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We started to see posts and pictures of people living/traveling in vans a few years ago. At first look, it did not look appealing. But after doing a few road trips in our small sedan, the van started to look better and better. Van life really started to look good after a couple of trips to North Texas and Colorado in the shoulder seasons, and it got really cold. We realized that a van would be a great way to travel, still have some room, and be able to escape some nasty weather. So the search was on for the van.

So would van life be a good fit for you? That really depends on what you want to do with it. It makes sense for us because we like to travel so much, but we also come back to a home base. We wanted a small space to be able to work from on the road and avoid paying for motels every time we needed to make a blog post. Being able to stay dry and comfortable during bad weather is also a huge bonus for us. We used to just bring our large Big Agnes tent and sleep in it. This was not the most fun on extended trips. Our small car was packed with camping and backpacking gear, and it felt like it was busting at the seams.

The Simple Van Life: VANilla

Just for clarification, we are not building a van to live in. We are building an adventure van. We did not want all of the knobs and whistles that an RV has. To be completely honest, building a van that costs as much as a small house is ridiculous in my mind. Running water, air conditioning, shower, and full kitchen are not what we were looking for in a van. Keeping the build simple was our goal. A simple build will keep the budget lower, and it will have fewer systems that require repairs.

Traveling to a destination, having space to store equipment, being able to do some blogging/photography work, and having a comfortable place to sleep were our priorities. Keeping the van size reasonable was another goal. Being able to stay in back-country sites and stealth camp in free parking would be a huge bonus. This is one of the reasons we decided to call our project van VANilla.

When we decided to get a van, our wants and needs were simple. It was not our goal to build a fancy van for the sake of taking fake Instagram photos of a model sitting topless drinking a cup of coffee with a dog on the edge of some fantasy location. We are not building a van for Instagram. We are building a functional van, and more importantly, we are building our van. We’re not paying someone to build our van for us. I have a huge advantage in that department, being that I know how to work on cars and already have the tools to do so. If you decide to build your own, this is something to consider. Tools can be expensive. We are trying to build a reliable van on a small budget, so we are taking advantage and doing most of our own work.

A Small Space

Being in a van for an extended time is going to be a challenge for someone who is not used to it. Going from a tent to a van will be a major upgrade and will afford us a better chance to work while traveling, actually letting us take longer trips. We did choose to have a high-top van, so we could stand up inside and make the bed higher. This offers more storage under it while keeping the wheelbase shorter.

Our goal is to not have a shower in the van. We are planning on visiting some campgrounds that will have shower facilities. Places like the YMCA and truck stops offer showers. Another popular option is buying a membership to a nationwide chain fitness club. 24-hour fitness is very popular because you can also sleep in the parking lot while you are there. When we do not have access to showers every day, we will simply use a washcloth or Epic wipes to clean up.

Cooking in the van will be something different too. We will have a very small stove installed, so we will have to keep our meals simple. The Yeti cooler that we already own will be utilized to keep anything that we need to cool for a couple of days. Again, we wanted to keep the build as simple as possible. We will still be mobile enough that we will be able to have fresh fruits and vegetables on hand. Water will be stored in 5-gallon jugs.

Let There Be Light

Striking a balance between simplicity and functionality was the reason we chose to install a 200-watt solar system in VANilla. Having enough power to charge our laptops, phone, and cameras, as well as run a vent fan, was a critical component.

The inside of VANilla will be lit by some small LED lights that will require very little power to run. We do not envision being in the van for days on end or having a dinner party, so keeping the lighting system simple was a no-brainer. Four small lights and a dimmer switch is all we are installing.

The charging system is hands down the most complicated system in the van build. Making sure that our batteries always get charged was a priority. We will be using a 30 amp hook up that was pre-wired when be bought the van and an isolator switch to charge from the alternator. The solar panels will allow us to charge in multiple ways.

Is Van Life for You?

Only you can say. Take some time and consider your goals. Taking on a van project can take a lot of time, effort, and money. If you want to take the leap, we hope to see you back here as we build our VANilla adventure van.

The post Van life, to Be or not to Be? appeared first on HIKERLORE.

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Are you a backpacker, hiker, photographer, and/or road tripper looking for an awesome place to adventure? Check out our Great List of U.S. Road Trip Ideas & Hiking Destinations. We have linked all of our articles in this post to share with you what we did while there, what we liked and didn’t, and where you can find more information. For more details, visit our hiking destinations page here.

Arkansas

Buffalo National River

If you have never explored the Buffalo National River, I suggest you beeline there for your next outdoor getaway.  This place is special.  In our article, we outline 5 Great Hikes in Northwest Arkansas.

Hot Springs National Park

The hiking trails here are short and lovely, especially if you like wooded hikes. Hot Springs National Park is a haven for those who enjoy tourist shops and restaurants.  The historic Bathhouse Row showcases unique architecture and is worth visiting.

Ozark-St. Francis National Forest Arizona

Grand Canyon National Park

North America’s crown jewel, the Grand Canyon deserves all the hype.  Its immensity is unreal.  Hiking the canyon, you will feel minuscule and larger than life all at once.

Monument Valley Tribal Park

We find ourselves at Artist’s Point as the sun drops behind the monoliths, transforming the sky into a fuzzy, soft twilight.  There is no doubt that the landscape here is fantastic and inspiring if you are able to blot out the crowds and touristy atmosphere.

Organ Pipe National Monument

Organ Pipe is a great place to enjoy outdoor pleasures such as hiking, biking, horse-back riding, and camping.  What makes this park interesting is its unique biodiversity. 

Petrified Forest National Park

Petrified wood cascades down like a frozen waterfall from the sandy purple and blue hills that border this hike.  You are hiking in a land of prehistoric sand art and strewn everywhere are the stumps of Triassic trees.  Imagine the lush forest that used to cover this now arid Arizona desert.  It is strange and alien in this rocky, barren place, but its beauty is undeniable.

Arizona Con’t

Saguaro National Park East

I will say that the night we spent on Tanque Verde Ridge in early January was one long night.  The ranger was quite right it was really cold and neither of us slept much despite our fancy gear.  We pack up and hike back down the mountain.  It is just before noon when we load our packs into the car and drive away.  The consensus is that, if you like great views of Tucson, the Tanque Verde Ridge Trail is your bag.  And that, yes, it is really cold at night in early January.

Saguaro National Park West

Coyotes sing as the sun drops low on the horizon.  It is one of those moments in life that will stay with you forever.  Perhaps Arizona’s Saguaro National Park has America’s best sunset.

Tucson Mountain Park

It is late afternoon, but we still have time for the 4.5 mile Brown Mountain Trail at Tucson Mountain Park.  The trailhead is next to the Gilbert Ray Campground.  This hike climbs Brown Mountain, making a loop, and the views are great.  We accidentally timed this hike just right, and we were rewarded with an amazing view of some storm clouds breaking in the distance.  The light created an incredible spectacle perfect for photography, and we went crazy with pictures.

Saguaro West NP California

Death Valley National Park

Death Valley National Park is reminiscent of a space movie.  You have landed on another planet and are exploring a desolate and alien world.  This part of the Great Basin and the Mojave Desert has unparalleled panoramas, so be sure to put your camera in panoramic mode.

Joshua Tree National Park

Joshua Tree National Park is an alluring place for photography, rock climbing, biking, hiking, horseback riding, camping, and scenic driving.  This is truly a park for the people.  Although it still feels wild, you are able to interact with this landscape more than with other parks

Kings Canyon National Park

It is chilly this morning.  The meadow is still shadowed as we hike down, down into Kings Canyon National Park.  Waterfalls crash down the sheer, rock walls that encapsulate us.  The snow is melting and its last remnants cling to the cliffs far above.  We can see where the avalanches came down earlier in the season.  Trees have been obliterated in huge swathes, broken in half, splintered and ugly.

