Over 50, Overweight, Overloaded. AT, Here I Come

I spent years in the infantry carrying way too much weight for far too many miles in terrible terrain.  I intend to be more aware during this trek with what’s out there, rather than how far I have gone, when will I be done, or what happens next.  I’m anxious to get on the trail and start walking… slowly… very slowly… toward Maine.  I want to see what’s there, be in the moment, and thoroughly enjoy every minute I’m on the trail.  I’m lucky; I understand that.  I haven’t had to put my life on hold to accomplish this significant goal.  After retiring early, I have been traveling and enjoying life for years now.  I don’t have a schedule, or a job, or school to get back to, or any reason to rush this experience.

My Target Speed – Turtle

My current plan, which changes with alarming frequency, has me starting in Amicalola Falls State Park on March 10 and taking about 200 days to finish the 2,192 miles of the Appalachian Trail and the 8.5 miles of the Approach Trail, ending somewhere at the end of September.  That figure includes 16 built-in zero days (days that I don’t hike any miles, usually spent in a hotel) and an average of just less than 11 miles per day.  I plan to take four zero days in the first month, three in the second and third months, and two in each of the last three months.  During these zero days is when I’ll catch up on rest, laundry, blogging, and long-term resupply.  I am going intentionally slow to help me adjust to this enormous undertaking while allowing me plenty of opportunities to either go slower or faster as needed or to take more zero days if those are warranted.

I Will Succeed

As you may have garnered from the title, I’m older, not in the best shape, and am carrying a slightly heavier pack.  I’m trying to give myself the best possible chance of success by going very slowly the first six or seven weeks.  I’ll be averaging well under ten miles per day during that period, and gradually ramping up the trail miles, sort of, as I develop my trail legs and stamina.  I say “sort of” because if I stick to my plan, I’ll never average more than 11ish miles per day.  I’m only looking at a handful of 20-mile days during the entire trek.   I’ll follow this post with a modified gear list post detailing what I’m carrying.

The Weight

Currently, and this is somewhat fluid also, my base weight, pre-food and water, is right at 30 pounds.  I know, that’s a lot, three times what many of you will carry and double what most of you will bring.  Some of that weight is by choice, with a plan to shed as needed that I’ll discuss further in a moment, and some of that weight is just due to budgetary constraints.  I’m hiking with the gear I have, not the gear I’d like to have (that sounds like a good title for my gear list post).

Changing My Way of Thinking Is Hard

My pack is years old and heavy.  I upgraded my tent and sleeping system.  Not recently. but more so than my backpack, to the best that I could afford.  The rest of the weight is my fears, I suppose.  I spent most of my life with redundancy being hammered into my way of thinking and ingrained into my DNA.  If one is good, then four is better… and ten is probably best.  Shedding that mentality is proving to be harder than I ever thought it would be.  When I started planning in earnest for this adventure my very rough base weight was 61 pounds.  I was stressing about how to reduce that weight and considered everything in my pack something I thought I needed.  I mostly had two of everything, and often more than that, of everything.

Coffee Is Life

Currently, the only redundant item I have in my pack is a fuel canister.  Because the thought of running out of fuel unexpectedly and not being able to make coffee is frankly a deal breaker for me.

How Will I Shed Unnecessary Weight?

My plan for dropping weight as I go is a simple one.  It’s the same plan I use when deciding whether to keep something in my home or trash it.  It goes something like this –

If I haven’t touched that thing (whatever “that thing” is, except first aid kit) in one week, I probably don’t need it.  It will be on the short list of things that will go away soon.  I’ll give myself an amount of time to come up with a reason why I need it.  If no excuse can be found to keep the said piece of kit, it goes.  Either to be mailed home, left in a hiker box, or simply discarded at the next bin.

Hopefully, this will fairly quickly help me shed unnecessary weight and begin to rethink what I need and what I’m merely carrying for no other reason than I’m afraid not to take it.

That’s it for this post. I hope that you’ll join me again as I post my gear list and continue to document my journey.

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Comments 43

  • Tim : Jan 23rd

    Sounds like a plan. From what I understand, it’s mostly mental. Keep us informed of your progress. Safe travels.

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 23rd

      Thanks, Tim! Mentally I’m 100% ready. Well maybe 95%, but I’m ready. And I hope I have a plan to mitigate as many of the physical challenges as well. We’ll see.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
    • Ray : Jan 23rd

      Good on you, Mike! I appreciate not waiting until the perfect time, or set of circumstances, or some mythical physical fitness. Sounds like doing the smart thing and not pushing yourself too hard. I’m going to be following you, both online here, and maybe literally in a couple of years after I retire.

      And… thanks for your service.

