AT trek preliminary planning

Discussion in 'Backpacking' started by jonathan creason, Oct 3, 2018.

  1. jonathan creason

    jonathan creason Tracker

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    After several years I've finally convinced my wife to go on a backpacking trip. We're looking at November of 2019 as a target date, so while it's still a ways off it never hurts to start the ball rolling on planning. November isn't the best time for a first-timer, I know, but our son's are wrapped up in football all fall (plus, I coach) so we won't really have any free weekends until then. We're in NC too, so while it may get pretty chilly it shouldn't be bitterly cold. I'd like to keep this trip to 15 or so miles over 2-3 days, with balds or scenic areas being a huge bonus. Anyone have recommendations on which sections of the trail would be good for that?

    Also, the only tent I have is a heavy Coleman rig that I've used car camping for years (decades?). If I go out on my own now I take my hammock. So, any recommendations on a decent 2-3 person tent less than 4lbs that won't break the bank? I understand 1) quality 2) light 3) cheap; pick 2. I don't mind a little extra weight myself, but I want to make sure I keep her pack as light as possible.

    I'll likely keep coming back here seeking advice for a while, but those are my top 2 issues at the moment. I do want to make this trip as enjoyable as possible. My wife really likes camping, but has never experienced it without neighbors. I'm hoping that if she doesn't catch the bug, she'll at least be open to going again sometime down the road.
     
  2. GoKartz

    GoKartz Sharpaholic

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    Dude tents that big are expensive and heavy... I’d check this one out, since it’s on sale: https://www.rei.com/rei-garage/product/131143/msr-elixir-4-tent-with-footprint
    I don’t have it, but I have another MSR tent that’s great (1 person hubba). All I can say is packing a tent that big... spread it out among everyone going.

    Big issue will be if you’re planning a there and back or a one way. You can do a one way easier, but you’ll need two cars, unless you hook up with a shuttle.

    Pick up a Smokies map/guide. I used to have one, but when I moved away I gave it away. There’s a lot of trailheads that are only a couple miles from the AT. You could start at Clingmans Dome, but the Clingmans Dome Access Road might be closed then. Otherwise, you might look at starting at Newfound Gap Road. Planning a trip is half the fun.
     
  3. Usingmyrights

    Usingmyrights Supporter Supporter

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    Maybe @WILL can offer some insight.
     
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  4. 41magfan

    41magfan Scout

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    This one's easy, IMO ..... Carver's Gap (Roan Mtn, TN) to Hwy 19E. ..... 14 miles of great trail. You can park your car at the Mountain Harbor B&B (it'll be much safer there than parking in an unattended location), get a shuttle to the top and walk back to your car at a pace that suits you.

    At about 5 miles in, you can stay at the Overmountain Shelter and if the weather permits it, you can camp the second night on one of the Hump Mountain balds. Most folks walk the 14 miles in two days, but it's a decent section to walk at a slower pace if that suits you.

    Get an early start on Day 1 as the first 5 miles is the hardest (all uphill) .... the views are worth it though if the weather doesn't have you socked in.

    ETA: Another option is Max Patch to Hot Springs (12.5 miles). The views don't quite compare, but this has got to be one of the easiest sections I've personally hiked.

    ETA some more: Another nice place to hike is the Grayson Highlands area near Damascus VA. There are some nice sections that you can take into town or you can make town your starting point. There's the 12-mile Pine Mtn Loop Trail that wouldn't require a shuttle if that idea sounds appealing. The wild horses and the friendly deer make this a cool part of the AT.

    Here's some 2 and 3-person tents to consider:

    https://www.campsaver.com/tents.html?_iv_sort=lowest-price&_iv_sleep-capacity=3-person,2-person
     
    Last edited: Oct 8, 2018
  5. hdlv

    hdlv Treen Machine Supporter

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    Haha! That's great, I was going to suggest the exact same thing! That was before I even saw that the OP lived in the area. I've done the entire AT and those might be my favorite 15 miles... not to mention the breakfast at mountain harbor is insane!
     
  6. Hartlage

    Hartlage Supporter Supporter

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    You'll have a hard time finding a 3 person tent less than 4 pounds for under $400. I would recommend a Kelty Trailridge 3 or something similar. Should be able to find one for less than $200 and 6 pounds between two people is nothing for a 5-7 mile a day hike.
     
  7. Keithturkjr

    Keithturkjr Scout

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    I'd use a big enough tarp, ground sheet and a long fire big enough to melt it LOL. The tarp is light and probably warmer next to a fire than a tent. A heavy tent can make carrying other gear associated with her presence harder to do.

    maxresdefault.jpg

    If the wife isn't a seasoned backpacker having a big fire near the sleeping area could be a nice selling point for backpacking.
    A big fire is warm when the gear isn't perfect, and is pretty entertaining too.
    The long fire lay is particularly warm, it eats so much wood, but you can lay next to it and have your feet and head close at the same time.
    Marshmallows weight nothing. They'll get on your gear, but new backpackers love them and they wash off.

    The 5 miles a day target is probably a good target. Its better to get ambitious about logging miles after you know how she will react to them.

    One gear recommendation is "invest in rest". It doesn't mean buying expensive stuff, but backpacking is athletic, good recovery food and sleep are important to subsequent days on the trail.
    An air mattress and a insulation pad, overly warm sleeping bag can really make a nights sleep go a lot better. Plenty of protein and a good nights sleep can make a difference in the kind of person you are on the trail with on the third day.