Yosemite National Park

The next day is full of MUDS (mindless ups and downs).  We are exhausted and beyond hungry.  We dig down deep for the will to move our legs forward.  This day tested us.  We forded rivers, climbed mountains, crossed blowdowns, and fought off mosquitoes.  Yosemite is amazing and difficult.  I love being here.  It is one of the greatest challenges we have faced together.

California Con’t

Lassen Volcanic National Park

When I dreamed of hiking the PCT, I pictured beautiful alpine lakes.  Upper Twin Lake is that place I had set aside in my imagination.  With little hesitation, I strip off my clothes and begin a painful submergence that makes me feel alive.  The water is a deep blue, and I can see the bottom.  A fine, comfortable gravel swallows my feet.  Although it is cold, there is something about swimming here that makes this whole experience fuller.

Sequoia National Park

It is hard to describe what it is like hiking up to a living thing this large.  There is a sacred aspect to it like you are visiting a holy place.  Rarely do we see things that cause us to be awestruck, but the General Sherman tree is truly awesome.

Redwoods National Park

The trees.  They are something out of a fairytale book.  Climbing up and up into the sky, tapering off into the grey, rainy clouds far above, the redwoods are one of the most precious sights in the world.  Oddly enough though, it may not be the macrocosm that catches your eye in the redwood forest.  It may be the microcosm.  This dark, dank place grows all sorts of small, odd plants and fungi.

Death Valley NP Colorado

Hovenweep National Monument

This site was home to over 2,500 Ancestral Pueblo People in the late 1200s.  Hovenweep is a fascinating place.  This settlement, while not so dramatic as Mesa Verde, contains intriguing ruins.

Mesa Verde National Park

The Petroglyph Point Trail is about 2.4 miles and is for practiced hikers.  This trail runs the cliffside and is narrow with challenging footing and stairways.  It is an adventure for sure, offering views of the canyon and cliffsides.

Mesa Verde NP Georgia

Northern Georgia has numerous state parks.  We visited four state parks while there and each one has a lot to offer.  There are also spots of interest and scenic and recreation areas here.  You could spend quite a bit of time exploring.  This region is beautiful in the fall especially.  The trees display amazing fall colors. Let me tell you that if you have never been to northern Georgia, especially in the mid to late fall, it is beautiful.  Put it on your list!

Amicalola Falls State Park

Blackrock Mountain State Park

Brasstown Bald

Cloudland Canyon State Park

Tallulah Gorge State Park

Brasstown Bald Kentucky

Cumberland Gap National Historical Park

The Cumberland Gap is referred to as the gateway to the west.  It provides a natural path through the Appalachian Mountains to the land west.  This park is rich in history as the Gap has been used by Native Americans, early settlers, civil-war armies, and migrating bison.

Land between the Lakes NRA

This 170,000-acre park between Tennessee and Kentucky offers dispersed camping for only $7 per individual for 3 nights.  You can also camp for up to 14 days in one place.  This park is crowded.  It’s affordable, and there’s a variety of outdoor activities and historical sites to visit.

Mammoth Cave National Park

Mammoth Cave National Park doesn’t feel like a wilderness area.  There are towns within close proximity.  There are tour buses coming and going.  Like many parks, this one is crowded.  The cave tours have 50 to 100 people in a group.  I don’t mean to dissuade you from coming here, but it is good to go in knowing what to expect.  I highly recommend that you make reservations for the cave tours beforehand.

Natural Bridge State Resort Park

The Natural Bridge is a sandstone arch standing 65-feet tall and 78-feet long.  This area has long been a tourist destination because of its natural beauty. 

Mammoth NP Maine

Baxter State Park

We work using hand-over-hand grabs to hoist ourselves up sheer rocks and slick roots.  The trail becomes a giant pile of broken, enormous rubble.  White blazes lead to rocks that appear impossible to scramble, but somehow we make it over.  The stone is wet with dew, and wind buffets our cheeks and knocks us off balance as we emerge from the tree line.

New Hampshire

The White Mountains

What I do not realize is that I am about to get a real taste of the Whites complete with incredibly steep boulder climbs.  The kind where you look up and say “seriously”? We labor for hours to climb the South and North Kinsman. The views are rewarding, and we stop at the south summit to enjoy various backpacker favorites: Nutella, peanut butter and fluff, sour patch kids, and snickers.

North Carolina

The Great Smoky Mountains National Park

Double Spring Gap Shelter is a special marker for us because it was here 2 years ago that Rambo and I met our first thru-hikers. We saw some dirty, smelly hikers here who told us about the Appalachian Trail and their adventures thus far. One thru-hiker had spent a morning hiding in a fire tower from a stalker black bear. The other advised me to cut off all my hair if I did a thru-hike so that the mice in the shelter wouldn’t nest in it. While any sane person would have thought that thru-hiking sounded crazy, we couldn’t wait to join this adventurous culture.

New Mexico

Aztec Ruins National Monument

This is a misnomer.  Settlers mistakenly thought that the site was built by the people of the Aztec Empire of central Mexico.  In fact, these ruins predated the Aztec Empire and were built over the period from 1,000 to 1,200 CE.  Now it is known that the Ancestral Puebloans were the engineers and builders of these ruins.

Carlsbad Caverns National Park

Carlsbad Caverns was designated as a national monument in 1923, but to fully understand this park you need to travel back way farther.  250 million years ago it was flooded and was known as part of the Capitan Reef.  As part of the Permian Basin, you are really hiking all over an ancient coral reef.

New Mexico Con’t

Bandelier National Monument

Bandelier National Monument is situated in the Frijoles Canyon on the Pajarito Plateau in the Jemez Mountains.  A million years ago a volcano erupted nearby.  The ash piled high and cooled to form rocks called tuff.  Over time erosion formed holes in this tuff, and the Ancestral Pueblo People used tools to enlarge these into dwellings referred to as cavates.  These cavates were just a portion of the extended settlement that grew to include circular villages containing 40-room structures.

Tent Rocks National Monument

We climb the hillside and weave through the, at times quite narrow, slot canyon.  It is early morning and the crowds have not yet arrived.  The sunshine has not reached inside the canyon yet, and it is cold.  As we proceed, cone-shaped rocks tower above us.  Striations of orange and white mark the volcanic rock.

White Sands National Monument

Wading out into the powdery flats of White SandsNational Monument takes courage.  As you lose sight of the trailhead, a measure of panic may course through your system because everything here looks identical.  You are surrounded by miles of sand, a shifting sea of gypsum that sparkles starkly against a cloudless dome ceiling.  Will I find my way in this forever changing yet always remaining the same hike?  The only thing really keeping you found is the occasional trail marker poking up from the sand.  This lets you know you are still on the alkali flats hike.

Tent Rocks Ohio

Cuyahoga Valley National Park

This historic area is home to the Towpath Trail, which follows the Ohio & Erie Canal.  It is largely paved multi-use and nearly 20 miles.  There is also a scenic train ride!

Hocking Hills State Park

Nestled in Southeastern Ohio, this park has 6 hiking regions and 30 miles of trails to explore.  We visited Whispering, Old Man’s, and Ash Caves.  It was an absolute joy to hike on these well-maintained paths among the gorgeous rock formations.

Cuyahoga Valley NP South Carolina

Congaree National Park

Congaree National Park is 11,000 acres of protected floodplain old-growth forest.  Most old-growth forest in the United States has been lost to settlement and logging.  This park is a rare gem.  It is has something that most people of this age will never see – really old trees.  The ecology here is unique and supports much biodiversity.

PDA Texas

Caprock Canyons State Park

It would be easy to dismiss the Texas Plains as flat and featureless.  From the road, you see windswept farmland as far as the eye can see.  And in the Panhandle, you can see a long way.  Take a second look though.  Did you know that the Texas Panhandle is home to the second-largest canyon in..

