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Advice from Hikers

Following a few links to some pages with some general advice regarding camping and backpacking are some replies to a query from someone planning to thru-hike the AT taken from the newsgroup rec.backcountry, with permission. Following those are some letters of advice written in response to some queries in rec.backcountry in the summer of '94, sent to me by David Bailey after he saw the "Advice from Hikers" section on this page.

NOTE: This page is rather a relict of the old days of the early internet. The vast majority of the links go to "file not found." The ones which actually work(!!!) have a beside them.

In addition, there is an organization called the Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA) which has a publication and an annual Gathering (usually around the Columbus Day weekend) which may be of interest to people looking for hiking advice. The address of ALDHA is: 10 Benning Street, PMB 224, West Lebanon NH 03784. There is also an ALDHA-West, many of whose members have hiked the Pacific Crest Trail: P.O. Box 804, La Pine, OR 97739. (The "A" in this ALDHA stands for "American.")

And here's Wingfoot's Page for Thru-Hikers (due to go online November 1, 1996) -(Taken offline around November 5, 2001.) (Seems to have some activity in the Forum section as of April 2013.)

One more thing: "Trail Days" are held about the third weekend in May every spring in Damascus, VA. In 2002, May 11 - 19.

From: grg at world.std.com (Gerry Gladu) Subject: Re: Hike the Appalachian Trail in '95? In article D1y2D8.ICo@world.std.com you wrote: : :: Also, you are just now : :: planning a Spring 95 departure for an AT through hike? IMHO, yer : :: nuts. Too late to get your sh*t together. On the other hand, : :: miricles happen, so good luck to you! : I did my '93 thru hike with no planning whatsoever. I already had all of : the gear so I just picked up thru hiker's handbook from the ATC and : pretty much winged the whole thing from start to finish. Couldn't see : making any plans beyond the next town stop or two. That way I kept things : pretty flexible and all under my control. I mean, who knows how far : you can hike in any given stretch - eg, pain can slow you down, good : weather can speed you up. If I needed an equipment drop, I'd call it in : from a week or so away from the drop point rather than plan where & when : I wanted it way ahead of time. What few mail drops I tried weren't working : out that well, anyways. : Of course, that's me. Some folks liked a more structured hike, most were : somewhere in between. But IMHO, flexibilty will get you a lot farther : than structure on a thru hike. : gerry : (moonshot, AT '93) -- From: jon.rietmulder@paonline.com In article 19950106.n64@pao.paonline.com you wrote: : :: Also, you are just now : :: planning a Spring 95 departure for an AT through hike? IMHO, yer : :: nuts. Too late to get your sh*t together. On the other hand, : :: miricles happen, so good luck to you! : Gr: I did my '93 thru hike with no planning whatsoever. : I did my '79 thru hike with less than 1 week of planning. I got : the maps and books for the trail from GA to Harpers Ferry. I : mailed them ahead after 2 weeks. Mail drops for food? I guess : if you like life structured that's okay but I preferred to get : my food when and where I stumbled close enough to a place where : I could do so. I had never done more than an overnight so I : also ended up shipping some stuff home and buying some gear on : the way. : When I look at the fancy gear I have now compared to the crap : I used then I am amazed that I enjoyed myself - but I did. : Jon (jon.rietmulder@paonline.com) : ('79 TMI Refugee)

From: dbailey Thu Jul 14 09:43:32 1994 EDT
To: aln@maroon.tc.umn.edu
Subject: Mt. Katahdin - spoil the first time?

I'd say wait.  No, I take that back.  I'd say definitely wait.  At
some point in my hike, when I realized that, barring some
unfortunate accident, that I was actually going to finish the
trail, Katahdin turned into this huge magnet drawing me north. 
Part of this was just wanting to see it, to see this great big
chunk of rock that I had heard so many stories about, but had never
seen with my own eyes. When I finally caught my first glimpse of
Katahdin, with about 200 miles to go, tha attraction really kicked
in.  As I made my way through the 100-mile wilderness, the mountain
kept getting bigger and bigger and bigger.  On my last day, I
started at 3am, climbing the back of that magical mountain in the
dark.  When I got to the top, in the morning's clouds, WOW!  So
again, I'd say wait, it is too important a part of a thru-hike.

