How my shakedown hikes turned into epic fails

The stress of planning a thru hike has finally started to subside. I’ve revised list after list of gear I already have, gear that I needed, and things I have to do before I leave like canceling my gym membership that I rarely use. I’ve spent countless hours researching and watching youtube videos. I’ve also gone on a few shakedown hikes in the past year and a half. All of which had their issues.

I went on my first ever backpacking trip in October of 2015. I’d only ever been car camping before then so I decided to go on a one night trip by myself. I was a mile from the trail head when I realized I only had one trekking pole. Usually for a one night trip it wouldn’t be a big deal.

Unfortunately my tent doesn’t use poles to stand up. It uses two trekking poles set to a specific height.

Even with the amount of sticks laying on the ground at the campsite, it was frustrating trying to find one to use instead of a trekking pole because most of them were bent at weird angles or were too hard to break to be the correct height.

The next mistake I made was to wear my fleece jacket while hiking the first two miles. When I started hiking I was very cold but after five minutes I was sweating. I didn’t want to stop hiking so I kept going until I stopped for lunch. This was another mistake because it was a chilly October day in Connecticut. As soon as I stopped moving, the sweaty jacket did very little to keep me warm.

My second shakedown hike was last March when my brother started his thru hike. I went with him and my father for the first week. The first night we stayed in a shelter.

Mistake #1: forgetting ear plugs. Mistake #2: Assuming fancy backpacking meals would taste better than ramen.

The next night we stayed at a campsite. It had been a few months since I last put my tent together so I had completely forgotten how to do it. Luckily my dad had 4G cell phone service so I was able to watch a youtube video on how to set up my tent. Despite those issues the rest of the trip went pretty smoothly.

My next shakedown hike turned into a giant fail. My boyfriend and I planned to spend a night at a campsite that is near Kent, CT because it is an easy hike and he’s never gone camping before. When we got there the river was the lowest I’d ever seen it so I was worried that the well pump at the campsite wouldn’t work and would be dry. I decided it would be best to hike to the camp site, turn around, and come back to the car since we drove all that way and leaving would’ve been a waste of gas. We hiked the almost 5 miles to the campsite with a small daypack and were surprised to see that the well did indeed produce water after trying for a few minutes. My intentions were to go again the next weekend and actually stay the night since I found that there was water. But that was in October.

It’s now February and I haven’t gone back.

I did go on a small 2 night shakedown hike last weekend. It was only .4 from the trailhead to the shelter so it wasn’t much hiking but I was able to test out most of my gear in subfreezing temperatures & snow. I’ll make a separate post about that hike.

Overall I’m not worried about all the mistakes I’ve made on my shakedown hikes because despite the problems I’ve had, I’ve learned a lot. I now have all the gear I believe that I’ll need and it all finally fits into my pack. I’m giving my 2 weeks notice to my job tomorrow and 4 weeks from now I’ll be hiking up Springer and I couldn’t be more excited.

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