Monday, November 21, 2011

lighten up!

I've been doing a few things in order to lighten my pack weight. I haven't turned into a full-on gram weenie, but there were some pretty easy ways to cut weight. 

First off, my cookset needed to go. I gave up the Soloist for a grease pot from k-mart with a windscreen made out of an oven liner and a pop can stove using bent hangers as a pot stand. Everything fits inside of itself so it's very packable. The best part is that everything in my kitchen (including a lighter) is only 5.24 oz. that's pretty good in my book.

I've also decided to ditch my tent. After reading everything I can find about them, I made up my mind on an 8x10 Outdoor Equipment Supplier silnylon tarp. weighing in at right around 16 oz. 

This was the first time I've pitched a tarp in my life, and I didn't have the guy lines attached so it wasn't as taut as possible. I want to add an extra tie out loop to the center of the long side so that I can set it up in the half pyramid like in the picture but wider. 

I really need to get some tyvek for a groundcloth and something to use as the guy lines. 

Thursday, November 3, 2011

getting closer...

Since my last post I've decided to push my start date up a day and officially start the trail on Feb 29th, 2012. Just because I can, and it's a leap year. 

Thanks to an awesome website called The Clymb, I got a killer deal on an awesome multipurpose watch. I bought a Highgear Altiforce; it has an altimeter, barometer, and compass, on top of all of the typical watch type stuff like alarm clock and whatnot.

I keep watching it while I walk up the stairs at my house and at work to watch the altitude change. Looking forward to trying it on a real mountain. I'm a huge nerd. 

The barometer will be handy in helping to tell what the weather is going to do, and the compass will be the only one that I'm bringing. 

Physical preparations - I know that I haven't talked much about this other than my shakedown, so.... - I've taken up running to get ready for the tough mudder that I'm running next month. It's basically a 10 mile military style obstacle course race to raise money for the wounded warrior project. It's not the running that I'm concerned about in that race, it's everything else. Those types of obstacles really can wear you out. I ran the warrior dash last year and it was a good time, but too short at only 5k.

I've also been playing hockey for over a year now, so I think my legs are in decent shape. I'm sure the AT will have something else to say about that. 

Budget - I'm PLANNING on spending around $2,500 on the trail, however I'm saving a little over $6500 to cover everything that I need to take care of before I leave, and to allow extra money when I'm gone. 

Saturday, September 3, 2011

I Got My Boots

At first I was going to avoid boots and go with something more like a trail runner, but a little extra support never hurt, and they are pretty light. Not to mention how comfortable the are. A new Dicks Sporting Goods opened up in my area so they had some pretty good grand opening sales going on so overall they were pretty well priced. 

Im going to Bill Jackson's later to see about getting a new spoon and maybe look for supplies to make that tarptent. Im still not 100% sure I want to try to do it, but it would be very nice to shed that weight. The downfalls in protection from the weather makes me more nervous than anything else. 

I have all of my resupply stops up till New Hampshire planned out, or at least all of my options planned out. I can always skip the ones I feel like I don't really need.  

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

I need a new spork

I melted my spork on my shakedown hike while making some mac n cheese. whoops. looks like a good excuse to go to Bill Jacksons. There are some made out of recycled airplane parts or something like that. super light.

In the way of weight, I've been thinking about taking some Ultra Light techniques to my not really Ultra Light gear. Cutting toothbrushes in half, cutting off excess strap length on my pack, crazy things like that.

Also I'm considering building a tarptent.

Something like one of these. weighs only 18 oz, so it would save around a pound out of my pack. only costs ~$40 to make. I'm game. it uses a hiking pole to set up, so I'd also save space when I won't have to pack tent poles. Not to mention that it gives me more space than my current tent. The little things add up.

I took some time and sat down with my copy of the thru-hikers companion and looked at all my resuply options for the first 389 miles. looks interesting, nothing too intimidating, but good to know when theres a long gap between towns like the 68 miles between Hot Springs NC and Erwin TN.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

So over the past little bit I've taken a few short trips and I've realized that I may ditch the whisperlite and lean more towards an alcohol stove. It would shed right around a pound, and the cost of the fuel use due to its lower efficiency isn't that much higher. I think the weight tradeoff would be well worth it.

Also, I talked to my insurance company yesterday, and they said that because I am still making payments on my car it still has to be insured. Maybe my newly 16 year old brother and sister would want to use my car and they can pay insurance on it while I'm gone. We'll see.

Friday, February 25, 2011

one week to go

Good news: I leave for my shakedown in less than a week.
Bad news: Weather forecast looks miserable. (chances of rain 5 out of 8 days)

              BUT - I will have some times of bad weather during my thru, so I might as well get used to it.

