Friday, July 20, 2007

Hiking the Appalachian Trail

If you have questions or comments about hiking the Appalachian Trail, this is the place to do it. I've got several pages and dozens of photos dedicated to my 2001 thru-hike at this link.


  1. Anonymous12:44 PM

    Hi Bruce, I came across your AT site while doing a search for lightweight hiking gear. After reading a few pages I discovered that you mentioned your friend Metro. I thought this was cool because I'm reading a book right now by Leslie “Gotta Hike” Mass, and she mentions Metro too! Small world.

    Thanks for your gear recommendations,

  2. Hi, I'm glad you found the list recommendations to be useful. How is that book? I'm glad Metro has become famous. It is a small world, isn't it?

  3. Anonymous7:02 AM

    I'm only half finished, but I am enjoying it. Most of the AT books I've found are written by men, so it's nice to read one from a women's perspective.

  4. Anonymous2:35 PM

    How does everybody get their trail name, and what does it approximately cost to hike the trail including gear and food?

  5. Some people get their trail names given to them. Some chose there own. Some use a combination of the two methods, by choosing among several proposed given names.

    My philosophy was to choose my own name. I thought it was more fun, and why let other people define me?

    is a great link where the cost of a thruhike is discussed.

  6. Anonymous7:20 PM

    How long in advance did you start planning for your trip? Where you already in fairly good shape or did you train for the trail? How safe is the trail to go alone as a 23 year old woman?

  7. Hi cae07290,

    I started seriously planning about 3 months before the trip although I had decided to do the trip about seven months before I left. Some people plan for years, others only for a couple of weeks.

    I was in good shape when I left, but many people train on the trail. The latter is very possible if you allow enough time, pace yourself and listen to your body. I'd recommend doing some training to test out your equipment and your skills, and to toughen your feet and muscles, however.

    The trail is fairly safe as long as you use common sense and pay attention to your instincts. Be selective on your rides when hitching into town, avoid camping at shelters near roads when possible, etc.

    Check out for a great forum with lots of talk about the A.T.

    Good luck!

    Buck aka Colter

  8. Anonymous10:10 AM

    Thanks Buck!

  9. Anonymous4:29 PM


    Thanks for posting on your AT experience. The amount of detail is helpful, especially with respect to your gear. As a middle-aged desk jockey with bad knees who doesn't get outdoors enough, I'll probably never hike the whole AT, but it seems like a section might be manageable. You are an inspiration to folks like me! Thanks again for sharing your knowledge.

  10. Hi Slim,

    Thanks! Enjoy your hikes. You might have more life left in you knees than you think.


  11. Anonymous9:38 AM

    Hey! I am a student at Clemson University in South Carolina. I am planning a 4 day backpacking trip along the Appalachian Trail. I would love some advice as to the best place to start on the trail in Georgia or Tennessee?


  12. This type of question is an excellent one to ask at whiteblaze. There are many people who spend a lot more time on the AT in that section than I have. The search function at whiteblaze may also help you find posts already addressing your questions.

    Good luck on your hike!


  13. Hi, I have been wanting to hike the AT for some time now but choosing the right gear is just overwhelming. I have read your gear advice page and liked it. I know you said you really didn't have to bring that much food but you did say you would for like four or five days at a time. If so what was it and how much. Thanks John

  14. There is a wide variety of food that will work, nevertheless there are some thru-hiker standards such as Pop-tarts, oatmeal and granola bars; energy bars, nuts, jerky, tuna fish in foil packs, bagels and cheese; rice, Liptons/Knorrs "Sides" pouches (rice, pasta) etc. Whatever you carry should be almost all "dry" food, no canned goods or the like. Your food should add up to about 2 lbs per day until you have a feel for how much to carry. I highly recommend a few evenings visiting Good luck!

  15. Anonymous12:07 PM

    Hi! I've always dreamed of hiking the AT, it looks really exciting and chalanging!
    What was your favorite part of the trail? and which part was the hardest and most tiring?
    Right now I'm only 13 yrs old but I hope I hike it some day!
    one more question: Is there any thing you would have done differently on the trail?
    Bt the way: I hiked katadin last summer!

  16. Anonymous12:08 PM

    What time of year is it best to start the whole AT?

