The Appalachian Trail is one of the top bucket list items for many hikers around the world. Its rich history, beautiful scenery, and challenging terrain make it one of the most formidable challenges backpackers can face. Millions of people hike segments of the Appalachian Trail every year, and it’s truly a life-changing experience. But how do you prepare for such a daunting task? Whether you’re planning to hike the whole trail or a short portion, preparation is key to a successful trip. Here are some tips for preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail!
What is the Appalachian Trail?
The Appalachian Trail is a famous hiking trail in the United States that extends from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine. It spans almost 2,200 miles and passes through 14 states. It is home to many animals, such as the black bear, species of eagle, foxes, boars, and more, as well as many beautiful plants. The Appalachian Trail is the longest walking trail in the world and takes, on average, 5 to 7 months to complete.
The idea of the Appalachian Trail was conceived in 1921 by Benton MacKaye, who wanted to connect the highest point in the north (Mount Washington) and the highest point in the south (Mount Mitchell). Over the last century, many locations have been added along the path, and entire organizations have dedicated themselves to maintaining and protecting the historic trail.
Preparing to Hike the Appalachian Trail
Hiking the Appalachian Trail sounds like fun, and anyone can enjoy the journey. After all, the oldest person to complete the trail was 83! But before you rush out the door, it’s important to prepare yourself. While not an impossible task, this massive footpath can be dangerous if you don’t plan ahead, and many hikers have lost their lives trying to conquer the Appalachian Trail. Here are a few ways to prepare yourself to ensure a great experience!
Determine Your Course
The first thing you need to do when preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail is determine which course you’re going to take. You can’t simply show up and start walking, or you’ll likely end up on a different trail or lost in the woods. Decide which portion of the trail you’re going to tackle. Are you going to start from the north, the south, or somewhere in between? If you choose to hike in the colder months, are you prepared to hike in the snow?
Once you’ve decided your route, look for places to stop along the trail. There are several lean-tos that hikers can access that offer shelter for those who don’t want to bring their own tent, but it’s important to know where they are ahead of time. You can also stop in several towns to restock your supplies if you’re on an extended hike.
Regardless of how much of the trail you’re planning to hike, charting your route ahead of time will keep you safe and let others know where you’ll be in case of an emergency.
The Appalachian Trail is physically demanding and hard on your body. If you’re not an experienced hiker, we recommend you start small and work your way up. An overnight hike is a great way to get a feel for things and make sure that backpacking is something you want to get into. Then, you can move your way into multi-night hikes, a week, and so on. Longer hikes are an excellent way to push yourself physically and test out new gear to make sure it will hold up over time.
Daily walks, runs, and other cardio exercises are great ways to start conditioning your heart and lungs. Remember that the trail will take you across multiple altitudes, and it’s harder to breathe on a ridgeline than it is in a valley.
Additionally, strength training is a necessary part of preparation. Get used to carrying weight, and take short runs and hikes with your backpack on to get used to the weight. A 5-pound tent may not seem like much on day one, but by day six, you’ll be feeling every single pound in your bag.
Budget Your Expenses
One of the things that most people neglect when preparing to hike the Appalachian Trail is their budget. For those who want to hike the entire trail, that means quitting your job for over six months. You’ll need to make sure your finances are in order to be able to afford to be out of work that long and any expenses you can expect during the hike itself.
Stopping in towns for food, showers, the occasional hotel, and other needs can add up over time. The more expenses you can plan out and account for ahead of time, the more prepared you’ll be. The last thing you want is to go home early due to financial issues.
Take a First-Aid Course
As we’ve already discussed, the Appalachian Trail can be dangerous. There’s no accounting for harsh weather, animal encounters, or illness. While some portions of the trial are quite popular, others are quite remote. Depending on where you are, you may not be able to reach out for immediate assistance when faced with a medical crisis.
Before attempting your hike, you should take a first-aid course geared towards hikers and campers that covers common injuries and what to do in a dangerous situation. A broken ankle, bruised ribs, or campfire burn can easily leave you stranded without help. It’s important to know how to take care of your injuries and push forward until you can obtain proper medical attention.
Invest in High-Quality Gear
Hiking the Appalachian Trail requires more than your old sneakers and high school backpack. Investing in quality hiking gear not only makes your trip easier but also safer. First of all, lightweight backpacking equipment will make all the difference during a long trip. You’ll start to feel uncomfortable after a few days, and after a while, you’ll begin to notice every pound you’re carrying.
Additionally, you want your equipment to be durable. Imagine being two months into your journey when your tent suddenly decides it can’t repel water anymore. Shoes are another item that you should heavily invest in. If you’re going to spend 2,200 miles in your shoes, they should be comfortable and durable.
When it’s just you in the wild, you want to make sure that you can trust the tools you bring with you. That means investing in quality products like those at Omni Outdoor Living. If you need help preparing for a hike, or want to know the merits of one product over another, reach out to one of our outdoor professionals! We want you to stay safe out there and make lifelong memories, and that means investing in the right gear. We’ve got you covered!
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