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This article contains our Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Gear List. For more information about all things Appalachian Trail, visit our Appalachian Trail page. Please remember that what you pack is determined by your level of comfort and risk tolerance.  It takes time and experience to figure this out, of course.

Our recommendations come from our experience and risk tolerance, which may be different from yours.  We try to pack as light as we can without sacrificing our safety while maintaining a reasonable level of comfort. This post contains affiliate links. Help support Hikerlore content by purchasing through these links.

If this is your first thru, you will probably take more than you need.  You will learn and shake down your pack as you go.  If you don’t use it, lose it!

Base Weight

This is the weight of all your gear save water and food.  We aim to be around 10 pounds.  You could certainly go lighter.  We are carrying some camera gear and a few luxury items, which makes us a bit heavier than an ultra-light hiker would be.  Still, this is a respectable base weight.

The Big Three:

Of course, you’ll need the big three.

Sleep System: quilt or bag, mat, bag liner (optional), pillow (optional).

Shelter: Tent, tarp (hope you like bugs), or hammock, repair kit.

Backpack & pack liner.

Clothes

Here is some of the clothing you might bring rain gear, cold-weather gear, wool sleeping clothes & sleep socks, 1 pair hiking pants and/or shorts, 1 long-sleeved shirt, 1 short-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, buff, darn-tough hiking socks, gaiters, and trail runners.

Food System

You may choose to go stoveless as we did on the Florida Trail.  In that case, you’ll need a cold-soak receptacle (like a Talenti jar), and a spoon.

If you choose to do hang your food or use a canister, you’ll be needing a food-storage bag with hang line or a bear vault. Here is a link to our LiteAF bear bag review and PCT hang video.

If you like to cook, take a backpacking stove, pot, and lighter.

Filtration System

To maximize your chances of staying healthy on the trail, bring a water filter.  You’ll also need a water bottle for your filtered water, a heavy-duty ziplock bag or other receptacles for scooping, and possibly water bags for storage. On the Appalachian Trail, we used the BeFree filter and didn’t need water bags for storage like in the PCT desert section. The Appalachian Trail is a pretty wet trail. Recently on the Florida Trail, we switched to using bleach. For us this is perfect, bleach is easy to use, effective, and economical. Check out our Florida Trail article “Wrapping Up the Florida Trail”, for more information.

What to Eat?

We’re not dieticians or nutritionists, so we can’t make recommendations.  But here is what we eat: high-calorie foods with a good balance of carbs, proteins, and fats.  We have found low-glycemic foods to be beneficial for endurance exercise.  Also, whenever we get to town we try to eat a lot of fresh produce.

A typical day will start with a “breakfast bomb”.  This consists of muesli, whey, almond flour, peanut butter powder, and milk powder.  Add some water and viola!  A mid-morning snack may be a pro-bar or trail mix.  Lunch usually consists of trail butter and tortillas.  A mid-afternoon snack may be another bar.  Dinner is pasta or beans.  These are a few suggestions.

Stoveless?

You will learn whether or not you like to cook on the trail. On the Appalachian Trail, we used a backpacking stove for dinner only.  We now have over 5,000 miles of long-distance hiking under our belts, and we have finally decided to go stoveless.  It’s not for everyone.  My advice to you is that if you find yourself eating trail mix instead of cooking dinner, stoveless may be right for you.  We prefer to have a hassle-free approach.  This way we don’t have to carry fuel, a stove, or a pot.  Try it out on a test run before your thru-hike.

Navigation

We use the Atlas Guides Guthook App.  There is also a data book and a guidebook available.

First Aid

This depends on your level of comfortability.  All we bring is NSAIDs, anti-diarrheal, cortisone cream, tweezers, body glide, and leuko-tape.

Miscellaneous

There are some items that you may want to bring, including an external battery, adapter, & cord, trek poles, phone (can be used for navigation, taking photos, journaling, reading, watching, calling, etc.), bug net, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray, chapstick, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, pocket knife, fingernail clippers, and wet wipes.

Test Run

If you’re new to all this, take your gear and yourself on a backpacking test run.  Get used to using all your gear before you head out.  This will also allow you to evaluate whether or not backpacking is as fun as you imagine it to be.

Gear List

Our base weight is now just above 11 pounds for each of us.  Some of the gear will change as the weather gets warmer and colder. This will also put less stress on our joints, keeping us healthy on the trail.

Summary

Thank you for reading. We hope this will help with your AT planning process. If you have any questions or suggestions, please reach out to us in the comments. Happy trails! For more posts on the Appalachian Trail, visit our AT page, here.

The post Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike Gear List appeared first on HIKERLORE.

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This article contains our Florida Trail Thru-Hike Gear List. For more information about all things Florida Trail, visit our Florida Trail page. Please remember that what you pack is determined by your level of comfort and risk tolerance.  It takes time and experience to figure this out, of course. 

Our recommendations come from our experience and risk tolerance, which may be different from yours.  We try to pack as light as we can without sacrificing our safety while maintaining a reasonable level of comfort. This post contains affiliate links. Help support Hikerlore content by purchasing through these links.

If this is your first thru, you will probably take more than you need.  You will learn and shake down your pack as you go.  If you don’t use it, lose it!

Base Weight

This is the weight of all your gear save water and food.  We aim to be around 10 pounds.  You could certainly go lighter.  We are carrying some camera gear and a few luxury items, which makes us a bit heavier than an ultra-light hiker would be.  Still, this is a respectable base weight.

The Big Three:

Of course, you’ll need the big three.

Sleep System: quilt or bag, mat, bag liner (optional), pillow (optional).

Shelter: Tent, tarp (hope you like bugs), or hammock, repair kit.

Backpack & pack liner.

Clothes

Here is some of the clothing you might bring rain gear, cold-weather gear, wool sleeping clothes & sleep socks, 1 pair hiking pants and/or shorts, 1 long-sleeved shirt, 1 short-sleeved shirt, wide-brimmed hat, buff, darn-tough hiking socks, gaiters, bright orange bandana (for filtering and visibility), and trail runners.

Food System

You may choose to go stoveless as we did.  In that case, you’ll need a cold-soak receptacle (like a Talenti jar), and a spoon.

To comply with regulations, you must hang a bag or have a canister in all Florida Trail National Forests.  Therefore, you’ll be needing a food-storage bag with hang line or a bear vault. Here is a link to our LiteAF bear bag review and PCT hang video.

If you like to cook, take a backpacking stove, pot, and lighter.

Filtration System

To maximize your chances of staying healthy on the trail, bring a water filter.  You’ll also need a water bottle for your filtered water, maybe a bandana or coffee filter for removing pieces of debris, a heavy-duty ziplock bag or other receptacles for scooping, and possibly water bags for storage.

Water

Of course, you should always treat your water.  We will use a bandana to remove any large particles when collecting water, if necessary.  Then, we will use the Sawyer Micro Squeeze Filtration System.  It is unfortunate that. in some areas of the Florida Trail, there are pesticides in the water from agriculture.  There are filters that will remove these, but they’re heavy.  If you don’t have one of these and you’re able to cache water in these high-risk areas, that would be ideal. 

One thing is for sure, pesticides or no, you must stay hydrated. (there ended up being so many volunteer- maintained water caches near the canals that we didn’t have to filter. also, our water filters didn’t work after a few days in the swamp. they were completely clogged, so we used bleach instead for the rest of the trail. this worked great! we’ll never squeeze again).

In the swamps, there are cypress domes and strands where drinking water can be found.  We use Guthook Guides, an app, to help us navigate, resupply, and find water sources.  You will see the location, description, and pictures of domes and strands in this tool, along with dated comments from hikers about the status of the source.  There are good guidebooks and maps available also.  See below, under resources, for more details.

What to Eat?

