Over spring break I had a great adventure down in the Smokies in North Carolina hiking a section of the Benton MacKaye Trail and the Appalachian Trail. It is one that I’ll look back on as a solid foundation for some future trips. I went out into the woods in late winter in Smoky Mountain National Park (which boasts the highest mountains on the east coast and unseasonably cold weather) with a sub 3.5 pound pack. That’s it. Besides shoes, poles, socks, a shirt, and shorts, the 3.5 pounds on my back was all the gear I figured I needed to survive for four days. Loaded with 3 pounds of food and a liter of water, it brought the total up to 7.8 pounds. Continue reading Benton MacKaye Trail spring break hike
Cotton is consistently crapped on in the outdoor community for backpacking clothing and other outdoor activities. “Cotton kills” is a common saying among outdoor enthusiasts and anyone in the backcountry in jeans might as well have noob written on their forehead. But recently I’ve seen the death throes of cotton advocates citing that it is a perfectly acceptable and suggested fabric for desert environments. I am open to more arguments but after reading some of the articles justifying the reasoning, I have to say I’m very skeptical of this opinion. In this post, I want to explain why cotton gets such a bad rap, provide some explanation for why synthetic fabrics are preferable in any environment, and explain why cotton sucks even in the desert. Continue reading Desert or tundra, cotton still sucks for backpacking clothing
I may be delving into the realm of ridiculously lightweight but if that’s your thing, you may find some good ideas here. The original Buff® truly is multifunctional headwear. Previously on my trips I carried a bandanna as a pot holder, sweat wiper, rag, mud cleaner, napkin, and towel but a Buff acts equally well as replacement for all those uses. Additionally, while a stocking cap is certainly warmer than a Buff, it only serves one single function. The Buff, however, can be manipulated into a balaclava, can be used in warmer temperatures to keep sweat out of my eyes, and can protect the back of my neck and forehead on sunny hikes.
What an epic trip. The goal was to hike the AT/BMT north loop in four days. Unfortunately I had one slow day and had to leave the trail early to get back to studying. But I managed 138 miles in 3 days, 6 hours and can’t be disappointed with what I learned and accomplished. 42 miles on the first day, 32, 44, then 20 out to the road on Wednesday. I wanted to travel further, faster, and more efficiently than I ever have and I think I accomplished that. Going into the woods with only 7.8 pounds (3.5lb base weight), I managed to sleep decently comfortably through the three nights I was out there despite low temps in the high twenties. I learned a lot about my gear and my body, notably that on the second day when I was moving slow, there was absolutely nothing I could do to press my stubborn legs to move faster. And then on Tuesday I learned about my body’s resilience and easily cruised to a 44 mile day. The next morning I woke up again feeling fresh but unfortunately, with a looming immunology exam this upcoming week, had to abandon my adventure and return to the stressed studying I so desperately had needed a break from. Continue reading Appalachian Trail self-supported thru-hike
I’ve posted several theoretical gear lists over the past few weeks and just wanted to post an update of an actual gear list that I’ll be using on a trip down in the Smokies this upcoming week. I just got done with a string of five exams in the last two weeks and with my first med school spring break having just begun, I am stoked to be getting out in the woods for a short fastpacking trip. I’ve laid everything out and with low temps in the low 40s, think I can get away with a base weight of just below 3.5 pounds, FSO (from skin out) base of 5.74 pounds. The trip is the 170 mile North loop of the Benton MacKaye Trail/Appalachian Trail in Great Smoky Mountain National Park starting from Twentymile Ranger Station near Fontana Dam, heading north on the BMT, resupplying at Davenport Gap, then back south on the AT. The theoretical total was 8.7 lbs. but it ended up coming out to 7.8 with 2 days with food and 1L water.
This is an epic video that my friend Scott put together of some of his adventures this past year, including beautiful footage of our thru-hike of the JMT and some free-diving down in the Florida Keys. Enjoy!