THIS APPALACHIAN TRAIL GEAR List and STRATEGY IS BASED ON 11,000 AT MILES OF TRIAL AND ERROR
January twenty seventh, Mike Unger and Naomi Hudetz on the northern terminus of the Appalachian Trail.
For those with their sights set on section-hiking or thru-hiking the two,200-mile Appalachian Trail, this 2022 gear record and trail-wide technique cowl everything you have to convey with you and recommendations on the way to hike.
We’ve broken every part of the AT (The South, Virginia, The Mid-Atlantic, and New England) into consolation and ultralight gear lists, plus we have strategies on tips on how to prepare for the Appalachian Trail — when to go, and what to anticipate — whether or not you’re doing the complete thing or a bit.
Putting collectively and updating this Appalachian Trail guide has been a team effort. Liz Thomas is a Fastest Known Time holder on the Appalachian Trail who has thru-hiked the AT twice. Together, with input from editors Naomi Hudetz and author Mike Unger, who also has hiked the AT twice, this Appalachian Trail gear list and technique features what we’ve learned on 5 end-to-end AT thru-hikes along with quite a few different long trails and routes. Our objective is to walk you step-by-step through not simply what gear to carry but the method to get essentially the most out of your gear for each part of the path.
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Appalachian Trail Lightweight Gear List
This is a lightweight climbing gear list that is highly beneficial for first-time thru-hikers because the gadgets are intuitive to use and time-tested on the AT. The much less mental power spent on gear, the more mental power you want to develop a self-care routine and strategies to thrive so you presumably can complete your goal.
While it’s widespread to see comfort gear lists which are heavier than this one—especially on the AT—in our experience, many hikers resolve to not carry the items on these lists for his or her complete thru-hike. We imagine that this list provides the comforts most thru-hikers end up using (and keeping) for the entire trail.
AT Ultralight Gear List
This is the gear record we suggest for individuals who have long-distance mountaineering expertise but are trying to improve or tailor their gear listing to a wetter, extra humid, and fewer flat ecosystem. This ultralight backpacking gear record requires some further abilities to handle.
Note that the tarp beneficial on this list requires two trekking poles. If you don’t wish to carry trekking poles, Mountain Laurel Designs sells a set of carbon fiber poles that may add 2.6 ounces to the bottom weight.
Related: Arizona Trail Gear List
What is the Appalachian Trail?
White blazes are painted alongside the whole size of the Appalachian Trail directing hikers to remain on the correct trail.
The Appalachian Trail is a ~2,200-mile trail from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mt. Katahdin in Maine, passing through 14 states, 2 National Parks, and eight National Forests.
The AT is the longest hiking-only footpath on the planet and has turn out to be an international mannequin of a long-distance hiking trail.
The Appalachian Trail is likely considered one of the best marked, signed, and maintained trails on the earth. The complete path is marked by 6 inch white blazes, paint marks totally on trees at eye height, making navigation relatively straightforward compared to other thru-hikes. It has iconic 3-sided wooden shelters and primitive campsites with water and privies situated approximately each eight miles. It’s one of the social long trails in the US and a spot where hikers form lifelong friendships.
When to begin the AT?
Most AT thru-hikers trying to hike the entire path in a single season start in early spring hiking northbound (“NOBO”) from Georgia to Maine (GAME) with the objective of arriving on Mt. Katahdin earlier than the cold and snow hit and tenting is closed on October twenty second (see under for When to Start).
How lengthy does at AT thru-hike take?
An AT thru-hike usually takes 4-6 months and travels via the wild east along the Eastern Continental Divide and excessive peaks and ridgeline of the Appalachian Mountains. Each section can be considered 4 distinct hikes (described below).
How much does it price to hike the Appalachian Trail?
On a monthly foundation, the Appalachian Trail is usually cheaper than different lengthy distance trails like the Continental Divide Trail and Pacific Crest Trail when it comes to lodging and food, which make up the most important expense on an extended hike. There’s a standard consensus of $1,000 month-to-month for all bills thought-about, including gear. We’ve spent extra and fewer and seen different hikers spend much less and a lot more. Some hikers follow frugality through the use of hiker packing containers (like take a penny, depart a penny boxes–but for climbing supplies and food). It’s a method should you’re on a really tight finances to complement needed gear and meals.
When you’re budgeting your thru-hike, think about incorporating potential unforeseen city stays, medical wants, and extra ice cream that you deliberate on consuming. Trust us, leaving city in antagonistic climate may have you reconsidering your predetermined spending limit.
What are the four regions of the appalachian trail?
The South: Springer Mountain to Virginia (jump to this section)
Virginia: Virginia to Pennsylvania (jump to this section)
The Mid-Atlantic: Pennsylvania to Connecticut (jump to this section)
New England: Connecticut to Mount Katahdin, Maine (jump to this section)
How typically will I need to change gear on an AT thru-hike?
Most hikers find themselves making two to 3 important gear changes during the trip to be snug in changing seasons. Thru-hikers should prepare for a variety of conditions and altering seasonal weather. The trail passes through lowland deciduous forest and sub-alpine forests as properly as into the alpine zone.
More than most trails, your optimum AT gear technique is dependent upon when you start and whenever you end. The strategy described right here will work for the overwhelming majority of people attempting an end-to-end hike.
Whether you like ultralight gear or want a full hiking gear listing tailored to luxury, this story discusses gear methods for the altering ecosystems, seasons, and circumstances that a northbound Appalachian Trail via hiker faces.
The Appalachian Trail is a superb place to make friendships with hikers from all backgrounds and levels of expertise.
How to Prepare for the Appalachian Trail
Appalachian Trail with No Experience
One of the best things in regards to the AT compared to different trails just like the PCT is that people of all levels of experience have been capable of complete a thru-hike. Many hikers learn and get stronger on the go.
That being said, studying as you hike is an costly and potentially painful method to do a thru-hike.
Just as a end result of you have no expertise now doesn’t imply you can’t do some prep before you begin. Your wallet and physique might be joyful for any expertise you be taught forward of time.
We suggest training mountaineering, camping, and backpacking before you go, even when it’s just for a few hours or an evening at a time. This will help strengthen small muscular tissues in your feet and ankles that take longer to get strong than leg muscular tissues. It may also familiarize you with your gear and get accustomed to sleeping outdoors.
> “Learning as you hike is an costly and doubtlessly painful method to do a thru-hike. ”
We advocate selecting up a e-book on thru-hiking like Liz Thomas’s Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru-hike. While it’s easy to google gear and meals advice, many of crucial issues you have to find out about thru-hiking aren’t questions which would possibly be obvious to ask. A guide or chat with somebody who has thru-hiked the AT can help orient you on your journey.
Your hike will profit from any class on camping and backpacking, navigation, or backcountry medicine.
If you’d feel extra snug going with an Appalachian Trail information, there are information providers obtainable that may take you for week-long trips, month-long journeys, and even the entire 6-month thru-hike.
Alternately, you’ll find a way to take a 10-day preparation course for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, which covers matters similar to camping, cooking, filtering water, and resupply.
Liz Thomas on the summit of Springer Mountain, the southern terminus of the AT.
When to Start the AT?
Most northbound AT hikers start in March or April. March may be chilly and icy—especially by the time hikers reach the Smoky Mountains. Most hikers take four to 6 months to complete the trail, so if you begin later than May, you may not be able to end by October twenty second, when Mt. Katahdin closes (plus, October could be very chilly in Maine).
AT Flip Flops
To have extra solitude, many hikers are choosing Flip Flops—a mix of north and southbound.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy throws a flip-floppers Kick-Off get together in Harper’s Ferry. Many flip-floppers hike South, then return by transit to Harper’s Ferry after which hike north. Others hike north to Mount Katahdin, return to Harper’s ferry by automobile, and hike south to Georgia from Harper’s Ferry. The ATC truly encourages flip flops as it reduces crowding and pressure on natural sources.
The AT is a social trail with more elevation acquire, however a less steep studying curve.
The PCT goes to higher elevations and extra types of ecosystems, but on much less steep trail.
The CDT visits rugged and distant areas and skillsets to navigate harsh circumstances are important.
AT vs. PCT. vs. CDT
The Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail are the Triple Crown Trails of Hiking and are all National Scenic Trails—yet they differ in size, elevation, abilities, and gears required. The AT is the shortest path however has essentially the most elevation acquire. The AT also has the longest potential thru-hiking season, with people beginning in Georgia as early as January and finishing in Maine into October. The Continental Divide Trail is the longest path but has the shortest climbing season because of its greater elevation. The West Coast trails typically have better vistas, but the Appalachian Trail is a social path that visits many historical websites. Navigation tends to be easiest to follow on the AT and most tough on the CDT. Most Triple Crowners discover the AT or PCT to be higher options than the CDT for a first long-distance trail.
Related: PCT Gear List & Strategy
Which is more durable: the Pacific Crest Trail vs. Appalachian Trail?