We’re not dieticians or nutritionists, so we can’t make recommendations.  But here is what we eat: high-calorie foods with a good balance of carbs, proteins, and fats.  We have found low-glycemic foods to be beneficial for endurance exercise.  Also, whenever we get to town we try to eat a lot of fresh produce.

A typical day will start with a “breakfast bomb”.  This consists of muesli, whey, almond flour, peanut butter powder, and milk powder.  Add some water and viola!  A mid-morning snack may be a pro-bar or trail mix.  Lunch usually consists of trail butter and tortillas.  A mid-afternoon snack may be another bar.  Dinner is pasta or beans.  These are a few suggestions.

Stoveless?

You will learn whether or not you like to cook on the trail.  We now have over 4,000 miles of long-distance hiking under our belts, and we have finally decided to go stoveless.  It’s not for everyone.  My advice to you is that if you find yourself eating trail mix instead of cooking dinner, stoveless may be right for you.  We prefer to have a hassle-free approach.  This way we don’t have to carry fuel, a stove, or a pot.  Try it out on a test run before your thru-hike.

Navigation

The FTA has maps for sale, please see below under resources.  We use the Atlas Guides Guthook App.  There is also a data book and a guidebook available, also listed under resources below.

First Aid

This depends on your level of comfortability.  All we bring is NSAIDs, anti-diarrheal, cortisone cream, tweezers, body glide, and leuko-tape.

Miscellaneous

There are some items that you may want to bring, including an external battery, adapter, & cord, trek poles, phone (can be used for navigation, taking photos, journaling, reading, watching, calling, etc.), bug net, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray, chapstick, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, pocket knife, fingernail clippers, and wet wipes.

Test Run

If you’re new to all this, take your gear and yourself on a backpacking test run.  Get used to using all your gear before you head out.  This will also allow you to evaluate whether or not backpacking is as fun as you imagine it to be.

Our Gear List Summary

Thank you for reading. We hope this will help with your FT planning process. If you have any questions or suggestions, please reach out to us in the comments. Happy trails! For more posts on the FNST including our post-Florida-thru-hike article “Wrapping up the Florida Trail”, click here.

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Welcome to our Hiking Gear Lists & Reviews page!  This is all backpacking, hiking, and camping equipment used on our adventures.  As with all things in backpacking, this is highly personal.  With more than 5,000 miles of backpacking under our belts, we offer our experience.  What works for us may not be what works for you.  We hope that this will be helpful to you as you’re collecting your personal set of tools for the trail.

Finding the right combination of tools for you is simply a matter of what makes your experience in the outdoors enjoyable.  We are not out to change your mind.  We offer our insight, and hopefully, we can learn from each other through our successes and failures.  Please leave comments or ask questions on any of the posts.  We would love to hear from you.

We do not get paid to endorse any of these brands as ambassadors.  Our reviews are honest opinions of the product.  We do get paid if you purchase a product through one of our links – a small fraction by Amazon.  Hence, if you like one of the pieces of equipment, please use our link and support Hikerlore’s content.

Gear Lists

Check out our gear lists for our long-distance hikes. Here you will find everything we carried with us on our hikes of the following trails.

Our recommendations come from our experience and risk tolerance, which may be different from yours.  We try to pack as light as we can without sacrificing our safety while maintaining a reasonable level of comfort. This post contains affiliate links. Help support Hikerlore content by purchasing through these links.

If this is your first thru, you will probably take more than you need.  You will learn and shake down your pack as you go.  If you don’t use it, lose it!

Gear Reviews

We have used a myriad of gear during our hiking adventures. Check out our gear reviews to find our honest opinions on what works well, what could work better, and what we would leave behind next time. We do not receive money from any of these gear manufacturers.

Summary

Thank you for reading. We hope this will help with your planning process. If you have any questions or suggestions, please reach out to us in the comments. Happy trails! For more posts on Hiking Gear Lists & Reviews, click here.

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Welcome to Hikerlore’s knowledge page! Here you will find articles on all things hiking, thru-hiking, backpacking, and outdoor travel.

Read our Desert Hiking Guide for tips on backpacking in areas with little precipitation. After backpacking through the California desert on the PCT and many other desert areas, we would like for you to benefit from our experience and knowledge. Learn how to:

  • Prepare for a desert hike
  • Deal with water scarcity
  • Strategize for an optimal hike
Southern California Desert on the PCT

Read our Top Games for Thru-Hikers if you’re looking for some fun ways to play while backpacking with your friends on a long-distance trail. They can challenge your intellect, make you laugh, distract you, and help you get to know your new friends.  We have put together a list of our top games for thru-hikers.

The Trail Fam on the AT Recovery

Check out our article How to Recover from your Thru-Hike for tips on making your homecoming from a long-distance trail a little easier to handle. Coming home from a thru is weird.  This guide intends to help you see how to recover from your thru-hike. 

Rambo Recovering after the AT


For a Post-Thru-Hike Simple Stretch Routine, discover easy ways to help your body after a backpacking or hiking excursion. Performing a regular static stretch routine may help you reduce stiffness and pain.  You may experience an enhanced range of motion as a result.  In addition, if your return to “real life” has got you feeling stressed, stretching may help you to relax.

Stretch Stretching

Learn a Post-Thru-Hike Foam Rolling Routine to aid in recovery after a hiking adventure. Foam rolling is a generic term for the process of self-myofascial release (SMR).  Your body has connective tissue that encapsulates your muscles.  This fascia can become “bundled” with use, which may affect the underlying muscle groups and your joints.  Self-myofascial release is the process of massaging these trigger points through applied pressure.

Stretch doing some Myofascial Release

The practical application of various myofascial release tools, such as a foam roller, to these tight, sore areas may help you to realign fascia. Therefore, performing a regular foam-rolling routine followed with static stretching may help you reduce stiffness, soreness, and tension while increasing flexibility.

Summary

Please feel free to reach us with your suggestions. If there is a subject that fits under all things hiking, thru-hiking, backpacking, and outdoor travel you would like to know more about, we would be glad to help! View our knowledge page here.

The post All Things Hiking, Thru-Hiking, Backpacking, and Outdoor Travel appeared first on HIKERLORE.

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Dorothy Lake Yosemite National Park

Welcome to Hikerlore’s guide to Pacific Crest Trail prep!  This article will give you the low down on some of the things you need to know before you start a straight-up northbound thru-hike of the PCT.  It will also recommend some other important planning resources (for southbounders, too).

Please remember that what you pack is determined by your level of comfort and risk tolerance.  It takes time and experience to figure this out, of course.  Our recommendations come from our experience and risk tolerance, which may be different from yours.  We try to pack as light as we can without sacrificing our safety while maintaining a reasonable level of comfort.

If this is your first thru, you will probably take more than you need.  You will learn and shake down your pack as you go.  If you don’t use it, lose it!

Pacific Crest Trail 101

Our nation has 11 National Scenic Trails.  The Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail (PCT) is one of these.

Total length

It is approximately 2,653 miles in total length. The trail is marked with Pacific Crest Trail symbols.

Start and end points

The PCT’s southern terminus is located in Campo, California about 50 miles east of San Diego.  The northern terminus is in Manning Park, British Columbia, Canada, about 135 miles east of Vancouver, BC.  Most thru-hikers go northbound (nobo).

Getting there

We flew into San Diego. Fortunately for us, we have family there. If you need a ride though, check out Scout and Frodo’s page here. They will put you up, feed you, and drive you to Campo. There are details about public transit to the Southern Terminus on their Web site. If you’re a southbound hiker (sobo), you cannot legally enter the United States from Canada on the PCT. You would need to get to Harts Pass, then hike about 30 miles North to the U.S. Canada border. Check out this great guide on a PCT Southbound hike, click here.

Closures

Like all trails, the PCT sometimes has closures. Most commonly, these are due to fires. In fact, this is why our PCT hike of 2017 turned from a thru-hike into a section hike of California instead. Please visit the PCTA closure page here for the latest information.

