Hiking Trails

Victor’s AT Hike – The Trek

The long path

I feel like I’ve been preparing my whole life for a hike on the Appalachian Trail: first forays on the AT in Pennsylvania as a boy scout, then organizing spring break hikes with high school friends. , end of year AT hike with my dorm buddies at the University of Delaware, followed by numerous AT trips of a few days or a week with family and friends over the years since then. I never had the time or failed to set aside the five or six months needed for a trek, between school, family, kids and work. I retired at the end of 2020, so now it’s easier to dedicate the time needed, or at least it would be without Covid.

Brooke (my lovely wife) and I decided to hike the Long Trail in Vermont in September 2021 with a view to an AT hike in 2022. What better place to do a prep hike than the Long Trail, which was l inspiration to create the AT? Brooke, although an intrepid and skilled hiker, wanted to pick sections on AT, not hike. “It’s your dream,” she said. But on the LT, we were both building our trail legs, testing our gear and, perhaps more importantly, testing my mettle.

The Green Mountain Club of VT came up with the idea for the Long Trail in 1910 and completed it in 1920. The LT runs along the spine of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts border (near Bennington) to the Canadian border (not near from anywhere) , 278 miles in all. Plus, the LT is conveniently located near our recently completed second home in VT (and the Covid hangout). We covered 175 miles of the northern section of the LT (north of Route 4 near Killington) in 22 days. That’s about eight miles a day on average – not too bad for a sixty-something. Not bad, either, considering that many hikers we encountered considered the top end of the LT to be “much sturdier” than the AT.

We had great support on our LT ride from VT friends (thanks to Judy, Joe and Sharon!). We were very happy to have David, a veteran AT hiker from my 1970s high school in Shenandoah, join us for the first leg of the hike. Also, our new LT hiker friend, Lee, gave Brooke his Trail name “Twinkletoes” given his ability to move quickly, if not dance, through downhill sections.

We had a blast, not once did we consider bailing out. We came back with great memories – and a huge collection of photos of mushrooms and mountain scenery. We tested the hiking dinner recipes and equipment and felt physically great. Our bags weighed about 32 pounds each – they were too, too heavy. Something had to go.

Equipment

We took on the Long Trail with the gear we had been using for years. For example, I used my 10-year-old Deuter 55-L pack, which weighed four pounds – empty. It seemed way too heavy. My 2 1/2 pound 25 degree sleeping bag was too hot for September in the Green Mountains and too heavy. I changed my bag on the LT at a conveniently located camping store in Waterbury for a 1 1/2 lb 45 degree bag (a Thermarest Space Cadet). It was a book less, but just a little too cold. Our two person tent seemed like a keeper though. It’s a Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2, which weighs about 2 1/2 pounds. I still needed to reconsider a tent as I would be doing about two thirds of the AT on my own. I needed to look for a tent for a lighter person.

Backpack, sleeping bag and tent upgrades can be expensive! And you have to balance cost with weight, durability, and comfort. In preparation for our AT hike, we pulled out our kitchen scales and weighed all of our gear and clothing, and created a spreadsheet that included all of the items (see chart below). You’ll notice I swapped out my four-pound Deuter backpack for a 20-ounce Z-pack 55-L Arc Blast. I also upgraded to a Z-pack M Classic 14.7oz 30 degree sleeping bag. Brooke did a lot of research on the gear. However, we were concerned that the bags would not be durable or comfortable, and the bags would not be warm enough. Time will tell us. Our friend Dave had been researching sleeping pads and brought a Nemo Tensor when we were at LT. He loved it, and when we tried his, we agreed. We were impressed with how quickly and easily the Nemo was inflated, as well as how comfortable it was. We both replaced our old Thermarests with new Nemo pads. They weighed about the same, but comfort on the trail is important if you don’t have to sacrifice weight. You’ll also notice in the chart that we’ve skimped on clothing to save weight.

In the end, just before leaving for Georgia and Springer Mountain, I planned to have 6.3 pounds of gear and 6.6 pounds of clothes packed. This gives me a base weight of around 13 pounds. Add to that five pounds of food (for four days) and four pounds of water (about two liters) for a total backpack weight of, in theory, 22 pounds. That’s ten pounds lighter than the 32 pounds on our Long Trail hike. Stay tuned to this blog for more articles on Victor’s AT Rocker Ride! The first days of our adventure are approaching!

Weight of Victor’s (and Brooke’s) backpack (sorry, not all formatting copied)

HIKING EQUIPMENT

OBJECT (bluestaff, greencommunity)

WEIGHT Oz VB

WEIGHT Oz BF

Weight lbs VB

Backpack, 55L Arc Blast/50L Arc Scout

20.2

19.9

shoulder pouch

0.6

belt pouch

0.78

Sleeping pad, Nemo Tensor (~2.0 oz inflatable bag)

16.2

18.1

Sleeping bag, Classic M-Standard, Classic / S-Standard

14.7

14.0

Pillow, eros ultralight lg

3.32

Stove, Jetboil

14.2

Fuel for stove, 1 canister, full

7.11

Screen for stove

2.05

spork

0.23

0.34

Cup with lid (without lid .7oz)

5.1

4.4

Bushy

0.11

2 empty bottles, Nalgene 1 liter (1.2 oz) smart water bottle (6.35 oz each, 44.65 each full)

2.4

2.4

Water filter kit, Sawyer with empty bottle

3.65

Insect net, Invisinet

0.74

0.74

Trowel

0.56

Parachute cord, purple / white

2.91

2.33

Carabiner, large

2.26

Headlamp, Nitecore (Black Diamond 2.15oz)

0.99

0.99

Swiss knife

2.13

Lantern

3.86

Tent, Big Agnes Tiger Wall 2

44

Plex Solo Tent and Groundsheet, Zpack (13.9oz Tent + 2.5oz Poncho) + 1.6oz Pegs

Poncho?

TOTAL

101.28

110.02

6.33

PACKED CLOTHES

Crocodile

12.77

Beanie, merino knit

2.19

Socks, 2 pairs of wool

2.65

T-shirts, 1 EMS Techwick

5.00

Ibex wool vest

10.74

rain pants

9.98

Raincoat

11.10

Lightweight insect repellent pants, gray polyester

??

Shorts, Nylon

5.87

Long-sleeved shirt, Smartwool

10.51

Underwear, 1 pair

2.5

Long panties, wool/acrylic/angora

4.89

Extra long underwear bottom, (7.27 oz REI wool)

7.21

Puffy jacket

12.06

Toiletry bag, glasses

6.0

Doors

2.5

TOTAL Clothes Packed Oz (next in pounds)

105.97

0

6.62

CLOTHES WORN

SHOES, PAIRS OF

Falcon of Asolo

35.8

2.24

Asolo old reds (46.4 oz)

Salomon X Ultra (31.9)

CLOTHES WORN OVER BOOTS

Bug Shield for Long Sleeve Shirt, Poly/Cotton (10.88)

Heavy insect repellent pants, polyester (19.22)

New Prana hiking pants

12.5

Underwear, 1 pair

2.5

Socks, 1 pair wool

1.65

T-shirts, 1 EMS Techwick

5.00

Long-sleeved microfiber shirt

8.00

Cheap sunglasses

0.5

Cap, polyester

1.5

TOTAL Clothes Packed Oz (next in pounds)

31.65

1.98

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