Most hikers who have hiked both trails will say the AT is more bodily demanding (on a day-to-day basis), but the PCT requires more skills.
Related: PCT Southbound Gear List and Strategy
Read More: Our Favorite PCT Gear
The Appalachian Trail has more elevation gain than the Pacific Crest Trail, although the Pacific Crest Trail is longer by about 500 miles. This up and down makes it physically difficult to cowl as many miles per day. The AT also has sections of near-vertical rock scrambles, generally requiring ladders, which may be difficult for people who struggle with stability. The AT’s climate is humid and it rains typically, so this can be a challenge for a lot of people, especially these accustomed to a western climate.
However, the PCT has more skills-based challenges like crossing deserts, snowfields, fording rivers, and lengthy stretches between water and food. The PCT requires changing gear between different ecosystems, climates, and seasons. Temperatures fluctuate from properly above 100F to beneath freezing during a typical PCT thru-hike. Distance hikers should have the gear and expertise to keep themselves safe in each situations and every thing in between.
Permits and regulations
Do I want a permit to hike the Appalachian Trail?
There isn’t any comprehensive permit for the Appalachian Trail. You’ll want three area-specific permits alongside the AT.
Permit 1 is a fee-required backcountry allow for Great Smoky Mountains National Park (NC/TN). The GSMNP permit must be obtained up to 30 days before coming into the park. Thru-hikers are exempt from reservations and campsite quotas.
Permit 2 is for Shenandoah National Park, VA. It’s free and may be obtained prematurely or when entering the park.
Permit three is in Baxter State Park, ME. It’s free, specific to summiting Katahdin, and may be obtained up to 7 days upfront.
We recommend registering via the Appalachian Trail Conservancy to remain present on path situations. It may help curb crowding, allow you to plan and put together for adjustments on the trail before and during your hike, and preserve the AT.
Do I need a bear canister to hike the Appalachian Trail?
You want a bear canister for tenting within a 5 mile stretch between NOBO mile 26.three at Jarrard Gap and NOBO mile 31.three in the Blood Mt. Wilderness in Georgia. This requirement is in effect between March 1 – June 1 yearly. Most thru-hikers simply plan to avoid camping on this space by climbing straight via it.
The ATC encourages proper food storage all through the trail. Protect yourself and the wildlife that makes the trail special. You can be taught in regards to the ATC’s bear canister lending program right here.
While the AT differs between regions and seasons, turning into acquainted with trail-wide methods sets you up for achievement on a thru-hike.
AT TRAIL-WIDE STRATEGIES
Attempting an Appalachian Trail thru-hike, a flip flop, or any long-distance section hike of the AT has related methods, at the same time as you undergo different distinct ecosystems and seasons.
Whether you’re thru-hiking or section climbing, you must approach the AT like a collection of shorter hikes between resupply points or larger path sections. Stay flexible—change your strategy, gear, or food technique as needed.
Perhaps most significantly, bear in mind long-distance mountaineering is tough. There are additionally wet monotonous days, nagging aches and pains, and mosquitoes. Everyone has days the place they don’t want to hike or consider quitting. Stay sturdy. You can do that.
The following are overall methods for the entire path. Later on on this story, we’ve gear strategies particular to sure sections of the path timed to the seasons when most hikers reach that area.
Mike Unger on a rocky part of the AT.
how to PROTECT YOUR FEET on the AT
Most thru-hikers experience foot issues corresponding to blisters, damaged toenails, or strained ligaments. The rain, mud, roots, rocks, and humid local weather of the Appalachian Trail depart AT hikers more susceptible to blisters than hikers of most other trails.
Taking care of your ft is such an important matter, we’ve devoted an entire article to How to Take Care of Your Feet While Hiking and Backpacking
To reduce the chance of getting blisters, we suggest hikers wear trail running shoes or mountaineering footwear (see our information for recommendations) as in comparability with hiking boots for the AT. For all our Footwear guides to study more about what footwear will work the most effective for you.
Regardless of what footwear you choose, air out your feet throughout breaks. If it’s raining, take breaks in shelters to dry them out. Consider utilizing an ultralight camp towel or bandana to dry your ft and Gold Bond powder to assist with the drying.
If you propose to spend time hanging out at shelters for breaks or after a day of hiking, you could want to strongly take into consideration carrying camp footwear or sandals. Wearing camp footwear when you’re not actively hiking can provide your toes time to get well and blisters time to air out. The minimalist Mayfly sandals are lower than 2 oz per pair and may provide the protection most hikers want for getting water, organising a tent or hammock, hanging out with other hikers, and doing camp chores.
Having the best gear for the wet conditions and ranging temperatures of the AT is certainly one of the best methods to ensure consolation and success in your thru-hike.
Soak your toes in cold following water whenever potential (but at least 200 toes from water sources that persons are using). Yes, we did just say, “keep your ft dry,” however cool water may help cut back swelling, which is one other contributor to foot ache. Rockier parts of the AT like Pennsylvania or New England can be especially tender on feet. See methods under for the method to cope with rocks in PA.
More than some other lengthy trail, for the AT, we advise altering your socks often. Don’t anticipate moist socks to dry in a single day on the AT. Pack several pairs of wool or synthetic socks—not cotton. Wearing the same wet socks day-in, day-out on the AT can result in chafing, contaminated blisters, and even trench foot. When you’ve an opportunity, wash them on the town in order that filth doesn’t rub away your foot’s pores and skin. See our Best Hiking Socks information for high quality socks that may hold up on this trail.
This goes for hikes of any distance anywhere, but especially on the AT, immediately tackle all foot issues (hot spots, rocks in shoes, and so forth.). Wet circumstances, poor hygiene, and never enough relaxation days mean you’re more likely to hear to of hikers getting trench foot or infected blisters on the AT than different trails.
It is value repeating that many thru-hikers discover that using a path runner or mountaineering shoe as an alternative of a hiking boot and even light-weight climbing boot allows their shoes to drain better to scale back moisture pooling by their toes. Trail runners are designed to let water escape vs. boots which may often entice water inside and result in trench foot. In all however the coldest seasons, go for a non-waterproof path runner over a Gore-Tex shoe or waterproof shoe.
It is quite common for foot dimension to increase over the course of a thru-hike. Opt for bigger footwear and know that your shoe measurement on the finish of the hike could additionally be up to 2 sizes larger than initially.
Related: The Best Shoes for Trail Running
Read More: The Best Hiking Sock
TIPS FOR SWOLLEN FEET AND BLISTERS
Most northbound thru-hikers will get blisters of their first few weeks on the AT. Your ft swell after miles on rocky path, and the persistent path moisture from mud and rain can wreak havoc. Good foot care is essential—remember you will want your feet to hold you more than 5 million steps. The following are foot care methods we use:
NEVER IGNORE THE FIRST SIGNS OF A foot concern
It’s a hassle to cease to take a rock out of your shoe or handle a “hot spot.” However, the potential penalties may lead to days of distress and could doubtlessly finish a hike. We have found that Leukotape is significantly better than duct tape at dressing blisters and “hot spots.” Leukotape will keep adhered for days by way of sweat, dust, and days of rain.
Pro tip: Use Neosporin or Polysporin on popped blisters and open sores. Let your ft air out at night and change your bandages often.
WASH AND AIR YOUR FEET WHENEVER POSSIBLE
Take each alternative to soak your ft and calves in naturally flowing water sources (at least 200 feet downstream from where of us gather water to drink). During breaks, take your sneakers and socks off and elevate your toes and legs. Don’t use cleaning soap. Just the water does the trick.
Pro-tip: Naomi swears by massaging her toes at night. Even if it is just for 30 seconds per foot, it’s one evening ritual she never skips, regardless of how tired she could be. She suffered through a lot of pain and now swears by the therapeutic power of massage. Her ritual also includes ankles and calves. If you don’t need to touch your own filthy ft, use sleep socks or bring a Rawlogy light-weight cork massageball (that can additionally be used on different aching body parts).
USE ANTI-FRICTION CREAM
Both Naomi and Mike begin pre-conditioning their ft a couple of weeks before a thru-hike with Trail Toes, an anti-friction cream designed for ultra-runners. They proceed to use the cream through the hike for “hot spots” and when their feet “pucker” from being continuously wet on the AT. Trail Toes additionally works nice for chafing in lieu of Bodyglide.
WEAR INJINJI TOE SOCKS OR LINERS
Blisters between your toes caused by grit are very common. Injinji toe socks is normally a big assist. While we’ve discovered Injinji socks to be nice at stopping blisters, they could presumably be a trouble to placed on each morning, especially when wet.
Related: The Best Hiking Socks
Lightweight gaiters, like Dirty Girls or the Altra Four-Point Gaiters, assist cut back (but don’t eliminate) grit getting in your footwear. They also permit you to have a little private flair on the path. An additional advantage is that they help hold your footwear tied.
