5 Ways I’m Preparing for My Thru-Hike 50 Days Out

As the countdown to my AT start date inches closer, the nerves are definitely increasing. Here are a few things I’m doing to really get the most out of these last few weeks in the real world and prepare for my hike.

1. Shakedown Hikes

I cannot stress the importance of shakedown hikes enough. Even if you can’t actually get out into the woods, walk a few miles in your neighborhood with your pack on and camp in your yard (or a friend’s). You will increase the likelihood of a successful and enjoyable thru-hike with some shakedowns.

My first night hammock camping with my new gear was rough, and I was so grateful that this first experience was in my yard and not on the AT. I also learned firsthand the affect cold temperatures have on typical stove fuel when I wasn’t able to bring my water to a boil on a recent hike. It would’ve made starting the trail much more unpleasant to learn these things when living out in the cold.

Attempting to boil water for a hot lunch in the winter with my new stove.

2. Reading

I’m a reader, and as such I’ve been reading a few books and articles in preparation of my thru.

  • A Walk In The Woods, by Bill Bryson—A fantastic and entertaining story about Bill’s AT thru-hike attempt. I learned a lot from this, especially that it’s OK when plans don’t work out exactly as you thought. It also goes into the history of the AT a bit, which I thought was really cool.
  • Appalachian Trials, by Zach Davis—A must read before hitting the trail or doing any long-distance hike.
  • The Ultimate Hang 2, by Derek Hansen—Great for hammockers.
  • Anything, by Andrew Skurka—Especially this article about clothing.
  • Adventure Alan
  • The Trek articles/blogs—Clearly you already know about this one.

3. Not Watching AT YouTube Videos

This is a personal decision that you may not agree with, especially in this world inundated with social media. And that is exactly why I’m avoiding it. Everyone’s experience on the AT will be different, and I don’t want someone else’s experience diluting mine with expectations that are not my own.

I also want to leave some stuff for me to figure out, be surprised by, and experience on my own. It’s cool there are so many passionate people out their dissecting their own AT experience, but I’ve decided that this is one area I’m not going to delve into.

4. Walking

I don’t plan on hitting the gym or doing anything crazy before starting the AT, but in the weeks leading up to it I plan on walking with my pack on at least three miles a day with one or two longer eight- to ten-mile hikes in the woods each week. I’ll do this in all sorts of weather, as I will encounter it all on the AT and it lets me test my gear.

I’m also planning on taking it easy (eight- to ten-mile days) the first few weeks on the trail to prevent injury. As they say, the best way to train for backpacking in the woods is by backpacking in the woods.

Checking out a fire tower I stumbled upon on a recent hike in Sterling Forest, NY.

5. Spending Time with Friends/Family

I’m married and I love my husband (and dog) tremendously. I know the trail is going to be hard for us, but I also believe we will both grow a lot while I’m away and look back on this time positively. That said, I’m on overdrive spending time with my family and friends as much as I can before the AT. I’m glad I’ll have these good memories to look back on and get me through the really tough days on the AT.

Could I be doing more to prepare? Possibly. But with only 50 days to go, I’ve narrowed down the things that are most important to me leading up to day one on the trail.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading and I’d love to hear what you do to prepare for long hikes or if you have any additional recommendations for me. Let me know your thoughts in the comments.

If you want to follow along on my journey walking across the eastern United States, feel free to subscribe to my page here on The Trek or follow me on Instagram.

Featured image courtesy of Simon Migaj.

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Comments 1

  • Katy Amphlett : Jan 31st

    Love this list! Knowing how to prepare (and how much to prepare) has been tricky. I especially love the part about spending time with friends and family!


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