Getting Prepared for a Long Hike

Physical Conditioning

There is little doubt that when you are preparing for a hike such as the Appalachian Trail that physical conditioning is a major concern. The physical condition for preparation for a simple 6-mile and difficult hike is not what most of us would consider when we think of being in shape. The major differences are:

-The weight of the loaded pack on your back. – Shorter multiple day hikes with a loaded pack will help immensely with your trail conditioning, the longer the better.

* Hiking days on end with that pack on your back. – I have yet to discover a means to duplicate the conditioning required for day after day 10 to 20 mile days carrying the loaded pack. (I found out the hard way what no real condition resulted in when starting a 9-day hike on the Appalachian Trail)


The articles that you must include in your pack include, may be where the most weight resides. Such articles are:

– Your Backpack- a principle of nature is that if space is available it will be filled. That will be a truth with your backpack. So, determining what size pack you take is your choice. Again, from personal experience, I started with a 6,000 cubic inches capacity backpack. That pack went about 200 miles until I realized that the load was more than I wanted to handle. I look at backpacks and purchased a pack with a capacity of 3,850 cubic inches. I have never looked back and have used that pack for many 9 day trips on the AT.

– The Tent Size – greatly depends on how many hikers are on the trip. With two hikers a two-person tent would work nicely if the configuration of the tent lent itself to be able to nearly equally split the weight. If not two tents become the answer. How the question turns to how little space do I need. D I need to be able to set up straight in the tent. All of the answers to these questions will greatly determine how much the tent will weigh. The decision is a personal one.

– The Sleeping Bag – The main factor to determine is how low will the temperature reach? The next factor is the type filling. Synthetics are typically heavier. Down filled sleeping bags are lighter. I have heard some complaints about wet down sleeping bags. I carried a 20-degree down-filled sleeping bag for over a hundred mile and in 7 days of continuous rain. I still carry that sleeping bag.

-The Stove and Utensils – The weight of the stove is generally how much the fuel weighs. Propane stoves are great and I have always carried a very light stove and a propane canister. Alcohol and solid fuel stoves are lighter. I have seen through-hikers on the AT using a pop can cut in half and alcohol. This again is a personal question. The current dried foods allow for eating from the container. I have found that a small titanium pot with a lid works well and acts as a convenient place to pack stove and cleanup towel.

After these decisions are made the decisions are then what else do I want to take.

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