SOAK YOUR FEET IN EPSOM SALTS WHEN YOU ARE IN TOWN
A warm Epsom Salt foot tub works wonders for nearly any foot ailment. In fact, it’s a good suggestion whether or not you may have any foot points. This is such a common treatment for AT thru-hikers that some hostels can provide a bucket to soak your toes in warm water and Epsom salts.
The AT is a wet and wet trail, but with the best gear, abilities, and mindset, it might possibly still be comfortable to hike.
tips on how to STAY WARM AND DRY on the at
It rains lots on the Appalachian Trail. Snow or freezing rain is feasible within the South and in New England. Strong and probably harmful lightning storms and even tornados are possible along the complete path.
Good rain gear is a should; nevertheless, no rain gear will sort you dry after hours of climbing through a gentle downpour. See our Best Rain Jackets guide for recommendations.
Accept that you will get wet. What’s essential on the AT isn’t letting being wet get you to a state of hypothermia. Know the indicators and symptoms—some our bodies are more prone than others. The following are some methods we advocate:
Related: Early Spring and Late Fall Backpacking Gear
ADD SYNTHETIC INSULATION LAYERS AND WARM CLOTHES
All rain gear will ultimately wet out. The key is to remain warm, even when you are wet. We like to carry a fleece top or synthetic puffy coat when climbing in chilly and wet conditions. Unlike down jackets, these layers will keep up to 99% of their insulating properties when wet. We’re a fan of the men’s and women’s Patagonia Micropuff, which has a similar weight to warmth ratio as down. See our Best Synthetics Jacket guide for extra suggestions.
Naomi and Mike throughout a snow storm on the AT. They are sporting light-weight fleece tops.
Keep a dry shirt, tights, and wool socks to sleep in. Nothing feels better than climbing into dry clothes after a long moist day of hiking. Plus, in an emergency hypothermia scenario, these dry garments can be a lifeline.
Related: The Best Synthetic Jackets
Wool or Synthetic Layers That Retain Warmth When Wet
We wish to put on a lightweight fleece (like the Patagonia R1 Air Crew) and synthetic tights (like the Patagonia Capilene Tights) underneath our rain gear when mountaineering in cold and moist conditions.
The AT for most hikers will be much warmer in the mid-Atlantic. That may be a great time to bounce these layers forward or ship them residence completely, depending on what month you attain New England.
Protect Your Hiking Gear from getting moist
It’s critical that you protect your gear, especially your sleeping bag/quilt and sleep garments, from the rain. Do not rely on a “waterproof” pack or pack cowl. We assume a fundamental trash compactor bag (not a daily rubbish bag) makes a good durable bag liner.
In addition, use a dry bag to guard your most dear gear (sleeping bag, dry clothes, electronics). When hiking in wet circumstances, or when wet conditions are likely, we believe within the double safety of a dry bag and trash compactor bag.
Dry Out Your Gear Whenever Possible
Take advantage of each sun break to dry your gear, especially your sleeping bag and tent. We advocate doing this every day of the journey. Don’t overlook to do that if you finish up on the town for the evening.
Protect Your Electronics and Opt for Waterproof Electronics
Rain on the Appalachian Trail has destroyed multiple cameras and cell telephones for our writers. We extremely suggest selecting a water-resistant camera for the AT. Most hikers will carry a water-proof phone case to guard as soon as of their most costly and important gear objects. At the very least, plan to protect your electronics from the rain with Ziploc baggage.
Related: The Best Waterproof, Freezeproof, and Rugged Cameras
bring Sleep Clothes
Keep a dry shirt, tights, and socks to sleep in. Nothing feels better than climbing into dry clothes after an extended moist day of climbing in wet clothes. Plus, in an emergency hypothermia situation, these dry garments could be a lifeline.
The AT has a quantity of sections where hikers can take bad climate routes to avoid lightning inclined ridgelines.
Watch for Changing Weather Conditions
It’s essential to verify every day on potential climate modifications. Severe weather can happen at any level along the AT. Fortunately, you would possibly be seldom quite so much of hours from a road that may get you to city to attend out a storm. For elements of the trail without cellular phone protection, the Garmin inReach satellite communicator provides climate forecasts. See our guide to the Best Satellite Messengers and Personal Locator Beacons for extra data.
You may consider wearing a mountaineering watch that can measure barometric pressure and warn of storms—even when you aren’t able to decide up a satellite. See our Best Hiking Watch guide for suggestions.
the method to MANAGE YOUR MONEY on an appalachian path thru-hike
Running out of cash is likely certainly one of the most common reasons folks end their AT thru-hike.
Choose your gear properly the first time, and you won’t need to spend your limited thru-hiking dollars on replacing broken or ill-fitting gear or switching out gear that didn’t give you the results you want.
Limiting your town stays (i.e., zeros) is the easiest approach to protect your funds. The AT has more access to cities than other lengthy trails, and it’s simple to get sucked into the social scene with fellow hikers. Even if you aren’t a partier, it’s simple to get drawn to the AT city vortex with the promise of restaurant meals.
One strategy to scale back spending on restaurant meals is to eat a can of beans or yogurt as quickly as you enter town to help reduce restaurant spending. Many people sense thirst as hunger, so a reasonable method to fill your self is to drink a big sports drink as quickly as you get to town (it’s inexpensive than beer and replenishes electrolytes that you would possibly have lost whereas hiking).
Geting a pizza delivered to the path is a perk of the AT being inside cellular phone vary.
how to stay consumed a thru-hike
Eating on the trail may be surprisingly difficult. Certain power bars or trail combine that tasted good on a earlier weekend backpacking journey can turn into unbearable after a quantity of weeks (or days) on a thru-hike.
It’s onerous to know what is going to style good after months on the trail. Therefore, we don’t advocate first-time thru-hikers rely heavily on food bins they make for themselves at home. It’s better to buy meals alongside the way at local grocery stores and markets.
The AT has access to many grocery shops within walking distance from the path, from comfort stores to full supermarkets.
Here’s why we predict grocery store resupplies are the most effective:
* tailor your meals starvation to what you want
* doesn’t require as a lot upfront planning. Better to spend that point studying abilities.
* doesn’t require spending cash upfront
Mailing yourself resupplies on the AT is dearer than on different long trails as a outcome of there are so much of cities alongside the way
Be open to changing your meals technique based mostly on what you crave on trail. You have to fuel the engine that is propelling you alongside the path.
Related: The Best Food Dehydrator for Backpacking
Mike Unger on one of many rebar climbing sections of New England on the AT.
ELEVATION GAIN AND RUGGEDNESS on the at
The Appalachian Trail is shorter than the Pacific Crest Trail or Continental Divide Trail but has more elevation acquire. AT hikers will say the path goes straight up and down each mountain. Unlike the PCT, it isn’t graded at a most of 10%. See more concerning the variations between lengthy trails below in the part on AT vs. PCT vs. CDT.
Some sections of the AT, like Mahoosuc Notch in Maine, require hikers to scramble between boulders. Expect to use arms, ladders, or rebar to ascend steeper rocks or slabs. While these sections could be challenging, folks of all ages and a lot of sorts of bodily abilities have hiked the AT.
Mahoosuc Notch in Maine is likely certainly one of the most infamous sections of path wherever: a mile of scrambling and crawling by way of car-sized boulders.
Hikers should pay attention to the hazards of moist or icy rock and the slippery wet wooden bathroom board bridges that are put in around muddy areas. Trekking poles can typically help with steadiness on these sections. On different sections, you will need to fold down your hiking poles to make use of your palms for scrambling. See our Best Trekking Poles guide for recommendations on poles that collapse down for easy journey.
To assist with the slipperiness, you’ll additionally benefit from having footwear with good traction. Still, every AT thru-hiker slips or falls at some point on their trek.
Don’t be afraid to take sections slowly and use your arms when essential. It’s also good to maintain monitor of time and ensure you aren’t stuck on a steeper or rockier part at midnight.
The intense elevation achieve and ruggedness of the AT implies that most hikers find that they can’t hike as many miles per day as they’re used to on different trails. While this will sometimes really feel demoralizing, the important thing to the AT is to relish the experience for what it’s. There’s enjoyable to be had within the cardio exercise and the social aspect of the path.
A highlight on the AT is the miles of path that go through forests of blooming azalea and rhododendron flowers—but their thick bushes can make it difficult to discover a flat campsite.
Planning and Navigation for the AT
The AT is considered one of the best-marked footpaths in the world. White blazes (paint markings) on bushes serve as confidence markers for the complete size of the path. While they are often obscured in a snowstorm (when the white blends in with frost), it’s relatively simple to stay on observe on the AT.
The exception can be when one steps off-trail to relieve oneself. At least one Appalachian Trail thru hiker has gone lacking and misplaced their lives within the woods after stepping off trail for a potty break. We highly suggest carrying an Emergency Satellite Beacon which is light-weight and could have saved the lifetime of several missing hikers.
The forest is dense on the AT, and it’s simple to lose the trail as soon as it is now not in plain sight. Even skilled hikers can get turned around. We highly recommend utilizing a mapping phone app that can help you navigate back to the path in these situations.