    As experienced backpackers we've all developed our own compromises on what matters to us and which comforts we're willing to live without but new hikers haven't carried and made those yet, so its easy to skimp on something they want.
    If a tent is a must:
    https://www.campsaver.com/mountains...rce=cse&utm_medium=cpc&utm_campaign=connexity
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
  8. MJGEGB

    MJGEGB Guide

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    Here's a site that I reference quite a bit for information on local hikes, and places for trips. I'm in southern VA, but they cover NC as well.

    As for the tent, my coworker just picked up the tree man version of one I've used for years now. The Naturehike Cloud Up 3, just under 4 lbs and can be had as cheap as $135 now apparently. Here's a link, apparently they just dropped the price on them.

    [​IMG]Camp One by MJGEGB, on Flickr

    Or if you want to go with a light tent you could check out the 3F UL Lanshan 2, that is assuming that you use trekking poles.
     
  9. jonathan creason

    jonathan creason Tracker

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    Thanks for the advice, guys, and I appreciate any more that comes along. The Carver's Gap section of the trail was my first instinct as well. Never hiked it, but we have camped at the Roan Mtn campground and taken the short trail up top to the overlook. Plus, it's only a couple of hours away from the house so we can get a pretty early start on day 1. I'm pretty sure I already have a map of that area too, somewhere...

    I have considered a tarp vs. a tent, and I would be A-Ok with that set up. Need to run it up the flagpole with my wife before I commit either way, though.
     
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  10. BradGad

    BradGad Supporter Supporter

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    The MSR Hubba Hubba is one of the best pieces of gear I've ever owned. Not cheap, but not overpriced either (about $400). Excellent weight-to-utility ratio for two people.

    Excellent customer service too.

    (Lately I've been using a tarp though.)
     
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  11. WILL

    WILL Guide

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    There's a ton of options. Off the top of my head, take two cars and park one at Spivey Gap. Drive to Sam's Gap and hike back. That's about 13 miles with some fantastic views at Big and Little Bald. My advice is to pick up a trail map of the AT for the area you want to hike and simply pick an interesting section. Link to map

    For the tent, I'd shop E-Bay for a quality used one. Here's an example....
    https://www.ebay.com/itm/GOLITE-SHANGRI-LA-2-Tarp-Tent-UL-Ultralight-SHELTER-1-5Lbs-Green/163290548675?hash=item2604e009c3:g:4P4AAOSwUyBbSo16&LH_ItemCondition=4

    Honestly though, I'd be much more concerned with my sleep system as weather that time of the year can be dangerously unpredictable in the mountains. I'm new to shoulder season back-packing, so I'll differ to more experienced hikers there.
     
    Last edited: Oct 4, 2018
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  12. blind & lost

    blind & lost Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    THIS... my first thoughts were as others, Carvers Gap to 19E. The weather can be VERY unpredictable in this higher mountain area, temperature and snow wise. Don't want to scare you but plan accordingly. Generally snow isn't a major issue in November though. I've hiked that section many times and it is extremely beautiful and scenic. I've camped there in rain, snow, and otherwise, if you're adequately prepared your wife should be hooked. Also check out Linville Gorge for other opportunities. If you go to GSMNP, you will need permits, and must camp in an AT shelter. Planning early is a great idea.
     
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2018
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  13. ra2bach

    ra2bach Bushmaster

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    Overmountain shelter first night, linger on top of Big Hump enjoy the views of Grandfather and Hawks Mountain, ease down to Doll Flats to stay second night. take lots of pics. it's spectacular...
     
  14. Uncle Duke 520

    Uncle Duke 520 Tracker

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    Don't worry about mileage, go slow and show your wife what makes the AT special.
     
  15. jonathan creason

    jonathan creason Tracker

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    The points made about a comfortable sleep system are very valid, I know. We can’t afford to invest much in this trip, but most of any funds allocated will be for that. I know a long, cold, miserable night will make for a long and misery day afterwards. With birthdays and Christmas coming up I’m hoping we can accumulate some of our needs, so we’re not scrambling to find cash to fill any holes in our equipment.

    Spending a night at the Overlook would help a lot. At least shelter for one night would be covered. 2 nights out are the maximum I’d want to take on for this trip. If she enjoys it and wants to go again we could look at adding another night out.
     
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  16. ra2bach

    ra2bach Bushmaster

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    if she's not used to backpacking, that first day from Carver's gap to Overmountain will be fine.

    the next day is much harder as you climb up to and descend Little Hump before you do the same for Hump Mtn. after that is just straight descent to 19E which is torture on tired sore legs so breaking it up into 3 days is welcome.

    however, there's no shelter at Doll Flats so you'd need a tent or tarp or hammocks, etc.. a tent for 2 people will weigh less than two hammock setups...
     
    Last edited: Oct 9, 2018
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  17. blind & lost

    blind & lost Supporter Supporter Bushcraft Friend

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    IIRC there are two or three "false" summits going uphill toward the Humps, nothing critical at all, but momentarily a minor bummer the first time there. The beauty of the area is outstanding and a wonderful place to hike!
     
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  18. 41magfan

    41magfan Scout

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    With no intentions of derailing this thread, I thought I'd post this as a possibility you might encounter. Me and my hiking buds are exclusively Fall & Winter hikers and on this climb up the Hump Mountains, the weather was such that the leeward side of everything (including us!) started getting covered with rime ice. The scenery was absolutely spectacular and it made for a memorable hike. One of my hiking buds snapped this great pic.

    [​IMG]
     
  19. jonathan creason

    jonathan creason Tracker

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    No derail at all @41magfan, I appreciate any and all input. While I would think something like that is awesome, my wife may be less than enthusiastic about it. I think she’s pretty good on layers, but it’s something we’ll need to double check.
     
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