A Little Less Than 2 Weeks Ago, I Decided to Thru Hike the AT

 It started with a thought

“If I wanted to hike the AT this year, I could probably get everything together and leave in a few weeks.” Followed by, “My friends are already here for the winter, I am sure they could watch my home, dog, and cat for a few months.”  And here I am 10 days later writing a blog post about my planned northbound thru hike of the Appalachian Trail, which starts in about 12 days.

Getting the right gear for an ultralight hike

10 days is how long it has taken me to research, order, & receive all the “right” gear for this trip.  I’m still waiting on my pack and a few small items, but those will arrive over the next 2 days.  I’m absolutely done spending money in preparation for this long walk, having taken my last trip to REI today for a pair of socks and some hiking food.  My gear was not cheap.  Price did not figure into the equation since I was determined to get the gear I felt would serve me best on the trail, while being as light as possible.  Let’s hope it all holds up on the trail.  For the curious, here is my Lighterpack gear list.  I’ll be making some minor tweaks over the next 12 days, likely going up in weight a bit as I optimize my items, but it is very close to final.

Deciding on which guide, in which format

I will be using Guthook’s AT Guide on my Nexus 5x instead of maps or books.  I purchased the 2017 Data Book and reduced the weight to 2.5oz by cutting out the margins, but zero ounces is even better, and my 4.7oz phone gets another use. However, like everything ultralight, the cost was rather great – $59.99 for the entire AT.  I’ve done some preliminary fooling around in the app, and I do believe it will serve me well on the trail with distances from your current location to all the important points of interest on the trail, including water, shelter, hostels, hotels, and resupplies, without the need for an internet connection.

Friends are important

By the way, my friends did agree to watch my dog and cat for a couple months. Further, when I announced on Facebook that I would be taking this journey but needed a house/animal sitter, within an hour I had another friend committed to helping out.  Thanks Mike, Cory, & Meredith!  Without you, my journey would not be possible.  I am deeply grateful.

Additionally, my buddy Kurt and his family are going to help me start my journey by giving me a place to stay for the evening after I fly into ATL. And a ride to Springer on the afternoon of the 6th..unless Kurt decides to hit the trail with me for the first 30 miles, in which case we would be leaving on the afternoon of the 5th.  Either way, it is going to be a late afternoon start.

In closing

I am very much looking forward to making friends along the way.  Not to mention meeting up with my current friends who live along the trail. I’ve already made plans with a few existing friends who have offered to open their homes, as well as friends-of-friends who have graciously done the same.  Very humbling.

So I’m all but ready, just waiting for next Sunday to roll around.  10 days after I decided this was the year. In all honesty, this is how I like to roll.  Make a decision, devise a plan, and move on it.

Next time I’ll talk a little more about my gear and hiking schedule.  In the meantime, let me know if you have any questions. Take care!


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Comments 9

  • Bearfood : Feb 23rd

    Holy Shit Batman! This is incredible… I have yet to decide when I’ll hike the AT. But I do know that it usually takes me two weeks to plan a weekend hike, let alone a 2000mi trip. God only knows how many months (years?) I’ll spend planning my AT once I decide to do it. I’m looking forward to hearing of your hike, your inspiration of what a little willpower can push you to do.

  • John : Feb 23rd

    This is probably the best introductory post I’ve read on this site. So many thrus seem to torture themselves by overthinking and naively trying to plan their hike on a mile by mile and day by day basis – and that just seems to take the joy out of it. This is probably one of life’s biggest adventures – so let it be an adventure. Have a great hike!

  • Becca : Feb 23rd

    Wow!!! This is so cool!!! You really prove where there’s a will there’s a way! I’m excited to follow your journey!

  • JasonC : Feb 23rd

    Good on ya man! I found out 2 weeks before I was to hike the Annapurna Circuit in 2009. I still remember the ‘holy shit, I am out here, halfway around the planet in a place I have never seen before walking into the mountains’ feeling. And you know what, I loved it. It is the best time of my life. The fear and anxiety of the months of planning are captured in real time but quickly forgotten as you reach the first day’s end in a hut in the mountains. I look forward to following your adventures!

    • Jim McNelis : Feb 24th

      Jason, Your comment gave me chills, in a good way! I hope I find what you found on your sudden journey.

  • Patti DeShetler : Feb 26th

    Greetings! I plan to hike 8 miles to the Trail Head of AT at Springer. How ruff is it?
    I’m an amputee documenting my travels to “lift some chins” of future amps.

  • Monica sweeney : Feb 26th

    Wow! I am looking forward to following you on your journey! So inspiring ! I have been thinking when will I finally decide to do my dream of the AT. Good luck on your journey. Let me know what you think of your z-PAC? I am looking at them. Not sure how well they will hold up to the trail. Read some bad reviews.

    • Jim McNelis : Feb 26th

      Hey Monica, Thanks for the comment! Zpacks has a warranty that is good for the entire duration of my thru hike, but not beyond. Since I am purchasing this bag specifically for this hike, if it only lasts 2,190.3 miles, that’s ok with me! I’ve seen 1 video where the person who finished their thru said they were going to throw away their pack because of smells, but everyone else I’ve seen so far has a bit beat up but otherwise functional pack. I can’t say how well they will hold up on the trail but I am relying on their warranty should anything go wrong. Same goes for most of my gear.

  • Alli Huggins : Feb 27th

    This is amazing!! Best of luck in the final countdown and I will see you on the trail. I start on the 8th. I feel like a trail name of “Real Quick” or something of that sort is abrewin’ for you. “Let me just hike the AT real quick.” 🙂


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