Have you ever been fed up with the stress and noise of city life? Do you likespending time outdoors? You are not alone. Every year thousands of people headto the nearby Appalachian trail to get away and spend some quality timeoutdoors. Backpacking is, at least, an interesting way to spend time outdoors.By keeping all their gear in a backpack, campers can travel distances with ease.The following will identify and explain the techniques and equipment used forbackpacking on the Appalachian Trail.
The Appalachian Trail, or A.T. as it isknown to backpackers, is a foot trail that runs from Springer Mt., Georgia toMount Katahdin in Maine. (Curran, 7) Running through the Appalachian Mountains,the trail allows packers to encounter wooded landscape with a variety ofterrain, temperatures, and weather conditions. “In practice, the Trail isusually a simple footpath, purposeful in direction and concept, favoring theheights of land and loaded for minimum reliance on construction for protectingthe resource.
The body of the trail is provided by the lands it traverses, andit’s soul is the living stewardship of the volunteers and workers of theAppalachian Trail community.” (definition of the Appalachian Trail, fromAppalachian Trail Management Principals.)(Curran, 7)Because the trail is over2,100 miles long, it becomes very difficult for a packer to hike the entiretrail. Each year about 5,000 people attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail.
Of these 5,000 it is estimated that less than 300 accomplish their goal.(Curran, 8) Many other packers enjoy weekend or short trips and hike the trailin pieces. Either way, backpacking is extremely challenging and enjoyable.
Hiking on the Appalachian Trail requires it’s own kind of equipment, unique tobackpacking. Campers must have a sturdy reliable backpack to carry theirequipment. (Drury 37) Backpacks are generally supported by a combination ofstraps around the shoulders and hips.
Packs usually come in two styles: externalframe and internal frame. (Gorman,1) An external frame pack is an excellentchoice in a backpack for many reasons. An external pack is easy to load andorganize because of the large panel that opens for easy access.
(Gorman, 1)External packs often have large pockets or compartments so that the backpackercan quickly find a specific piece of equipment. (Howe 94-95) Another quality ofthe external frame packs is that air circulates between the camper’s back andthe packbag, keeping them cool in the hot summer months. (Golman,2) Perhaps bestof all, they don’t drag hikers down when carrying a heavy load. Because externalframe packs have a higher center of gravity, they allow hiking in a more uprightstance.
(Gorman, 2) For a pack that typically costs less than half an equivalentinternal, these features are noteworthy. Internal frames are built with lighterloads in mind. They are supported by stiff aluminum poles inside the packbag.(Gorman 2) All of the camper’s gear is stored inside the pack as well becausethere are no outer poles to strap equipment to. Internal frame packs carry theweight lower than externals, and closer to the back.
The result is a pack thathas much better balance, ideal for off-trail hikers, but not too important for awell groomed trail like the A.T. (Drury 41) ” Select an internal orexternal frame pack based upon the outdoor activities you normally do andconsider that external frame packs are generally less expensive.” (Drury43) Another essential piece of equipment for the backpacker is shelter. (Drury,56) Although some lightweight enthusiasts prefer a simple rain-fly or tarp, bugscan often be a problem. A tent is usually a good solution. There are many typesof tents to choose from. One reliable type of tent is the seventies style”A-Frame”.
(Drury, 57) The A-Frame is a triangle shaped tent thatworks well at keeping the weather out. (Wallace 41) The dome tent is becomingmore popular because it has more space with less weight. Dome tents usefiberglass poles for support so they are strong, reliable and light.
Dome tentskeep rain out well but do not always hold up in very high winds. (Wallace 42)Whichever tent is chosen, some common features are necessary. “Most tentstoday are designed with a bathtub floor, breathable walls, and a waterproofrainfly.
” (Drury 56) First campers must find a tent with a”bathtub” bottom. This is sturdy waterproof nylon that covers thebottom and 6 to 16 inches of the tent wall. (Drury 56) This design eliminatesthe need for a ground cloth, thus cutting back on weight. Another importantfeature is the breathable walls.
Breathable fabric should prevent condensation,keeping moisture from collecting and getting the camper wet anyway. Finally,tents should be topped with a rainfly. Rainflies enhance ventilation and makesure that the tent is waterproof. (Drury 56) One of the most basic and essentialpieces of equipment is clothing.