  17. The AT IS exciting and challenging and it can be just plain difficult. New Hampshire and Maine were probably my favorite stretches of trail, but there were nice sections the whole way. New Hampshire is likely the hardest part because of the steepness and sometimes severe weather.

    That's great that you hiked Katahdin, and I hope you get to hike the whole trail someday!

    For northbounders, April 1 or so is a good starting date. Some people start as early as February but the weather is much colder then, and most people who have the ability to finish the trail can do it in less than six months, so an April 1 start date makes sense to many.

    I was pretty happy with the way my hike went. If it were to do the trail this year I'd use a tent like the Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo, or possibly a shelter-hammock. For the warmest months I'd likely switch from a sleeping bag to a quilt, too.

  18. Anonymous9:08 AM

    How wonderul of you to create this blog and your website! Word-of-mouth is more inspiring than any guidebook, in my opinion.

    I do have a question for you. My husband and I love camping, hiking, and generally anything to do with being outside, and the thought of trekking through the wilderness for months on end is quite exciting. However, we are rather poor, and wonder what the estimated cost of such an endeavor is? We don't have much savings and likely never will, and wonder how people find the $$$ to support themselves when they're not actively working. We're not material people and don't exactly have anything to sell.

    What would you suggest, and how much did your trip, with purchase of gear and food, cost?

    Thank you so much!

  19. Hi Joanna, Financing a thru-hike is handled different ways by different people. Some hike on savings, some hike on loans from family, some just start and figure it out as they go, some run out of money on the trail and have to go home.

    The total cost varies dramatically. Just as some people might be able to get by with $10,000 a year in their normal lives while others need $100,000 to barely scrape by. There are likely individuals who spend $6,000 or more during a summer on the AT. I'll bet there are a few very frugal folks who spend closer to $1,000.

    One thing I'm confident of, you can make it happen if you want to. Check out this Whiteblaze thread that discusses the costs of a thru-hike: Good luck!


  20. Anonymous8:11 PM

    i would like to thank you for all of the advice you have provided I'm planing a hike far in the future given the fact I'm 15. age aside i plan to do a thru-hike in the summer of 2013 it's never to early to start planning. once again thanks for all the information

  21. Rachel6:31 PM

    Hi! You're blog is SO helpful. Thank you!
    I'm planning on hiking for about 2 weeks this summer in the northern part of the trail, perhaps MA. I have a few questions. First, do you think that I will need the long underwear and fleece layers? It seems unlikely that the temperature will drop to below 50 degrees. What do you suggest leaving out? Also, I know you've answered some questions about food but I was wondering whether you thought it would be possible to do a 2-week summer hike without a stove. If it is possible, what foods do you recommend?
    Thanks again!
    -Rachel, 19

  22. Hi Rachel,

    I'm glad you've found my blog to be helpful! You are right, you likely don't need both the fleece and long underwear during the summer. I'd probably leave the long underwear but I'd still carry the fleece. Most people prefer carrying a stove, but it'd definitely possible to backpack without one. It's your call. You can carry cheese, peanut butter, bagels, granola, candy bars, nuts, dried fruit etc. Eat any perishables first. Wander the aisles of a big grocery store and see what strikes your fancy.

    Have fun!


  23. Anonymous1:10 PM

    Hi, We are going to be visiting relatives in Fairfax, VA in a couple of weeks, and on the drive back to NY we would like to stop off somewhere where there is easy access to the AT - just to do a quick hike on it to say we did it. Do you recommend anywhere in Northern VA or even Southern PA to try this? Appreciating in advance all your help! ps - we LOVE reading your blog! Thanks!!!

  24. A quick hike on the AT sounds like fun. I think you can hardly go wrong picking a spot in VA. I'd recommend just looking at a road map, picking a spot where a road crosses the AT, and going for a walk and see what you get! Good luck with your trip and I hope you have a great time.

  25. Anonymous1:22 PM

    if i where to start in georgia where would my food drops be?

  26. Where or if to send mail drops is always subjective. Some people use two dozen or more, others none. For me, having a minimal number is the way to go.

    I'd suggest going to Whiteblaze and using the search function to search post titles for "drops." You'll get lots of good ideas.

    Here's what I wrote on my site not long after finishing the trail: If I were going to hike the AT again, the only drops I'd do is at Port Clinton, where there is virtually nowhere to buy food, Bear Mountain, where it's tough to get food unless you want to cross over to Ft. Montgomery, and Delaware Water Gap, which also doesn't have much unless you want to hitch to the next town.