      Reply
      • Mike Page : Jan 23rd

        Thanks, Ray! This trek has been on the back burner for me for years, but there has always been something else going on. I found myself without any plans or reasons not to, so I decided to go for it. There’s never a “Right” time for an adventure like this; you simply have to make the time, commit, and go for it. I’m sure when you’re ready, You’ll decide the same thing.

        Cheers,
        Mike

        Reply
    • LeoYERMO : Jan 24th

      Mike, Great ass article. I especially liked when you said <> Me to “a tee”. Always packing and owning too much.
      I am a bit older, as in 71 and retired Army, FA.
      Anyways I enjoyed this article immensely — can’t wait to learn more.
      I will be a section hiker on the PCT this spring.
      Thanks
      LeoYERMO

      Reply
      • Mike Page : Jan 24th

        LeoYERMO,

        Redundancy was the key to success in my former life. As you are well aware, it’s a hard habit to break. My pack is still too heavy. I accept that and hope that these things will sort themselves out fairly quickly on the trail.

        Cheers,
        Mike

        Reply
    • Jeff : Jan 25th

      Last summer my wife and I completed our first thru hike around the Tahoe Rim Trail. The first four days almost killed us. We had way too much weight. Luckily we were meeting our son after four days at a location where we could reduce our weight. On day five our packs weighed less than half what they did on day one…..and we were still heavier than most of the hikers we met along the way. Agree with your mileage target of 11 miles. We had to do 12 miles a day on the first four days to get to our rendezvous spot. Day one had a 3 mile water taxi. After six tough miles of switchbacks with too much weight we were totally exhausted and cramping so we camped….meaning the next three days we had to do 13+ miles….without a free 3 miles. It was really tough. Most of the hikers we met that were close to our age/fitness level were doing 8 to 10 miles per day. Our experience was so much better from day 5 onwards. If you can figure out some significant weight to drop before you start it will make the first couple of weeks so much more enjoyable. I was carrying over 50 pounds and my wife over 40 at the start.

      Reply
      • Mike Page : Jan 25th

        Jeff,

        Thanks for the valuable input! When I started putting my kit together, I was sitting at about 61 pounds and was stressing about it. I would have, and could have, started hiking with that weight and I’m sure I would have instantly regretted it. After much internal discussion and valuable advice from fellow hikers such as yourself, I’ve now gotten that packed weight to well under half my starting weight and am feeling so much better about the odds of my success. Just as you did, I’ll be applying common sense to what I still have packed, and I feel confident that by Mountain Crossings I’ll have my kit dialed into an acceptable and comfortable level.

        Cheers,
        Mike

        Reply
  • Patrick : Jan 23rd

    I’ll be 65 March 12 and I would love to be your AT walk partner but in 2017 I had spinal fusion to C4-C7 w/ 2 herniated disks and 2 bulging disks. I’m out of shape but I spent 6 years in the Marine Corps and there is nothing I can’t finish once I start! Semper Fi! If you change your mind already hook me up! Best of luck!

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 24th

      Patrick,

      Thanks! I don’t intend on quitting either. I feel like I have a nice slow walking plan to help me accomplish my goals with minimal suffering. We’ll see.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
  • Jason : Jan 24th

    Good luck brother! Remember, ounces equal pounds which equal pain. Travel light freeze at night still applies, and your next stop is just over that next rise, same as it was in the old days.

    Me an the girls will be rooting for you and checking your progress.

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 24th

      Jason,

      Thank brother! I’ll be feeling the pain, in the beginning, I’m sure. I know I’m carrying too much stuff and I feel certain that I’ll ditch what I don’t need fairly quickly.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
  • Carmen Lomonoco : Jan 24th

    Greetings Mike,

    Well i hope you make it to New York State. Keep me posted on your safari.

    Carmen —-aka—Batpeel

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 24th

      Carmen,

      Thanks! I haven’t worked out what a blogging schedule (is that a thing?) will look like yet but I hope that I’ll have the experiences and desire to write frequently.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
  • Molly : Jan 24th

    Haha Jason is banned! I know I always give you a hard time. I mean let’s be honest, you deserve it. 😁 But all joking aside, I’m so incredibly proud of you. This is a true definition of “You can take the man out of the infantry, but you can’t take the infantry out of the man.” If you need anything at all, you know how to reach us. 💖💖

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 24th

      Molly,

      Thank you. This is going to be a fun experience. I’ll call you when I get to PA.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
  • Lynn May : Jan 24th

    I feel like this blog is the same that’s been running through my mind for the last 6 months. I’m over 50 (58 yesterday!), would most likely overpack & could not face a morning without coffee. I currently work 2 jobs I absolutely adore but am thinking my 60th year might be my time to do the AT. All the important people in my life know i’ve “always said I wanted to hike the AT” but I doubt they understand the level of my sincerity. I’ll be looking forward to following your posts, Mike!