Permits

Please carefully read the PCTA long-distance permit page here. They have outlined everything you need to know. Here are the three main permits to concern yourself with before your nobo departure:

  • PCT Long-distance Permit
  • Canada PCT Entry Permit
  • California Fire Permit (if you plan to use a camp stove)
Hiking Season

A good time to begin is in late April or early May.  This allows plenty of time (if you’re hiking between 15 – 20 miles a day with zeros) to arrive in Kennedy Meadows by early to mid-June-the recommended time to start the Sierras. This depends on snow levels, of course.

You will need to finish your hike in September before the weather turns. The weather in Washington, like everywhere else, can be unpredictable. I have heard many stories about people forced to quit because of winter storms. A hiker even disappeared one year after a storm. As far as I know, he hasn’t been found yet. When you thru-hike the PCT northbound without flip-flopping, you’re on a time crunch. There’s no way around it.

Muir Pass Terrain

There is challenging elevation gain and loss on the PCT. You will work hard. The good news is that the trail is well switchbacked and the grade is mostly gradual, unlike the Appalachian Trail.

Climate

Be prepared for extremes. In the desert section, you will contend with temperatures exceeding 110 degrees Fahrenheit. We got a heat wave coming out of Tehachapi that rose to 117 degrees. Many people night hike to avoid these extremes. We would often take a long break during the hottest part of the day, finding shade wherever we could. At night, temperatures drop again. The desert gets cold at night. Be ready. See our desert hiking guide, here.


Not only do you have temperature extremes, but you will get rain, wind, hail, sleet, snow, lightning, and humidity. You must be ready for anything and quickly. When you get to the Sierras, depending on the snow levels, you may be hiking in a lot of snow or not. It just depends on the year. In fact, you could be hiking in the snow before the Sierras. It just depends on the year and when you left Campo.

The heat and humidity in northern California are intense (and so is the chafe!). I thought it felt hotter there sometimes than in the desert, especially on the Hat Creek Rim.

Snow

We did the Sierras in August. It was the last section we hiked in California. 2017 was one of the highest snow years on record. We used spikes and axes. I slept in Smartwool with a down jacket and pants. Luckily for us, we timed it just right though, the rivers were relatively safe to cross and the passes, while still pretty snowy, were challenging but not stressful. The year we hiked two thru-hikers died crossing rivers in the Sierras. It is the most beautiful place I’ve ever been, but it’s truly dangerous. Know how to cross rivers and passes properly. Most hikers try to hike early in the morning when the snow is packed and the rivers are lower. Know how to self-arrest.

Heat

The heat in southern California is no joke. Take sunscreen and chapstick. Wear light colors, breathable full-coverage clothing, use a desert hat, or use a desert umbrella. Many hikers get their miles done early in the morning and in the evening, sitting out the hottest part of the day. Of course, plan out your water carefully and stay hydrated. Check out our desert hiking guide here.

Potentially Dangerous Wildlife

The PCT is home to some potentially dangerous venomous snakes, black bears, mountain lions, ticks, mosquitoes, and cows.  You are required to use a bear canister in several places. Please visit the PCTA page here for all the details. We carried canisters through the Sierras and mailed them home at Kennedy Meadows North (Sonora Pass). 

If a black bear is being aggressive, make yourself look big, speak assertively, back up slowly, and avoid eye contact.  Fight back when attacked. We didn’t see a single black bear on the PCT in all of California, but we saw signs of them often and heard many stories of other hikers seeing them. It is wise to take extra precautions in areas where bears are known to be a problem. Read the comments in Guthook’s for a clue.

Mountain lions are rare.  If a lion is being aggressive with you, make yourself look big, don’t run, and fight back if attacked. We have heard many stories of lion sightings. If you’re lucky, maybe you’ll see one.

Mojave Green Rattlesnake Insects

Ticks and mosquitoes are present.  We use 98% Deet and protective clothing when the mosquitoes get bad. In our experience, Yosemite (Dorothy Lake) was mosquito hell. A friend told us that in Oregon, the mosquitoes were so bad that he kept his raingear on while hiking and only stopped at the end of the day once safely in his tent.

We didn’t see any ticks, but you should do a tick check daily.  If you are bitten, watch the bite site carefully for a bullseye.  Seek medical attention as soon as possible, if one appears.

Snakes

We saw many rattlesnakes while on the trail in California. Try to be vigilant at all times while hiking. You may want to avoid headphones or maybe wear one in and one out so that you can hear their rattle.


Potentially Dangerous Plants

As far as plants go, there is the Poodle Dog Bush and Pacific Poison Oak. We saw tons of both. Poodle Dog Bush smells like weed and is only found in the Southern section. Learn to identify these plants. Avoid touching them with your body, clothes, or gear.   

Water

Of course, you should always treat your water, unless you like getting Giardia.  I know hikers who do not filter. The ones that don’t get sick are extremely selective about their water sources. In the desert, you can’t be too picky. You have to drink whatever water you can find, so I highly recommend treating your water.

On our hike in 2017, we used a sawyer squeeze. Since then, we’ve thru-hiked the Appalachian and the Florida National Scenic Trails. After much experience, we have switched to bleaching our water. You may not be comfortable with this, and that’s perfectly fine. You do you. I think it’s easy, economical, time-saving, and safe. We use 2 drops per 1 liter, and we keep our bleach dropper from getting exposed to UV light. After letting the bleach do its work for 30 minutes, we drink up.

Water can be tricky on the PCT. Be careful and make sure to plan. We ran out of water once. It was 5 miles from the source in the Mojave in July. It was highly uncomfortable and even dangerous! Use Guthook’s and be sure to read the comments. I wouldn’t bet my life on water caches, but you can read recent comments in Guthook’s and the water report to gauge if a cache is likely to have a supply.

The water and snow report (used for river crossings too) is a crowdsourced document that gets updated by hikers. You can download it to your phone (we used Google sheets), but the information changes on a daily basis, and you must get the new version each time you have a signal for the latest data. Click here for information.

The Aqua Duct Camping

Finding suitable camping is fairly easy on the PCT. We always try to camp near a water source. Keep in mind that camping near a body of water increases the condensation in your tent. It may also be colder by the water, which could be a good thing. Ideally, you would find a flat spot under a tree (check for widowmakers!) with some duff beneath you.

Resupply

It is a good idea to have an outline of your planned resupply spots before you head out on a thru-hike.  That way you know if maildrops are necessary and can prepare them for your resupply person back home.  We like to do mostly buys along the trail because you never know what you’ll feel like eating.  Also, plans sometimes change and this allows more fluidity.  Lastly, if you’re using post offices, the hours can be a drag.

We mail ourselves shoes every 500 miles because we know through experience the size and make preferred.  Thus, we use a hybrid resupply method, consisting of buys and maildrops.  Please bear in mind that your feet will likely get bigger on your first thru-hike.  Your feet will swell and widen.  We both increased in shoe size when we did our first long-distance hike on the PCT. Kennedy Meadows is a good spot to mail your Sierra gear. We mailed our spikes, axes, and canisters home from Kennedy Meadows North (Sonora Pass).

We use a combination of the guidebooks, Web sites, and Guthook’s when planning our resupply stops and drops before leaving.  When on the trail, we use Guthooks.

Resupply Stops

Here is a list of all the places we stopped for resupply along the way. Our favorite trail stops are starred, meaning they would be good for a zero. They have a decent hotel, a grocery, and good places to eat.