Related: The Best GPS Hiking Watches
CAN I CAMP ANYWHERE ON THE APPALACHIAN TRAIL?
You can camp in plenty of locations alongside the AT following Leave No Trace ethics. A dispersed (aka stealth camp) is free to do on Forest Service land in the South and Virginia. In nationwide parks, close to personal land, in high-impact areas, or fragile ecosystems like above treeline, thru-hikers should keep at designated campsites. See the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s camping chart at the bottom of this web page for extra details. Note that some websites (generally, the nicer ones in New England) have $10 fees, so have some money on hand.
However, discovering flat locations to camp between shelters could be tough. The trail is so steep and forested that it may be miles between flat spots sufficiently big to deal with a shelter. Dense undergrowth makes it tough to discover a spot sufficiently big for a tent. We advocate using maps or at least a mapping phone app to make sure you stay on trail and that you are in a position to plan your day to achieve shelters/campsites at evening.
Most hikers select to stay at the iconic three-sided picket shelters and close by tenting areas. These shall be marked on all Appalachian Trail maps, signs, and phone apps. They are situated on average eight miles other than one another. They almost always have water sources, privies and sometimes have campfire rings and bear cables. See our section on shelters beneath.
Note that some campgrounds have platforms in the tenting space. For this purpose, we suggest a freestanding tent in our consolation gear listing (see below). While it’s attainable to make use of a non-freestanding tent on a platform, a freestanding tent will make your life simpler. See our Best Backpacking Tents or Best Camping Hammocks guide for our suggestions.
Liz Thomas’s AT hammock set-up.
HAMMOCKS on the at
The steep terrain and lack of flat spots is one cause why many folks choose to make use of a hammock on the AT. Hammocks provide a comfortable method to sleep, even when the bottom under the hammock is not flat or has understory plants. Hammocks could be strung between trees, that are plentiful on the AT. Liz Thomas hammocked on her FKT, and it’s her most well-liked shelter method for East Coast trails.
If you choose to hammock, become conversant in Leave No Trace methods of securing your shelter. Practice organising a tarp over your hammock earlier than you permit for the AT, as getting the angle proper is extra necessary than on a tent, and you don’t want to end up in a dangling bathtub should it rain. We also suggest turning into familiar with under quilts or other strategies of staying heat in hammocks. Because the mid-Atlantic in particular is such a buggy part, we recommend choosing a hammock with built-in bug netting just like the Hennessy Hammocks. Even if you are conversant in tent camping, there’s a learning curve with hammocks. However, for some hikers, the advantages of hammocking on the AT are value it.
Related: Best Camping Hammocks
Liz Thomas befriending another hiker’s dog at an AT shelter.
AT SHELTERS: PROS and CONS
The AT has three-sided basic shelters positioned about every eight miles. AT shelter use has its pros and cons.
Pros: Shelters are simply marked on Appalachian Trail maps and could be a great place to fulfill fellow hikers—some who could become greatest pals for all times. Shelters and the surrounding area have campfire rings, picnic tables, privies (no must dig catholes), and some have bear cables to protect your meals. If you sleep inside a shelter, you don’t have to worry about setting up or packing up a tent within the rain. If you camp, selecting the realm around the shelter will guarantee flat spots free of vegetation as well nearby facilities like water, a privy, a picnic table, and campfire ring.
Cons: Shelters may be home to mice and be a place where hikers can get each other sick. If you hike the wild east seeking quiet and solitude, shelters usually are not the place to seek out it.
It is important you study Shelter Etiquette before sleeping in shelters. Shelters are for everybody, so make room for different hikers and chorus from practices that exclude others (like organising a tent inside of a shelter). If you snore or have a canine, don’t stay in the shelter. Practice Leave No Trace, like taking cellphone calls and relieving yourself a hundred at least one hundred yards from others.
HYDRATION ON THE AT
Some of us on the primary days of their thru-hiker consider they should depart the AT shelter each morning with sufficient water to get to the following shelter, carrying as a lot as 4 L to final all day.
However, water sources on the AT are relatively plentiful, particularly early in the hike. Many water sources off-trail are signed.
To reduce the burden of water on your again, we suggest that you just carry sufficient water to final you until the next dependable water source.
Most AT hikers carry between 1 and a couple of liters of water, with the chance for more water capacity for a quantity of longer stretches in the mid-Atlantic. Check your maps and hiking navigation apps to search out your subsequent water source.
As you’ll find a way to think about, the AT has a lot of users, which suggests the potential for contamination is excessive. We suggest carrying a water filter or chemical substances to deal with your water.
Related: The Best Water Filters and Purifiers for Backpacking
DRINK ON A REGULAR SCHEDULE
For AT hikers who start the trail throughout cooler months, it may be troublesome to remember to drink. One benefit of the AT is that there are sufficient significant climbs that always your body will need to drink water. Mike sets alarms on his watch to remind himself to drink every hour.
WOMEN & HYDRATION
We have known some girls hikers who intentionally do not drink as a lot as they need to as a result of urinating on a trail as busy as the AT could be a chore (Naomi fully admits to this). Learn the means to urinate effectively and practice before you hit the trail:
If you’re carrying pants, learn how to urinate along with your pack on. If you’re sporting shorts or a hiking skirt, discover methods to urinate standing up.
Carry a “pee rag,” which is rather more convenient than TP. We like the Wander Wipe from Wander Woman Gear. We recommend selecting the optional retractable leash so that you don’t have to take off your pack to access your Wander Wipe.
Related: The Best Women’s Running Shorts
Water alone isn’t sufficient when exerting yourself, and the AT in Georgia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia have loads of steep mountains that may get you perspiring—even when temperatures are cooler. Once the season begins changing and it turns into hot and humid, you’ll positively be sweating. Liz skilled fatigue from an absence of electrolytes throughout a heat-wave in New Jersey.
The good news is that electrolytes are straightforward to search out and are available many varieties. Flavored and unflavored powder drink mixes, flavored and unflavored liquid drops, flavored tablets that dissolve in water, or capsules to swallow are all available. Pick the form you’re most likely to use and use them frequently on the AT. Salty snacks are also good—in truth, you’ll probably discover that you crave salty over sugary meals. That’s your physique telling you what it wants. Listen to it and feed it accordingly.
Read our in-depth evaluate of electrolytes right here, the place we talk about the pros and cons of every kind of electrolytes, when to take them, and extra.
Related: The Best Sun Shirts
Thru-hikers hitching show their signal for hitchhiking to town to get food.
DEALING WITH HIKER HUNGER ON THE AT
“Hiker hunger” is the insatiable starvation that most hikers feel on a long-distance thru-hike eventually. For some people, it might take a while for hiker hunger to kick in. In truth, we’ve known fairly a few hikers who actually lose their urge for food in the course of the first few weeks of a hike. When this occurs, your energy levels drop, and motivation goes along with it.
We have some methods to help via hiker hunger:
* Know that your style buds could change. Foods that you just suppose you will want on path might not find yourself being palatable when you’re actually on trail. While you’re climbing, hearken to what your body craves, write it down, and purchase it at your subsequent resupply.
* Because style buds change, we do not advocate resupply bins as a method for many thru-hikers. Resupply bins can turn out to be pricey to ship, particularly if you do not like the meals you mailed your self and have to buy all new food.
* If hiking food isn’t cutting it for you, perform town meals. We’ve been known to carry out an entire large pizza and/or sandwiches (with condiments on the side). Avocados, carrots, and apples will hold up well in your pack should you eat them within the first couple of days. Scones and muffins additionally maintain up fairly nicely.
* Take regular meal and snack breaks and eat even when you’re not hungry. Tell your self that food is gasoline and your physique needs it.
* Don’t be afraid of high-calorie foods that you may not eat off-trail. Fat is your good friend. Eat Nutella right out of the jar.
* Sometimes when it’s sizzling, or you’re at altitude, it is simpler to drink than to chew. Consider carrying dietary supplements like vitamins or ingesting high-calorie or high protein drinks to supplement your food plan.
A warning about bears in a trail register in a shelter in Tennessee.
BEARs on the at
Black bears are current in practically every section of the AT.
AT bears have become habituated to hikers over time. Certain sections of the AT—mainly in the early elements of the path and New Jersey—are notable for black bear activity as they’ve become educated about getting food from thru-hikers. Bears are rarely aggressive, but they are opportunistic. While sleeping with meals just isn’t unusual on different long trails, it’s actually not a fantastic concept on the AT. Bears have been recognized to enter shelters at evening, putting multiple folks in danger.
Some sections of the AT require the utilization of a bear canister, including near the beginning of the path for northbounders in Georgia. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy writes it is probably other sections alongside the North Carolina/Tennessee border will follow, as well as the Green Mountains in Vermont.
About 40% of AT shelters have bear packing containers, poles, and cables. In some areas, like Great Smoky Mountains National Park and Shenandoah National Park, you might be required to make use of the bear boxes, poles, or cables at your shelter.