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 24th

      Lynn May,

      The AT is a persistent dream of all of us like-minded folks. We read the articles, and blogs, and Instagram posts and can totally see ourselves being that person. Sadly, life rarely complies with the demands of our soul. The right time for you will be when you decide that time is.

      Cheers,

      Mike

      Reply
  • Craig : Jan 24th

    Good luck Mike. I am looking forward to following along with you on your journey. I enjoy it when we older hikers can relate to articles here. Though I enjoy most of the posts, I do like it from our prospective (hurting hip joints or knees after 5 or so miles, aggravated lower back and the likes that come with our age range). Stretch a lot, have fun and enjoy the scenery.

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 24th

      Thanks, Craig!

      I’m anxious to see how the trail treats me. Hopefully, my nice slow pace will help and lots of stretching and hydrating won’t hurt either.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
  • Parttime : Jan 24th

    I’ll be following your blog .maybe I’ll see you in Virginia

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 24th

      Parttime,

      Good luck on your journey! If we do cross paths in VA, I’ll be the one moving really slow, taking too many pictures, and with a silly grin still on my face.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
  • Broadwing : Jan 24th

    Being over 65 now, ex 11C30 I can relate to the days of humping a Alice Pack full of C rations, cold weather gear, etc. 50 pounds would have been light back than. You, being aware of your limitations and limits need to be very careful. Enjoy your hike while building your endurance up. Always remember your recovery time is longer now that your older. Additionally old injuries can start to be aggravated doing things your not used to physically. No matter what though I’d really look into cutting back on your base weight of what your carrying. Why sabotage your chances when you know pounds = pain. I would also start on a pre hike diet now. Also, start a physical fitness pre hike regime now. Good luck! I hope you complete your goals. Just remember to enjoy your hike and all the great natural things you see. To many times many of these thru hikers make it a race to get finished.

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 24th

      Broadwing,

      Great advice! I’m trying to accomplish a lot of that now, especially scaling back on the base weight. My hike will definitely not be a race, I intend to savor every moment I’m out there.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
      • Violet Beauregard : Jan 29th

        AT2013 @ 53 solo here in ME. I will be waiting for your toned body and dirty, tiny pack with lobster rolls and beers.

        Reply
        • Mike Page : Jan 29th

          Violet,

          Hopefully, by Maine, I will indeed be in better shape and with a smaller and dirtier pack. You must be psychic to know how much I love beer and lobster rolls.

          Cheers,
          Mike

          Reply
  • David Wallace : Jan 24th

    Hey Mike, retired Air Force here…..we never carried weight like you did in the Army. However, with that said, we are brothers in arms. I am planning to retire from the Department of Energy in late 2020 and start my thru hike in March 2021 at age 56. Now with your mentioning of having older gear which weighs more than you like, I may be able to help you….not sure, but maybe. Seems I am a gear whore, yep have way to many of a lot of things that will need to be significantly downsized prior to selling my home and relocating to Alabama in 2020. With that said, if you are willing to reach out to me via email ([email protected]), I may be able to throw you a few gifts. There are no strings attached, it is only my way of saying thank you for your service and help lighten your load. Again thanks for your service, I will be cheering you on and hope to hear from you!!

    Dave

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 24th

      Dave,

      I can’t even begin to express my appreciation for your gesture. I’m still fine-tuning my gear, and I think I’ll be able to get my weight down to an acceptable level. I’m not, and never have been, one of those hikers that count every gram. I know me pretty well and have a very realistic idea of what my limitations are. Having said that, if I find that my weight is still at an unacceptable number say mid-February, we may revisit this conversation. Thank you again, it’s people like you who make hiking, and the world in general, better.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
  • Bruce Hall : Jan 24th

    Hi Mike
    Maybe this will help with some of the decisions on what to shed.

    The first few weeks of the hike are the highest risk for injury due to either too many miles a day or overweight pack. IMO, your mileage plan is spot on. For the reason stated in the opening sentence, try to get the base weight below 20 lbs by your start date. I am not starting my thru-hike (have many backpacks of 30+ miles in my history) until 2020, but here is what I will carry in duplicate:
    socks – 2 pairs of liners and 2 pairs of outers & a 3rd pair for sleep only
    2 underpants
    2 T-shirts
    2 stoves. I have very tiny stoves. Search “fohoz” on Amazon. Selling for $13. Work great, but bringing 2
    Fuel can – I will probably carry 2
    2 sleeping pads – 1 foam & 1 air (I may shed 1 of these)
    An abundance of hand warmers because air mattresses get cold
    2 buffs – 1 will never leave my sleeping bag. (Notice the focus on sleeping comfort. Being dry and “warm enough” is critical.)
    Boots and Trail Runners. Once the snow is gone, I’ll mail the boots home
    An abundance of baby wipes. I cannot tolerate dirty hands. The best available form of sanitary care for all body surfaces.

