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Intro and a few questions

Hello all,
I have silently reading in this list for about a month and decided
way past time that I introduce myself.  My name is Dave DeCroix and
a grad student at NC State Univ, in Raleigh NC, studying atmospheric
science and will (hopefully) finish my doctorate about two years from
now.  My wife is also working on her doctorate, and our plan is to
hike the AT as our graduation present to each other.

My wife and I really enjoy the outdoors.  We're planning a 5-6 day
hiking trip this summer as our reward for getting through that lovely
ritual called 'qualifying exams'.  We don't have much equipment of our
own, but there is an REI in town so we are able to rent and evaluate
what we like/don't like before we start making our gear purchases.

Now for a question or two.  First, does anyone have any comments or
experiences to share about thru hiking with your spouse?  I read in
Backpacker mag a few months ago an article about some potential
and how to avoid conflict.  I can think of one possible problem
I'm 6'3" and she's 5'6" and I know our strides are quite different.
Heck, even at the shopping mall she's always telling me to slow those
long legs down!  (I don't like malls much and tend to try to get in
out as quickly as possible!  :)  The mag article said that pack weight
is the great equalizer, and suggested that we split the weight based
a percentage of each of our respective body weights, and not simply
50/50.  That way we are each doing the same amount of 'work'.  This
sounds reasonable to me.  I thought I'd try this and plus my pack up a
bit to counter the stride difference on our next hiking trip.  Any

One other question about packs.  I know this gets a bit religious (and
don't want to start a Jihad), but I'm curious about the pros and cons
internal and external frame packs.  For our trips this summer, I plan
rent both types and test them out.  I tend to sweat quite a bit when
exercising, so I'm leaning toward an external; I have read they are
cooler than internals.  But my reading suggests that internals tend to
be more 'comfortable' than externals.  When I was in high school
I went on a two week hike in the Rocky's and rented an external frame
pack.  That was the only choice back then, but it felt fine and I had
complaints once I got it to fit correctly.  Also I am an organization
nut, so I like having lots of pockets.  Comments on your preference?

Well, I guess that's about it for now.  I am enjoying reading about
everyone's thru hike preparations, and thanks to y'all have a severe
case of spring fever!  But I'm also getting valuable advice from the
sharing of experiences on this list.  Thanks for a pleasant diversion
from studying, and best of luck to all the '96 thru hikers.

Dave DeCroix
GA->ME '98 hopeful