12 Pro-tips I Learned My First Two Weeks on the AT

1. Raid hiker boxes!

Hiker boxes are almost exclusive to the popular long trails. These are boxes usually at hostels or outfitters, where hikers will drop off unwanted gear or food. You might think that there is only junk in there, but one man’s junk is another hiker’s treasure.   There are great food options in there I actually scored a Peak Refuel biscuits and gravy dehydrated meal, which retails well over $14. Huge score! My next two tips are hiker box related as well.

2. Invest in a fuel transfer device.

Almost every hiker box has half spent fuel canisters in it. People don’t want to carry the weight of two fuel canisters, so they will buy a new one and leave their mostly spent canister behind. With a fuel transfer device, all of those are free fuel! Well worth the weight if you’re on a budget.

3. Breakfast Essentials pudding

EVERY Hiker box I’ve come across has at least one Breakfast Essentials mix in it. My guess is most people try it out as a drink, and find out that they are just gross when you mix with a full cup of water. BUT, if you only add a tiny bit of water, you can make a chocolate, vanilla, or strawberry pudding that’s almost as good as any name brand but with the added vitamins and minerals that are put into the mix. It’s now a staple in my trail diet.

4. PCT with a caribeaner

So this one I actually found a day or two before trail on YouTube, but it’s been a game changer. The original PCT hang; calls for a stick to be tied onto your line so it stops in the food caribeaner from descending any further. But this version; allows you to tie a byte on your line and then put a larger caribeaner onto the byte. This way the larger caribeaner can’t pass through your smaller food bag caribeaner. It’s saved a lot of time and frustration from trying to tie a stick onto a rope above your head. There is a catch that I learned the hard way though…

5. PCT with a locking caribeaner

Yup, I learned the hard way it’s important to use locking caribeaners with this version of the PCT. My very first hang on trail got stuck because somehow the line passed through the caribeaner again. This ended up having the bag trying to pass through the caribeaner upon retrieval. Like passing a watermelon through a pinhole, that’s just not gonna work. Luckily I was able to cut my food down. But now that I have a locking caribeaner, I haven’t had the issue again!

6. Soap is better than hand sanitizer

Most of my short backpacking trips I’ve just gotten by with hand sanitizer. But at Amicalola’s hiker registration, I learned that hand sanitizer does not work against Norovirus. So I got some soap and I’m realizing it’s actually really nice to just get the dirt off my hands as well. I still use hand sanitizer as well, but soap has been a surprisingly nice way to keep a bit of hygiene in my life.

7. Be social and you’ll find your people

Before the trail, I was very nervous about finding a good crew of people to hike with. I know I’m a socialble person, but I still didn’t know what it would be like. But everyone is so welcoming on trail and it’s been great to connect with people from all over the country (and even the world). Everyone is on the same journey together and I genuinely believe we all want everyone else to succeed and make it to Katahdin. I’ve already met a bunch of fun people to hang and hike with, and I’m looking forward to meeting more!

8. Get some earplugs for a hostel stay

This one is kinda self explanatory. When you’re crammed into a 12 bunk hostel, a lot of noise happens at night. ESPECIALLY, if there is a snorer (or three) in the group. Earplugs won’t completely remove the sound, but it’s enough to dilute it. At lot of hostels will offer them as well, so make sure to ask!

9. Eat a light breakfast if your camp is close to a gap.

Trail magic is most commonly found at road crossings. So if you’re camping 1-4 miles from a gap, go light on your breakfast. Chances are someone might be there with a sausage biscuit and coffee. That way you save that breakfast for the next day.

10. Read the comments on Far Out

So much useful info is hear! From bear activity, to trail angel contacts and hostel recommendations, you can find a log of info that could save you some headache or make your journey way more fun. And as a bonus, some of the comments are hysterical. Check these comments from Cold Springs Shelter site. Haha!

11. Atweather.org

This site is the go to for finding the weather at your exact campsite. Weather can very so much even in the span of a few miles or depending on which side of the mountain range you are on. It’s been reliably accurate, and gathers all it’s data from NOAA via the shelter’s exact coordinates. All you have to do is put in the state you’re in and the shelter you are at. There is a PCT version on the same page as well!

12. Ice in a buff

This one includes the bonus tip of picking up your free thru-hiker buff from Outdoor 76 in Franklin! It’s a great outfitter and they hand out the buffs every year. But I also learned that if it’s a hot day and you come across some trail magic, you can stuff some ice in it and cool the back of your neck down. Its gonna be even better when the real heat starts to come in July and August!
that’s all for now

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Comments 1

  • Carly McCalla : Apr 17th

    Such good advice – I agree with all of them! I haven’t tried the breakfast essentials yet but I’ll keep that in mind!


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