The Appalachian Trail is one of the most interesting and historic hiking trails in the United States, and even the world over. Whether you’re planning a short day hike or an AT thru hike, here are some tips to keep in mind, especially if it’s your first time on the trail.
1. Safety First
Do not hike alone! Share your “hike plan” with others back home. Carry a cell phone with spare batteries, GPS mapping, flashlight apps, compass app, and of course the Tripleblaze app, which allows you to digitally check-in at the trailhead. Pack printed topographical maps and a small first aid kit as well.
2. Weigh Your Backpack
The usual rule of thumb is that your backpack should weigh less than 25% of your body weight. “Slipping in” a small can of anything is a very bad idea, and whatever comfort items you decide to bring, despite their weight, usually end up being left in a trailhead trash can eventually.
3. Make a Dry Run
Begin with relatively short hikes, carrying all your planned backpacking gear including equivalent weight of food and water for longer backpacking trips.
4. Feet, Feet, Feet
Select firm hiking footwear and “test drive” well in advance of your backpacking trip. Socks are also important, so be sure you’re comfortable with your setup before you hit the trail.
Take maps to identify locations of water sources on the trail, but keep in mind that many water sources may be seasonal or dependent on rainfall amounts. Bring purification filters and emergency chemical tablets. Giardia and other stomach viruses are common on the trail due to improperly sanitized water, and a bout of diarrhea can leave you not only uncomfortable, but also severely dehydrated.
6. Ear Plugs
A good night’s sleep is critical. Ear plugs block out fellow hikers snoring and, if you stay in an AT shelter, mice can ruin a good night’s sleep by rummaging through candy wrappers trapped under the floorboards.
Fire is essential, so pack plenty of dry matches AND a good lighter.
8. Rain Gear
Wet campers are never “happy campers”. Enough said.
9. Hang It Up
You should hang your backpack (or a bear bag for your food) from a tree to deter animals from entering your tent to scavenge the contents while you are sleeping. Some shelters even have poles or gates to keep animals away from your gear.
10. Check In
Hiking the AT through Smokey Mountain National Park requires formal check-ins as a safety precaution because of the bear population. Use your cell phone to periodically check-in with folks back home, and use the shelter logs to document your progress.
What are your tips for hiking the Appalachian Trail?