In addition to areas with strict bear rules, it’s helpful to have plans to protect bears out of your meals and vice versa. You may also want to think about carrying a separate Odor Proof Sack, which is essentially a large lightweight plastic bag that may cut back rodent attacks in your meals. In other areas, consider using a bear grasp, although know that AT bears are good and have outwitted them. We’d also advocate an Ursack, which is a food bag that bears and rodents cannot chew or claw their method via.
Never leave your pack unattended (even if you finish up relieving yourself), keep a clear campsite, and consider cooking a quantity of miles before you cease and camp—or at least 200 feet away from your tent or the shelter.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s web site has the latest bear canister restrictions and recommendation on bears alongside the AT. See REI’s information to How to Choose and How to Use Bear Canisters for more on weight, quantity, and ease-of-use concerns.
MICE AND RODENTS ON THE AT
AT shelters appeal to mice and porcupines who’ve become adept at eating food from hikers or salt from hiker’s urine or sweat-covered gear. Rodents typically will eat through stuff sacks, backpacks, and other gear to get to your food. Other wildlife, like porcupines, may be after the salt on your pack or trekking poles. Properly store meals in bear canisters or in bear packing containers, cables, and poles as obtainable. Tactics to maintain bears out of your meals will typically work for smaller wildlife as nicely.
As talked about above, we recommend carrying a separate Odor Proof Sack, which may reduce rodent attacks on your meals. Mice have become habituated to finding meals in shelters. It isn’t a good suggestion to sleep along with your food in shelters on the AT (that is, except you want mice crawling on your face).
Take particular care to select up any crumbs you drop in shelters or any cooking meals that escaped your pot. Mice thrive at shelters as a result of there could be food there. Mice also include ticks—which can unfold Lyme disease. They’re additionally associated with Hanta Virus, which could be transmitted via their urine and feces. Plus, mice at shelters appeal to snakes. For all these reasons, be very careful with your meals at shelters.
The AT goes via tick-filled fields, just like the one seen here in Connecticut. The trail isn’t far from Lyme, CT, for which Lyme disease is recognized as.
While it’s unlikely you’ll see ticks in the course of the cooler climate of the primary weeks of your hike, as temperatures heat, you will notice them for much of your hike—especially in the mid-Atlantic.
We consider ticks probably the most harmful animal we could encounter on a hike.
The AT—especially in Shenandoah National Park and later in the mid-Atlantic—goes via significant sections of tall grass, although ticks can be picked up anyplace. Some ticks carry Lyme illness or different illnesses that can damage your thru-hike. We strongly advocate that you do daily tick checks. Ticks are comparatively simple to take away if discovered early.
We consider a tick card a vital piece of substances on the path. We additionally recommend treating your clothing and equipment with Permethrin. This do-at-home, spray-in bug therapy lasts for ~20 washes. Consider re-treating clothing and kit with Permethrin when you reach the mid-Atlantic. We also advocate AT thru-hikers price range for a Lyme Disease test to take after your hike.
SNAKES: COPPERHEADS AND RATTLESNAKES
While it’s unlikely you’ll see snakes in the course of the cooler weather of the primary weeks of your hike, as temperatures heat, you could even see them.
You will likely see a few copperheads and rattlesnakes alongside the path. While they are more frequent within the mid-Atlantic (especially Pennsylvania), you might start seeing them additional South as temperatures heat up. There are quite a few harmless snakes on the AT, including the big and scary wanting but mild black rat snake.
Rattlesnakes like to curve up underneath rocks alongside the trail. We have come close to stepping on a resting rattlesnake on several events. It’s crucial to take care of good situational awareness. If you take heed to music or podcasts on the trail, contemplate “open-ear” headphones like the Aftershokz that allow you to hear the rattlesnake’s distinctive warning.
Norovirus (often called the abdomen flu) has been a typical illness on the Appalachian Trail. This might be as a result of hikers often sleep shoulder to shoulder in shelters, keep in crowded hostels, and share privies. We advocate the next practices to assist stay healthy on trail (and elsewhere):
* Wash your hands often;
* Keep your arms away out of your face;
* Do not share meals with other hikers; and
* Avoid shelters and hostels the place hikers have been sick (norovirus is often caught from contaminated surfaces)
According to the Cleveland Clinic, norovirus cannot be treated with antibiotics. If you do contract the norovirus, you need to wait it out. Stay hydrated, wash your palms frequently, and avoid others. Mike and Naomi each contracted norovirus on the AT—twice every. It took 2-3 days for the illness to move.
LEAVE NO TRACE ethics and city etiquette for the at
Leave No Trace (LNT) consists of seven ethics for the backcountry. LNT acknowledges that we humans are a guest within the outdoors and we seek to leave the AT in higher shape than we discovered it. The aim of LNT is to create an outside that might be as pristine and delightful for future generations as it is now. See Leave No Trace’s website for more on the seven rules.
When it involves AT thru-hiking, there are a number of gear hacks that can make LNT a breeze.
APPALACHIAN TRAIL SHELTER ETIQUETTE
Shelters are a blessing and a curse of the Appalachian Trail. Be considerate to other users (LNT Principle #7) by familiarizing yourself with shelter etiquette earlier than you go.
LNT requires you to bury human waste 6-8” deep. We suggest carrying an ultralight backcountry potty trowel (bonus: it doubles as a stake). Potty trowels dig deep through rocky and rooty soil much better than utilizing a rock or your shoe. It’s turn into standard for thru-hikers to pack out their used toilet paper (for a quantity of years, it was getting pretty gross along the trail corridor). We’ve found the simplest method to do this is by together with doggie waste luggage in your potty bag. Treat your used rest room paper like you would choosing up dog waste in a park. Tie off the bag and put it in your trash bag. Easy, easy, and clean.
One of one of the best issues in regards to the AT is that just about each shelter has a privy. Many trailheads have outhouses. We know of at least one hiker who managed to thru-hike the path by solely needing to dig a cathole a quantity of instances. To the extent attainable, reap the advantages of these pre-built outhouses. They are designed to handle human waste and concentrate impression in areas the place maintainers can compost waste sustainably. Just be sure by no means to put trash, female hygiene merchandise, food scraps, or Wet Wipes into outhouses as they must be removed by volunteers by hand (gross!).
Read More: Essential Backpacking Accessories
Most AT thru-hikers find they don’t have time, power, or curiosity in campfires. Despite many shelters having campfire rings, the recognition of getting a fire appears to lower the additional north a thru-hiker gets. If you do select to have a fire, do it only inside established camp rings. Use solely downed wood smaller than the size of your fist. Be sure that it is completely out earlier than you permit the area—using water and your hand to feel for any remaining hot coals. Several AT shelters have burnt down through the years. Although the forests of the East are generally moister than those of the West, fires can and can happen. Read extra about campfire etiquette here.
If you want heat food and the consolation of a fireplace, there’s a simple resolution: carry a backpacking range with a fuel canister. Additionally, we suggest carrying a backpacking range. Most gear shops, hiker hostels, and even convenience shops alongside the AT that cater in course of hikers will provide gas canisters on the market. A backpacking range additionally requires carrying a suitable Backpacking Cookware Pot, which (bonus) also can serve as your cookware. Some backpacking cookware pots may even be used instantly in fires, do you have got to determine to have one.
Many hikers choose to listen to music, podcasts, or books on the AT. While Bluetooth speakers work great for hanging out in the backyard, they aren’t acceptable for the AT—either on path or at shelters. Nor is it appropriate to play music out loud in your telephone. Much of the AT is wilderness, which is managed to create a refuge for individuals and wildlife away from the sounds of town. That doesn’t imply that you simply can’t listen—it simply implies that LNT asks that you simply use a set of headphones as an alternative.
If wires are what annoys you, we’ve enjoyed climbing with wi-fi earbuds, which now have the battery life to final a day of mountaineering. We advocate the Shokz Open Run. They use the know-how that enables for situational consciousness so you can hear the music however nonetheless hear that bear behind the tree. See our full information to The Best Wireless Earbuds for the Outdoors and Working Out, which options waterproof, sweatproof, dustproof, rugged headphones for mountaineering.
TRAIL TOWN ETIQUETTE AND TRAIL ANGELS
Trail town etiquette for thru-hikers is a key piece of being an excellent ambassador for the path. It’s exhibiting respect for these who live in gateway communities near the path because the essential part they play in conserving the land and offering companies for hikers. Being respectful on the town is a means to make sure future PCT hikers could have the same access to trail city services as you do. Who knows? If you hike any portion of the trail again, as a day hike or thru-hike, that could imply you!
I wrote this full article on Trail Town Etiquette: 10 tricks to be an excellent hiker on the town.
