I’m planning a multi-day trek on the southern Appalachian Trail for sometime in September.
I haven’t been backpacking in a while, so I need to refresh/replace some equipment. My kids and my wife have pretty much quit camping, so I’ll be buying equipment to support solo trekking.
- I’m replacing the Svea / Sigg Tourister I got when I was 14. It is heavy and after 40 years, it is getting “cranky.” I could probably maintain it, and get it to burn better, but it would still be heavy.
- I’m going to try an alcohol stove. Lightweight, inexpensive, maintenance free. They can be a little fussy below 20 degrees, but then so am I. They take 6 minutes to boil water (versus 3 for a canister stove). I can live with the extra time to boil. I really like the nothing-to-break character.
- I bought a Brasslite 2D stove (plus a windscreen and flip-top alcohol bottle) from brasslite.com.
- I bought a Vargo Titanium Ti-Lite Mug 900ml to go with it.
- I also bought a titanium spoon. It is a little overboard, but hey, I’m setting up a lightweight cook system. ;-)
- The only backpacking tent I own right now is a 4-person Timberline. That would be great if my family would camp, but since they won’t it’s too heavy for a 1-person trek.
- I could buy a 1-2 person lightweight tent. I could buy a camping hammock.
- I’m remembering a tent my mother made for me about 40 years ago. It was a tube tent of mosquito net, with a bathtub floor of nylon, with a plastic tarp for rain protection. She followed a pattern from a book. I think it was from a pattern in this book. I’ve ordered the book. I’m thinking I might make the tent for bug protection, and use a hi-tech fly to cover it.
- This looks a whole lot like a high-tech, modern equivalent: http://www.tarptent.com/protrail.html
- On the other hand, hammock-users sure do seem to love their hammocks.
- Shelter options I’m considering (all tents add $15 for a tyvek footprint):
- $453, LightHeart SoLong 6 ($333), 1#15, plus deluxe therm-a-rest at $120
- $120, Eureka Timberline 4 (already owned) ($0), 7#14, plus deluxe therm-a-rest at $120
- $344, Tarptent Protrail, a sit-up bag cover ($209), 1#12 w/o stakes, plus a double-pole adapter at $10 and a rear pole at $5, plus deluxe therm-a-rest at $120
- $344, Tarptent Contrail (only if Protrail is out of stock)($209), a sit-up bag cover, 1#12 w/o stakes, plus a double-pole adapter at $10 and a rear pole at $5
- $255, Eureka Spitfire ($135), plus deluxe therm-a-rest at $120, 3#3
- $240, Kelty Grand Mesa 2 ($120), plus deluxe therm-a-rest at $120, 4#10, free-standing
- $259, REI Passage 1 ($139), plus deluxe therm-a-rest at $120, 4#3, free-standing
- $279, REI Passage 2 ($159), plus deluxe therm-a-rest at $120, 5#5, free-standing
- $240, ALPS Mountaineering Mystique 1.0 Tent ($120), plus deluxe therm-a-rest at $120, 4#0
- $240, ALPS Mountaineering Mystique 1.5 Tent ($120), plus deluxe therm-a-rest at $120, 4#3
- $253, ALPS Mountaineering Mystique 2.0 Tent ($133), plus deluxe therm-a-rest at $120, 5#2
- $365, Hennessy Jungle Explorer Zip (3#8) with Hex Rainfly (1#7) plus Radiant Double Bubble Pad XL (0#14) plus snakeskins for the tarp (0#2) ($335) plus $30 Kammok Python straps (0#12)
- Total hammock setup weight (not including stakes and carabiners) = 6#11
- add 2#0 to all tents for thermarest plus tyvek footprint
- add $10 to all options for seam sealer and $20 for tyvek footprint/groundcloth
- Add $20 and 0#5 to hammock for Groundhog Tent Stake Kit (might have to add to some tents too)
- The Timberline, footprint, sealer, and thermarest are about $150 and 10#. Pain of sleeping on the ground. Heavy. Huge. Cheap.
- The Spitfire, footprint, sealer, and thermarest are about $285 and 4#. Pain of sleeping on the ground. Light. Cramped.
- The Mystique 1.5, footprint, sealer and thermarest are about $270 and 4.5#. Pain of sleeping on the ground. Light. Adequate space.
