‘Preparing for the Worst’ Pre-Trail

“Hoping for the best, prepared for the worst, and unsurprised by anything in between.” – Maya Angelou, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings

In thinking about how best to describe the form my pre-trail preparation has taken over the past couple of weeks, that quote in particular keeps popping into my head. Put most simply, there’s been a fair bit of “preparing for the worst” going on.

NOLS Wilderness First Aid

January 19-20th, I took a weekend-long Wilderness First Aid (WFA) course offered by NOLS through REI, and it was excellent. My reasons for taking the course were pretty pragmatic: It’s been a number of years since I’ve taken any First Aid courses. I also felt it worthwhile to refresh those skills with a slightly more “backcountry” focus before heading out. I like being able to help others (and myself) when the need arises. Plus, knowing that my knowledge is up-to-date is the best way to feel as confident as possible in potentially difficult circumstances.

The course itself was informative, and fun– My classmates were an engaged, courteous group of outdoors-inclined folk with varying levels of First Aid experience (first-timers, Wilderness First Responders, and everything in-between). Our presenters were intelligent, experienced, and often hands-down hilarious. While I went into the weekend knowing I was going to get a good education given NOLS’s very established reputation, I didn’t anticipate how good a time I was going to have. 

(I also got to connect with a handful of classmates who are planning their own thru-hikes and a whole bunch of others who had interest as well. I did not foresee how cool it would be to be in a room full of people who take this kind of thing in stride: No shock, no questions about bears, just supportive, energetic conversation.)

My NOLS materials at the end of a very fun weekend course.

Red Cross First Aid

The following week, I recertified my Red Cross Adult/Pediatric First Aid/CPR/AED. It’s been about a decade since I last took the class, and although my course was in a hybrid format where I completed most of the educational material online at home prior to the hands-on, in-person component, not much has really changed. I’m quite dismayed just how little education they provide in regards to giving CPR/AED care to adult female-presenting individuals (probably because they want to avoid boobs. Yes, even animated, educational boobs.) Especially given that women are less likely to receive bystander resuscitation in the event of cardiac arrest, but that’s a rant I’ll spare you on this blog…

A Winter Shakedown

In a slightly different variation of the overall theme, I went out for a mini-shakedown over the weekend to test out my hammock in cold weather with the addition of my new topquilt. (I also wanted to test out my sleep/camp layers and setting up my system with gloves/mittens.) While in Virginia for unrelated reasons, I took the opportunity on the coldest of the nights to hike down along the Rappahannock River and set up my gear not far from the house. The temperature dipped down to about 10F overnight (not counting wind chill), but I was pretty comfortable and able to get some decent sleep. (Adding a mini Nalgene full of boiling water, some chemical hand-warmers, and a higher-fat bedtime snack, I’m sure I’d be able to push this set up a number of degrees colder in a pinch.)

I woke up to a thin coat of frost on my tarp which was a remarkably strange confidence boost. – Hammock camping generally isn’t as warm as tent camping, but I did it. And I did it in a way that I feel will be sustainable to get me through the Smokies during the coldest portions of my hike. Booyah.

My gear the morning after a chilly-but-successful shakedown.

While none of these areas of preparation were particularly glamorous or exciting in and of themselves, I’m glad that I took the time to get them done. 

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Comments 5

  • CJZ : Feb 6th

    Very smart to give it a go before you are on the AT! Glad you felt warm and got some sleep, too!

    • Jasper : Feb 6th

      Thanks CJZ! I wouldn’t want to get out there and realize my sleep system had failed me in the cold, that’s for sure.

  • Daniel R Zajchowski : Feb 6th

    Hi there, wherever you are today. Ya, I’m still bummed-out not having been to join you in your walk through the countryside, but then again after a mile (emaybe) you probably would have had to carry me along with your gear. So once again you made a good decision. Todays post sounds like you are well prepared and ready to check-off one of the items on your to-do list. Until we meet again don’t forget I LUV YA!

  • Ella : Feb 21st

    Hey Jasper– I also prepped for my ’22 AT NOBO attempt with a NOLS WFA course :)) My start date is set for March 19 and I am looking forward to following the beginning of your journey. Any chance you are updating any social media platforms?

    • Jasper : Mar 20th

      Hey Ella! Sorry it’s taken me so long to respond to this (my internet usage has been understandably minimal, haha!), but I did actually make an Instagram just for this reason! You can find me @HazeontheTrail 🙂


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