Happy New Year’s fellow hikers! Though, I never left the trail, after my 2019 AT thru hike, I’ve been doing smaller hikes(7-14 miles) and because of a minor knee injury turned my Long Trail hike into a section hike last summer, I still get out there. Since my AT completion I have considered many aspects of my pack setup. I was first and foremost happy with my gear and never made any changes or adjustments on trail. I averaged a 43-pound pack on the AT. I admittedly am hooked on long distance hiking and at the young age of 57, feel the need to drop some pack weight to remain sustainable if I want to take a real run at the triple crown!
Last year I changed packs and tents and re-evaluated some of my contents in my pack. I’m down around thirty pounds (food, water, etc.) and am very happy with that. I hike every other day now while I’m training and will be hitting over 30 miles a week in training with a full weight pack, it essentially goes everywhere I go. My off days I bike 25 miles a day and include wind sprints for my cardio. Every day I do yoga and extensive stretches. I learned nothing beats hiking to get into hiking shape!I’m sure some folks are reading this feeling like – I thought he was going to talk more about UL ? I honestly get the topic, but I’m not consumed by it. Training with my real pack weight, I get so use to the weight, so it’s never a burden, just like my 43-pound pack on the AT! Reducing ten or so pounds will keep things sustainable for me
My real weight strategy is my personal physical weight ! When I hiked the AT, I started out at 201 pounds and when I touched the Kathadin sign , I was 165 pounds. What I learned…. I was not only told this but read it in multiple books. The first week or so after beginning a thru hike, you are not hungry, your body is in shock from the rigorous exercise. It happened to me not only on the AT, but the LT too. So, for my body it was the norm. I’ll digress here to admit I am a huge fan of Survivor, Alone and fall victim to many outdoor shows like Naked & Afraid. In some; there are extreme scenarios and yes, some are just dramas, I am always entertained by the washboard physiques of some of the contestants. I’m thinking, I rather have some meat on my bones, so when I lose a catastrophic amount of weight, I don’t start eating up muscles right away.
When I hiked the AT, I lost all my body fat in two weeks or so and started to eat into my muscle mass. I fully understand you can’t generalize because, we are all different. Different sizes, shapes and types, not to mention different metabolisms and even ages. Every guy I hiked with though – lost significant weight, my one buddy lost 55 pounds and another fella that I briefly met lost 105 pounds! I lost 10 pounds my first week on the LT and was never hungry! After a while you wonder if hiker hunger is a thing and boom – it arrives! In a podcast I did, I was asked once I adjusted my AT pack to more summer seasonal gear, did the weight go down? Fair question, but it remained the same as every ounce I saved became converted into more food carried. I was always hungry from New England to the end. I would often have snacks at 2 in the morning! Currently I am reading Thirst, Anish’s FKT of the PCT, though she contended with horrendous heat in the desert, it took her nearly 15 days for her to feel the need to eat or be hungry. She would set her watch to prompt her to eat or she wouldn’t! I also force myself to eat even if I not hungry, but that only goes so far!
So, my strategy based on my outdoor game show belief is to hit the trail with some more reserves. So right now – I’m at 203 pounds. It’s tough to maintain extra weight with a rigorous training schedule but I’m hoping it helps. Another challenge I’ve always had in training is that I live in Florida ! The negative here is no elevation or real mountains to climb. So not only do I never hike without my pack, I speed hike so I can get a bit of cardio out of my routine to make up for the shortfalls of living at sea-level. Don’t feel bad for me though, we do get an occasional 40-degree morning and I am forever treated with an abundance of wildlife on trail. On average, I see more wildlife in an 8 miles circuit than I did the entirety of the AT! See picture below of my regular sightings!
My lofty goals for this year is to start in March 1, thru hike NOBO the Benton MacKaye trail. Complete the LT to Canada, finishing up the northern kingdom and depending on my permit draw date??? The PCT SOBO – July 1!! Stay tuned for my trail notes!!