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)

Shelter summary:

  • 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?

  1. 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.
  2. I’d not make him carry the Timberline.
  3. It would come down to the Mystique vs the hammock.
  4. 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.
  5. I think I want the Mystique 1.5

Sleeping pads:

  • 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

Possible Treks:

  • 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
  • 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.

Site selection:

  • 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.
  • 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