground that doesn't have a bear box, or if I'm in my Jeep off a Jeep road somewhere... in those cases I haven't been using a bear canister. Hmmm...

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