Looking for a virtual mentor/new friend
Nov 26, 2021 at 11:41 am #3733228
Hello new hiking/backpacking family. I’ve heard this is THE group to join to find the most awesome and welcoming group so here I am!
I’m 39, I’m a production planner and attending BU for my masters in project management, I also train 3 horses. None of that matters except to say, I’m a busy lady! I grew up camping and hiking but have decided to do a two week trip down the Appalachian next year. I’m starting around Virginia and going up I think. I can only get 2 weeks off from work at a time so I’ll have to piece it together when I can. I’m not in the best shape of my life right now and I have already joined the gym and even have a trainer to help get a dedicated plan going.
For someone going for two weeks and I’m only 5’0″ and 114 lbs. I am asking for your advice, a list, or point me somewhere else for the following;
Shoes-Best shoes with arch support for a long journey
What are some essentials to consider/pack? Clothing, food, water etc.
I am backpacking with my dear friend, but she also hasn’t made this type of trip before. We would be thrilled to find a person/group to help be our backpacking mentors/friends or heck, let’s go together! We are down to earth, not afraid of challenges, don’t complain, and would love to learn more about the wilderness in general.
I look forward to hearing from you!
Eleanor-MaineNov 26, 2021 at 11:53 am #3733229dirtbagBPL Member
Oh boy! Wish I could help. Ill start with welcome aboard. You will have to do your homework and research and try different things.. Then do it all again, and again and again.. Get outside with whatever gear you get or have and figure out what works for you! If I recommend to you what I think or what I use, you may never come back here or go camping again!! Its a !it of trial and error.. At least from my end. It is fun and I enjoy it, but honestly there is no quick fix get this and you are all set. Best of luck to you and like I said, which ever way you end up going, make sure you practice with it and use it and learn it before you run out on a 2 week trip.Nov 26, 2021 at 11:58 am #3733230
Ha! Sounds like some sage advice there, it certainly wouldn’t be wise to buy the gear and hope for the best! :) I will keep digging!Nov 26, 2021 at 1:09 pm #3733235dirtbagBPL Member
I’m sure others will chime in and throw some ideas your way. Do you want a free standing tent or trekking pole support tent? 1 person , 2 person, 3 person? You will get plenty of ideas from everyone here. Do you have any gear at all or are u starting from scratch with nothing? Do you have a budget? The gear swap forum on this site can be useful also to buy and sell new/used gear.Nov 26, 2021 at 2:00 pm #3733236Jerry AdamsBPL Member
@retiredjerryLocale: Oregon and Washington
meetup.com has groups that go backpacking. That might help you.
or other local groups.
maybe the sierra clubNov 26, 2021 at 2:26 pm #3733237Mark VerberBPL Member
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I am sure you will be able to find someone in the SLC area.
You have started on the most important thing which is getting into shape.
You are going to need something that works for a short torso. My wife (and my daughter when she was younger) were 5ft. It took a bit to find light weight packs they were comfortable with. What we purchased are no longer made. I am sure there are some folks here that can make suggestions. Generally I would recommend a light weight pack (say 1.5-3lb) which has a frame sheet and/or stay(s) rather than a ultralight frameless or a heavy weight pack. Volume will depend on what the rest of your gear is, but I would expect between 40-60L volume.
Depends :) How much are you planning to use the shelters along the way? Do you want 2 solo shelters or share one with your friend? Do you like sleeping in a hammock (which works really well along the AT… not so well above tree line when in the west). I am very fond of the shelters made by Tarptent.com
Shoes-Best shoes with arch support for a long journey
Find trail runners which work well for you. Look for large toe boxes that let your toes spread out which is especially import on long hikes where you feet will swell some. As for arch support, I recommend people work on increasing their foot strength / health to minimize the need for significant arch support.
What are some essentials to consider/pack? Clothing, food, water etc.
A bunch of years ago I collected a bunch of information for getting started for some friends. I haven’t updated it awhile, but it could be useful to you: https://verber.com/backpack-start/Nov 26, 2021 at 3:56 pm #3733243Monte MastersonBPL Member
@septimiusLocale: Changes Often
When you say you’re attending BU I assume you mean Boston University?
Whiteblaze.net is a good place to connect with AT backpackers. https://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/content.php
I was a farrier for 30 years, so if you’re used to maintaining horses then the highest quality ultralight backpacking gear should seem cheap by comparison. You probably think I have an ego since I was a farrier and I plead guilty, but here’s what I’d suggest for your big 4 items
* Pack – Zpacks Arc Air 50 short torso. Only weighs about 20 oz, but has a good frame and hipbelt. It’s at the cutting edge of ultralight.
* Tent – ZPacks Hexamid Solo tent with detachable Solo bathtub floor. You’ll of course need bug protection on the AT and the Hexamid is great for smaller people. Very light with a small footprint and easy to set up. Weighs under 20 oz for stakes and all. The DCF material holds very little water, unlike silnylon and silpoly.
* Sleeping Bag – Western Mountaineering Megalite (30 degree rating) 5′ 6″ length. WM is the gold standard.
* Pad – Thermarest NeoAir X-Lite women’s.
