Disclaimer: This post is to answer frequently asked questions I have received. An experienced hiker will know better than me as I have not yet hiked. This is how I answer these questions when I receive them.
“I am hiking the AT.”
The whole thing?
How long is that?
How long will that take?
It takes most thru-hikers anywhere from 4-7 months. I expect I’ll be somewhere in the middle of that. 5 and a half or 6 months seems reasonable.
Are you bringing a gun?
No. Nobody brings guns. Well I’m sure somebody brings a gun, but it’s so unusual that “nobody” pretty much covers the number of thru-hikers that bring guns.
Where will you sleep?
I got a one person tent that I plan to sleep in. See gear list. There are shelters along the way. Shelters are 3 sided wooden structures that were built along the trail for hikers. From what I understand, you can stealth camp (set up your tent in a stealthy spot away from shelters and campsites), set up your tent/hammock outside of a shelter, or you can sleep in the shelter. I spoke to a friend who is out on the trail now. He said most people sleep in the shelters when the weather is bad so they don’t have to set up in the rain and pack up wet gear in the morning. I think I will opt to sleep in my tent most nights.
Where will you go to the bathroom?
In a tree. Not really. I will go on the ground wherever. There are privies at some shelters. A privy is like an outhouse.
Where will you shower?
I will shower when I get into town every 3, 4, 5 days.
How far will you hike each day?
Probably 8-10 miles starting out, increasing mileage as I get stronger.
What will you eat?
I bought a Jetboil, which is a nifty little gadget thermos type thing that boils water. I can use this to cook anything you can boil; Ramen, macaroni and cheese, mashed potatoes, pasta, rice, soup. I’ll probably eat those in addition to packaged tuna, salmon, chicken, power bars, pop tarts, trail mix, candy bars. I’ll figure out what works for me in the first few weeks. I’ll splurge on food when I get into town too.
Will your backpack be heavy?
I’m not sure. Heavy is a relative term. It doesn’t feel too heavy right now, but I’ve only worn it full for minutes at a time. I’m aiming for 30 pounds with food and water.
How will you know where you are going?
The entire length of the AT is marked by white blazes. It is pretty easy to tell what is trail and what is not.
How are you preparing for this?
I was working out, trying to walk a lot, go on hikes, and doing p90x for a while. You get in shape on the trail, just might have to take it slower until you’re stronger. I tried to lose all of the weight I’ve gained since moving home from college. But this was easier said than done and I’ll lose it on the trail anyway. A lot of guys actually try to gain weight before they go so they don’t lose too much weight when they hit the trail. They burn too many calories a day, can’t replace them fast enough, and get really thin. I have yet to hear of this happening to any women. We’re just lucky that way. Financially I was fortunate to receive money from graduation, I got a job as a nanny, a few pet sitting jobs and a ridiculous amount of babysitting jobs that will provide what I need for the trip. Emotionally-I read Appalachian Trials, a book written by Zach Davis, a former thru-hiker about his experiences and how to emotionally prepare for a thru-hike. I made my “lists”, as well as an arsenal of motivational videos, pictures, and quotes, and have stocked my iPod and iPhone with music.
How much will this cost?
I’m prepared to spend $5,000 dollars, but would like to get through with less.
What if you see a bear?
I’d be so excited. The bears are more scared of you than you are of them. I hear the ones that aren’t are only interested in your food. Black Bear attacks are very rare. Most people I have talked to said they saw bears but they were always bear butts because the bear was running away from them.
Who are you going with?
Myself. It’s difficult for people to wrap their heads around this one. It is not uncommon for people to hike by themselves. There will be plenty of good people on the trail at the same time as me. I already know of 6 other ladies starting the same day as me. We’re all headed to the same place. I won’t be alone. You have to imagine how hard it is to find someone you already know, who shares a common goal, who you are sure you can spend all day, every day with for 6 months, and still be friends with afterwards, and who is willing to take the time off and use the resources to do this. I’d rather make friends out there who already meet this criteria.
How do your parents feel about that?
For this question, I turned to the pros. Without further ado, I present to you Mom and Dad.
“I was having a hard time putting into words how I feel about Amy hiking the trail and then it hit me. Amy hiking the trail is merely an action, albeit a big action. The more pertinent question is how do I feel about her capabilities, readiness, motivation and of course, personal safety.
I’m proud of Amy for taking on this adventure. She is ready, capable, and motivated. She is kind, beautiful, and smart. All attributes will serve her well. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that there’s this little anxious part of me that wants her to walk this trail in a physical and emotional bubble. Yeah, she should be the bubble girl safe from any and all possible danger.
But I can’t and don’t really think that way. What she does with and for the rest of her life is for me to support and admire. This is one journey. There will be many more . . .
If I don’t screw it up, I am the lucky mom who gets to share in those journeys.“Mom will be happy to have her house back. Gear has taken over. One day it is in my bedroom, on the kitchen table the next, then it’s spread out all over the living room floor.
“How do I feel about Amy hiking the AT? Well, being a loving and supportive Dad and sniper trainer after a 25 year career as a Navy Seal, I think it’s pretty cool. I doubt she’ll need to use the skills she’s learned to kill an armed terrorist with her bare hands or blow things up without leaving a trace of how it happened, but it’s good to know she has them if she needs them. I hope she has fun.”
He was cracking himself up with all of the different things he could make up. Response # 3 mentioned murder and something called a handler, so I’ll spare you from that one. Overall I think he’s supportive, not worried, and said he thinks I’ll make a lot of new friends and have a great experience.
That’s all I got as far as FAQ goes. Feel free to ask any other questions if you have them!
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