David W. Bailey                           MIT Ultimate
The Leg Lab                               AT Thruhike
MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory    GA-->ME `92

From dbailey Fri Jul 15 10:38:09 1994 EDT
To: aln@maroon.tc.umn.edu
In-reply-to: aln@maroon.tc.umn.edu's message of Thu, 14 Jul 94
21:14:44 -0500 0012e25f113a14125@maroon.tc.umn.edu

OK, now you've gotten me all excited about hiking again.  Here

1.  Resupply points.

I had 20 mail drops.  I'll list them later if you want.  The only
thing that my maildrops did not have was bread and jelly.  This
worked great.  The only problem was making sure that I was in town
by the time the PO closed.  This made some days kind of hectic.  In
some towns, Erwin, Pearisburg, Front Royal, Waynesboro, Delaware
Water Gap, Manchester Center, Hanover, for example, there are BIG
grocery stores where you can get everything you need at a decent
price.  At other stops, Neels Gap, Fontana Dam, Bastian, Stratton,
Monson, the
selection isn't so hot.  So, if you are going to be going to the
store anyways for bread (and the all-important in-town snack), you
might aswell get everything else.  (Note: Never shop on an empty
stomach, oryou will be carrying a lot of extra food out of town)
That said, there are somethings which are nice to mail.  For
example: portions of the big vat of gorp I made before I left,
letters from home, Fab One-shot laundry detergent, portions of
other bulk foods you buy, vitamins.

Another note on maildrops.  It took me and my Mom about 4 drops to
figure out what I wanted, and how much to send.  My appetite got
huge, and stuff I thought would be great to eat didn't work out
(pancakes, real rice).  We had all of the drops figured out, and
put in open grocery bags.  That allowed Mom and Dad to move food
around asnecessary.  So in conclusion, I would kind of mix and
match my maildrops.  (How's that for a definitive answer :)

2. Bugs

The bugs weren't bad at all.  There were a couple of places that I
wasglad for my tent: Harriman State Park in NY, this one shelter in
Mass, and Antlers Campsite just before Katahdin.  However, I did
carry my tent with me the whole way, even though I only used it
maybe a dozen times during the whole trip.  The bulk of the places
I used it was when there was no shelter, not when the bugs where
bad. I probably could have left my tent at home for the bulkof the
trip, but I liked the idea of having that shelter on my back.  That
was insurance/convenience that I was willing to carry.  As for
repellent, I didn't use much at all.  I'd just pack one bottle, and
pick it up ingrocery stores along the way if you happen to get low. 
My bet is that you won't.

3. Rain Gear

I had PVC coated nylon.  I sent my rain gear home someplace in
Virginia, and din't get it back until right before the Whites.  In
fact, I didn't use my full rain suit from Mt Rogers, VA until the
peak right after Andover ME, where I almost froze to death before
I stopped and put everything I owned on.  My take on rain gear is
this.  If you wear rain gear and hike, you are going to get sweaty. 
Gore-tex Smore-tex, if it is just as humid outside the suit as it
is inside the suit the water vapor's not going anywhere.  You'll
only get that transfer when its cold and dry out.  Why get wet and
stinky when youcan just get wet?  Just wear quick-dry fabrics, ie
a Capilene shirt (a long underwear top if its a little cold) and
nylon shorts, get wet, and dry out when the rain stops.  Get a
cover for your pack though, and pack everything you care about in
a plastic bag.

4.  Clothes needed in April

I started in Mid-march.  I walked through snow in the Smokies.  I
had the following clothes: 1 set lightweight polypro long
underwear, 1 set midweight Capilene long underwear, a lightweight
Capilene tshirt, nylon shorts,a wool sweater (though I would have
traded it for a heavy fleece jacket), some synthetic gloves, a wool
hat, socks, my raingear.  This worked great.  If I put all of that
stuff on, I was pretty warm.  When I started walking, I was fine. 
I was very happy with my clothes.  When it got warmer, I sent some
stuff home, like the rain gear, the lightweight lu top, the
midweight lu bottoms, and I tradedmy wool sweater for a fleece
pullover (which was nice to wear after a day of hiking, and made a
great pillow).

5.  H2O filter

Hmmph.  I just carried a First Need, backflushed it in town once in
a while, and got a new filter in Pennsylvania.  My pump sprang a
leak once, put First Need sent a replacement lickety-split.  The
filters that I was jealous of, except for the fact that I paid less
then they did, were the MSR Waterworks, and some PUR model.  I had
the following system for getting water: I carried one of those
two-gallon water-bags, the kind with plastic bag in a cloth cover,
and they have a simple spout.  Each evening, I'd fill my bag with
appropriate amount of untreated water, and bring it back to the
shelter.  From the bag, I could get water to cook with (I boiled up
the water for hot chocolate, and then dumped in dinner), clean with
(add a little bleach to the rinse water and voila, superclean
dishes), and the bag was easy to pump out of (No dirt, and I was
right at the shelter, sitting comfortably).  I definitely reccomend
carrying a water bag.

6.  Misc

I could go on and on with advice, but I'll stop here.  If you want,
I can mail you a copy of my schedule, with what I planned to do,
and what actually happened.  Just for your interest, I only planned
to take three days off.  In actuality, I took a total of 21 days
off, and still finished two days early.  However, you can never do
too much planning.  Just be flexible enough to break from the plan
when you're actually out on the trail.