  • Mount Laguna
  • Warner Springs
  • Idyllwild *
  • Big Bear *
  • Cajon Pass
  • Wrightwood
  • Agua Dulce (Hiker Heaven is wonderful)
  • Lake Hughes
  • Hikertown
  • Tehachapi *
  • Lake Isabella
  • Kennedy Meadows
  • Lone Pine *
  • Independence
  • Muir Trail Ranch
  • Vermillion Valley Ranch
  • Mammoth Lakes *
  • Tuolumne Meadows
  • Kennedy Meadows Resort North
  • Markleeville
  • South Lake Tahoe
  • Chester *
  • Old Station
  • Burney Mountain Guest Resort
  • Mt. Shasta *
  • Etna *
  • Seiad Valley
  • Ashland *

We would not go to the following places again, if it could be avoided: Lake Hughes (we couldn’t get a hitch. the people weren’t friendly. the post office is far), Lake Isabella (it’s spread out. the hitch is long. there seemed to be a lot of shady people around), Independence (we couldn’t get a room. all the restaurants were closed. there’s no grocery worth a damn), Muir Trail Ranch (depending on trail conditions and your mileage, you may have to send a drop here. it’s expensive and requires special packaging. the hiker boxes can be awesome though), and Markleeville (it’s a long and hard hitch. it’s expensive).

Motel at Lake Isabella What to Eat?

We’re not dieticians or nutritionists, so we can’t make recommendations.  But here is what we eat: high-calorie foods with a good balance of carbs, proteins, and fats.  We have found low-glycemic foods to be beneficial for endurance exercise.  Also, whenever we get to town we try to eat a lot of fresh produce.

A typical day will start with a “breakfast bomb”.  This consists of muesli, whey, almond flour, peanut butter powder, and milk powder.  Add some water and viola!  A mid-morning snack may be a pro-bar or trail mix.  Lunch usually consists of trail butter and tortillas.  A mid-afternoon snack may be another bar.  Dinner is pasta or beans.  These are a few suggestions.

Stoveless?

You will learn whether or not you like to cook on the trail.  We now have 5,000 miles of long-distance hiking under our belts, and we have finally decided to go stoveless.  It’s not for everyone.  My advice to you is that if you find yourself eating trail mix instead of cooking dinner, stoveless may be right for you.  We prefer to have a hassle-free approach.  This way we don’t have to carry fuel, a stove, or a pot.  Try it out on a test run before your thru-hike.

Other Hikers

There are many other thru-hikers on the PCT, especially in the beginning. In fact, sometimes there were too many. We did a flip flop of California to avoid a high snow year, so we didn’t see that many thru-hikers through northern California and the Sierras. I think it’s safe to say that as you go farther along the trail, you won’t see as many other thru-hikers. You will see many day hikers and weekend campers too. Hopefully, they give you some food! You will meet many people if you’re open to it. That is definitely part of the fun.

Precious Shade Hitchhiking

Generally, we had no problem hitchhiking. Most people know about the PCT and are used to picking up hikers. Keep in mind we always hitch together, we use a sign made from our groundsheet, and we try to hitch in a good location (good visibility, easy for people to pull over). Our sign says “hikers to trail” and “hikers to town”.

Blogging

Many people find the idea of blogging appealing.  The truth is that blogging on the trail is difficult.  You’re often exhausted from your day’s exertions and just want to go to sleep at the end of your day.  I find it helpful to keep notes on my phone for each day: the miles, what happened, the weather, etc.

When you get the opportunity to write on your nero or zero, you’ll have a reference to guide you.  It can be rewarding to share your story with others and possibly help and inspire them.  It does take a lot of extra work when you’re already really tired.  It’s also nice to know that, in the future, you will always be able to revisit your blog to remember your adventures.

Training

You should definitely train for your thru-hike.  For your aerobic training, hike with your backpack on 5 or 6 days a week beginning at least 8 weeks prior to your departure.  You should also have a regular resistance training routine.  In addition, develop a stretch routine to practice after your walks.  Carry this stretch routine over into your thru-hike.  If you need help with this, please visit our fit hiker page, here.

Gear Base Weight

This is the weight of all your gear save water and food.  We aim to be around 10 pounds.  You could certainly go lighter.  We are carrying some camera gear and a few luxury items, which makes us a bit heavier than an ultra-light hiker would be.  Still, this is a respectable base weight. When we did our PCT hike, we were heavier than this, but we have learned much since then. To see our most recent gear list used on the Florida Trail, click here.

The Big Three:

Of course, you’ll need the big three.

Sleep System: quilt or bag, mat, bag liner (optional), pillow (optional).

Shelter: Tent, tarp (hope you like bugs), or hammock, repair kit.

Backpack & pack liner.

Clothes

Here is some of the clothing you might bring rain gear, cold-weather gear, wool sleeping clothes & sleep socks, 1 pair hiking pants and/or shorts, 1 long-sleeved shirt, 1 short-sleeved shirt, a wide-brimmed hat, buff, darn-tough hiking socks, gaiters, and trail runners.

Food System

You may choose to go stoveless as we did.  In that case, you’ll need a cold-soak receptacle (like a Talenti jar), and a spoon.

You may want to hang a bear bag.  Therefore, you’ll be needing a food-storage bag with hang line or a bear vault. Here is a link to our LiteAF bear bag review and PCT hang video.

If you like to cook, take a backpacking stove, pot, and lighter.

Filtration System

To maximize your chances of staying healthy on the trail, bring a water filter or other treatment.  You’ll also need water bottles for your treated water, a heavy-duty ziplock bag or other receptacles for scooping, and water bags for storage.

Navigation

We use the Atlas Guides Guthook AppHalf-mile’s maps and Yogi’s guide can be helpful. We just use the App on the trail.

First Aid

This depends on your level of comfortability.  All we bring is NSAIDs, anti-diarrheal, cortisone cream, tweezers, body glide, and leuko-tape.

Camping outside of Seiad Valley Miscellaneous

There are some items that you may want to bring, including an external battery, adapter, & cord, trek poles, phone (can be used for navigation, taking photos, journaling, reading, watching, calling, etc.), bug net, sunglasses, sunscreen, bug spray,..

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This product made my life easier. I will never go on a hike without one again. On the Appalachian and Pacific Crest Trails, I did the squat method. While this gave me mad leg gains, it was time-consuming and often a bit painful on my sore joints and muscles. Have you ever done a yoga squat with 20 pounds on your back after hiking up and down mountains all day? It will make you cuss a bit. I peed on my shoes more than once, and I may have peed in my pants a little too. Now I don’t know about you, but I have talked with some other female backpackers, and it seems that while backpacking, the sudden need to pee is intense. The Tinkle Belle really helps when you need to go suddenly.

#youwillneverPEEthesame


Well, every hike teaches you something new, and on the Florida Trail, I learned how to pee with dignity and ease. With the Tinkle Belle, I simply unzipped my Tinkle Belle carrying case, which dangled unobtrusively from my backpack to remove my Tinkle Belle. You barely have to drop your shorts (if you wear shorts) to use it. Just pull them down a tiny bit, unfold the Tinkle Belle and slide it into position. Afterward, give the Belle a downward shake (just like the boys do), and tuck it back into its pouch. Don’t worry! It has a long spout for distance.


Now some of you may be wondering, how did you wipe? The Tinkle Belle does have a squeegee lip for drops. I’m not sure how you feel about it, but I love my pee rag. I’ll admit when I first heard about pee rags, I was a little grossed out. I started using one on the Appalachian Trail because I was tired of always running out of toilet paper. Its convenience allowed me to quickly overcome any aversions I had. So, I keep this handkerchief tucked inside my Tinkle Belle. Whenever I need to go, I pull it out of its nook in the Belle, use the Belle, wipe, put the Belle back in its case with the pee rag tucked inside. This worked out perfectly for me.

#letpeedomring


With my Tinkle Belle, I was able to pee discretely without making a big ordeal of tromping off into the woods for some squatting privacy. It’s super easy to clean. The material is liquid repellent (hydrophobic), so your pee just runs off without issue. It’s antimicrobial and odor free. At the end of the day, I would give it a quick rinse. When I got to town, I would wash it and its case with soap. My pee rag would go in the laundry. No big deal.
I’m not sure about everyone else, but I hate getting up and going outside of my tent to pee at night. The Tinkle Belle saves me from having to do this as well. This may not be your style and maybe I’m just lazy, but I carry a Gatorade bottle with me. At night, I CAREFULLY use the Tinkle Belle and this bottle to avoid leaving my tent. It works great. In the morning, I dump my bottle and give it a quick rinse.