I think the only thing I need to get now is bear line. I have all my food packed, everything is ready to go. I just need to get through the next week of school.

I've been thinking about making something to attach to my poles that will help me take pictures with myself in them. Then today, I found this: The Stick Pic. It slides right on the end of the pole with a camera screw on  it and it looks like this.

so for less than $12 and one ounce, I ordered one. I'll put more up about it once I get to play around with it. But it looks like a pretty cool little camera mount.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Tent Review

My tent arrived on Monday, much quicker than I had expected, very happy about that. I ordered a Eureka Spitfire from the Eureka outlet online that deals with factory seconds in order to save some money. These are the ones that for whatever reason could not be sold as 1st quality new products. The reason mine was considered a second? Two sections of the poles were reversed. All I had to do was take off the end cap, flip them around, and thread the shock cord back through and we were in business. I was worried that it was going to be difficult to do and I was just going to end up with a useless pile of aluminium and elastic. But in the end it was really simple and I'm glad that is all I had to do to save $40. The first thing I thought when I picked up the FedEx box was "holy shit this thing weighs nothing!"

Overall I think it's a great tent. Not a lot of extras. It seems to be very well built. Setup is extremely easy. Stake down the top part, attach the poles, pull on the foot of it and stretch it out and it pretty much stands up on its own. Great ventilation without the fly on, and with the fly theres a vent at the top that can be accessed through a zipper at the top of the mesh inside. Adequate elbow room, and I can sit up insdie comfortably.

Then comes the question of keeping your gear dry in foul weather, and this vestibule honestly does not provide much room to harbor gear, but it is there. There is one on the opposite ("rear") side that is inaccessable because the is not door on the "rear" side of the tent. It is usable if you put stuff in before you get in the tent. I threw a Nalgene in there to show some scale. So ill be able to keep some water bottles, boots, my stove, etc. in there.


I can see myself tripping over the guy-wire or something stupid like that, but I'll learn. I'm excited to get to spend a night in this, but for now, I'm very happy with this tent.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Clinic Day 2 and shopping

As hopeful as I was about this clinic, after doing as much reading as I have, I have to admit that the majority of what was covered was review for me. He went over the different types of sleeping bags (down vs. synthetic), and how they work. Stove types, and the different styles/types of tents.The one thing that I was most hoping he would cover, resupply, he barely talked about at all. I understand that you go into towns and resupply, but I was hoping to learn more about mail drops and how to schedule them. But it looks like the easiest way to resupply is to just buy what you need in town. Maybe that is better in that it will cut down postage costs. We'll see.

After the clinic was over, I spent a few hours walking around the store and I'm now proud to say that I think I have every piece of gear that I'll need.
  • Poles - Leki Makalu
    • I honestly don't know what to say about these, they seem pretty light, and from what I was told they are tougher to bend/break than any of the other poles in this series. So hopefully they'll last.
  • Rain suit - DriDucks Ultralite 2 
    • Also have very little to say here. Small and packable, waterproof and breathable. Seems to fit my needs.
  • Sleeping bag liner - Grand Trunk silk sleep sack 
    • I realized that my sleeping bag is a little lighter duty than I needed, so the added 10-12 degrees of warmth will probably be nice. Then later on I'll probably use this as my only sleeping bag through the summer months when a 30 degree bag would be torture.
  • Socks and liner socks - wigwam liners and Thorlo's wool socks. 
    • As long as they keep my feet dry I'm not concerned about their features. I mean, they're socks. 3 pairs of socks, 2 pairs of liners. 1 pair of socks will be in my sleeping bag at all times and not come out. guaranteeing that I will always have warm dry socks to sleep in.
I'm pretty sure I now have everything that I need. I think I might get some long thermal underwear bottoms, but other than that I'm pretty much set to go. I guess we'll see what I wish I had when I'm 3 days out off springer next month. So far, here's what I have.

 Driducks is the rain gear, Green dry bag is clothes and the orange one is food. Fuel bottle is not completely full to save weight. I'm going to estimate2 oz/day with 1 oz padding so 3 oz/day. The flask is for whiskey. Bandanna is taking the place of a pack towel after hearing how many people eliminate this piece of gear from their kit. (I'm not an idiot, I know the tent is missing, Its is on its way)

The best part of today was doing the math and finding out how under budget I am.  Very happy to have that weight off of my shoulders.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Clinic - Day 1

Alright, well tonight was the first part of theThru-Hiker clinic down at Bill Jackson's. It was interesting, the guy who taught it has hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide Trail. There was a surprisingly good turnout for an event like this, including some seniors who im sure just didn't want to be stuck at [the] home for the night and used this as something to do. I recognized a kid that goes to USF there, not sure if he remembered me, but the first time I met I did ask his girlfriend how she would react if someone gave her a pack of Urinelles as a gift.

