Top 5 Things To Do (before leaving to start a thru-hike)

The day is almost here and I’m starting to feel that last-minute panic. You know, that gut-sinking feeling of, “Oh shit, this is about to get real.” I lay in bed at night reviewing my gear, planning my resupplies, and worrying about throwing a bear bag. But ready or not this dream that I have been conjuring up is about to happen.

That being said here is a list of the top 5 things I did to prepare for my AT thru-hike.

1. Practice setting up your tent.

Putting together a tent seems pretty easy. You put the poles together, slide them into the tent, stake down all the things, and voila you have a tent! Right? Yeaaaa not really. All tents are different. Single wall, double wall, vestibules, freestanding, semi freestanding, blah, blah, blah. It can be a little overwhelming. But whatever type of tent you have, get it out, read the directions and do some practice runs setting it up and taking it down.

First time setting up my tent in my mom’s backyard.


Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2. 100% worth the extra weight for the extra space. I like a spacious home.

2. Do a dry run of your gear.

Now that you’re 100% on your tent situation, you should now do a dry run to test out the rest of your gear to see how you like it and see if there is anything you need to change. It would be ideal to be able to do a full dry run backpacking trip but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to do that. So instead I decided to sleep in my mother’s backyard for 4 nights. : ) One of my main concerns about my trip was the worry that I would be miserably cold. But by testing out my gear in January, I was able to have faith in knowing that I had purchased suitable gear for the cold nights I knew were ahead.

Testing out my gear the best way I could. Backyard camping! I practiced setting it up and taking it down each day as I will have to on the trail.


Slept straight through a 24 degree night! 10/10 recommend the Journey Sea to Summit sleeping bag. You can check out my posted gear list to see every piece of gear I’ll be carrying with me.

3. Learn to hang a bear bag.

I don’t know if any of you guys are like me but I had some real concerns about this hanging of the bear bag situation. You can choose to carry a bear canister but I had decided on the lighter option of hanging my food 20+ feet up in the air every night. Oh sigh.

I knew there would potentially be bear boxes and cables at most of the shelters throughout Georgia, but Georgia is only 1 state out of 14 and I needed to feel confident that if I happened to be stuck somewhere without those options that I would know how to hang my food on my own. So I did what all of you reading this should do. I went to YouTube and watched a video on it.

And then I practiced.

So go find a video on the PCT method and get your practice in now before you’re in the middle of the woods and stressing out.

Practicing the PCT bear bag hanging method.


6 attempts later…SUCCESS!!

4. Pack and then re-pack.

Let me just say that packing everything you need to survive for the next 6 months into one backpack is very difficult. You’re going to pack and then unpack and then pack again and then unpack again, and the cycle continues until your mind explodes. Just kidding, but there IS an actual skill to packing a backpacking backpack.

Lay everything out on the floor, group like items together, figure out how things fit best, and know your pack through and through.

Then just stand back and marvel at the beauty that is your home and life for the next 6 months.

The full spread.

She’s so pretty (and needs a name, I’m open to suggestions) and also a little heavier then I planned. I’ll probably shed some things as the hike goes on and I see what I’m using and not using.

And last but not least

5. Get on the road!

That sounds so simple and corny I know but you’re going to be feeling so many emotions. From excitement to sadness and most likely a little scared. That’s alright. A friend of mine gave me this very simple yet resounding bit of advice the other day, “If you’re out there and feel like you don’t know what you’re doing, don’t worry you’re already doing it.”

You’re already doing it! You’re on your way to Maine!



Also for everyone following along on my journey north I will be doing trail updates every 70-100 miles.


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Comments 13

  • Still Luke : Apr 13th

    Great post Ashley some fantastic advice in here

  • Betty : Apr 13th

    I’ve been waiting anxiously for your post. So exciting. You look so happy! I am glad you are living your dream!

  • Angela Hartley : Apr 13th

    Get it girl! Admire your adventurous determination and so thankful you are taking us all on the journey with you. Continued prayers as you continue north!

  • Judy : Apr 14th

    wow! Keep us posted, so been waiting to hear! You got this girl!

  • Mama : Apr 14th

    I love reading your post. You continue to amaze me. Can’t wait to read more. Stay safe sweetheart ❤️ Love you, mama

  • Michelle Pruitt : Apr 14th

    Ashley, I am so excited for you and proud of you. May this journey be everything and more. Prayers for protection on your journey. I’m in the Virginia area, and not far from many parts of the AT if you run into issues reach out. Floyd Va has some great local general stores and is a great stop for pass thru hikers. Follow the Sun. ~Namaste

  • Jeanelle : Apr 14th

    I’ve been waiting for this post! Great information and I’m so happy you’re following your dreams. Stay safe and know we are all keeping you in our thoughts and prayers.

  • Bethany : Apr 14th

    Love the update. Can’t wait to see you soon! XOXO, Bethany

  • Lexie : Apr 14th

    Such good tips! I’m so excited and proud of you! You can do hard things! xoxoxo Lexie

  • Cactus Jack : Apr 16th

    Good post. Happy trails!

  • Keith : Apr 18th

    I’m so happy for you! Get out and do it while you’re young! I’m pushing 60 and trying to get on the JMT For three years now. Going to try this year if the stars align in my life. KK

  • Owen : Apr 25th

    Hi. Congratulations on starting this thru-hike. I have a quick question about your gear.

    Is your pack really just 15#?
    Or is it 15#+13#=28# (which is still inspiring to me)?
    Do you then add the weight of food and water?

    I backpack with my 10yo. Right now I carry everything except his water and chair. My pack is almost 40#.

  • Mike : Apr 26th

    Looks like a very amazing journey I wouldn’t mind taking myself. You got this and enjoy the beautiful scenery.


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