A Couple of Things I’m Nervous About

Nerves are normal before your first thru-hike, right? I certainly hope so, because as February approaches, I’m getting nervous about a couple of things. One of them I talked about in my introductory blog post, while another has just come up. 

Well, let’s talk about them.

Oh Man, Has it Been Cold!

I’m a Florida native through and through. I’ve never seen an actual winter, save for a few week long vacations in the Northeast. That’s probably why I’m getting a little bit worried about the cold.

As a guy from Florida, this blew my mind. I mean, it wasn’t even freezing outside!


The coldest temperatures I’ve camped in have been in the high 20s. That’s about the coldest it gets in Florida, after all. However, during my research, I found that last year the temperatures dipped near zero in the Ozarks. This was because of the North American cold snap, of course. In my last post, I asked for suggestions about making my sleeping setup a little bit warmer. Since then, I did some research, and I decided to do a few things.

Two Sleeping Pads Are Better Than One, Right?

First, I’m doubling up on my sleeping pads. I’ve got an inflatable sleeping pad that’s always been plenty warm. However, to make things a bit warmer, I picked up a budget foam pad, too. I’ve read that increasing my R-value can improve warmth and insulation, and that you can add two pads together to accomplish that. 

I’ve never used a foam pad before, so it’s kind of a novelty to me. Lashing a pad to the outside of my pack has always seemed kind of iconic. It’s something you see in photos when people talk about their long thru-hikes or backpacking trips. I know it’s kind of silly, but it’s exciting to me.

Getting Toasty in a Bag Liner

In addition to beefing up my sleeping pad game, I also grabbed a lightweight sleeping bag liner. Specifically, I grabbed the Sea to Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme. Man, that name is a mouthful. According to the packaging, the liner can increase temperatures by up to 25°F. I know that’s in the most ideal conditions, but it’s still pretty impressive.

By doing these two things, I’ve (hopefully) made my sleeping setup a bit more toasty, and I won’t need to worry so much about cold nights. That is, of course, unless we have another cold snap in February and things get really cold.

Oh Man, My Pack is Too Small!

As I was reassessing my gear for the hike, I made a realization that made me very nervous. I came to the realization that my bag was on the small side. As in I tried to pack it and I couldn’t. That didn’t stop me from hiking with some weight in my pack, though.

The ice just kept blowing my mind. Notice the Osprey bag on my back. That was after I realized I was going to need more room.

When it comes to backpacking, I’ve always used a 50L Osprey bag. Down in Florida I didn’t have to carry too much. I wasn’t going on long outings, and it didn’t get cold enough for me to need much gear. The OHT would make me reassess this, though.

If you’re looking at the OHT, you’ll find that there are two post offices to mail yourself food that are within a reasonable distance of the trail. There are no grocery stores to resupply at, so you’ll be doing pretty long carries along the trail up until you reach these points. As such, I needed to think about carrying more food than I normally would.

I know that most people are able to carry less in terms of their pack, but as I see it right now, I don’t think I can get along with a 50L pack. There’s just not enough space. As such, I have ordered another pack (a Kelty Coyote 85L, to be exact). I know that having so much space is going to increase the risk of me overpacking, so I’m going to be very aware of that. 

My plan to avoid overpacking and bogging myself down is only adding food to the pack – no more extra gear. The pack might be too big. I mean, let’s face it, it probably will be too big. The fact of the matter is that I’d rather have the extra space if I need it. 

Once the pack has gotten here, I’m going to load it up and take it out for some day hikes. I’m going to let those day hikes serve as my shakedowns, since I’m not going to be able to do an overnighter before I depart for the trail. 

One more from the trail. The sound of water trickling under and around the ice was too nice not to capture the moment.

If I end up carrying too much on my OHT thru-hike, so be it. I’ll just be happy to be out on the trail for a month. I’ll post soon with an update regarding my pack, and hopefully I’ll put my final gear list together after it arrives. Until next time!

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Comments 2

  • C : Jan 9th

    Zach, certainly wish you the best of luck. Doing your first thru hike in the coldest month, far from home, with new equipment and no overnight shakedowns will offer you many challenges. On trail experience can’t be beat for thru hike experience, but if that is not an option, try camping out in your backyard or local area multiple times, acting like you are in the woods (use only what is in your pack). There are so many mistakes we all make in backpacking as part of the learning curve, much easier to make them and correct them in an easily recoverable environment. 3 days out in the rain, by yourself is a hard time to find out you don’t know an important skill or have inadequate gear. Either way, enjoy your journey and best of luck.

    • Zach Maxon : Jan 9th

      C, thank you so much for all of the advice and the information. Backpacking here certainly is different. As much as I’d like to a shakedown overnighter, I’m afraid I won’t be able to. It’s high on my list, though, if I can fit it in. If not, then all of what I learn will be on the fly, which will be alright. For the most part, I think I’ll be okay – but I’ll also be responsible about things and take zero’s when I need to, of course.

      I appreciate the well wishes, and I hope you’ll keep up with my hike. I’d love to keep talking throughout the journey!


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