- The hammock and stuff are about $385 and 7#. Risk of hating it. Risk of being cold without adding a foam pad with wings. Heavy.
- Don’t do the trip. Cheap. Light. Plenty of space.
I’m having trouble selecting a shelter option, so I thought I’d frame it as if it were my son doing the trip – what would I tell him?
- I’d say, “Do the trip.” Buy experiences, not stuff, and the expense here is to enable the experience and not for the stuff itself.
- I’d not make him carry the Timberline.
- It would come down to the Mystique vs the hammock.
- This is a trip you don’t get to do every weekend. Minimize your risk. The hammock seems risky. Save the risk for a 1 or 2 night trip.
- I think I want the Mystique 1.5
- I think I want the Nemo Astro Insulated Sleeping Pad 25L at $130
- Good foam pads: Therm-a-rest SOLite
- Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Mattress $120
- REI AirRail 1.5 is $10 cheaper than Therm-a-rest and 4 ounces heavier
- Big Agnes Insulated Air Core Sleeping Pad (3 inches thick, air mattress) = $110 (wide+long) at Amazon
- Amicalola Falls State Park to Neels Gap - 5 days, 4 nights, 4 SOTA Summits
- Lodge parking lot to Black Gap Shelter - 6.2 - estimate = 1.2 MPH = 5:15 duration to Black Gap
- Maybe continue 1.5 more to Springer. I’m not sure I want to camp alone on Springer because I expect there’s a habituated bear. OTOH, it would help to make enough time tomorrow for my SOTA activation. Safe estimate is 7:00 if I hike to Springer and take a lunch break.
- Water for Black Gap Shelter: There’s a clearly marked spring along the Approach trail, just south of Black Gap shelter, just down a hill a short ways from the trail. When you arrive at Black Gap Shelter, there’s a blue blaze leading to water on the other side of the Approach trail from the shelter.
- Black Gap Shelter to Hawk Mountain Shelter - 9.6 = 1:30 to Springer plus 2:00 on summit plus 4:30 (8.8 at 2.0) plus 1:00 of breaks = 9:00. Arrive at shelter about 6 PM if I start at 9 AM.
- Spend 2 hours on a SOTA activation at Springer Mountain
- Springer Mountain: Water source is a spring located on a blue-blazed trail 80 yards in front of the shelter
- Stover Creek Shelter (after Springer, before Hawk): Water source is located on a blue-blazed trail 90 yards to the right of the shelter
- Hawk Mountain Shelter to Gooch Mountain Shelter - 7.7 = 5:00 (5.7 at 2.0 and 2 at 1.0) plus 1:00 breaks plus 2:00 SOTA = 8:00. Arrive at shelter about 5 PM if I start at 9 AM.
- Hawk Mtn Shelter: Water source is 0.1 mile behind shelter, S on AT.
- Carry plenty of water when you leave Hawk Mountain Shelter. No water for 6.3 miles, when you arrive at Justice Creek.
- Spend 2 hours to activate Sassafras Mountain.
- Pass near but do not activate Gooch Mountain. (It is a bushwhack.)
- Gooch Mountain Shelter to Lance Creek tent site - 8.5 = 6:00 (5 at 1.5 to Woody Gap plus 1:00 to climb Big Cedar + 2.2 at 2 down to Lance) + 2:00 SOTA + 1:00 breaks = 8:30. Arrive at shelter about 6 PM if I start at 9 AM.
- Gooch Mtn Shelter: Water is 100 yards behind shelter.
- Spend 2 hours to activate Big Cedar Mountain. Need to skip if I don’t arrive at summit by 3:30 PM.
- Lance Creek to Neel Gap - 6.4 = 6:30 (5 at 1 to Blood, plus 1:30 to Neel Gap) + 2:00 SOTA + 1:00 breaks = 9:30. Arrive at Neel at 6:30 if I start at 9 AM. Store closes at 5 M-R, 6 Fri-Sun. Open 8:30 AM.
- Spend 2 hours to activate Blood Mountain
- Lodge parking lot to Black Gap Shelter - 6.2 - estimate = 1.2 MPH = 5:15 duration to Black Gap
- Amicalola Falls to Tesnatee Gap (Richard B. Russell Scenic Hwy) – add 6 miles to the Neels Gap trip and spend the night at Walasi-Yi, for 6 days, 5 nights, 5 SOTA summits
- Spend 2 hours to activate Levelland Mountain = 5:00 + 2:00 SOTA + 1:00 breaks = 8. Arrive Tesnatee at 5 PM if I start at 9 AM.
