AT FAQ: With Answers That Are Shorter Than This Blog Title, Maybe

Maybe you are sick of answering the same questions over and over again to the folks at home. Maybe you want to know for yourself, and don’t want to read paragraph after paragraph. Here are some of my answers to those common questions asked. Most questions are serious, others are seriously comical!


Do you live off the land?

No, but occasional snacking of berries and ramps occurs.

What do you eat?

Generally, the worst junk food possible and stuff that can be cooked in camp stoves.

How do you carry food for ~6 months?

You don’t, you carry food for about 3-4 days at a time.

Where do you get food?

Food drops or shop in town.

What are food drops?

Mailed packages of food sent to post offices/other businesses ahead of time.

What happens if you run out of food?

You run out of food.

What do you do if you run out of food?

Get a hiker handout, or hike to a road crossing and head into town.


Where do you get water?

Mainly from streams.

Do you filter water or just drink it naturally?

This is up to the hiker.

What if you don’t have a filter or it breaks/gets lost?

You drink water naturally, not at all, or see if a hiker can help.

How do you know the water you’re drinking naturally is safe?

You don’t.

How do you prevent drinking bad water?

Filters, collecting upstream, at higher elevation (less runoff), from moving water, and away from agricultural land.

What if you get bad water?

You will poop a lot.


Where do you sleep?

Tent, hammock, bivy, in a shelter, bed (in town), or cowboy camp.

What’s cowboy camping?

When you sleep exposed to the elements.

How frequently do you pass shelters on the trail?

Frequent. About every 6-10 miles, give or take.


Where’s the first “proper” bathroom/shower after you start?

Heading North – Suches, GA (about 20 miles in, 2 miles off the trail)

Heading South – Millinocket, ME (about 15 miles in, 19 miles off the trail)

What if you have to poop?

You find a place to poop.

Are there toilets along the trail?

Yes, just not the “flushing” kind. There are privies at most shelters.

How often can you shower?

Every 3 days or more.

How is personal hygiene handled if at all?

Rinsing off by a stream/lake if at all.

What about shaving?

You don’t, or you wait to shave in town.

What about keeping good nutrition or handling special diets?

Drop box desired diets and/or take vitamins if a concern.

Do you have to train before a thru hike?

No, but it’s recommended.

Should I quit smoking?

It’s recommended, but there are hikers that smoke.


Aren’t you scared of weirdos out there?

Not really. Violent trail crime is super rare.

Should you carry a weapon?

Not really necessary, but a personal choice. Just don’t go waving it around at others if you do or you’ll become what you’re trying to prevent, “a threat”.

What about a knife?

Sure, but it’s really only needed for cutting up food.

What about pepper spray?

Reasonable. Lightweight and effective for safety in the very rare scenario you’ll use it.

When should I be on high alert?

Be more cautious around non-hikers and near road crossings. Most hikers are good peoples.

What about bears?

They’re usually very timid and are generally not a threat. All the ones I met ignored me.

What if I run into an aggressive bear?

Make yourself big and yell, and they’ll likely run. Don’t get between a mom and her cub.


How long does it take to finish hiking the Appalachian Trail?

About 5-6 months on average.

How many miles do you hike a day?

15-20 on average. It could take time to gain your trail legs.

How many days before you develop a daily routine that works?

About 1 week to start gaining your trail legs and to have a basic system.

Is it hard?

If it were easy, everyone would be doing it.

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