Getting serious

When to start, what to bring, what to get on the Trail, where the supply points are, what’s a reasonable pace and is it possible to get from Georgia to Maine before Katahdin closes. And there’s the taxes to get done, possibly taking one or both of the cars off the road (why pay for insurance while trekking?), getting Deb up to speed on our finances, etc. etc.

But so far, these last two weeks have focused on planning for the Trail, and equipment. And this is just beginning the process.

The trail

My current plan is to leave mid to late March from Springer Mountain, probably by taking a train from Boston to nearby Gainesville, Georgia. The train will allow a little more flexibility in what I bring, and not having to worry as much about my backpack being mishandled.

There will not be enough time to get fully and completely trail ready by then, in part because local trails are largely inaccessible, but there will be enough time to be comfortable walking 10+ miles as well as having outdoor tested and broken in all the equipment. I fully understand that winter walks in the woods are not anywhere as rigorous as backpacking, but it will have to do.

I have a tentative supply plan, which was prepared by going through some blog posts about where good supply locations are (there are many) and creating a spreadsheet. This in turn will be printed out and / or on an IPad. These points are also loaded up onto Batchgeo, a pretty nifty site, if you’d like to see the path and likely arrival dates.

This is either an aggressive plan, or conservative one, just don’t know yet. It is based on doing an average of about 11 miles a day, with very few days off. If I get on the trail my average miles could be closer to 12.5, which will permit adequate time off and an early October arrival at Katahdin. If the my trail average is below 11, then I’ll likely need to flip flop to finish this year.

The equipment

There’s a lot to plan for. You want to have enough of the right things, properly attuned to what the weather and environment might be, but also managed by weight. Many new backpackers will overbuy and find themselves with a 40 or 50 pound pack. After a lot of reading on the topic, the hope is to have about a 20 pound pack before food and water. That means that every item in the pack has to be required and as light as conditions will warrant.

Let’s take the tent for example. How big should the tent be and what happens to anything that can’t fit inside (like shoes or a backpack)? Can it handle both rain and snow? Is it easy to set up and take down when its dark or raining? How steady is it in a heavy wind storm? If its light, is it also sturdy enough for an extended hike?

Add on top the tent the backpack (how much should it hold? Do you pull items out of the top or the side? Can it also hold a water bladder?), the clothing (does it repel water when it rains, does it hold heat in when cold, or release heat when warm), the sleeping bag, knife, cooking equipment, hat, gloves, socks, shoes, bear bag, etc.

This is still a work in process, but I have begun buying things. Trekking poles, sox, water filtration system, shoes, trekking pants, “spork” (spoon fork), and Masons string line (to act as rope).

The tent is probably the next major thing to decide on. Currently think that its best to have a two person tent even though its slightly heavier, to help provide additional space for items I don’t want outside. Similarly, I want a vestibule, a section which can cover items like the backpack, so even if they are not inside the tent they are getting some protection.

For this planning I have built a database in Filemaker, where I capture each item, a picture, an example link as to where to buy it, a link to a review on the product if available, the price, the weight, whether its required or optional, whether I have it, or purchased it, or still considering.

Currently have 76 items total in the database, of which 52 are currently "required" and a total "carry" weight (versus "wear) of 18.25 pounds. I expect the weight will go up as I finalize the shopping list and have actual weights for every item. Some items, like mosquito netting or shorts, I know are "required" but I will buy on the trail when needed to save weight.

More on equipment on a later post.


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