Appalachian Trail Preparation: Tips and Reminders That Don’t Have to Do With the Physical Aspect of Things

Spring has Sprung, well kind of here in Massachusetts, that’s what the calendar says, but the ground says otherwise, but we’re slowly getting there.

You can almost feel the warm sun hitting your skin while hiking on a trail and for once it hits above 60 consistently for more than two days. I’ve been dreaming about this for weeks now, because I’m sick of the cold weather right now.

For some spring means the usual spring cleaning and patiently waiting for summer to come, for some hikers it’s a completely different story.

AT sign on the trail, photo File, WBIR

For some hikers they’re getting ready to embark on something they’ve probably been prepping for all winter: hiking the Appalachian Trail (AT).

If you’re going north bound, which typically has been and probably will always be the most popular way to start, the best time to start this journey is between March 1st and April 15th. That way you can reach Baxter State Park in Maine before October 15th when the weather starts to get nasty.

But hold up, before you embark on your great AT adventure, you have to do some prepping, as I said before this could be taking you all winter.

Now the physical preparation for hiking the AT is very important, something everyone tends to focus on, but people often forget when they daydream about hiking the AT there is more than just the physical preparation that goes into this journey.

There’s also the financial preparation that goes into it, because if we’re being honest it’s even expensive to live in the woods for 5 or 6 months while you’re hiking your little heart out. Don’t forget the whole gathering your gear and food too. Here I bring to you a few preparation tips and reminders that don’t have to do with the physical side of hiking the AT.

One of the many signs you’ll come across on the AT, this is a photo I took when I hiked about 10 miles of it this past fall.

1. Start Saving NOW
Like I said before, living in the woods can even be expensive, so as soon as this idea/goal of hiking the AT pops into your head you better start saving quickly. Just because you’re out in the woods for months on end doesn’t mean you can just ignore your bills while you’re away, not to mention the expenses on the trail too.

While you’re on your journey sometimes you’ll want to stop in town for a hot meal, shower, or a place to sleep for the night. You do that a couple of times and before you know it your money can start to dwindle down real quick. Also the Drop Boxes, Bump Boxes and Trail resupply will add up quickly too. You never know where your stops will take you or what they will cost. Adventure Possible has a great budgeting tool for you when planning your big thru-hike, you can find it here.

2. Plan Out Your Resupply

You want to sit down and take the time to carefully plan this out, because it matters a lot. The last thing you want to happen to you is you run out of something or not have something, because you didn’t plan it out right.

Drop Boxes, Bump Boxes, and Trail resupply will be your best friend. Sophia Knows goes more in depth between the differences of the three here. Also besides them being your best friend when it comes to the resupply for food and stuff, add some variety of food to your menu. Sitting at the kitchen table now planning it out Ramen might sound good 20 days in a row, but when you’re out there by day 10 you’ll probably want to burn it all.

Hikers going up Mount Buckley along the AT in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. (AP Photo/National Park Service)

3. Start Gathering Your Gear As Soon As Possible
You know how when you go on vacation and you’ve had like forever and a day to pack, but you still either wait until 11 p.m. the night before or the morning you leave to do it? Yeah, I don’t think you can pull that off when prepping the AT, sorry for people who are guilty of doing that (me included).

This is kind of like the money thing, where you should probably start gathering stuff ASAP. If you see something in the store you’ll need grab it, it’s never too early to start gathering all your stuff. Next thing you know it’s March and it’s a week before you leave and you’re running around like a chicken with your head cut off, because you’re hopping from store to store trying to find stuff, because you didn’t start this sooner. Also if you get all your stuff sooner rather than later you can have time to practice carrying it around and what not.

4. Do Your Research
Yes, hiking is a very simple concept anyone can do, throw in a little backpacking and it gets a little harder no big deal. Just remember this isn’t some three day trip you’re taking with your friends, this is a five or six month trip. Read all the blogs, articles, pages, anything about the AT to help you learn as much as you can. You’re gonna be out there a long time and need to learn about what you’re getting into so you’ll be safe and OK.

One of my favorite sources for any AT info is Homemade Wanderlust’s Youtube channel. Dixie has a lot of great content for answering any of your AT questions.

A worn out sign on the top of Mount Katahdin, photo by Beth J. Harpaz/AP

Now get out there and start prepping for your big AT adventure if you haven’t already the clock is ticking. If you’re not hiking the whole thing like most of us this year that’s OK too, you can still apply these reminders and tips if you’re just gonna section hike it or get a head start on prepping for next year.

As always happy hiking and good luck to those hiking the Appalachian Trail this Spring, Mount Katahdin is calling you!

PS feel free to leave some of your tips for hiking the AT in the comments below!

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