- Amicalola Falls to Hogpen Gap (Richard B. Russell Scenic Hwy) – Same as Tesnatee Gap, but the last day is 2-3 miles longer, for 6 days, 5 nights 6 SOTA summits. I’d have to skip Levelland in order to make it fit.
- Spend 2.5 hours to activate Wildcat Mountain - can’t possibly fit.
- Next road is Unicoi Gap (past Blue Mtn), and it is 14 miles past Hogpen Gap. I could do it as a 7 day, 6 night trip, but it would be risky.
- I’d stay at Whitley Gap shelter which is 1.5 miles short of Hogpen Gap, making the last day 15.5. Figure 14 at 1.4 plus 1:30 to descend Blue Mtn + 1:00 breaks = 12:30. Leave at 8:00 and arrive at 8:30.
- Whitley Gap Shelter Spring 0.3 mi. behind shelter
- Low Gap Shelter Water can be found 30 yards in front of the shelter.
- Blue Mountain Shelter Water supply for shelter is about 0.1 mi S of shelter on W side of AT
Plan-A is to set my shuttle at Neel Gap and hike 5 days and 4 nights from Amicalola Falls. Plan-B: If I am unable to park at Neel Gap, make it 6 days and 5 nights to Tesnatee Gap and resupply at Mountain Crossings/Walasi-Yi. Head out on Sunday; drive back on Thursday for Plan-A or Friday for Plan-B.
- 50+ feet from a shelter, to avoid mice chewing through my pack in search of food that isn’t there and to avoid them excreting in my shoes
- Eat 100’ downwind - does this apply if I’m not cooking?
- Place bear canister 100’ downwind but not right where you ate. Do try to find natural containment for bear-soccer. You don’t want the canister rolling into a creek or down the mountain. Be sure your canister is NOT uphill from your tent!
- If you are going to hang food/gear, look for
- A place where the last camper probably did NOT hang. Bears are creatures of habit.
- A branch 20+ feet up, without other branches above, about 4” at the trunk, where you can get a line over it 6’ out.
- Downwind of camp about 100’
- Not right on a trail (because bears use trails too)
- Hang your cooking clothes too. (Not an issue for this trip; I’m not cooking.)
- Look up for widow-makers
- Don’t put the tent in a depression
- Bear safety: Don’t put the tent right next to a trail, game trail, creek, or the privy. Don’t be where the bear wants to be.
- Camp 100+ feet from water
- Pile rocks outside your tent before dark - for weapons
Bear in camp at night:
Ramp up gradually with a bear.
- Talk in a normal tone and back away (for 10 seconds).
- Shout and throw rocks NEAR bear. (Don’t hit it.)
- Get big and wave things while shouting. Open-and-close an umbrella, flap a tarp, inflate a large garbage bag with an over-the-head swoop.
- Check into the Hiker Hostel in Dahlonega. They will pick you up at the North Springs Marta station, give you a place to sleep that night then take you either to the AT trailhead or Amicalola SP for a package deal of $80.00.
- “Redundancy adds unnecessary weight. Buy reliable gear, check it carefully before you start and leave the spares at home”
- I ordered the official ATC maps for Georgia/Southern-NC. Not because I expect I’ll need them for this hike, but because I want this to be a rehearsal for a through-hike, where I’ll take maps (one section at a time).
- The AWOL guide doesn’t say where to find water. (It says it is at a shelter, but no directions.) http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/content.php/991-appalachian-trail-shelters does provide directions. I’d like to find a guide to carry on the trail that provides the directions to water.
- Here’s a quote: “There used to be a standard backpacking speed, assuming that each person carried 25% of their body weight as a load. That trail speed was 2 mph with one extra hour allowed for each 1000 feet of elevation gain.” The worst MPH I ever did was about 1.1 going up Blue Mountain, in the snow, after hiking Rocky Mountain in the snow. Unless there are extenuating circumstances, I think it is safe to estimate 1 MPH up-hill and 2 MPH down-hill, and that allows for breaks.
- Get AT shelter weather forecasts here - http://www.atweather.org/nobo/forecast/loc_id=5
- Mid-September sunset is about 7:30 PM