#lifeOUTSTANDING


It’s easy to use, store, and clean. My only gripe is the carrying case and carabiner. While the case is lined with a material that is non-absorbent and easy to clean, after several weeks of heavy use, this lining began to crack, crumble, and fall out. In fact, I had to throw the case away after our Florida Trail thru-hike. Also, the tiny carabiner that came with the case broke, and I had to replace it with a more durable one mid-way through our 1,100-mile hike.
Just so you gals know, I do not receive any money from Tinkle Belle for writing this article. This product truly makes my hiking life easier. I highly recommend purchasing one of these for your next hike. However, if you purchase a Tinkle Belle through this affiliate link (click here) in Amazon, I will receive a kickback so that I can continue to bring you quality content on Hikerlore.


Also, by purchasing a Tinkle Belle you’re supporting Tinkle Belle’s mission. With every purchase, the Tinkle Belle donates a portion to help maintain orphanages in 2nd and 3rd-world countries. I have used other female urination devices, such as the Freshette, and the design of the Tinkle Belle is superior. It is one small piece that is made of quality, hydrophobic, anti-microbial material that is anatomically shaped to suit most vaginas. It doesn’t require any manipulation of separate parts to make it ready for use. This makes it easier to clean as well.

Check out the Tinkle Belle at www.thetinklebelle.com

Follow on Instagram @thetinklebelle

For more information about products we use during our hikes, visit our gear lists & reviews page, here.

The post Why I Love my Tinkle Belle appeared first on HIKERLORE.

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Hiking the Florida National Scenic Trail (FNST) was a cool experience. It’s unlike the other trails that you may be used to like the Appalachian or Pacific Crest. That’s good though. It’s unique, presenting you with some challenging environments that allow you to grow your hiking experience.

If you’re thinking of thru-hiking or section hiking the FNST, this article may help you to understand the one-of-a-kind nature of this trail. We also published narratives while we were thru-hiking the FNST and a preparatory article. For those, please visit our Florida Trail page here.

In Retrospect

There are always things you wish you could have done differently. We would have been better prepared for aggressive dogs. Although we had read that dogs are a problem on the Florida Trail, we did not anticipate being chased and nearly attacked by packs of dogs. I would take this threat seriously and prepare for it.

Be ready for cold and wet at the same time. The weather in Florida is nice most of the time, but there was one day where the temperatures dropped to nearly freezing. On top of that, it rained for more than 24 hours straight. You have to bring the right gear for this, or you will be miserable and maybe even in danger. Rambo’s rain gear was too light, and we ended up taking a tent zero to escape the cold and rain. It was not fun.

Be prepared with high SPF sunscreen. While in Southern Florida especially along the canals, the sun got intense. We had sunscreen and desert hats, but we still got nasty sunburns. We would recommend 100+ SPF. If you’re really sensitive wear light-weight pants and a long-sleeved shirt. Make sure to stay well hydrated, and pay attention to signs of heat sickness.

We were prepared for the bugs, packing 98% Deet and bugs nets (for the black flies). It did surprise us that we found ticks crawling on our legs almost daily.

Guthook’s often did not seem to have the latest information on trail stops. Always read the comments from other hikers and leave some yourself, if you find that it is out-of-date.

Eastern Box Turtle
FNST Pros:
  • Great Camp Spots-the FNST has some awesome camp areas. Florida Trail volunteers have created some unbelievable sites with picnic tables and fire rings. Of course, Florida is fairly flat, and this definitely makes finding a place to camp easier.
  • Scenic Hiking-the uniquely beautiful areas on the Florida Trail are stunning.
  • Adventure-how often do you wade chest deep in water while carrying your backpack overhead? Have you ever hiked through a titi swamp or a palm hammock? Would you ever have pictured yourself filtering muddy water through a handkerchief in the middle of a Cypress dome? This trail is weird. You never know what you’re going to get. It has the ability to surprise you regularly.
Gray Rat Snake
Pros Con’t
  • Flora & Fauna-you will see a myriad of birds, reptiles, amphibians, and mammals. The plants in Florida are wild. You will see ancient oaks and cypress trees, carnivorous plants, and citrus trees to name just a few.
  • Navigation & Resupply-the trail volunteers have done an excellent job blazing this trail. It was rare that we would have to open Guthook to find the trail. Resupply is not difficult. There are plenty of supply points albeit some are simply convenient stores or Dollar General.
  • Other Hikers-surprisingly, we did meet other thru and section hikers. This contributed greatly to our good experiences while on the FNST.
FNST Cons:
  • Closures & Road Walks-sigh. This is no joke. There were many trail closures that required long, boring road-walk reroutes. You may want to get shoes with more cushion. Those road walks are hard on your feet. We used the Altra Olympus running shoes. In 2019, most of the scenic areas in the panhandle were closed because of damage from Hurricane Michael. It’s difficult to find camping. You have to play chicken with huge, speeding trucks. You’re walking on off-camber, no shoulder roads. Trash covers the roadside. You’re visible to hundreds of people every day exposing you to an increased risk of being targeted for crime. Even when you’re on the trail, often you’re walking on a road of some kind whether it be an old logging road, a bike path, or a canal.
  • Dogs-you will encounter aggressive dogs, so be ready. Take mace and have your trek poles (or something else) ready to defend yourself. Before doing a road walk, read the notes in Guthooks. Another hiker’s notes saved us from what could have been a horrible dog encounter (a couple picked us up; and right as they did, there was a pack of 10 chows running down the road toward us). If need be, hitch around the risky area. There is no reason to put yourself in danger.
Cons Con’t
  • Defensive & Unfriendly Culture-you may not feel very welcome or safe at times on the FNST. There are fences and signs everywhere threatening bodily harm to your person if dare step off the roadway or trail.
  • Florida Man-no offense meant here. This became a humorous catch-all term for some of the scary people we encountered on the roadways and sometimes in the woods of Florida. Attempt to camp in areas that aren’t well used by Florida Man. If you have to camp in high-use areas, try to stay out of sight as much as possible. You can easily pick out these well-used spots because they are covered in trash and tire tracks. Do not tell strangers where you plan to stop for the day or that you’re alone. This may be paranoid, but we never make real-time posts on social media accounts. We always delay our posts until we’re safely outside of the location tagged.
  • Trail Culture-if you’re thru-hiking, there really isn’t one. In general, people don’t know about the Florida Trail. We were confused for homeless people several times. However, the people we met along the way were generally friendly and interested in hearing about the trail. You will rarely meet other thru-hikers; although, we met more than we thought we would.
Con’t
  • There are some hiker events like the kick-off and Billy Goat Day, which we didn’t attend because our timing wasn’t right. So if you look for it, you could definitely find some culture, especially if you were a volunteer. There are also some great resources about the Florida Trail. For those, you can visit our “Preparing for the Florida Trail Thru-hike” article.
  • Monotony-you will walk through many logging areas that consist of rows of pine trees. This gets super boring.
  • Guns, Guns, Guns-you will be hiking through many active hunting areas. People will be shooting near you and in your direction at times. You will see bullet holes in signs. We got shot at by hunters who were illegally shooting from a moving truck. They didn’t realize we were there until we yelled; although, we had our hunter orange colors visible.
Our Favorite Spots
  • Big Cypress National Preserve
  • Kissimmee River/South Florida Water Management District
  • Suwannee River
  • Aucilla Tanks
  • Sopchoppy River & Bradwell Bay
  • St. Marks National Wildlife Refuge (call in advance for camp permit)
  • Eglin Airforce Base (call in advance for closures)
  • Gulf Islands National Seashore

*we were not able to hike Chipola or Econfina due to Hurricane damage, but we hear they are beautiful.

