How Many Numbers Are You Juggling?

Planning for any long trail thru hike requires some forethought for most individuals. For me, it comes down to the numbers and how best to maximize them for success on the trail.  Here are a few numbers I am tracking.

33 / 78 / 94 days

These are the three numbers that go through my head every day I wake up. The numbers represent the number of workdays left, calendar days at work left, and days until I start on the Appalachian Trail. For some of us, the start of the trail has been a long time coming. Even though I still can’t see the light at the end of the tunnel at work, it’s starting to get surreal. I feel today the same way I did 1 year ago when I started planning this trip. It’s tough for me to see where I will be in three months….retired and on the trail. However, I think that is due to the fact I have never been without a job. I am looking forward to the day when I can wake up and only worry about putting one foot in front of the other and not be constantly checking my email or worrying about the next phone call from work that could come in at any hour of the day.

17.5 / 15.1 pounds / $ ????.??

These numbers represent my winter and summer base weights as well as the cost associated with the equipment. Every day I feel like Santa Claus checking my list twice. As I am sure most of you are doing, I am constantly trying to balance comfort, keeping my weight down, and how much is this going to cost me. Last year (pre-covid), everyone was posting their three luxury items on youtube. I don’t believe in luxury items. Getting from GA to ME takes as much physical strength as it does mental strength. If you feel that you need an item to help you get to Katahdin, then it really isn’t a luxury item. It is an item that helps you (or me, in this case) mentally get to the finish.

250 / 200 / 180 pounds

These numbers represent body weight where I am currently, my goal weight post trail, and where I would LOVE to be after the trail. Over the past few years, I have been prioritizing work over health. It is not a good thing. Working long days has been hard on the mind, body, and soul. These need to come into alignment to help a person feel good about themselves and truly be healthy. While I am not body shaming anyone for their body weight, these numbers are based on BMI measurements of what is considered “healthy” by U.S. CDC Standards. I hope the trail can help kick start my health regiment again and allow me to continue enjoying being outside and exercising post trail. I want to live a long life, and it’s time to start prioritizing my health. With this in mind, I’ll be trying to do my best to track food consumption on the trail to meet these goals.

CDC Information on BMI: Body Mass Index (BMI) | Healthy Weight, Nutrition, and Physical Activity | CDC


What numbers are you tracking? Are numbers important to you? Best of luck to everyone in their preparations. I’ll be on the trail in mid-March 2021. Follow me over on Instagram for picture updates (@chrisuscga01).

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Comments 6

  • pearwood : Dec 10th


    Surreal would be the right word. I’m retired, so I don’t have remaining workdays to count (as much as I might like to change that). With a projected June 1 start date I’m still counting months rather than days. That will change soon enough.

    The scales says 175 which is down a bit from what it’s been. I’ve always had a lighter build. I will definitely be watching my weight on the trail. I’m guessing I’ll be about 160 by time I finish; I can’t afford to lose too much.

    I don’t have the money to go ultralight. My gear will be a mix of new and old. It’s hard to beat gear you already have for price. I’m gradually adding weight to my pack on my prep hikes. Worn weight is just shy of twenty pounds now, which is hardly noticeable. I learned decades ago that if I got above forty pounds on my back hiking was more work than fun. If I can get everything into my REI Flash 55 I’ll continue to use it. But I still have my eye on my venerable exterior frame pack. It rides equally well and is much easier to pack, but it weighs four or five pounds more. With a late spring start I can probably get away with the smaller pack. I don’t know that it would handle the extra bulk needed for a late winter start.

    Between now and June I plan to do plenty of walking and plenty of reading to get body and mind ready to do this.

    Steve / pearwood

    • chris armstrong : Dec 10th

      Thank you for the reply. I’m sure what ever gear you have chosen will serve you well. It’s not all about being ultra light. It’s about finishing. Best of luck out there.

  • Sam Cermak : Dec 11th

    Great post! Here’s my countdown:
    54: days left of work
    112: days before my start date

    • Chris armstrong : Dec 12th

      Sam thanks for your numbers. Sounds like you are starting just after me. Best of luck out there.

  • Crash : Dec 13th

    I can identify with your situation. I joined the USAF right out of high school, went back to school a month after I retired from the service, went to work the month after I graduated and generally busted my butt until I retired a year and a half ago. Finally got to pursue a long hike last year and now I’m hooked. I’m a long trail hiker for life.

    Your very smart to do it now before you go on to the next gig. I’ll be following your journal and your trek. Well at least until I head out for my planned PCT section hike this spring. The AT should be an easy trek for a puddle pirate, just follow those white blazes like they were buoy’s 😉 Good Luck!

    • christopher armstrong : Dec 14th


      Thanks. Best of luck on the PCT. I am hoping I get addicted to this, but at the same time I hope I don’t. I fear that I’ll get done, land a great job, and then have to quit after six months to go hike the PCT or the CDT. Oh the struggles…hmmmm Puddle Pirate….might be a good trail name. But I am hoping to stay away from CG themes….still a good trail name.



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