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November 2008

American Classic: Hiking the Appalachian Trail

In this ultimate guide to the country's favorite footpath, you'll find our picks for the best hiking and camping, and a complete plan for thru-hikers. Plus, meet a man who has made it his job to help AT hikers.

Want in-depth, expert help planning your thru-hike? Click here to sign up for our upcoming Thru-Hiking 101 class with professional hiker Liz “Snorkel” Thomas. This six-week online class covers everything you need to know to plan and finish the long-distance hike of your dreams. Begins January 12, 2016.

Dreaming of a thru-hike? Prepare for success by learning the obstacles–and how to beat them.

Don’t let the length of the AT confuse things: It’s a hike, not an Everest expedition. Get started on the right path by dispensing with three common AT myths:

1) Planning: Ignore those who recommend an organizational jump-start six or eight months in advance. Calculating where you’ll camp every night is an exercise in futility, and spending thousands of dollars shipping resupply boxes across 14 states from Maine to Georgia is a waste of time and money (see "Hike Smart").

Hiker to Hiker
What it takes: Essential qualities for a successful thru-hiker include "a sturdy physique, exceptional determination, and ingenious adaptability." –Earl Shaffer, a World War II veteran who became the world’s first thru-hiker when he walked the AT end-to-end in 1948. He used road maps to navigate.

2) Gear: There’s no magic product. Sure, you should carry less than 30 pounds total with food and water (check page 53 for help), but remember: Even a one-pound pack can’t walk for you.

3) Mileage: It’s not important to stay "on pace" for the first month. In fact, the opposite is true. Nothing kills a thru-hike faster than going too far, too soon (see "Hike Smart" for how to master the first 40 days).

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