Sugar cane field on fire FNST 2019
Resupply

We purposefully visited resupply spots that were on the trail or very close because we didn’t want to hitchhike into towns. This means that we rarely came to places where you could get a decent hotel. Overall, we were pretty happy with this arrangement.

Here is a list of all the places we stopped for resupply along the way, indicating whether we bought or dropped. Our favorite trail stops are starred, meaning they would be good for a zero. They have a decent hotel, a grocery, and good places to eat. We only took two zero days in towns. One was in Clewiston and the other in White Springs.

  • Billie Swamp Safari (maildrop)
  • Clewiston* (buy)
  • Okeechobee* (buy)
  • River Ranch Resort (maildrop)
  • Christmas (buy)
  • Oviedo (buy)
  • Lake Mary* (buy)
  • Paisley (buy)
  • Rodman Campground (maildrop w/ shoes)
  • Lake Butler (buy)
  • White Springs (buy)
  • I-10 Intersection S. of Madison* (buy)
  • Aucilla River Store (buy)
  • St. Mark’s* (buy)
  • Bristol (maildrop w/ shoes)
  • Ebro (buy)
  • Crestview* (buy)
  • Navarre* (buy)

The Florida National Scenic Trail was a fun, challenging trail, and we’re grateful for the experience we gained and the people we met out there. If you have any questions about this trail, please contact us. Leave us a comment or suggestion as well. Thanks for reading! For more articles on the Florida Trail, click here.

The post Wrapping up the Florida Trail appeared first on HIKERLORE.

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You get to know trash when you do as many roadwalks as we have lately. Today we start road walking before the sun is up so that we can cover the great distance into Ebro around Econfina, which has been closed due to damage from Hurricane Michael. From roadside litter, we know that Floridians like Bud Light and mini Fireball Cinnamon Whiskey. Other things that we continuously see are packs of 305s, tires, and single gloves. Towards the end of the day, we begin to notice that the Hurricane damage is lessening.

I awaken to the sound of construction trucks beeping loudly outside the Ebro Lodge. Hurricane clean-up crews make up the majority of the guests here. We pack up quickly and walk west on the road towards the Nokuse Plantation. Entering the woods, we spot a box turtle on the trail all tucked up under his defenses. It’s absolutely lovely to be back in the woods after so much road walking. Unfortunately, it won’t be for long.

We seem to be out of the hurricane damage now. Nokuse is one of the largest private conservation projects in the United States. We have walked through endless homogenous timber plantations in Florida. Nokuse is making an effort to return this area to Long Leaf Pine forest. Nearing the end of our day, the terrain becomes more hilly than anything so far on the Florida Trail as we climb the bluffs along steep head ravines. The Magnolia trees here are magnificent.

Is that Thunder?

We pass into Eglin Air Force Base the following morning to walk the gorgeously maintained trail. The gently rolling hills drop down to clear, cool creeks and climb back up again through magnolia forests. Nearby we hear the sound of thunder rolling, but we know better. The Air Force Base must be doing drills, so we call the number listed in Guthook’s (the app we use to navigate) to check for closures. To our great disappointment, we’re instructed to roadwalk again to avoid the section up ahead closed for maneuvers.

Eglin AFB FNST 2019

We turn west onto Bob Sikes road and walk for miles before heading north again to intersect with the trail near Red Creek Camp. It’s dark by the time we get there, but hey we didn’t get blown to bits. The camp seems to have no flat spots for tents, but we’re so exhausted we hardly care. We find a flat-ish spot and collapse inside.

FNST trail blaze with RamboJuice

We practically run the 20 miles into Crestview. It’s the first “real trail town” we have had in what seems like a very long time. We go bonkers. First, we get a room at the Hampton Inn, and then, we go out for a steak dinner at Samuel’s. It is a super big treat, and we’re happy as clams.

Cujo

Guess what? We’re roadwalking again. This time we walk through Crestview and down into Holt where we catch a cheap meal at Sherry’s Lunchbox. The comments in Guthook’s say that there is a pack of dogs up ahead just south of I-10 before we enter the Yellow River Wildlife Management Area. After we pass under I-10, we decided to hitch around the dogs.

We have been sticking out our thumbs and holding up our sign “Hikers to Trail” for some time now without any luck. A pick-up truck drives past us, but then the driver changes her mind and does a U-turn. We are climbing into the backseat of her truck, and as she is pulling away, we see a pack of 8-10 chows running towards us. These people have saved our asses. I shudder to think of what would have happened if this kind lady had not stopped for us.

Once again it’s dark as we set up camp in the Yellow River WMA. Our tent is pitched next to a pair of old tires. A Great Horned Owl is hooting and a dog barks in the distance. Tomorrow we have another big-mile day. We’re hiking all the way to Navarre, which is on the coast. We are nearing the end of our journey. It’s baffling to think that soon we’ll be hiking on the white sands of Gulf Islands National Seashore.

Hard Times

We hike out of the Yellow River area quickly and cruise through the streets of suburbia to reach the Tom Thumb on highway 87. We’re sitting outside the store eating breakfast when a man comes over and tries to give us money. He says I don’t know if y’all are on hard times, but I can give you some money. This is not the first time that we have been mistaken for homeless. We thank him but explain that we’re thru-hikers. His kindness is extraordinary, especially considering that he looked like he couldn’t spare the money. Many people in Florida are totally unaware that the Florida National Scenic Trail even exists, but we’re continually shocked on all of our hikes at the kindness of random strangers.

We continue down 87 for hours and hours until the highway becomes a two-lane road leading through suburbia. Before we know it, we’re standing in front of a sign for Navarre “Florida’s Most Relaxing Place”. We continue through the strip until the road leads to the coast, and we finally lay eyes on the ocean waters of the canal side. It’s been a long, long day but we still have work to do. We pop into the grocery to buy the small amount of food we’ll need for our last day on the trail, and then we slip into a cheap motel adjacent the market.

Mardi Gras

We’re sitting in the McDonald’s at 5 a.m. drinking coffee and watching the news. The world’s problems seem far, far away from us. Being a thru-hiker is strange. Even when you’re in civilization, you still feel outside of it. You can still function in the system. You can drive your car and do your shopping, go to your job, watch the news at McDonald’s while drinking coffee, but somehow there is always that part of you that is left behind…out there in the woods somewhere.

It’s still dark out as we take the bridge over the canal. Massive hotels and colorful beach homes decorated for Mardi Gras line the bike path for a few miles. Then the trail leads us into Gulf Islands National Seashore and onto the pristine, immaculate beach.

We remove our shoes and walk for miles in the white sands. It’s a day of light. The ocean is hypnotizing. The sunlight illuminates the crests of the waves. The water is always changing while staying exactly the same. We comb the beach for seashells and crab claws. Time falls away, and soon we find ourselves strolling among the mansions of Pensacola Beach. It’s an odd feeling wanting to reach your end goal but also wanting time to slow down. You want this to be over, but at the same time, you don’t.

The miles fall away one by one. My feet scream at me as nerve pain shoots up my heels and ankles. How much farther can I walk? Almost there I tell myself. Soon we’re in the scrubby marshlands of Fort Pickens; we can see the strange rock bunkers looming out of the wind-blown vegetation. The trail becomes a gravel footpath that leads to an unassuming footbridge crossing over a marsh. We look down into a grassy island and see a blue egg nestled there. And suddenly there it is, a humble pile of bricks arching over a neat plaque announcing our arrival at the northern terminus of the Florida National Scenic Trail…1,100 miles from Big Cypress National Preserve to Fort Pickens. No joke, at that very moment, a bald eagle flies directly overhead.


For more posts on the FNST, click here.

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