As far as shoes and clothing I couldn’t say because those things depend so much on the individual and that can vary greatly. However, I do strongly suggest Montbell for puffy jacket, rain jacket and wind Anorak. https://www.montbell.us/products/index.php?cat_id=2&gen_cd=2Nov 26, 2021 at 5:40 pm #3733244matthew kModerator
Hike a lot. Ask questions.
Definitely look at trail runners not hiking boots.
Why the AT? Just curious.Nov 26, 2021 at 6:37 pm #3733249John S.BPL Member
Watch a bunch of lightweight backpacking videos on youtube and review gearlists. Buy stuff at REI and if you don’t like it, you can return easily. My brother got an rei backpack, rei tent, enlightened equipment quilt (some prefer katabatic quilts) and likes them all.Nov 26, 2021 at 7:10 pm #3733258AK GranolaBPL Member
You say you grew up camping and hiking, but not backpacking specifically? You’re at an advantage in that the woods won’t intimidate you, and you’re starting at a time when there are loads of options in lightweight gear. New stuff isn’t cheap though.
I think used gear is totally the way to go when starting out. Once you have a better sense of how it all works you can buy newer gear, and sell the old stuff. Or maybe you’ll love what you found. That said, try on all the backpacks in your size at your local outdoor store and load them up with 25 pounds of stuff and walk around the store so you have a feel for what you like and know how it fits your torso. Then see if you can find something similar that’s used.
Does BU have rental gear that you can try out for short trips? You want a few shake down trips anyway to learn what not to bring. If you and your friend each try different rental gear, you can compare notes.
Stick with the main gear pieces and don’t get sucked into doodads. Having lots of little junk is annoying to pack and unpack, it’s heavy and 90% is totally unnecessary. And when you do get sucked into acquiring something ridiculous, don’t feel bad because we have all done it. The backpacking French press coffee maker only went once…Nov 27, 2021 at 8:53 pm #3733309Bruce TolleyBPL Member
@btolleyLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
+1 to what Karen said.
For shoes, you might try the same strategy Karen recommends for backpacks. Go to your local outdoor store and try various models out. I personally like Oboz shoes because they have a wide toe box and very firm arch support.Nov 27, 2021 at 9:51 pm #3733313DanBPL Member
Devil’s advocate here. I would recommend starting with a few shorter trips to really beautiful places to figure things out. The AT isn’t going anywhere, you can always do it in the future … if you absolutely have to hike the same ant-trail that everyone else does.Nov 28, 2021 at 12:38 am #3733315Luke SchmidtBPL Member
Welcome to the club! It can be overwhelming so here are a few ideas. Check out Andrew Skurka’s book, “Ultimate Hikers Gear Guide.” Worth a read.
Think of your gear as a system. Everything is connected.
1. Pick a shelter. Do you want to hammock camp? Some love it but it might be a rabbit trail for later. You probably want a tent of some kind.
2. Pick your sleep system next. You want a good pad assuming you will be sleeping on the ground. Also a sleeping bag or quilt.
3. Get all your clothes, cooking gear etc sorted out.
4. Buy the pack last. The weight and bulk of your other stuff determines the pack. Obviously try to be light.
Also think about your goals and company. I used to hike 20+ mile days with a light pack. I was only in my camp site to eat and sleep. No need for luxuries. If I was camping at 6 PM and talking with friends till 10 PM I might bring more comfort items. It’s all about your goals.
The AT has its own beauty especially if you hike in an uncrowded area/time. It’s a good beginner trail. Barring a really bad decision or really bad weather it’s hard to get in too much trouble there. It a good place to make mistakes.Nov 28, 2021 at 7:02 am #3733318Paul WagnerBPL Member
@balzaccomLocale: Wine Country
You’re getting lots of good advice here, and I would add only one thing. I’ll bet NONE of the people posting answers to your question here are currently using the first tent, backpack or shoes that they bought to go hiking. That’s not only because most of us have been at it for a while, and our equipment has been replaced over time. It’s also because as we hiked and camped and backpacked, we kept learning things, and our decision-making has evolved over time.
All that is a long way to say that you should go ahead and buy what you think you need, but don’t worry about making a perfect decision on everything. If you do fall in love with this activity, you will almost certainly acquire more and/or different gear over time. Do not overlook buying used gear at first if it’s in good condition. Lots of people start backpacking and then decide they’d rather do something else.
I’ve outfitted quite a few friends with gear from thrift shops: backpacks, fleeces, raingear, etc. Tents and shoes/boots are harder to find. Sleeping bags are the toughest…Nov 28, 2021 at 9:17 am #3733324Monte MastersonBPL Member
@septimiusLocale: Changes Often
A lot of very knowledgeable backpackers giving advice here, but obviously none are horse people. Eleanor attends an elite university and trains (owns?) 3 horses. Since she resides in the Northeast her mounts are probably Hunter-Jumpers, Dressage, Arabians or Morgans. Training for those disciplines is between $900 to $1500 a month each, and there’s also the expenses of shoeing, hauling fees to shows, tack, clothes and vet bills (which can be staggering). It is a game for people with substantial means, so the whole idea of used gear, thrift stores and generally being frugal doesn’t apply to people like her. I could be totally wrong and perhaps Eleanor could reply and set me straight, but I’d be willing to bet that she wants our opinions on what we believe to be the best quality gear choices so she can head out on the trail well equipped with the lightest stuff, especially since she’s petite.
