A Procrastinator’s Highs and Lows of Thru-Hike Planning

Planning is not my forte.

If you ask my friends to describe me in a few words, I’m sure you’ll hear spontaneous, crazy, fun, weird, and so on more than once. What you won’t hear is planner. Before any trip, I pack my bag 30 minutes before I head out the door. As you’d expect, planning for a thru-hike is new territory for me. I’m sure I’ll run into some poor planning nightmares along the way. Sometimes this “it will all work out” approach runs smoothly and saves me some extra stress. Other times, poor planning bites me in the butt, but leaves me with great stories. Hopefully you can learn from my mistakes or at least get a kick out of these unfortunate stories.

Don’t Forget the Food

It was my first backpacking trip since committing to a thru-hike. We had been hiking for about four hours and one of my friends was getting hungry, but I wanted to push on. A little while later, we finally decided to stop for a late lunch. Maybe I was a little too excited and distracted, because when digging around in my pack I realized that I had left my food behind! Cue my PCT thru-hiker friend (Duffy) to throw a Snickers my way – bless her. I mooched off the others for dinner and breakfast – thankfully it was just a weekend trip. Those friends still won’t let me live that one down and are scared that I’m embarking on this journey alone. I’ll be fine. Everything is fine!

Learn How To Set Up Your Damn Tent

I went climbing and camping the other weekend and thought I was all set. I had all my new gear for my upcoming thru-hike and was excited to finally test it out. It was about 7 p.m. in January when we actually started setting up camp. I’ve always been a hammock camping person, but decided a tent would be the best home for me on the trail. I forgot my headlamp and was trying to assemble my Nemo Hornet 2p tent for the very first time in complete darkness. I think it took me a whole hour to set up my tent. Is it just me or is the rainfly for that tent super f*cking confusing?! I still can’t figure out how to line up the seam with the poles. My tent pitching skills are still very rusty so I see lots of practice days in my future.

Don’t Leave the Pack Behind

I commuted to work the other day without my backpack. I realized when a seat became available on the metro – I sat down and noticed that I didn’t have to take off my backpack… Then I freaked out, ran off the train, and texted my boss that I was coming in late. How does this even happen?! I don’t know but it always seems to happen to me. Hoping I never leave my pack behind on the trail because it will literally be all of my belongings.

How Will She Survive?

Here’s how! Before I leave, I’ll continue to prepare by:

  • Setting out on more solo trips to become self-reliant.
  • Having a Nemo Hornet tent-pitching party. Duffy, I’ve volunteered you to teach me. I will ask for your forgiveness later. Please be patient with me .
  • Checking the contents of my pack with Duffy to ensure I have everything. While doing so, she’ll probably convince me to get rid of stuff or cut out tent tags like she did. Maybe I’ll be that intense one day. Oh, to dream!

On the trail, here’s my plan:

  • Everything in my pack will have a home.
  • The less stuff, the better. And that means less stuff to keep track of. I’ll dedicate a post to what’s in my pack soon.
  • I’ll have a checklist for all the big things before leaving camp or a town: water (check), food (check), pack (check), food (check again) and so on.
  • I’ll carry Awol’s A.T. Guide so I can prepare for what’s coming up.
  • Amazon Prime will be my best friend. In case I lose something or when I wear out my shoes, I’ll ship stuff to the next town. Side Note: Amazon ships food now, right? If that’s the case, I might ship myself some snacks I’m craving. When I start to crave something, I can’t shake it. Like the other day, I was over at a friend’s watching a show and decided I needed a Hershey Pie from Burger King. Never had one? You need to try it. Will change your life.
  • Mom, Dad, Julianne (my sister), Duffy, and my Eagle Scout friends will be on stand-by for anything I need and they better expect random packages showing up at their doorstep when I need to send gear home. (Dane and George are probably going to hate that I referred to them as just my “Eagle Scout friends.”)

All things considered, I’ll roll with the punches and make the most of my time. I used to get really upset and down on myself when I’d make a silly mistake. Now I just accept the situation and figure out the best plan to move forward. Keeping a positive mindset and dealing with adversity are key for succeeding on the trail, so I’ll continuously remind myself of that when the going gets tough.

