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May 2001

Make The Big Jump

Are you a dayhiker who's ready for an all-nighter? A weekender longing to try a 5-day trek? Or are you ready for a thru-hike? Regardless of your skill level, here's the information you'll need to go that extra mile.

From Weeklong To Long-Distance Trekker
Stay out for 2 weeks, 3 weeks, or longer, and you strip life down to its essence: food, water, warmth, great scenery. Here’s how to enjoy-and survive-the added blessings and rigors of a long hike.

Weight-Saving Tips

For trips with frequent resupply points, using a no-frills 4,000-cubic-inch pack saves up to 3 pounds.

Water Filter:
Leave the filter at home and use iodine tablets to save a pound or more.

Sleeping pad:
Give up the puffy, full-length self-inflater for a 3/4-length closed-cell foam pad that will lighten your load by 2 pounds.

If you trade in your hiking pants and shorts for trail pants with zip-off legs, you’ll save up to 6 ounces.

Instead of your two-person tent, take a tarp or bivy to save from 2 to 5 pounds.

Make It Last

Nothing tests the life span of backpacking equipment like a few months on the trail. Here is what to expect in terms of wear and tear.

  • Boots: Long-trail thru-hikers report that sturdy, all-leather boots last (on average) 1,000 to 1,500 miles before needing to be resoled. Lightweight, fabric-leather boots, trail shoes, and running shoes last 400 to 1,000 miles. Break in at least two pairs of footwear before your trip so one pair’s ready to ship to you if you need a replacement. Include waterproofing treatment for leather boots in resupply boxes.

  • Pack: One study of Appalachian Trail thru-hikers found that roughly 40 percent had to have their packs repaired or replaced along the way. Examine the pack you plan to take for likely wear spots-like straps rubbing on hard plastic edges and heavily stressed small-gauge zippers-and evaluate how easy on-trail replacement or repair of the parts would be. Inspect your pack for wear periodically along the trail, and consider carrying spare buckles or clevis pins (for external frame packs), as well as duct tape and upholstery thread with a heavy-duty needle.
  • Stove: Field-repairable stoves, typically those that use white gas, are best for long-distance hikes. Practice cleaning and maintaining the stove, and carry the manufacturer’s repair kit with you.
  • Water filter: If this is your chosen method of de-bugging, opt for a cartridge that can be cleaned or replaced in the field. It’s a good idea to carry a chemical solution or tablets as a backup.
  • Clothing: Socks will need replacing; pack a new pair for every 300 miles. Clothing will last longer and wick better if it’s rinsed every few days in a cook pot or large zipper-lock bag away from water sources. Take advantage of self-service laundries whenever possible.

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