Outdoor Connection

Preparing to Hike the Appalachian Trail

More from Outdoor Living Newsletter November Outdoor Living Newsletter
Hiking and camping gear spread across a table
Every hiker needs a number of items for the trail

Ever wondered what it takes to hike the Appalachian Trail? We'd like to introduce you to Adam Nutting. He's going to do just that and more next year. We were curious to understand how you plan for such a trip and what it's really like to hike the trail. So we persuaded Adam to share with us how he is going about planning the trip and he has agreed bring CampingRoadTrip.com readers along with him and post his experience 'live from the trail' over the next year. How cool is that?!! Now that I have whetted your appetite, here's his first installment on planning!

Hello I'm Adam Nutting. It's nice to meet you. On March 17, 2013 I will set foot on an adventure of a life time - to hike the Appalachian Trail in its entirety. The Appalachian Trail is a 2,184 mile foot path that runs from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. To make my adventure even more exciting, I will also be flying out to California during my Appalachian hike to participate in a trek on the John Muir Trail.

Planning for a multi month hiking adventure can seem daunting at first. There is a huge amount of work that needs to be done. A route must be chosen, gear acquired, gear tested, food prepped, logistics set, loose ends tied up at home and do not forget the paperwork. I will say upfront that this is not a "how to" or a step by step manual. This is simply what I have been doing for the past year to get ready for my Appalachian Thru-Hike and John Muir Trail Thru-hike Adventures that will begin spring of 2013.

1.  Research

When I find something that I find fascinating or start a new project. I find myself researching as much information as I can about that particular subject. I head to the internet, talk to people who have experience, read books, watch documentaries, and reach out to social networks. I learned as much as I could about the trail and the fascinating world that surrounds it. I also researched gear and how others prepped for their adventures.

2.  Budgets and Cleaning House

I began my preparations by paying off my debts and cutting back on as much as possible. Cutting back meant saying goodbye to cable TV and pretty much anything that was not a necessity. Creating a budget helped me figure out not only where my money was going but also what I need to pay off on what order. I was also able to figure out how much I need save to make the whole adventure possible.

3.  Purchasing and Testing Out Gear

Buying and testing out all of the gear has to be my favorite part of the process so far. Every time I walk into an outdoor store I feel like a kid in a candy shop. People like me really have to be careful because if we are not then I could possibly spend all my money on gear and continue to upgrade to the latest and greatest if I am not careful. Gear is always changing. My advice is find gear you like and stick with it. There will always be the next best piece of gear coming out that is lighter and does what your gear does but better. Just remember it's money that could be used for food and lodging while on the trail.

Make sure to go to your local outfitters and try things on and hold the items in your hand. I have purchased quite a bit online but I talked to people that went to the stores and checked stuff out before ever buying anything. I am a real stickler for where my money was being spent. You will want to take all of your gear out and test it multiple times as a whole kit before setting off on your adventure. This is to get yourself used to using the gear and could highlight any issues you might have with your gear allowing you to make final changes before you head off for months on end.

4.  Paperwork

I did not have power of attorney nor a will paperwork drawn up until now mostly because I never felt like I needed it. After some sound advice from a lawyer I wanted to make sure that my family could tend to my life back home in the event something happened to me while on the trail. They cover everything from paying bills to making medical decisions on my behalf. I do not plan for anything to happen but I suppose that is my Boy Scout preparedness kicking in.

5.  Logistics

When starting to plan where you will hike to each day and how many miles you will put in you need to think about two major factors. First being the weather. Weather can be very unpredictable. We always hope that it will be predictable but it never works out that way. The second thing that can get in the way of your daily goals is your body. Illness or fatigue can cause your daily goals to not be met. Fatigue will be both mental and physical and if not attended to properly serious issues can arise. Appalachian Trials is a great book that explains the mental aspect to long distance hiking. It is written for those who are hiking the AppalachIan Trail but can be applied to many other trails as well.

The biggest question you must ask yourself is how you will be resupplying. On many of the long trails there are towns along the way that you can stop and purchase food take in a shower and even purchase new gear. Many choose to send packages ahead of time to themselves along the way with all the food and gear to keep resupplied. Many of the hostels, outfitters, and post offices along the trails will hold packages for hikers up to 30 days. Just remember to put your estimated time of arrival on the box before sending it. One can also combine resupply drops and shopping in towns but remember to account for that in your budget. Many hikers talk about once they hit a town they will spend large amounts of money in the towns purely to satisfy what is known as hiker hunger.

6.  Food and Food Prep

A smiling, happy Adam Nutting
Hiking makes Adam happy!

Depending on how much time you have to create your menu you can do everything from creating your own just add water meals to putting together the menu on the fly at each trail town. There are lots of great resources on blogs, Youtube, and even backpacking magazines have some great food ideas. Everyone is different when it comes to planning their meals. This is mostly due to your personal tastes. One of the main stables of the trail is prepackaged tuna packets and crackers. Tuna is one of my least favorite meals and for me I really enjoy the Knor (formally known as Lipton) rice or pasta sides. They are easy to make and are quite tasty.

One of the things I did not expect to start reading up on when I started my research was dehydrating of foods and vegetables. I was able to get a dehydrator and a vacuum sealer for under $50 each. Now I can create meals that are created to just add water. You can pretty much dehydrate anything and when it reconstitutes becomes edible. I will warn you however things like watermelon and cantaloupe are not things you would want to dehydrate. I am currently working on perfecting spaghetti with meat sauce and a chili recipe. Needless to say your menu is only as creative as you make it based upon how much time you invest into it. Remember you will be eating this way for several months in a row and you want to keep your caloric intake high and make sure to take in some fiber as well.

If you have an itching question to ask Adam about his plans, submit them here and he'll be happy to answer them. He'll pick the best ones in his next article!

If you'd like to help sponsor Adam or just want to learn more about how he's preparing for his big adventure, go to HikingTheTrail.com.

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