I hope this helps. 

DW Bailey

From dbailey Sat Jul 23 13:19:33 1994 EDT
To: aln@maroon.tc.umn.edu
In-reply-to: aln@maroon.tc.umn.edu's message of Fri, 15 Jul 94
16:08:30 -0500 0012e26facea17328@maroon.tc.umn.edu


Sorry for taking so long to reply.  I was/am going to try and get
my planning spreadsheet into a form where I can mail it to you.  For
now,I'll just answer your questions as I read your post.

2 pr boots.  This is kind of what I did.  I had a pair of boots
thatwere in decent shape and so just bought a new pair, which I tried
tobreak in before I started, and then I got them in Harpers Ferry.

One-shot laundry detergent.  You can get it at most laundromats. 
I was mailing other stuff, ao it was just easier to go ahead and pack

Bug nets.  I'm telling you, the bugs aren't bad at all.  For the
few times you'll want any protection, just set up your tent.

It was really 21 drops, plus being full at the beginning, ao it was
more like a week between mail drops.  The most I carried was 9 days
of food, for parts like the 100 mile wilderness, and some sections in

Your maildrop idea sounds fine.  What are you going to do for
breakfasts?  I assume you've bought whatever they are putting out
for a Thru-hikers Handbook.  Look for big name supermarkets Kroger,
Food Lion, etc. in the town description.  That will give you a clue as
tothe size of the grocery-store.

Rain Gear.  My gear was pretty durable. It was made by and bought
at EMS.  I had bought it a couple of years beforehand.  Capilene is
high-tech polypropolene.  It is softer, and doesn't absorb odors
like polypro does, but has the same wicking/insulating properties.  It
is a Patagonia product.  I don't like the poncho idea, but others do.

Actually, I had two pairs of clothes.  One to hike in, and one to
wear in town.  In all honesty, I got pretty nasty by the time I rolled
into town.  No one bothered me when I went into New York City though :),
but my sister threw me in the shower right after saying hello.

Starting time.  Snowy, rainy, cold, nice, everything.  There
weren't too many other people starting.  I mostly passed them pretty fast
and started to catch up with people who were in front of me.  Half the
fun of hiking the trail is the people you meet.  The crowds will die
away, plus there will be chances to get away from people.

H2O filters.  I agree with being anal about water purification.
Keeping healthy is one of the more important aspects of finishing
the trail.  I mailed my replacement filter, and I backwashed a couple
of times in town.  I think it was the PUR Explorer.  The only
complaints I have heard about the MSR Waterworks is that it clogged pretty
easy, and wasn't quite as simple to clean as the manufacturer claimed. 
You may want to post on the rec.backcountry or check the FAQ for info
about those models.

MISC.  I'll try and get my schedule to you ASAP.  If I give it to
youas a spreadsheet format, what type do you want it in? 

Shelter/lean-to sleeping works great.  You don't have to mess with 
setting up your tent, there is a nice flat spot to cook on, and the 
evenings and mornings are great opportunities to joke around with your 
friends. Remember to hang your food though, cause they are mice magnets.

DW Bailey

From dbailey Tue Jul 26 09:46:46 1994 EDT
To: aln@maroon.tc.umn.edu
In-reply-to: aln@maroon.tc.umn.edu's message of Mon, 25 Jul 94
23:06:17 -0500 0012e348bb8a21203@maroon.tc.umn.edu
Subject: AT hike


Breakfast.  To each his own appetite.  Here is what I did for food
on a normal day.  Breakfast - hike 1 hr (~3miles) - H2O break - hike
1 hr - granola bar/H2O break - hike 1 hr - H2O break - hike 1 hr - Lunch
- hike 1 hr - H2O break - hike 1 hr - GORP/H2O break - hike 1 hr -
H2O break - hike 1 hr - Dinner.  You'll figure out how much you want to
eat once you start hiking.

3 sets of clothes!  I thought you were on a light kick! ;)
Definitely take three sets of socks though.

Transportation.  I had it pretty lucky transportaion wise.  My
brother was working in Atlanta, so I went down and stayed with him for the
weekend, and then he dropped me off at the blue-blazed trail to
Springer Monday morning.  For the way home, the night before I
climbed, I got a hitch out of the park to a phone, and called my
Dad. He did a marathon drive from DC to come get me.  You should have
absolutely no problem getting a hitch to Millinocket.

I have no idea about the PUR Scout.

I'll give you the printout, as well as sending you the spreadsheet
also.  I'm telling you, the spreadsheet is great.  It has almost
all of the shelters, campsites, and towns, with their mileage.  You
select which shelters/towns you want to stay at, and extract that list. 
Then you can look at things like scheduling your maildrops, average
mileage, etc.

