11 Surprising and Controversial Tips for AT Thru-Hikers
1. Don’t carry full water bottles up every goddamn mountain. Drink at the bottom, where there’s usually a good source, then fill your bottles halfway.
2. Purell doesn’t kill noro or E. coli. Neither does hand soap, unless you scrub like a surgeon. If you get sick, it’s probably not because of that one time last week when you forgot to wash your hands before scarfing down that surprise M&M that’s been sitting at the bottom of your pack for god knows how long. If you get sick, it’s because you’re meeting and sharing food with and sleeping next to dozens of new people every day. It’s an occupational hazard.
3. See that neat fancy stuff sack that came with your sleeping bag? Get rid of it. Take a heavy duty garbage bag, stuff your sleeping bag into it loosely, and place it at the bottom of your pack. The rest of your gear will pack more easily around it and your sleeping bag will retain a better loft.
4. You need at least one less set of clothes than you think you do.
5. Buy an Ursack and some OpSack bags. Yes, they’re expensive, but watching your friends struggle and curse and knock each other out with stones as they try to get their bear bags up and down each day? Priceless.
6. Leather-bound journals and fancy pens are nice and romantic and heavy as fuck. Phone apps don’t weigh much.
7. Short strides save thighs.
8. In Pennsylvania, try to look at least two rocks ahead of where you’re stepping. It’ll save you from some serious neck pain, you’ll move more swiftly, and you’ll see the end of that hellhole of a state at least two steps sooner.
9. If you can stand the conservationist guilt, sometimes it’s easier to walk just off to one side of the trail.
10. Never say no to trail magic. Even if you don’t like or can’t eat whatever snacks someone offers you, take it anyway. It’ll put a smile on their face, and you can keep the trail magic flowing by sharing your unwanted loot with another hiker down the trail.
11. You can always take one more step. You can always make it one more mile. That doesn’t mean you should. Take care of yourself out there and enjoy the journey.
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