How to pack for your next AT hike in the Georgia mountains.
The Appalachian Trail Kick-Off Weekend is fast approaching. Each year during the first weekend of March, vendors, hikers and naturalists convene at Amicalola Falls State Park & Lodge for 3 days of discussion, instruction and fellowship. Nature enthusiasts of all skill levels, from near and far, share experiences, advice and excitement.
Speakers at this annual event will cover topics such as safety, preparation and tactics for getting the most out of an Appalachian Trail (AT) hike. The weekend emphasizes the importance of a good pack and a good plan and assists hikers in navigating their AT hike strategies – from 1 and 2-day treks all the way to thru-hiking, which can take up to 6 months.
In honor of the upcoming official opening of the Georgia Appalachian Trail hiking season, we’re providing a few tips of our own to help hikers survive and thrive during their AT hike experience.
Top 10 Packing Tips for the Appalachian Trail
- Evaluate your skill level, experience and length of hike before, after and during the packing process. The right gear for a seasoned hiker is not necessarily the same as the gear of a first-time AT ascender. For safety and peace of mind, customize your pack to fit your ability.
- One of the most important factors in finding the perfect backpack is fit. Carrying an ill-fitting pack can distract from enjoying time on the trail and can also become a health hazard if it creates rubbing and/or blisters.
- Clothing should be quick drying, and cotton should be avoided. Cotton retains moisture and can leave a hiker chilled when temperatures drop. Rain and humidity are inevitable on the southern-most parts of the AT.
- Like the correct backpack, hiking shoes or boots can be a source of comfort or catastrophe. The shoe or boot should fit with enough room to wear wool socks. Ankle support is also important.
- Finding a water bottle that fits in your backpack with easy access is ideal. Fill it at every opportunity.
- Do you want or need to include hiking poles on your packing list? They are a great addition for avoiding soreness or assisting those who suffer with knee problems. The AT can leave your knees and thighs taking the brunt of steep hills. Hiking poles can alleviate some of that pressure and help keep balance.
- Every hike, no matter the length, should begin with the checking, replenishing and packing of a First Aid Kit. Include band aides but don’t stop there. The trail is not the place to realize you should have included gauze, emergency stints and instant cold packs.
- Keep your gear dry, even when it is inside your backpack. Many hikers line the inside of their packs with trash compactor bags.
- Bug spray is a necessity on the Appalachian Trail. It is ill-advised to hit the AT without it.
- Packing the right gear for a hike is the most important step of the journey.
This list doesn’t even scratch the surface of the preparation and planning that goes into executing a hike on the AT or any other Georgia mountain hike. The best thing you can take away from this list is how serious the packing process is. And the more information gathered, the safer and more comfortable this amazing adventure will be.
Before leaving on the Amicalola Falls State Park approach trail to the southern-most tip of the Appalachian Trail near Springer Mountain, check in with one of our state park rangers and be sure to let them know of your plan, how to reach you and how far you plan to travel. They may even be able to share advice for your trip such as weather forecasts or trail conditions that have been reported by other hikers.
Wishing you and your fellow hikers happy trails this hiking season!