So, the hiking is going well… and by “well”, I mean that when I’m on the way up a mountain, I’m cursing father time, and on the way down, I’m all like, “I COULD DO 19 OF THESE!” I couldn’t. I have recently started walking with a pack. Not on the mountain (yet), but I’m doing a lot of trail walking, so I’ve been bringing a weighted pack with me on the trails. Between the pack, the blanket, and the dumbbells that I put inside of it, it weighs about 15lbs. Today, I walked what us Mainers call “The Boulevard.” It’s a 3.5-mile trail around a cove, that sits a few blocks outside of the busiest part of Portland. The pack is borrowed from a friend, the hiking boots are three years old, and have not been broken in. I got them during my “fleeting idea days”, and they’ve been in a closet ever since. So… my back hurts, and I got my first hikers blister this week. It feels a little bit like a rite of passage, and also a little bit like a sore foot. The more I introduce hiking gear into my training regiment, the more I realize that I have no idea what I’m doing. I am getting some help from friends, but most of those conversation look something like this…
Me (while trying on packs): “How do I know which one will work best?”
Timmy (non-hiking friend who is barely paying attention): “That one should be fine.”
I’m not sure I should be making decisions for a 20 day thru-hike, over 53 mountains, based on phrases like, “should be fine.” I may need to solicit the help of other hikers. I’ve started a supply list; relying heavily on the internet and not so much on my own instincts. I’m the kind of trip-packer who brings an extra bag just for the shoes and purses. I’d bring a shower koozie on this trail, if you let me. I can’t be trusted. I’m trying to figure out what I will need, what brands are most durable, and what supplies a new hiker would think are necessary, but will end up being dead weight. So, any supply/gear tips or hacks, would be incredibly helpful. I’ll share my list below, feel free to tell me what to add or knock off…
Shelter and Comfort: Tent, pack, sleeping bag, sleeping pad.
Clothing: One short sleeve shirt, one long sleeve shirt, one pair of pants, one pair of shorts, three pairs of socks/underwear, one sports bra, one pair of hiking shoes, one pair of camp shoes.
Cooking/Food Supplies: Food, water, water purification tool, stove, spork/knife, (possible high-rimmed plate, but I’m not sure if that’s necessary. I could just eat out of the pot and save myself that weight).
Utilities: Knife/multi-tool, bear spray, duct tape, rope, flash light, batteries, compass, flint/magnesium, a lighter/matches, hiking poles.
Toiletries: Toothpaste, toothbrush, deodorant, all-purpose camp soap, wash cloth, toilet paper, first aid supplies, sunscreen.
Reading Material: Guide book, map, one book of choice, small notebook/pen.
Extras: Camera, solar charger.
There are certain items that I know I will need, for sure. I don’t think a single one of you is going to tell me to knock the water flirtation system off my list. No one has time for Giardia. But the options within are vast, and it can be overwhelming for a first time thru-hiker, such as myself. So, I have a few (more specific) questions that I could use some insight on as well.
Water filtration: From tablets, to UV lights, to squeeze filters, to filter pumps, to bleach… what’s a girl to do? No, seriously, what do I do? I watched this documentary one time, where a couple of guys were trying to see if they could live on $1 a day, in an impoverished part of Guatemala. One of them got sick from contaminated water, and now I have a real fear. I don’t even drink the water at my house, and I’m from the home of Poland Spring. I’m leaning towards a squeeze filter, but I’m wondering if that is a realistic option for the length of this hike?
Pack weight: I read somewhere, that on a long-distance hike, your pack averages to about 1/3 of your weight. The average woman weighs 166.2lbs. Obviously that’s not the case over here, or I wouldn’t be writing a blog that starts with the words “fat girl”, but let’s just say, for research’s sake, that I was the weight of an “average woman.” Can we just pause for a minute here and appreciate how specific the average weight of a woman is… 166.2 lbs? Who did this math? Where did you get your intel? Doctor’s offices across the nation? Was there some sort of a poll on the street? “Excuse me Miss, we are trying to find the average weight of a woman, would you mind getting on this scale?” Anyway… if the average woman had a pack that totaled 1/3 of her body weight, she would be carrying a 55.4lb pack.
That seems completely unreasonable.
I’ve done a little research that said most people carry around 30lbs; 20lbs if you are an experienced hiker. So, this question is for anyone who has done a long-distance hike. From what I understand, the longest stretch between supply stops, on The Long Trail, is 5-6 days. What kind of weight should I expect to be carrying, and how much weight should I be training with?
Footwear: Lots of internet debate around hiking boots vs. hiking shoes and waterproof vs. non-waterproof. It’s put me in a tough position, to be honest. If I can’t rely on the internet, who can I rely on? The debate over hiking boots and hiking shoes seems to be a matter of weight vs. durability. I read somewhere (the start of so many of my sentences) that 1lb on your foot is equal to 5lbs on your back, and that the average hiker will use 6% more energy with hiking boots vs. hiking shoes. As far as water-proofing goes, it’s my understanding that any boot will get wet, inevitably, and water-proof boots are harder to dry out. I’m interested in hearing what kind of success you have had with non-waterproof hiking shoes?
There are so many other questions… like cooking: Jet-boil, alcohol, good ol’ fashion camp fire? Don’t even get me started on food. How do you consume enough calories to sustain 15-mile days, while peppering in a few mountain hikes… without having to carry 1/3 of a woman in your pack? A funny question for a fat girl, because getting enough calories has literally never been my concern.
BUT… I guess I’ll save some questions for another day. Thanks for your help!