Two Month Countdown

Well, it’s just over two months until my wife and I embark on our AT adventure. I am a bit envious of the others that have already started this year but also a bit anxious about our impending start. A few months ago I downloaded a countdown app and was super excited the day it said “99”. The number is much lower today, I am still super excited but there is a lot of questioning going on in my mind.


I am very confident with my big three, cooking, filtration, and other utility gear. My full gear list is here.

My sleeping pad may pop, it has in the past, but there are plenty more in stock waiting for me to purchase. All my gear has been used on multiple trips, some for many years, the newest piece, my quilt, has kept me comfortable about a dozen nights in the woods, some hot others cold. There are only maybe minor changes here.

I decided to order a fanny pack instead of a shoulder strap pocket. I want a better way to manage my phone and other items that I always want to have on me. The fanny pack will be here later this week and provide some opportunity to determine if that was the better choice.

Primary Clothing

I am also very confident in my primary worn clothing.

My shoes of choice have protected my feet over thousands of trail running and backpacking miles. The pants are comfortable on both hot and cold days. My sun hoodie gets a bit warm on the hottest of days but is not too bad. I have been wearing the same pair of dirty socks, underwear, and my hiking pants and shirt on all my recent training hikes and runs and all remain very comfortable. I smell bad and my neighbors question my sanity, but hey, gotta be prepared.

Other Clothing

I spend a lot of time second guessing my other clothing.

On a recent sub 20 degree morning, I tested my recent puffy on a walk. Within a block of my house I had to shed the jacket. I am pretty sure that on the coldest of nights and mornings in camp, I will be warm.

I recently purchased a new mid-layer, even got 20% off thanks to backpacker radio. My current mid-layer is pretty tight. While it is warm and does its job well, pulling it on over a damp sun hoodie will cause mental issues. The new mid-layer should arrive before the cold and snow we are expecting to get next week, I look forward to testing it in the more extreme conditions.

My base layer and sandals get rethought all the time. Will I need the base layer? Having something warm and dry to put on before going to sleep would be nice, but I carry a long sleeve shirt and some old running shorts for sleeping. On really cold nights, I plan to sleep in my puffy, so is the upper part of the base layer really required or just a luxury.

My sandals are one of the heaviest thing in my pack. I think I want them for mud walking, river crossing, hostel showering, and protecting my feet while skinny dipping. With that in mind, there is really no reason for me to carry them between McAfee Knob and New Hampshire. I don’t really like to wear them around camp, especially near shelters, because my feet get dirty. God forbid dirty feet. There are many pros and cons, but for now they will stay in my pack.


Should these stay or go?

Fitness Level

My fitness level is OK. It will improve before we hit the trail.

I ate a lot over the holidays. A few days ago I got on the scale and was not pleased with the weight gain. For the past decade or so I have competed in a trail running series that starts the first weekend in January. The series is 7 races, just over 1 per month, and finishes in June. This year I will only be able to participate in a few of the races and plan on running very cautiously. I don’t want to get hurt competing in the races, so I decided to only participate in them, running at a very slow pace. Not competing has lead to lower levels of training over the past couple months.


Fully clothed, shoes, heavy pants, shirt, and sweater.

Fortunately we are lucky to have a great trail system just out our front door. Typically I run the trails, just after Christmas I started hiking them with a loaded pack. This has been a great way to make sure my worn clothing will be adequate on the colder mornings and days. I imagine it will take a few weeks before my weight gets back down to normal.

Mental State

My mental state is OK. The trail will make it great.

In the hours before leaving on a any backpacking trip I start to dread the trip. Within 10 minutes of the hike starting, I am loving it again. Within a few hours, I have forgotten the real world and feeling better than ever.

In addition to getting ready for the trail, there is a lot of stress in my life right now. Taxes, business licensing, getting my clients ready for my absence, transferring condo responsibilities to other board members, the impending snow with no snow removal company under contract. First world problems. As soon as we hit the trail all that stress goes away and gets replaced with finding water, food, and shelter.

Happy trails!

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Comments 6

  • The Bear : Jan 8th

    That’s fabulous 17 lb base wt and the ULA is one of the best packs out there .but if you get a chance check out OOFOS recovery foot wear .there new and ultra light and are great for cross streams and there are lot off stream crossing in Vermont and MAINE .Also western mountain make a few ultra light sleeping bags …but are expensive .Happy trails [email protected]

    • Mack McGhee : Jan 11th

      Your comment is the second time I have heard of OOFOS in the last week. I’m checking them out as soon as I finish this reply!

  • Rushmore : Jan 8th

    My husband and I started in mid- February, 2000. It can get darn cold, but gear today is better and lighter than 24 yrs ago. Our coldest day was in VA in mid- April. Seriously.

    But, the whole dread before starting that morphs into the joy of hiking is real. The joy is amazing.

    Happy trails to you and your wife!

    • Mack McGhee : Jan 11th

      I love hearing about other couples surviving the hike. My real challenge will be not getting killed by my wife. She has never had to put up with me 24×7 for more than a week in the 30+ years we have been married!

  • Bryan Niebanck : Jan 10th

    Hi there!! I too resigned to the fanny pack idea so that I can carry the things I need during the day without really having to take off the pack and go through it each time. I think that it is a great idea.
    As for the shoes, I think it is a good idea to have something for mud and river crossings. Some just send it straight through with their trail runners or boots and don’t care about them getting wet. Maybe I will be the same by the time it gets to those Maine crossings. But for now, I plan to bring off brand clogs.
    I start in February a few weeks ahead of you. Best wishes to you on the trail.

    • Mack McGhee : Jan 11th

      We are starting in VA at about 1/3 of the way to Big K. Hike fast and we might cross paths!


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