Liz Thomas visiting the second largest yellow popular tree on a aspect path off the AT in the South.
the SOUTH (Springer Mountain to Virginia)
States lined: Georgia (75.8 miles), North Carolina / Tennessee (361.zero miles)
Elevation Gain: 122,425’
Elevation Loss: 122,734’
Minimum Elevation: 1,339’
Maximum Elevation: 6,626’
The begin of the AT is normally a jarring expertise, even for seasoned long-distance hikers. Georgia has among the most elevation achieve of any state on the complete path, which means that hikers contemporary on the trail are in for one of the rigorous exercises of the complete path.
Most hikers start the trail in March or April when it’s still pretty chilly within the Appalachian mountains. As they strategy Damascus, VA, days turn out to be hotter and extra humid. Sometimes, they can be downright scorching. It’s stunning to look at the forest flower and leaf out and the brilliant green hillsides of the Southern bald mountains. The AT is full of many generations and centuries of historical past, and it’s fascinating to study humans and their relationship with the mountains across the trail.
Views on the AT in the South could be expansive earlier than the bushes leaf out.
While the AT is usually called a “green tunnel” for lack of views, the views within the South can be expansive before the bushes leaf out. Flowering green tunnels of rhododendron make the closeup views magical.
Managing clothes and sleep methods to account for adjustments in temperatures is one of the challenges of the South.
Hiker hunger takes a while to develop, so you’ll probably drop a quantity of kilos. Everyone has pain and fatigue on the AT in the beginning. Rain—which can contribute to blisters—can be demoralizing. Most hikers will need to give up once in a while. You aren’t alone. It gets better. Never give up on a bad day.
Naomi Hudetz on a windy day on a Southern bald mountain.
RECOMMENDED GEAR FOR THE SOUTH
* Backpacking tent: Shelter space is never guaranteed—especially within the South, which tends to have extra hikers and competitors for shelter house. See our Best Backpacking Tents guide.
* Rain Gear: You’ll need a rain jacket for the whole path, however it’s especially essential at the beginning of the journey due to the cooler temperatures.
* Warm Layers: Additional insulating layers (depending on your pack weight goals, we like a mixture of a few of the following: lengthy underwear, wind pants, additional baselayer high, heavier insulating jacket. See our Best Synthetic Insulated Jackets stories for recommendations)
* Bear canister (this is required in certain sections)
* Bear bag hanging equipment, Ursack, Odor Proof Sack.
* A backpack that may accommodate a bear can, both contained in the pack or strapped on high. See our Best Backpacking Backpack information for suggestions.
Mike Unger on the AT in Smoky Mountain National Park.
CHALLENGES AND STRATEGIES OF THE AT SOUTH
While Georgia can be humid and toasty in the summertime, the Appalachian Mountains in March and April usually are not. In addition to climate that could be within the 40s or 50s during the day, nights can get beneath freezing. Additionally, you might be prone to encounter back-to-back days of rain, making it difficult to dry your gear.
Hypothermia can onset as little as 60 degrees—so it’s necessary to know the signs and symptoms. Don’t be afraid to take breaks at shelters to heat up and drink a sizzling beverage.
You are also prone to expertise some of the coldest nights on the AT within the South. Be prepared for subfreezing nights. We advocate beginning the trail with a high-quality sleeping bag—20F is the norm. See our Best Sleeping Bags for Backpacking story for our ideas for 20-degree sleeping bags for folk of different sizes and sleeping types.
Remember that sleeping heat is not just a operate of not having a heat enough sleeping pad. Your sleeping pad contributes to how well you sleep, too. The NeoAir XLite is in style with thru-hikers, which has good insulation to weight ratio. Take care of it, though, and carry a small restore package in case of pops or leaks. See our Best Sleeping Pads information for our suggestions.
For cooking throughout chilly nights and breaks on chilly or windy days, we carry an insulated synthetic jacket and warm hat all through the complete hike. See our Best Synthetic Jackets story for our recommendations for thru-hiking. We’re keen on the Patagonia Micro Puff, which is heat when moist and has an identical heat to weight to ratio as down. Some hikers will carry down jackets in the event that they already owned them earlier than the hike, but given how moist the Appalachian Trail is, we would advocate an artificial.
Pro tip: Protect your water filters (Sawyer and BeFree) from freezing at night by sleeping with them in your sleeping bag or quilt. Filters that use a ceramic filtering system will crack at below-freezing temperatures. Sleeping together with your electronics may also save battery life.
Rain and foggy days are widespread the AT in the South and New England and everywhere in between.
LOTS OF RAIN—SOMETIMES FREEZING RAIN
Rain is a standard prevalence on the AT. In addition to having a good rain jacket (see our Best Lightweight Rain Jackets guide), managing moisture in your body and kit is amongst the challenges of the trail.
Keep your gear dry—especially your sleeping bag. Consider a dry bag in your sleeping bag.
DRY YOUR GEAR WHENEVER POSSIBLE
Use your break to dry your gear, especially your sleeping bag and tent. Your sleeping bag can lose its loft—its insulative properties—from condensation, body moisture, or if a dry bag around a sleeping bag isn’t safe. Some time within the solar (be sure to secure it from blowing away) will maintain you heat during the cool nights.
Drying out your tent daily will help with its sturdiness (plus, it’ll prevent from carrying an oz of moisture). One reason we like DCF (aka cuben fiber) tarps and shelters (aside from being ultralight gear) is that it holds onto less moisture so dries more quickly.
Water is ample on the AT, however as a outcome of it’s a crowded trail, treating water continues to be important.
Drying out your gear during breaks is a routine behavior you need to establish early on. On rainy days, it’s price letting your gear dry out during breaks in shelters (as lengthy as it doesn’t trouble different shelter-dwellers).
Sometimes on the AT, it’s not really potential to get gear dried out through the day. When you are on the town staying at a hostel or resort, keep in mind to open up your pack and dry all of your gear out (but shops and restaurants frown on this conduct, so please refrain from drying gear in other places in town).
The wild ponies of Mt. Rogers in Virginia are a spotlight of the AT.
AT VIRGINIA, WEST VIRGINIA, MARYLAND
States coated: Virginia (517.1 miles) and West Virginia/Mayland (57.three miles)
Distance: 574.four miles
Elevation Gain: 128,359’
Elevation Loss: one hundred thirty,237’
Minimum Elevation: 242’
Maximum Elevation: 5,487’
You’ll spend ¼ of your time thru-hiking the AT in Virginia. It has probably the most miles of any state. While technically still the South, the terrain in Virginia changes lots from the Southern Smoky mountains to the gentle Blue Ridge Mountains within the Northern a part of the state.
Virginia, West Virginia, and Maryland are house to several icons of the Appalachian Trail expertise:
-the wild ponies of Mt Rogers (the last sub-alpine forest you’ll be in till Mt Greylock in Massachusetts)
* McAfee Knob (often known as essentially the most photographed a part of the AT) and Dragon’s Tooth and Tinker Cliffs
* Shenandoah National Park
* the Roller Coast in West Virginia ending at Bear’s Den Hiker Hostel (a stone fort constructed by the CCC) and the historic Harper’s Ferry National Monument.
* Many thru-hikers attempt a 4-state challenge starting at the Virginia-West Virginia border and ending on the Maryland-Pennsylvania state line at the Mason-Dixon line.
A thru-hiker’s expertise in the Virginia area and really helpful gear for this part can differ a lot relying on whether or not you attain the state in May, June, or July. Mt Rogers may be freezing in early May, however Shenandoah National Park can be humid and hot in June.
One factor that can be an issue—no matter if you hike Virginia—is the Virginia Blues. Many thru-hikers get bored and stop in Virginia. Sections of the path observe the enduring Blue Ridge Parkway and, farther north, Shenandoah National Park. Constant road crossings may be frustrating.
We clarify the mental sport of the AT under within the mid-Atlantic section as well as suggestions on tips on how to make it better. Still, most hikers begin shedding some of the enthusiasm somewhere in the midst of Virginia.
RECOMMENDED GEAR FOR THE MID-ATLANTIC
* Lighter sleeping bag (or dump sleeping bag liner)
* Lighter jacket (dump the heavier layers from down South)
* Bug repelling clothes or clothes handled with bug-repelling Permethrin
* Bug net on your tarp (if it isn’t built-in)
* Bug spray or lotion
* More water carrying containers (a few of the longer waterless stretches on the AT are on this section)
* Optional: Sturdier trail trainers (for crossing rocks in Pennsylvania)
* Optional: trekking poles (if you weren’t carrying already, you might want for better balance on the rocks)
CHALLENGES AND STRATEGIES FOR THE AT VIRGINIA AREA
After the large mountains of the South, the thrill of beginning a long-distance trail is gone. Tedium can set in.
Podcasts and audiobooks are your friends. It’s a present to have large, uninterrupted blocks of time to lose yourself in a guide binge.
The terrain in Virginia mellows and has much less climbing than you experienced within the South.
Many libraries now have audiobooks that may be checked out free of charge. Sign up at your native library before you allow in your hike and have access to almost limitless content material. Free podcasts are practically limitless as properly and cover every matter conceivable. If you don’t have any favorites, ask other hikers. Have you needed to study a brand new language? There are free podcasts for that too!