Tonight however, he wasn't really "teaching" anything, instead he just kind of did a slideshow of some of the pictures along each, kind of did a guided tour type thing.

From his slideshow there was one picture that I learned the most from. It was a picture of his shoe with floss sewn through it holding it together. lesson learned: Pack heavy duty needles. I don't want to be stuck anywhere and be forced to walk any great distance with the sole of my shoe talking to the trail in front of me. Needles; good idea.

The awesome staff at Bill Jackson's brough out one of each of the Mountain House freezedried meals and made them and let us sample them all. Considering what they are they were really good, however the price of each is somewhere around $8-9 so I think I'll be finding an alternative. I would also tent to gravitate towards something that is not pre packaged like that so I can customize it and make it how I would want it instead of what the company decided.

Gear clinic tomorrow.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

It's a Process

So where am I exactly in the planning stage? I've done a bunch of reading and I've started collecting gear. I have a very basic understanding of what this is going to take.

I have my copy of the Appalachian Train Conservancy's Thru-Hikers Companion, which lists mileages between landmarks, shelters, water sources etc.
I have just about all of the gear I plan on using:

  • Backpack - Ferrino Approach 50+10 L
  • Tent - Eureka Spitfire 1 
    •  I finally ordered this yesterday after finding a great deal on it online. Seeing as though I'll be spending a lot of time in there Ill be giving the tent its own review after it comes in and I have a chance to set it up.
  • Sleeping bag - Eureka Silver City
    •  This is a 30 degree bag so with a March 1 start date I'll be adding a liner to add some comfort. which I will probably use as my only sleeping bag once the warm weather comes in over the summer.
  • Sleeping Pad - Therm-A-Rest Prolite Plus
    • A really innovative self inflating open cell foam/air mattress.
  • Stove - MSR Whisperlite Internationale
    • Found this online for a steal right after thanksgiving and have used it a few times since. seems to do very well when it comes to low fuel consumption, and boils water very quickly. I really like how this can burn many different fuels, Including gasoline if I really need to.
  • Kitchen - GSI soloist
    • I got this the same time as the stove, too bad it doesn't fit inside, but its small anyway so I'm not too concerned.
These are just the big items that I've been most worried about. I remember reading somewhere that keeping your "Big 3" items (Backpack, Tent, and Sleeping bag) under 10 Lbs is a good benchmark to try and go lightweight, and if everything weighs as much as the boxes say, I'm just under that mark.

I've heard about what's called a "shakedown"; a dry run with all of the gear you plan on using in order to see if you like your choices and can deal with the weight and everything works as it should. So on march 3-12 ill be leaving for/from Springer Mountain and hope to make it to a place called Mountain Crossings at the Walasi-Yi Center where the staff will help you go through your gear in order to eliminate excess weight and offer suggestions of ways to streamline your pack.

This coming weekend my local outfitters, Bill Jackson's, is hosting a thru hiker clinic, run by a guy who has done the AT, PCT, and Continental Divide trails. Ill be going to this to see what he has to say. the flyer was very vague and just said that Friday was a slide presentation and saturday is a gear clinic. I'll post again after that and see what he has to say.

If anyone reading this with some experience on the AT has anything to say please leave a comment, I would love some feedback as to how I'm going about this.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Don't Follow the Crowd

A little over two months or so ago I made my decision to thru-hike the appalachian trail starting march 1st of 2012. While researching, I've come across a large number of people keeping blogs while they are doing the trail. The one thing that I failed to find, was one dealing with the preparation it took to start a hike like this. So that is what I will do. I will update this and keep a log of anything I do to prepare in order to show what kind of effort something like this takes.

For those of you who don't know, the Appalachian trail is a footpath leading from Sringer Mountain in northern Georgia, to Mount Katahdin in Maine; spanning a little over 2100 miles.

So I guess I should explain who I am and where I'm at in this whole process.
My name is Dan and I'm from Parlm Harbor, Florida and I'm 21 years old.

I first got this idea a few years ago, not knowing anything about it. I wanted to do it but couldnt find the time or come up with the money. Nor did I know anything about it. It wasn't untill recently when I realized; school will still be there when I get back. This is one of the very few chances I will get to do this, so I would be crazy not to take advantage of it. So here I go.