If you’re like my mom and fear for my life, please share any lessons learned with me by commenting below. Thank you in advance (from me and my mom).

P.S. This post was supposed to be about my fitness routine and training plan, but turned into something entirely different. Maybe I’ll post about how I’ve been training later. Let me know if you’re interested in hearing about this topic.

What Quote Has Recently Inspired Me?

“There is nothing noble in being superior to your fellow man; true nobility is being superior to your former self.” – Ernest Hemingway

What Book Am I Reading?

“Let My People Go Surfing” by Yvon Chouinard

What Podcast Am I Listening To?

“Episode #1: The Real Hiking Viking” by Backpacker Radio by The Trek (Woot, woot! Represent!)

What’s On My Playlist?

  1. “Loud Places” – Jamie xx
  2. “Electric” – Alina Baraz
  3. “Let The Record Play” – Moon Taxi
  4. “Destination” – Nickel Creek
  5. “Rhythm & Blues” – The Head and the Heart

I’ll be updating this playlist with songs I listen to on training hikes and once I’m on the trail.


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Comments 10

  • Avatar
    Daddy Longlegs : Jan 29th

    Hiker legs aren’t the only thing you’ll acquire after a week or two on the trail. You’ll also develop a ‘time to go’/’police your six’ routine every time you get set to move. Whether a short water break at a vista or a longer stop in town, when you get ready to go (like at home when you pat yourself down to doublecheck for keys and wallet) you’ll run through a quick list: poles, pack, sit pad, water, trash. It’s actually easy because EVERYthing you own is essential and fits in a little bag. No worries-by the time you get to the NOC it’ll be ingrained. Happy Trails!

    • Avatar
      Meredith Johnson : Jan 29th

      Thank you! That’s good to know and gives me peace of mind. I’m looking forward to getting into my groove.

  • Avatar
    Barb Abney : Jan 29th

    You sound like a person I need to meet. Make the most of every minute and don’t forget to laugh! I am heading to Georgia from Orlando – starting NOBO March 25. Maybe we’ll meet along the way – at a Burger King??

    • Avatar
      Meredith Johnson : Jan 29th

      Thank you and hope to see you out there too. I’m leaving about a week earlier. Also, I’m originally from Orlando!

  • Avatar
    Trail Ramsey : Jan 29th

    Would love to hear about how you are training. Also would love to know how you are budgeting for the trail. And does your employer know you are hiking the AT yet? How did that covo go? Thanks and best of luck!

    • Avatar
      Meredith Johnson : Jan 30th

      Hey Ramsey! Yes, they know. I’ll dedicate a post to how I went about this convo with my parents and employer. Training is going well but sometimes hard to schedule around the day-to-day chaos. I plan to post about that as well in the upcoming weeks. Thanks for reading!

  • Avatar
    Mike (Senor Rojo) : Jan 29th

    I’m also interested in what you are doing for training. I live in Orlando too and our lack of hills is something I’m still trying to overcome.

    • Avatar
      Meredith Johnson : Jan 30th

      Love all these Orlando folks on here! Fortunately, I live in DC now but I’ve been doing a lot of training inside as well. The stairmaster is my new best friend. I’ll dedicate a post to my training plan in the upcoming weeks.

  • Avatar
    Ruth Nasrullah : Jan 31st

    Nice post. I’m the worst procrastinator in the universe, but I’m an excellent planner. I have spreadsheets and lists and highlighters and post-it notes. I use them all and then sit and stare at my desk.

    I’d say return the Hornet altogether. I had one and returned it, partly because I found it too claustrophobic, but also because that footprint is ridiculous. It literally took me 15 minutes on average to connect it to the tent. Or, if you love the tent, return the footprint and use a groundcloth.

    • Avatar
      Meredith Johnson : Feb 7th

      Hi Ruth! Thanks so much for your input. I tested out the nemo again and I think it’s going to work out for me! I love the side entries, compared to the front entry on the big agnes. There’s something comforting about not having to crawl in feet first where my head will be sleeping minutes later. Also, a tip I learned for the footprint is to keep it attached when packing up the tent. That way I don’t have to deal with the extra step when unpacking. If you haven’t given up hope on the nemo, I’d recommend trying it out again 🙂


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