Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about hiking the Appalachian Trail…
Q: How long is the Appalachian Trail?
A: The trail is 2,182 miles long from Springer Mountain in Georgia to Mount Katahdin in Maine.
Q: Do you see any bears?
A: Most hikers see bears. Some of the most frequent sightings include the Smoky Mountains in Tennessee, the Shenandoahs in Virginia, and New Jersey.
Q: How long does it take to hike?
A: 4-7 months. Most hikers take about 6 months to finish.
Q: When do people start to hike it?
A: Northbounders start out in March-April. Southbounders start out in May-July.
Q: Where do hikers stay at night?
A: In shelters and campsites every 8-20 miles on the trail. For more information, see <Shelters>.
Q: How often do hikers go into town?
A: Every 3-5 days to resupply.
Q: What kind of foods do you eat?
A: Hikers eat high calorie foods. For breakfast, hikers eat foods like oatmeal, sportsbars, and granola. For lunch, hikers consume snack foods like gorp, M&Ms, crackers, cheese sticks, cookies, bagels with peanut butter or Nutella, and granola bars. For dinner, hikers eat hot foods like, Ramen Noodles, Knorr Sides, mac-n-cheese with tuna or salmon, and tortillas with beans and rice. For more information, see <Food>.
Q: How much food do you pack?
A: 3-5 days worth of food. It’s important to pack a little extra just in case it takes you longer to get into town than expected.
Q: How much water do you pack?
A: Enough to get you to the next water supply. Use your guidebook to locate the next water supply. Typically, hikers start their day with 2 filled water bottles. For more information about water, see <Water on the Trail>.
Q: How do you know where the trail is?
A: The trail is marked with white blazes that have been painted onto trees.
Q: What do I take with with me on the trail?
A: For everything you need, see <Things You Need>. Practice several shakedown hikes to test your equipment and to gauge your needs.
Q: How heavy is a backpack?
A: It depends on the person, but a good guideline is to try to keep the weight to 25% of your body weight. For instance, a 100lb person can safely carry a 25lb pack. The formula: (Your weight) X (.25) = Maximum Pack Weight. For more information about backpacks, see <Backpacks>.
Q: How do you find time to hike?
A: Hikers are usually in some life transition (e.g., graduated from high school/college, a job change, or some other major life event). If you really want to do something, you make the time.
Q: How do you brush your teeth?
A: Hikers brush their teeth using their bottled water. It’s done away from sleeping areas. Hikers spit into fire pits, on rocks, or onto the ground. It’s best to dilute it with water to avoid attracting critters and to leave no trace.
Q: Do you ever get lost on the trail?
A: Yes, most hikers get lost on the trail by missing turn offs. They find their way again by backtracking. For more information, see <Getting Lost on the Appalachian Trail>.
Q: What if I wear contacts?
A: Many hikers do. For convenience, these hikers might wear glasses. Ask your doctor about extended wear contacts that can be worn until you get to town.
Q: What if I’m a diabetic?
A: Talk to your doctor about proper nutritional and water requirements throughout the day.
Q: What kind of clothing do you wear?
A: Generally, hikers carry hiking clothing, camp clothing, and rain gear. For more information see <Clothing>.
Q: How do you take showers/baths on the trail?
A: You don’t. Hikers typically smell bad for 3-5 days then take a shower in town. For refreshment, you can carry handi wipes and use them to clean yourself. Wipes should be packed out with your trash.
Q: Do you have to hitchhike?
A: No, but most hikers do at some point because it might be several miles to the nearest town. If you don’t want to hitchhike, plan accordingly, call a taxi, or walk to town. If you do hitchhike, it’s best to do it in pairs.
Q: I’m a female. What about my menstrual cycle?
A: You can talk to your doctor about taking something to stop your cycle. Otherwise, do what you normally do and pack out your hygiene products. For more information, see <Female Issues>.
Q: What’s the most difficult section of the trail?
A: Weather conditions can make any section difficult. However, most hikers report that the White Mountain National Forest in New Hampshire and sections in southern Maine as the most challenging terrain.