Hike the Appalachian Trail in Just Five Months


Stretching from Georgia to Maine, the Appalachian Trail weaves through 14 states. It can take some hikers up to one year to traverse all 2,168 miles, but with these tips, you can conquer hiking’s ultimate adventure in just five months.

1. Start Saving

Nearly 75 percent of hikers who start the trail will eventually call it quits. Often, their bodies can keep going, but they run out of money. Tearing down the trail burns up to 6000 calories a day, so you’ll need plenty of cash for food. You’ll also need money for emergencies, laundry, postage, and—if you don’t feel like roughing it every mile—hotels and restaurants. A full hike usually costs $3000, not including the cost of gear, so come stocked with a healthy bank account.

2. Hit the Post Office

If you think lugging groceries to your kitchen is a pain, try hauling your food 2,000 miles through the wilderness. It’s not going to work. Luckily, the Appalachian Trail crosses a road about every four miles, so hikers pass thorough lots of small towns. Although you can stock up on food there, it usually isn’t practical. Mail drops are a better idea. Experienced hikers often send themselves care packages, filled with a week’s worth of food, to towns hundreds of miles down the trail.

3. Pace Yourself

To finish the entire trail in five months, you’ll need to hike almost 15 miles a day. Even a hardened hiker will need to take some time getting used to all that walking. In the beginning, it’s recommended you only hike eight miles a day. As your body adapts, ramp up the mileage. When you reach Virginia, where the terrain is pretty tame, hike about 20 miles a day to make up for lost miles. (Or just jog the whole thing. In 2005, a runner completed the entire trail in just 47 days!)

4. Pack Light

Even if you’re mailing yourself food, you’ll still need to fight the temptation to hit the trail with a giant pack loaded with gear. While having everything under the sun in your pack may help you feel prepared, it will slow you down in a major way. Take a long look at your pack to make sure you’re not weighing yourself down with gear you don’t need.

5. Flip the Route

Who said you had to start at the beginning of the trail? Some hikers speed up their treks and avoid the crowds by starting in the middle. They hike north from Harpers Ferry, WV to Maine. One they reach the terminus, they drive back to Harpers Ferry and hike south to Georgia. Flip-flopping is a great way to see the whole trail while starting out in easier, faster terrain.

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How to Thrive For a Month Out of Your Backpack

You may not be able to fit your entire life into a backpack, but that’s what makes living out of a single bag an adventure. You’ll be surprised at just how much you can jam into your pack if you plan ahead.

1. Count Your Threads

Research the climate of where you’re going. Even if you plan on staying in the same place, chances are the weather will vary over the month. Versatility is key, and we don’t mean light and dark jeans. Bring comfortable clothes that you won’t mind wearing a lot and can be easily layered. Make sure they are durable and designed for the environment you are venturing into. 

2. Pack A Few Luxuries

Remember, you plan on thriving out of your backpack, not merely surviving. This means bringing non-essentials that will brighten the down time on your adventure. E-readers fit an endless supply of entertainment into a small package, and a tablet computer or small laptop will keep you connected to the outside world—if you’re into that sort of thing. Solar chargers are a great way to keep these devices powered. You never know when you’ll need to make an emergency phone call—or snap a once-on-a-lifetime picture.

3. Gear Up

A single-person tent can fit at the bottom of your pack and may prove to be your best friend (especially in wind and rain). Inflatable roll mats are space—and back—saving, and don’t forget a sleeping bag if the adventure calls for it. Depending on how much camping you’ll be doing, don’t forget to bring along a flashlight with extra batteries, fire-making tools, and whatever cooking supplies you’ll need.

4. Plan for Emergencies

A small first aid kit will be key. Even if you aren’t trekking into the wilderness, you never know when you’ll need a bandage or antiseptic. Make sure to pack spare glasses and contact lenses, and bring all the prescriptions you’re going to need as well. If you have to boot out an extra pair of socks to make it fit, so be it—it’ll be worth it in the long run. Also, an emergency food supply is a great idea as well. Bring enough compact, lightweight food like energy bars to last for a couple of days, and don’t forget to replenish the supply if you run out. 

5. Tool Around

Be sure to pack a utility tool—it will get you out of jams you didn’t even know you’d get into. As an added bonus, most have bottle openers, which will come in handy during social adventures with new friends you meet along the way.

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How to Find the Best Waves on Any Beach

Any surfer can luck into the occasional monster wave. If you want to catch the big waves consistently, you need to dig into the science that makes them grow. Here’s everything you need to know to catch the best waves.

1. Fan the Breeze

Ocean waves are caused largely by wind. In fact, that’s why waves on the West Coast are so much better than waves back east. On California beaches, the prevailing wind pushes in the direction of the waves, which makes Pacific ripples more intense. But on the East Coast, the prevailing wind blows against the waves, draining their energy.  

2. Play Fetch

Another reason west coast waves are better? The Pacific Ocean is bigger. Pacific winds cover more distance and, as a result, impart more energy into the water. Surfers and scientists call this phenomenon “fetch.” Not to mention, once a wave gets started, it usually has to travel thousands of miles to reach shore. Those waves will snowball bigger and bigger as they barrel toward the beach.

3. Watch the Weather

There’s a reason diehard surfers never blink at storms. A good tempest will dump plenty of wind energy into the water. Of course, that doesn’t mean you should be out boogie boarding when it’s thundering. A storm that’s brewing thousands of miles away can eventually give local waves a boost.  

4. Hit Rock Bottom

Just as rocks on a riverbed can create whitecaps above, obstructions on the seafloor can make ocean waves bigger by acting like a speed bump. As the waves slow down, all their energy gets compressed vertically—and the crest gets higher. Buy a map of the seafloor and start searching.

5. Study Up!

Good waves aren’t random. Thanks to fetch and the seafloor’s topography, they tend to break in the same place. Consider Mavericks Wave in California, where an unusual rock formation on the seafloor has created a surfing Mecca where the waves tower four stories tall! Good waves have reputations. Don’t be afraid to ask the locals where they are.  

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