I’ve backpacked before. I’m an Eagle Scout, although we didn’t do a lot of hardcore backpacking and that was many moons ago. I did a few backpacking trips in college, the longest being about 5 days in Denali with some fellow students. Since leaving college I’ve done weekend trips both by myself and with Christy – we even took Miranda along on one trip. So as far as training, its not like I’m learning to backpack.
However I have scheduled a bunch of training hikes where I will try to do 4 things:
1) Get a good grasp of how far I can hike in a day. I don’t really push it on weekend hikes.
2) Establish a routine. Again, weekend hikes don’t really lend themselves to routines. I think getting a good routine established early in my hike will be important for my morale and for making good miles.
3) Eliminate any unnecessary gear. It’s easy to carry something when you know it’s only going to be for a couple days. When you know it’s going to be for several months, that changes things.
4) Test new gear. I have gotten several new things, most importantly being new sleeping bag and pad. I want to make sure I like them before I leave for the trail next year.
I have already completed one training hike in Feb. I have additional hikes scheduled for May, August, November, and Feb next year just before I leave. Each is going to be for 3-5 days. Since they span the seasons that will allow me to test both cold and warm weather gear/skills. Hopefully I’ll get a variety of weather as well just to keep me on my toes and give me a taste of what the trail will be like.
I’m lucky because picking a place for each hike should be easy. I don’t live terribly far from Shenandoah National Park. Shenandoah is one of the easier parts of the trail, so I can use that section to get a good idea of my maximum daily range. I can also blue-blaze in the park (deviate from the AT) to get some hills in, both to strengthen my muscles and to get an idea how it affects my speed.
At the same time, I have started going to the gym regularly. Right now I am going twice a week. I am lucky because we have a gym at work that is fairly cheap and I am able to get 2 30-minute sessions with a personal trainer each week for free. I have already made great progress on leg strength, but I’ve also increased my upper-body strength, which should make lifting the pack easier. Lately we have begun focusing on muscular endurance, which should pay off on some of the long early climbs in GA, NC, and TN.
More to come soon on my first training hike!