    Perhaps things have changed. One thing you'll find on a thru-hike regardless of planning, is that flexibility is always required. If you have the will, you'll find a way to make it work, so I'd make the best call I could and then be adaptable. One option people often don't mention is mailing yourself packages from the trail, where and when you know you'll have a better idea what you want and where and when you'll want it.

  27. Anonymous1:31 PM

    I'm planning to thru-hike the AT my junior year of college. My parents are thinking about disowning me if I do though because they think it is too dangerous. They're convinced the the AT is the go-to hideout of every pervert and criminal that ever drew breath and say the only way I'm going is with a group. I'll be a college junior when I go, so I technically don't need their permission, but I was hoping a veteran thru-hiker like you might be able to calm some of their more ridiculous fears. I may be a smallish female but I'm pretty sure the AT is safer than some of those huge cities out there! Can you help?

  28. The Appalachian Trail IS safer than the big cities. There are less people on the trail. Plus, you will soon be traveling around people who will become your close friends and who will look out for your safety. You might be starting alone, but you won't be alone on the trail.

    People fear what they don't understand, and most people don't understand the Appalachian Trail. Once they do, their fears tend to melt away. Use good judgment and you'll be fine. Your parents don't need to worry.

  29. peachy keen9:03 PM

    the AT is so inspiring and i plan to go March-Sept. 2012, i'm giving myself seven months instead of six so i can take it all in.. i live in georgia so it'll be easy to begin but i've never been further than Asheville, NC in my travels.. so what is the weather like exactly? i'm assuming the months will be warmer and likely more moist, are there any tweaks you'd make to your gear list? also i do not understand how to pack food for that long and be able to carry it, whats the secret! i know what kinds of food to pack but how do you pack for 7 months!? i also have very long hair and terrified of ticks, how do i keep them away with out attracting mosquitoes(i say this because they say putting oils on your skin helps keep them away because they are attracted to the carbon released from our bodies) but i could only imagine all of the mosquitoes coming at me! AHHHH the more i think about it the more excited i become, but this food thing is bothering me the most i want to do it all but if i don't have food i can't function therefore i can't go all the way! :( and all of your advice is so helpful! ha ha and sorry for all of the questions i'm just real passionate about the AT and the wonders of nature. the most amazing things in this world is the air we breathe, the water we drink, and the food the earth provides.. that's truly all you need in this life and what better way than on the AT.. can't wait to hear back and thanks again for your help and for reading this damn novel ha ha

  30. Hi Peachy Keen,

    It's fun to be excited about an adventure, isn't it?

    The weather, not surprisingly, varies wildly. In early March you will likely encounter cold and snow. In the depths of summer there will be heat and humidity. There will be beautiful sunny days and days it will rain.

    Most people do tweak their gear list as the trip progresses, starting out with warmer gear then mailing some home when they are certain the cold has passed, then having it mailed back to them up north.

    Food and resupply seems like a big worry but it's pretty easy to buy food along the way. I'd recommend reading thru Whiteblaze, including this resupply article.

    Here's a good article on dealing with ticks.

    Most beginning A.T. thru-hikers have the same type of questions and concerns that you have now. Have fun with your planning and good luck on your hike!

  31. Anonymous5:45 PM

    Hey. So I'm starting to plan a AT trip for February or March and ending in either August or September. I've never really been on a long hiking trip, but I was in the Amazon for three weeks this past summer. So my experience is limited.

    when is the best time to start my trip?

    do you think it'd be better if i brought other people along since I lack in experience?

  32. Personally, I wouldn't start in February unless pressed for time. I started in late March and would do so again. Most people who finish a thru-hike do so in 5 or 6 months. April, May, June, July, August is 5 months, with September if you need it.

    You will meet people and make friends on the trail. It's difficult to start and finish a hike this long with the same people. I'd recommended going for a long hike of 1 or 2 weeks first to make sure it's something you'll really want to do for months straight. Good luck!

  33. Julia8:54 AM

    Buck my partner and I were planning on hiking the AT over the next decade or so. yes yes. I know...thats a long time. However, we live in Chicago and have small children, so we cannot take off months at a time to hike. We are going to start in June or so of 2012 in Georgia. How many miles is it from Springer Mountain to the NC border (or closest stopping point, where we can have our car left)? We are trying to figure out how to divide up the trip. Thank you!

