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Help a GA-ME first timer
Brief answers to brief questions now, but I'd be glad to answer any other
questions you come up with before you go. I've done the AT twice 88
and 92, so have some idea of what worked for me.
1. stove - know how to take it apart and clean it. If it's
impossible to fix, and you're several days from a road crossing,
fires may be possible, borrowing a stove may be possible. Depends on
who you are hiking with. Most thru-hikers will help if possible.
My stove broke one day out of harpers ferry, so I went to DC to
replace it. I knew someone who had to hitch out of Fontana to get
his replaced. Near the mountains, rides are generally easy to get.
I had camp shoes, many don't. They'll help if your boots break down
irreparably. Carry shoe goo in case. Jim's broke down 12 miles from
a road, he glued them together, waited a day for the glue to dry,
and a kind pair of section hikers
drove us 50 miles to a store to replace them in Hanover. I've used
both. Tevas don't have as much support if you want to use them as
replacements for broken boots, but they can be light (not always).
I went through 2 sets of 3 pairs, not that I had holes, but I had
mailed myself a replacement set halfway. My socks lasted, still are
I only use gaiters in heavy snow, never on the trail. I only had
snow 4 days.
Definitely take a tent. Those people who trusted the shelters were
hiking before the number of users got so large. In 1988 I didn't
have a tent, and only twice had to do 22+ mile days because it was
raining and the shelters were that far away. In 1992, the shelters
in the south were often full, if I hadn't had a tent, I would have
been sleeping in the rain, often. Although the rule is "there is
always room for one more" 30 people in a 9 person shelter is too
much. And it is very definitely first come first serve. If you want
to turn your hike into a race to get to the shelter before anyone
else, or do 7 mile days so that you can stop at noon and get there
first, then don't take a tent, but I know, it is not a good way to
hike. Freedom is a tent, despite the rain. It means you can camp
when and where you want. You can cook at the shelter, and sleep at
the overlook. You can get away from people when you need to. Tarps
are sometimes lighter, though they weigh about 2 lbs. and a good
backpacking tent is 2.8oz or 3 lbs., but tarps dont keep the rain
from running underneath (when the ground is saturated, you can have
an inch or more of water on the ground), nor does it keep the snow
out, nor the mosquitos. I prefer a tent.
After Roan Mountain in Virginia, you can get rid of most of your warm
things until you reach the Whites (i.e. Glencliff, NH or North
Woodstock). Then get them back. Still, the weather in the mountains
can turn cold, even in the summer. Jim and I each kept our polartech
jackets all through the trail, and needed them off and on most of the
way. The Shenandoahs can get cold at 3000+ feet, even in June. If
nothing else, they made good pillows.
Good luck, good hiking.
Ginny "Spirit Walker" Frost