Clothes are selected based on comfort,protection, and layering. (Wallace 21) Comfortable clothes are defined as thosethat will keep the body cool in warm weather but warm in cold weather. Clothesshould be selected for the expected temperatures. Clothing quality is veryimportant to backpackers. With the limited wardrobe backpackers have, qualityapparel that is rugged and durable is well worth the money. (Wallace 21) Thesynthetic fabric of recent years has performed well by providing betterinsulation, waterproofing and durability than traditional fabrics. (Wallace21-22) No matter what clothes that campers wear it is essential for them to wearlayers. The more layers worn, the warmer the body.
Fewer layers are worn to staycool. (Wallace 23) Layering traps heat that the body produces and keeps it therein air pockets. Layering also keeps packers dry and comfortable. (Wallace 23) Byremoving inner layers perspiration is removed so that the skin stays dry. At thebeginning of the day packers shed layers as it gets warmer. Near eveninghowever, it begins to get cooler and the layers are soon replaced. Rain gear isalways an essential item.
“No matter what the weather forecast says, nomatter the season, no matter the climate: The only thing that will absolutely,positively guarantee that no rain falls on you during your trip is your raingear”(Wallace 23) A sturdy pair of boots are also very important for atrail like the A.T. (Wallace 25) Boots should be flexible on top but stiff inthe sole to prevent feet from twisting. Food is another of the most important,troublesome, and desired items that packers must worry about. On the trail everyounce counts, and most common foods are simply too heavy to haul through themountains on our backs. (Drury 78) Also food must be easy to prepare and be ableto last without a refrigerator. Dehydrated and freeze dried foods do a good jobfulfilling these requirements but their taste leaves something to be desired.Some people make rice or soup or other naturally long lasting, light, easy toprepare dishes that can be found in the grocery store.
Most parts of the A.T.have banned camp fires so a portable stove is a useful item to have.”Stoves can be distinguished by the gas that they burn. White gas,kerosene, unleaded gasoline, alcohol, solid/jellied fuels, butane, propane andisobutane are the most common types of fuels that you will find” (Drury 62)The weight of the stove and the fuel should be kept in mind, however. (Wallace58-59) Even with all the right gear there is still much more to backpacking.Walking with a 30 to 40 pound pack is like learning how to walk all over again.A slower pace is required to prevent injury.
Backpackers should try to walk withan easy stride, establishing a smooth rhythm. (Wallace 49) When walking uphill ashorter stride is better, opening up the stride when traveling downhill. (McManners136) It is very important to take breaks regularly on the trail. The suggestedincrement is a 5-10 minute break every 45 minutes of hiking. (Wallace 50) Breaksallow the packer to relax, look around and really take a good view of thescenery. Wallace contributes “Hiking with your eyes on the trail will getyou places, but unless you stop and look around, you won’t see where you’vebeen” (Wallace 50) The Appalachian Trail is indeed great for backpackersfor various reasons. The Appalachian Trail offers possibilities; who knows whatwill be around the next turn? It provides an opportunity to test oneselfphysically. The trail is a much needed break away from civilized life withmagnificent views padded in along the way.
Most importantly though, the trail isa path into oneself, a place to think, and to figure out one’s place in theworld. (Wallace 9) Understanding the equipment and techniques needed to hike theAppalachian Trail will result in a rewarding trip for anyone who takes up thechallenge of backpacking.BibliographyCurran, Jan. The Appalachian Trail: A Journey of Discovery. RainbowBooks,1991 Drury, Jack, etal.
The Campers Guide to Outdoor Pursuits. SagamorePublishing 1997 Hodtetter, Kristin, etal. If it ain’t broke. May 1998. Online.Backpacker. www.
SIRS/Researcher.com/backpacker/_1998 Howe, Steve. “AllTerrain Packing”. Backpacker. October 1998:94-95 McManners, Hugh . TheComplete Wilderness Training Book . NewYork: Dorling Kindersly, 1994 Walker,Celeste.
Take A Hike! . April 1997. Online. Worldhealth Organization. www.Sirs/Researcher.
com/Hike/1997Wallace, Joseph. The Backpacker’s Companion. Smithwork.
1992Sports and Games