  34. Lone Hiker4:46 PM


    I plan to do a thru hike on the AT and will more than likly do it alone. I was wondering if the loneliness of the hike would be enough to discourage you to quit?

    Lone Hiker

  35. I am unusual perhaps in that I hardly ever get lonely. This summer I was in a remote area of Alaska and didn't talk to anyone for 3 weeks and it didn't bother me.

    On the Appalachian Trail you can easily find people to talk to and camp with, your fellow hikers along the trail. It can be just about as social or solitary as you like. Some people do get homesick though, and it's a common reason for going home.

  36. Hi Julia,

    Sorry for the long delay in responding. Check out these links for distances and road crossings:

    If it were me I'd buy the A.T. Guidebook to carry and have on hand:

    Good luck with your hiking!


  37. Hi Buck,

    Three of my friends and I are planning a section hike starting in North Carolina this summer and were wondering if we could cut down on the size of our backpacks. We'll skip the thermals since it's summer and our sleeping bags should be a little lighter (30 degrees max). With a 4 of us splitting up cookware, a light shelter, etc, is a 50-60L pack per person reasonable?

    Thanks for your help!

  38. Hi Amy,

    It's probably doable, but it really depends on the person and how they pack and even if they have, say, more compressible down sleeping bags rather than bulkier synthetic bags.

    Good luck!


  39. Anonymous1:38 PM

    Hi Bruce, My dad and I are wanting to hike on the AT for about three days in mid-June. We are thinking of doing the first 30 miles so we end up at Neels Gap. Do you think these first 30 miles are worth it, scenery-wise? Or is there another leg of the trail that you would suggest? We do not want to start too far north, though, because of the amount of time it would take us to drive there.

    Thanks in advance!


  40. Hi Liz,

    The Appalachian Trail is sometimes called "the Long Green Tunnel" for lack of views in the trees. Nonetheless, there are some nice views in that stretch of trail.

    One reason that would be an interesting length of trail is it is the setting for countless beginning trekkers heading north to Maine.

    I think you'll enjoy it. Have fun!

  41. Anonymous5:26 PM

    Hey Colter,
    Just dropping a line to thank you for your post I REALLY want to do a thru hike but those nasty logisics are getting in the way. I live in Northern Va. so I might just hop on around Harpers Ferry and head south to Ga. I figured going south would be mostly down hill...Ha Ha Just kidding! I read your entire report on AT (and so I won't regurgitate ques. you already posted the answers to) I found it incredibly helpful and sobering especially the part on "are you ready?" EVERYONE needs to read that part. I also enjoyed your equipment reviews...very helpful. I am primarily going on this trip to get lost and find myself at the same time. I plan to hit the trail head 1Apr2013 and go minimalist style as I have no need for "bells and whistles" I guess what I'm trying to say is thank you so much for this blog it has served as a driving force and an inspiration for me to complete this journy and maybe one day we'll cross paths

  42. I'm glad you found the information useful, and I hope you find what you're looking for on the trail.

    All the best.


  43. Anonymous6:15 AM

    hi buck! My name is Christine and I'm sixteen years old. I live in flat land Florida and have grown up in the wrong state! My dad and I are high pointers starting just a year ago and we are more than half way done already. This next upcoming year we are going to Wyoming to do Gannett peakwhich is going to be an experience. I know I'm only only sixteen, but I have wanted to do this since I was a kid. I graduate this year and thinking very hard about it. Any comments or tips? Thanks!

  44. Hi Christine,

    I think you are on the right track with getting out there and getting some experience with your outdoor skills.

    The Gannett Peak climb sounds awesome. Haven't climbed that peak but as a flatlander it will be important to respect the altitude. For example, don't run straight up to 11,000 feet and camp or you might suffer from the altitude. "Climb high sleep low" is good advice.

    Have fun!

  45. Brigette and Rachel are on the trail, having left GA around the middle of April, heading north. Can you help me find them? It may be hard to stay in touch with them by phone, but I wanted to know that they are safe.

    Rick (Jonathan's dad)

  46. Hi Rick,

    They will have phone coverage often. Whether they get around to calling is another matter! You might ask about there whereabouts here:
    or here The AT is a very safe place for those using good judgment.

    Good luck!