DW Bailey

From dbailey Wed Aug 31 10:29:56 1994 EDT
To: blazich@er3.rutgers.edu
Subject: Appalacian Trail info needed 

: Hello.  I am looking for any books/pamphlets that map and give  
: information about the entire Appalacian Trail.  The more inform-
: ative, the better.  Also I would like a VERY good book on hiking. 
: I know this may sound crazy but I have decided that I am going to
: hike the Appalacian Trail and I have never hiked more than one  
: day before!  Also, how much time and money do you think I would
: need to do this (including buying any equpiment).  Any help
: is much appreciated.  I plan on taking some time to plan this out
: and maybe do it in the spring.

OK, you asked for advice, here it is.  First, join the 
     Appalachian Trail Conference
     P.O. Box 807
     Harpers Ferry, WV  25425

They are the body which manages the Trail. (Land acquisition, the
smaller trail maintenace clubs, etc.)  They also have sell by mail
order such things as maps (you'll want these) and a some stuff for
potential thru-hikers, like _The Thru-hikers Guide_ and some other
useful planning stuff.  You don't have to be a member to buy stuff,
but you get a discount, which makes up the membership fee when you
buy all of the maps(~$100).  More importantly, if you are going to
hike the AT, you should join the ATC, its just one of those
etiquette type things.

As far as time and money go, I spent 163 days (5.5 months) and
about $2000 hiking the Trail.  Note: If you get your equipment list
nailed down quickly enough, Christmas/Hanukah presents!

David W. Bailey                              MIT Ultimate
The Leg Lab                                  AT Thruhike
MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory       GA-->ME `92

From dbailey Wed Aug 31 13:41:17 1994 EDT
To: blazich@eden.rutgers.edu
In-reply-to: Alison Blazich's message of Wed, 31 Aug 94 12:15:50
EDT CMM-RU.1.4.778349750.blazich@er4.rutgers.edu
Subject: Appalacian Trail info needed

  Date: Wed, 31 Aug 94 12:15:50 EDT
  From: Alison Blazich blazich@eden.rutgers.edu

:  Thanks for the information, David!  When you say that you spent
: about  $2000, what type of expenses did that cover and include? 
: How much did you spend on equipment?  I would love to hear      
: anything about your trip  you would like to share (if you like to
: talk/write).  Thanks.

: Lilie

Here's a quick approximate budget:
Tent                150
Pack                150
Boots               150
Thermarest          50
Stove                    50
Maps                     100
Clothes             200
Misc equipment      100
Train to Atlanta    100
----------------    ---
Total               1050

Plus, food and postage for 21 maildrops.

As far as things I could share, I could go on and on for days about
the trail.  A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to this guy who is
planning a thruhike.  Included are my letters back to him,
answering his questions.  You should be able to play Jeopardy and
guess the question from my answers though.

(Included responses to Al's questions.)

DW Bailey

Advice from Stu Gibeau - "El Camino"

Stu recently wrote offering the following tip about slackpacking.

Date: Fri, 01 Mar 1996 22:57:00 -0800

I'm Stu. I attempted to hike the AT in 88, but due to a back injury in West Virginia was unable to complete it. I have since completed another 1/4th of the trail (total now around 1200 miles). I would be more than happy in aiding you in your advice section of you like. I have done both short and long hikes. I know most of the pit falls a hiker can come accros. For example: Never let someone take your pack ahead for you. Not because you might lose it, but because if you have been hiking for a month or more with it strapped to your back your back has become accustomed to it. This means that your muscles are used to the firmness of the pack. As in my case, I let someone take my pack ahead 18 miles, I was able to hike very fast without the pack, but my back suffered because of it. It seems the muscles were ready for that kind of free movement and the hiking caused a severe strain on them. It took almost six months to recover from that mistake...and I thought I was in great shape by the time I reached West Virginia. Anyway I'm willing to help.

my email is stu_gibeau@mailbox.ioa.com (El Camino - The walker)

I wrote to Stu to ask what other tips he had for hikers and this is a list he produced:

Sorry I don't have much other advice to give... basically all my advice would come down to:

1. Don't worry about making miles.
2. Drink lots of water (purified).
3. Quit caffeine (long) before you start hiking.
4. If your feet hurt, stop.
5. Beer will make you lazy, especially in Parisburg.
6. Domestic dog is the greatest cause of injury on the trail.
7. Every local will tell you the section you're on is the hardest section of the trail. Only in the Whites are they right.
8. Don't take days off from the trail.
9. Don't stay in shelters near roads.
10.If you feel like quitting, hike three more days and see how you feel then.
11.You don't really need a fire.
12.Everyone gets lost.
13.Don't hit a skunk on the nose if it eats your left over tuna. (I know someone that did this!)
14.Poisonous snakes are endangered species...leave them alone. 15.I wish I could do it again.

Stu Gibeau "El Camino - the Walker"

Wishes are Fishes!


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