Pro tip: If you’re hiking with a associate, take heed to the identical podcast on the similar time and discuss it afterward. Plus, you’re only draining the battery on one phone and sustaining situational consciousness with the opposite ear!
With each earbuds, you’ll must cost them between cities, so we suggest carrying an exterior back-up battery and acceptable cords.
Liz Thomas at the midway level on the AT.
AT MID-ATLANTIC (PENNSYLVANIA TO CONNECTICUT)
States coated: Pennsylvania (223.2 miles), New Jersey (68.eight miles), New York (84.three miles)
Distance: 376.3 miles
Elevation Gain: fifty seven,418’
Elevation Loss: fifty eight,201’
Minimum Elevation: 60’
Maximum Elevation: 2,078’
The mid-Atlantic is tough for lots of thru-hikers. You have made it through the National Parks and iconic peaks of Tennessee/North Carolina. You have your trail legs and discovered everyday trail logistics. So why do we see so many thru-hikers stop within the mid-Atlantic?
The exhilaration of making it to the unofficial midway point at Harper’s Ferry on the Appalachian Trail Conservancy headquarters is replaced with the realization that you may be not even halfway full.
In the mid-Atlantic, the trail is sizzling, humid, and buggy. Evenings are normally heat, and the bugs may be relentless. The trail is so rocky in Pennsylvania it’s known as Rocksylvania. Feet can harm. It’s heat sufficient that snakes are out. The path goes via grassy areas that will have ticks. Many hikers take care of the mid-Atlantic’s charms by “zoning out” and listening to music, books, and podcasts. They might’ve picked up the strategy to battle the Virginia Blues, but within the mid-Atlantic, it turns into even more widespread.
Don’t hand over. The path will get flatter in the mid-Atlantic. It has much less elevation gain. Yes, there’s rock scrambling. But with the proper mindset, it could be fun and feel like enjoying on a jungle fitness center.
Town meals and deli stops are virtually every day affairs. Resupply factors are frequent, so you’ll need to hold less food (though you’ll need to carry extra water in some areas). Your pack will feel lighter after you’ve dumped cold-weather gear similar to sleeping bag liners. This means that your every day mileage will probably improve.
The mid-Atlantic can be filled with historical past, culture, and opportunities to be taught concerning the region. You’ll hike actually through the Bear Mountain Zoo and the enduring Bear Mountain bridge over the Hudson River. You’ll move quite a few historic monuments including an Underground Railroad stop at Pine Grove Furnace State Park. There’s even a prepare cease that goes into New York City.
While the mid-Atlantic is the least wild section of the AT, it’s been thoughtfully designed and routed to create an fascinating experience for the individual touring on foot. From the Lemon Squeezer in Harriman State Park in New York, Delaware Water Gap in Pennsylvania, Sunfish Pond in New Jersey, to the Palmerton Superfund Site in Pennsylvania, the natural and cultural historical past in the mid-Atlantic is not like any other lengthy trail.
Days are longer, and your physique is powerful. Enjoy the mid-Atlantic for what it has to supply and know that it’s unique challenges will quickly be over.
Mike Unger scrambling close to the New Jersey-New York border.
RECOMMENDED GEAR FOR THE MID-ATLANTIC
* Lighter sleeping bag (or dump sleeping bag liner)
* Lighter jacket (dump the heavier layers from down South)
* Bug repelling clothes or clothing treated with bug-repelling Permethrin
* Bug web for your tarp (if it isn’t built-in)
* Bug spray or lotion
* More water carrying containers (a few of the longer waterless stretches on the AT are in this section)
* Optional: Sturdier trail trainers (for crossing rocks in Pennsylvania)
Optional: trekking poles (if you weren’t carrying already, you may want for better steadiness on the rocks)
Mike Unger scrambling on the rocky section near Lehigh Gap, PA.
CHALLENGES AND STRATEGIES FOR THE AT MID-ATLANTIC
HOT TEMPERATURES WITH WARM NIGHTS
If the hot, humid temperatures weren’t hitting you down south in Virginia, virtually all northbound hikers will begin feeling it by the point they reach the mid-Atlantic. You’ll be greeted with scorching days, warm nights, and mosquitoes. We have had nights too heat to get in a sleeping bag however too buggy to sleep with out the protection of a tent.
How to cope with this? First, a backpacking quilt helps. The versatility of a quilt helps manage the hotter nights. You can utterly open it up and only cowl a half of your physique. As the night cools down, cover up more. Want to learn more about quilts? Check out this video.
Another AT technique is to dump a few of the cold-weather gear you’ve been carrying for the South. Most hikers dump their cold-weather gear somewhere in Virginia—but resist the temptation to send it home too quickly. It’s not uncommon for a late-season storm to dump some snow in Mt. Rogers in Virginia. Especially if you’re ahead of the pack, Harper’s Ferry is a a lot safer place to dump cold-weather gear.
Heavier layers and heavier rain gear may be switched out for summer-weight layers and less-robust rain gear. You can also change up your worn clothing for looser, lighter gadgets similar to shorts, skirts, and sun shirts.
Related: The Best Thru-hiking Shorts
Read More: The Best Women’s Running Shorts
A rattlesnake on the AT in PA.
The mosquitoes may be fierce. If you didn’t carry a bug head web earlier, now’s the time to select one up. If you’re carrying shorts or a skirt, you’ll likely want an excellent insect repellent as nicely.
You’ll be traveling via grassy areas which are infamous for ticks, such as round Palmerton, Pennsylvania. Although the heat may make you need shorts, the best choice is to cowl up with light-colored pants. Whether you’re carrying shorts or not, use DEET and deal with your clothing with Permethrin during a zero day. Ticks and Lyme illness are serious. See our section above for this trail-wide concern.
Pennsylvania specifically is identified as “Rocksylvania” among thru-hikers. Consider upgrading your footwear to one thing sturdier for this section. You might want trekking poles to assist with stability.
Keep a watch out for snakes, which wish to reside in rocky areas.
Mike Unger on a rocky part of the AT in PA.
While the lengthy water carries on the AT may seem short in comparability with Pacific Crest Trail, Continental Divide Trail, or Arizona Trail requirements, they nonetheless require planning and preparation.
Check your maps or apps to see the gap till the following water carry. The Far Out app consists of crowd-sourced data, which supplies you extra well timed info on the cleanliness of sources. While seasonal water often isn’t an issue on the AT, some spigots at campgrounds, for example, will not be working.
Expect to walk off-trail to succeed in some water sources within the mid-Atlantic. Sometimes, you’ll get water from campground pumps, like in New Jersey. Other instances, springs may be far down a hill from a shelter, just like the Darlington Shelter near Pearisburg, Pennsylvania. We advocate carrying some extra water-carrying luggage so if you should stroll far from a shelter to collect water, you’ll have sufficient for dinner and the following morning.
The mid-Atlantic section of the AT is arguably an important part to keep taking electrolytes throughout the day. Pick up some electrolytes and add them to your water. You’ll be sweating throughout the day in the warmth, and heat exhaustion can occur even on the AT.
Liz at Sunfish Pond in New Jersey.
The mid-Atlantic can feel a bit tedious to some hikers. However, there are good methods to cope. First, discover other ways to problem your self. Check the calendar—you might have to select up the tempo to complete earlier than fall involves Mount Katahdin. Use the longer days and flatter terrain to your benefit and challenge your self to pick up extra miles every single day.
Second, if you didn’t already choose up some podcasts and audiobooks for Virginia, this may be a good time to do it.
Naomi Hudetz on the summit of Mt. Katahdin in Maine.
NEW ENGLAND (CONNECTICUT TO MOUNT KATAHDIN)
States lined: Connecticut (49.3 miles), Massachusetts (85.eight miles), Vermont (143.0 miles), New Hampshire (146.6 miles), Maine (259.5 miles)
Distance: 684.2 miles
Elevation Gain: a hundred seventy five,712’
Elevation Loss: one hundred seventy,955’
Minimum Elevation: 6,137’
Maximum Elevation: 271’
New England has a few of the most stunning, difficult, and rugged areas of any lengthy trail. A gradual transition takes place round Connecticut and Massachusetts. You start getting into the subalpine zone at Mt. Greylock in Massachusetts and spend miles within the alpine zone within the White Mountains in New Hampshire.
The path will get steeper and rockier again. You’ll get above treeline on windswept balds coated in moss and “miniature Christmas tree” forests of Balsam Pine. You’ll stroll along bogs and lakes occupied by loons, beaver, and moose. Fall shade in New England is legendary. The boreal forest with the eerie call of the white-throated sparrow is a magical place in summer time and fall.
Autumn comes early this far north. Whether you reach Maine in June or October, many AT hikers have no less than a couple of days of cold rain. That being said, the steep climb up White Face Mountain can work up a sweat on a summer season day. Some days could be hot and humid. Black flies or mosquitoes may provide you with bother.
