5 Appalachian Trail FAQs

Question 1. What did you eat?

Answer: This is always the first question I get. People’s initial assumption seems to be that we are like Bear Gryll’s out the trail foraging as we go. This is impossible. There isn’t much to forage and you’d never make it 15 miles a day if you spent time picking berries or chasing Moose. What did I eat? Well, as much as possible I usually say. I didn’t have to go super-cheap like many of the young kids on the trail. I started with all the tradition hiking foods (nuts, raisins, poptarts, hot cocoa, etc.) but quickly grew weary of them. I did find that pre-sliced individually packaged cheeses last many days and I enjoyed these throughout the trail. I ate at a lot of restaurants too. Anything near the trail. I’d read the guide book days in advanced searching for anything resembling food within a mile of the trail and do my best to get there while still open.

Question 2. Have you read…

a. “Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson
b. “Wild” by Cheryl Strayed
c. “AWOL on the Appalachian Trail” by David Miller
d. “The Barefoot Sisters” by Lucy and Susy Letcher
e. “46 Days” by Jennifer Pharr-Davis

Answer: Yes, Yes, No, No, No.

Question 3. What would I do differently a second time around?


A. I’d get a chargeable camera, not a battery-powered one. I thought batteries would be easier, but there are plenty of opportunities to charge at an outlet.

B. I’d get the most waterproof tent possible, not the lightest. Lightweight gear is useless if it doesn’t work.

C. Somehow be less competitive. I don’t know how to avoid it, but competitiveness can overrun the rest of the hike.

Question 4. What surprised me?

The hours. I never imagined that hiking would consume all the hours of every day. Eat, sleep, and hike was about all there was time for.

Question 5. What advice do you have to future thru-hikers.

A. You need $5000 or it’s really going to be tough. Sure, people do it on less but they eat ramen noodles and never shower.

B. You need 6 months off. It might not take quite that long, but you need the time.

C. Lightweight should be your overriding goal. Always be under 30 lbs in your pack, preferably less than 20 or you’re “gonna have a bad time.”

D. A lot of hikers that started too early got destoryed in the snow and cold. Wait till the end of March or early April to start. It will be crowded, but with a good tent you can avoid the shelters and the snorers.

E. Use hiking poles. Some start without, but they quickly learn.

F. HYOH. Hike your own hike. This is above all else. Ignore the competition and the drama on the trail.


About douglasdouma

I am a husband to beautiful wife, an ordained minister in the Reformed Presbyterian Church - Hanover Presbytery, and founder of Sola - Appalachian Christian Retreat (www.discoversola.com). In addition to blogging at this site I am the author of The Presbyterian Philosopher - The Authorized Biography of Gordon H. Clark (Wipf&Stock, 2017) and compiling editor of Clark and His Correspondents: Selected Letters of Gordon H. Clark (Trinity Foundation, 2017). I have a bachelor degree in mechanical engineering (University of Michigan), a master's in business administration (Wake Forest University) and a master of divinity (Sangre de Cristo Seminary). I'm an avid hiker, having completed a northbound thru-hike of the Appalachian trail in 2013 and the first 500 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail in 2016.
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One Response to 5 Appalachian Trail FAQs

  1. Stacey says:

    Awesome! Just what I needed. Thanks so much! Hope you are enjoying post-trail life!

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