    That’s about it for duplication. When arguing with yourself about what to shed, remember, towns with resupply (many also have outfitters) will come every 5-6 days at an 11 mile/day pace.

    If you like, email me and I will send you my packing list. It is very detailed and includes the weight of most items. The base weight of the list is 17.4 Lbs. From reading above you can see that it includes what I consider important for my comfort.

    Enjoy your hike and stay healthy.
    Bruce

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 24th

      Bruce,

      Thanks for the great advice! I’m posting my gear list now with weights. It as comprehensive a list as I could think of, but will adjust as needed to reflect changes to kit.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
  • Robin Morris : Jan 25th

    Good luck! My view is that your pack weight) so long as reasonable) is not really a determining factor in whether or not you will be successful. So don’t over think it.

    That said, light is better. I don’t think you need a bear canister on the AT. Most places where bears a an issue, like the Smokies have steal food boxes or poles at the camp sites. Do you could drop that extra weight.

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 25th

      Robin,

      Thank you for your advice! I tend to overthink everything. It’s a challenging mindset to get out of. I decided on a Bear Canister simply for the convenience. Yes, I’ll be carrying an extra 1.5 pounds-ish, but for me, it was worth the extra weight to not have to worry about hanging a bear bag every night.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
  • Pony : Jan 25th

    Don’t be surprised if you end up averaging much better than 11 miles per day. Judging by what I saw while walking the trail in 2016, you’d almost have to force yourself to go slow to do that, at least once you get your trail legs.

    Re base weight: I tell people that once you get on trail, all planning, spreadsheets, calculations and the like go out the window. Very soon, your body and the trail will gang up to forcefully inform you as to whether you are packing too much weight, or not enough (i.e. you forgot something you really need).

    Enjoy your hike. Your time in the infantry should serve you well.

    Reply
    • Pony : Jan 25th

      P.S. I hiked the AT when I was 54, in 2016.

      Reply
      • Mike Page : Jan 25th

        That’s outstanding!

        Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 25th

      Pony,

      I’m counting on conditions to dictate how much weight will be right for me. I will shed pounds as needed but I feel pretty good about my plan. I have thought a lot about my pace. I have a very well mapped out plan for mileage and intend to stick to it. I realize how slow I’m going to be going and that’s intentional. I want to take as long as I’m planning to take. Thank you for the words of encouragement, and I intend on enjoying every minute I’m on the trail… even in the suck.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
  • Beekeeper : Jan 27th

    Scarily same story. 58, ex-infantry, recently retired and ready for a new challenge. Starting about the same week too. What a great article… Slow and steady wins the race. See ya soon

    Reply
  • Tina Dunaway : Jan 28th

    Hey Mike!

    I’m right there with ya…over 50 and thru hiking starting March 1st or 2nd. Hope to see ya on the trail!!!!!

    Tina

    Reply
  • Chris : Jan 29th

    Hey Mike,
    Good thing to look into is going to a outfitters shop, and see what gear you can lose, I did and went from 37 lbs down to 29 lbs, I’m using a 65L pack for $65 on wish.com

    Reply
    • Mike Page : Jan 29th

      Chris,

      Most of my gear is second hand. I hated to go that route but new gear is crazy expensive and I didn’t start planning this adventure until late last year. I feel certain I’ll lose kit I don’t need fairly quickly into this adventure, but It’s going to be a lot of trial and error for that to happen.

      Cheers,
      Mike

      Reply
  • Rhys/Chongo : Jan 30th

    Right on dude, you’ve got a great mindset, and that really is everything you need.

    The if I haven’t used it in a week rule is a good one to follow.

    My only advice would be to plan even less than you have. Take a zero when you feel like it, or maybe a nero. Once you start getting your legs I’d bet you’ll do bigger miles out of boredom more than anything else.

    I’m about to read your gear list and I’m sure the lightweight hiker in me will have an annurism or two, but you seem more self aware than most.

    I hiked nobo in ‘17, if you have any questions or just want to chat don’t hesitate to reach out

    Reply
  • Smirky : Jan 30th

    I’m thinking you’ll have that pack whittled down considerably by Neels gap.. carrying too much up blood mountain isn’t fun. Btw treat yourself to a frozen pizza at Neels. Best pizza you’ll ever have!

    Definitely following you!

    Good luck sir

    Reply
  • Tandi : Jan 30th

    I have read every book and blog written about this journey and thoroughly enjoy the vicarious adventure. Looking forward to your future posts. Safe travels and God bless!

    Reply

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