New England has loads of sections that require hand-over-hand scrambling like Mahoosuc Notch and Mahoosuc Arm in Maine and the Presidential Traverse in New Hampshire. It’s practically unimaginable to not slip and fall no much less than as soon as in New England.
Liz Thomas crossing the Kennebec River within the Appalachian Trail canoe ferry.
Many river crossings in Maine don’t have bridges and can be thrilling, particularly after a rainstorm. One river, the Kennebec, should be crossed by canoe (during the season, a boatman hired by the Maine Appalachian Trail Conservancy operates it every day for free of charge to hikers).
Although you may be strong from 1,800 miles of hiking, don’t underestimate the challenges of New England. It is the most wild, distant, and physically demanding section of the AT, especially in New Hampshire and Maine. You go from the comparatively flat mid-Atlantic to day by day 5,000’+ climbs (depending on your mileage). When it’s foggy, navigating balds and summits can become troublesome.
The New England part goes by way of a few of the longest remote stretches of the AT, together with the (100 Mile Wilderness). Don’t count on much cell service. Whether you finish the trail during the peak of summer and huckleberry season or in the course of the fall colours, the final 500 miles of the AT are arguably the most effective miles of the AT.
RECOMMENDED GEAR FOR NEW ENGLAND AT
Mt. Washington is certainly one of the highest elevation points on the AT and is known for having a few of the worst weather in the nation.
CHALLENGES AND STRATEGIES OF AT IN NEW ENGLAND
When you reach New England, you could want to upgrade your rain gear. AT thru-hikers ought to all the time carry a rain jacket—even in the mid-Atlantic. But the cooler temperatures in New England—especially in fall—increase your want for rain gear that may maintain you warm.
There is heavy brush alongside a lot of the trail. When wet, the brush creates a “car wash” impact, soaking you from the waist down. A rain kilt is a good possibility for thru-hikers. Also, contemplate waterproof over mittens to help hold your palms dry.
Related: The Best Rain Jackets
Related: The Best Rugged & Waterproof Cameras
RUGGED TRAIL, MORE ELEVATION GAIN, FEWER MILES PER DAY
New England is probably the most physically difficult section of the AT. It looks like nearly every single day is a brand new three,000+ foot climb—with some days more like 5,000+ climbs with 1,000 ft in a mile.
If you finish in September, you’ll notice the days begin getting shorter. You may think about upgrading your headlamp. See our Best Headlamps information for recommendations.
Regardless of if you finish, you should plan for lower mileage days and day after day of rain.
Some sections require hand-over-hand scrambling. Be ready to fold down your trekking poles and generate heat transferring. Some of these sections appear nearly vertical, with 1,000+ feet of acquire in a mile.
A part of the AT that requires ascending a ladder.
Occasionally, ladders and rebar are drilled into the rock to make it simpler. You may have gotten a taste for this in the Lemon Squeezer in Harriman State Park in New York, however New England is excessive. When wet or icy, slabby granite may be slippery.
MORE LIMITED CAMPING AREAS
The steep and rugged terrain limits your camping choices in New England. Hikers aren’t allowed to camp in fragile ecosystems above treeline (not that it might be a pleasant experience), so you’ll have to plan your day’s mileage to end at an appropriate site. See the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s camping chart at the backside of this page for more particulars.
FEES AND WORK FOR STAY AT SOME CAMPSITES
The Appalachian Mountain Club and the Maine Appalachian Trail Conservancy function a quantity of shelters and huts in New England that require thru-hikers to pay a small charge to partially offset the costs of path maintenance within the space and the wage of the shelter caretaker.
While it’s straightforward to get bummed about having to pay to remain at shelters after months of free lodging (especially as hikers run low on funds in path of the tip of the hike), you get lots for the charge. These are typically a variety of the nicest shelters on the trail. Sometimes, they’ve facilities like canoes you’ll have the ability to take on a lake or kitchens and pancakes.
The precise price of getting a human hold issues tidy at the shelter is estimated to be 50% of the price of the fee. Caretakers often do a full day of trail maintenance in the space, together with constructing lavatory bridges and rock walls. They’ll coordinate helicopter search and rescues. They also hold shelters clean, dry, and free of rodents. Given the amount of users and the cooler climate of New England, it can take one person 1/3rd of their working day simply to stir composting bathrooms.
Some huts and camps, similar to within the White Mountains, have work-for-stay applications for thru-hikers (2 per hut and four for Lake of the Clouds). This thru-hiker and hut employee has tips on how to safe work-for-stay. Expect to work 2 hours scouring pots, nevertheless it comes with a dry place indoors and hot meals.
New England is extra remote and wild than different sections of the trail. There are fewer towns—especially in Maine—and usually distant. Cell phone reception is less widespread, particularly in comparison with the mid-Atlantic.
In the previous years, there’s been at least one distinguished case of AT hikers going missing in Maine and not being found for years. If you aren’t already carrying one, consider carrying a personal locator device for this section. Devices like the Garmin inReach let you two-way textual content with the oldsters again at residence in the course of the important sections that don’t have cell reception.
We additionally suggest carrying a cellphone app that exhibits the road of the AT. Forests may be dense in Maine. It’s simple to lose the path when you step away from it to alleviate yourself. Always maintain observe.
Liz Thomas in the White Mountains with Mount Lafayette within the background.
WHITE MOUNTAIN LOGISTICS FOR AT HIKERS/ APPALACHIAN MOUNTAIN CLUB HUTS & TENT SITES
The Appalachian Trail passes via the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire, one of the lovely ranges in the Wild East. It’s residence to Mt Washington, notorious for dangerous weather and wind. It’s additionally residence to the Appalachian Mountain Club hut-to-hut system, paying homage to these found in Europe.
Thru-hikers can often purchase sizzling or chilly drinks and baked items (remember to convey cash!) from AMC huts. They is often a dry place to take a relaxation whereas traversing the rugged terrain of the Whites.
One problem of the Whites is restricted legal camping choices. Due to the rugged terrain, fragile ecosystem, and popularity of the White Mountains, you’ll have to plan your campsites rigorously. This Appalachian Mountain Club guide demystifies the camping options and has recommendations for where you’ll find a way to and can’t camp.
Liz Thomas on the summit of Mt. Katahdin.
APPALACHIAN TRAIL NORTHERN TERMINUS: MOUNT KATAHDIN
While it’s not traditional gear, many hikers like to ship themselves one thing special in their last resupply box (likely in Monson, Maine, before the one hundred Mile Wilderness) to enjoy at the border when they finish.
Whether you intend to put on a fancy dress, get pleasure from a treat, or rejoice with the photo of a loved one, or take a photograph with a nicer camera—the finish of the path is an accomplishment you’ll want to document. Make it particular. However, be conscious of different users. Baxter State Park requests that thru-hikers make their finish a quiet affair with at most—a small variety of folks. Remember that this may be a wilderness and many individuals hike within the park for solitude. Practice Leave No Trace ethics.
AT THRU-HIKER BAXTER STATE PARK MT. KATAHDIN PERMIT LOGISTICS
Mt. Katahdin has some logistical challenges for thru-hikers. It’s located in Baxter State Park, which requires thru-hikers to acquire an AT Thru-hiker card before summiting and has a restricted number of cards obtainable per year. Thru-hikers should camp in designated thru-hiker areas, and camping isn’t obtainable after October 22nd. Familiarize your self with Baxter State Park’s regulations.
The Appalachian Trail Conservancy additionally has an extensive FAQ, together with logistic data within the unlikely occasion that the park is no longer issuing thru-hiker permits.
Ready to hike one other trail? See our PCT Southbound Gear List & Strategy.
Why you need to belief us
Liz Thomas has thru-hiked the AT twice. A former Fastest Known Time (FKT) document holder on the Appalachian Trail, she has additionally hiked the PCT and CDT and is a Triple Crowner, along with having thru-hiked 20 other long trails. She’s co-founder and editor in chief of Treeline Review. She’s the author of Long Trails: Mastering the Art of the Thru Hike, which gained the National Outdoor Book Award. You can learn all her gear articles here and on her personal website, in addition to on Wikipedia.
Mike Unger has thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail twice. He’s one of few folks on the planet who’s a Double Triple Crowner, having accomplished the PCT, Appalachian Trail, and Continental Divide Trail each twice. You can see all articles by Mike Unger on his Treeline Review creator web page.
Naomi Hudetz has thru-hiked the AT, PCT, and CDT and is a Triple Crowner. She’s co-founder and on-line editor at Treeline Review. She’s thru-hiked quite a few other distance routes together with the Great Divide Trail across the Canadian Rockies (twice), Grand Enchantment Trail, Pacific Northwest Trail, the Arizona Trail, (most of) the Idaho Centennial Trail, the first recognized thru-hike of the Blue Mountains Trail, and the Oregon Desert Trail. You can read all her articles on her Treeline Review creator web page