In our continuing series of “How To Hike The Appalachian Trail,” we’re going to cover two important factors to consider before tackling the task of hiking 2,181 miles. When it comes to sleeping along the AT, there are two major options to consider. You can elect to sleep along the trial, either in a tent or community shelter, or you can sleep in any number of hotels in the many towns that the trail runs through. The important thing to remember is that your plans will definitely change along the trail, and planning ahead to stay in a specific hotel won’t always work out. Remember to be flexible!
As for sheltering outside along the trail, a good tent is your best friend. A good backpacking tent is lightweight and can be set up in a hurry—something you’ll appreciate if a wicked storm happens to blow up on the trail and you can’t get to a shelter. A tent also allows you to get a bit off the path. You should be cautious in doing this so you don’t get lost, but a bit of solitude can be a welcome thing after hiking a hundred miles with the same people day in and day out.
Your other option is to sleep in a shelter along the trail, of which there are more than 250 along the entire length. Most of the shelters are pretty large and can fit up to around 20 people inside. In severe weather, shelters are a great commodity, but you never know how many people are going to be staying in one until you get there. If it’s full, you may have to walk another 5-10 miles to get to the next one.
Physical fitness is extremely important if you’re planning to tackle the Appalachian Trail. You must be able to hike at least 10 miles in rough terrain every day, and that means you’re going to have to be in really great shape, especially when it comes to cardio. Strengthening your core is also vital, and working your legs is an absolute must. While you can run on a treadmill or cycle to your heart’s content, nothing will prepare you like actually getting out on a trail with a pack and getting in some miles. One area that you should not overlook is your ankles. Use a balance board to strengthen them and take it easy when you first start out so you can build up some tolerance without the blisters that come with long days.