In her OP Eleanor asks for recommendations on “Backpack-Brand/size?” and “Tent-Brand/size?”. Instead of being vague why not throw caution to the wind and just give her your advice on what you believe to be the best gear? After all, she provides us her height, weight, where and when she will be backpacking. Shouldn’t be too hard really, at least for the big 4 items.
And you can’t try on the best cutting-edge ultralight cottage gear at REI. They of course carry the heavy mainstream Chinese made stuff the traditional backpacking masses go for. No ZPacks Arc Air packs or Tarptent Aeon Li tents. No Enlightened Equipment or Katabatic quilts. Western Mountaineering bags can be found at a few brick and mortar stores, but not many. The best pads however can be tried out at REI.
Rental gear is always the heavy bomber stuff. But I must say that buying top notch cottage gear on Gearswap is a good idea, no matter how deep someone’s pockets are because so many of the items are practically new.Nov 28, 2021 at 9:46 am #3733330
WOW!! I’m impressed, what a phenomenal group of people sharing their advice, thank you!Nov 28, 2021 at 9:52 am #3733333
While you’re right in a sense, I grew up riding hunter-jumper, I have no desire for it now. I own an Arabian/Paint gelding and have two off the track Standardbred rescues. I also spent a year training a feral mustang! I do some light ringwork, lots of groundwork, and stick to the trails most of the time. You’re also correct, when I was in the show-ring, it was non stop expenses, now I board 3 and that’s enough with vet/farrier etc. I don’t shoe my horses though so the farrier bill isn’t too bad, I use Scoot Boots instead. That being said, I don’t typically have a ton of money to spend as I have 3 horses and obtaining my Masters at BU isn’t cheap either. I’m not opposed by any means to purchase used gear, but I would rather know the gear I’m buying is still quality.Nov 28, 2021 at 9:53 am #3733334
That’s a great point to make. I imagine I’ll go through the gambit as well, it’s just nice to have some starting points and brand ideas for quality made gear. I plan on using REI/EMS or the local mountain gear store to help me at least get fitting ideas etc. :)Nov 28, 2021 at 9:56 am #3733335
Thank you for the guide suggestion, I will certainly check this out! I know it’s strange that I live in Maine and I’m not starting in Maine, but I want to go down south first and work my way up as I’ve heard people say it gets harder the more north you hike. Ease my way into it while giving more time/practice to find the perfect fitting gear etc. I forgot about the pad!Nov 28, 2021 at 9:57 am #3733336
I’m not going to buy the gear and head to the AT, that’s for sure. :) I’ll do more local stuff/overnights etc. while I choose the right gear. I know there are a ton of options here in Maine.Nov 28, 2021 at 9:59 am #3733337
Yes, I’ve done multiple camping trips and grew up in the woods of New Hampshire, so I’m more at home in the forest than anywhere else. I can’t understand these beach-crazy-kids! You also made a great point as well, don’t get too lost in the doodads!Nov 28, 2021 at 10:04 am #3733338
Dirtbag, can I call you Mr. Dirtbag at least? :)
I’m starting from scratch really. I have a bunch of day-hiking kind of stuff, but not serious gear. Thank you for the tip about the trainers vs. hikers, I don’t see walking that far in hiking boots as a smart option. I have 3 horses to support, so definitely on a budget but I don’t want to buy gear that’s not up to the task either, so a good used option will be my best friend.Nov 28, 2021 at 10:06 am #3733339
Fantastic idea with not forgetting to strengthen my feet. I enjoy indoor rock climbing but will have to look at other exercises. I appreciate the suggestion for the backpack as well, why do you suggest staying away from frameless, just less support?Nov 28, 2021 at 10:09 am #3733340
I didn’t even think of looking into BU (yes, Monte, I’m referring to Boston University) as having rental gear, great suggestion!Nov 28, 2021 at 10:30 am #3733346jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
It’s hard to make recommendations for shoes/boots without knowing the particulars of your feet. some will swear by lightweight trail runners, and others run the gamut up to light boots. Footwear is very personal, so take any recommendations with a grain of salt. I will say that blisters can ruin a trip. So: here’s my blister recipe that has taken the sting out of many blisters (and of course, don’t get them in the first place is the best advice!)
-coat with tincture of iodine
-place foam moleskin on blister with a diamond cut out in the center to relieve pressure
-wrap with Leukotape all around the foot, carefully, so that there are no wrinkles
If you begin to develop a hot spot–and this often happens right off the bat, in the first hour of hiking–don’t ignore it! Stop and take care of the issue, including wrapping the hot spot.
I can’t recall now if I used to add one more very thin bandage over the blister before applying the moleskin.
Sorry to go off on this! It is important to go light. But bring a good pad! It’s possible to be light but comfortable at the same time.
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