If you are an extreme outdoorsman and wish to embark on the entire journey, plan on spending 5 to 7 months out on the trail. When starting the hike in Georgia, as is most commonly practiced, it is not advised to begin before the middle of April, due to the unpredictable weather conditions. If hiking from Maine, it is typical to start out in June and head south. No matter how long you plan to be on the trail, pack clothing and gear that will protect you from the cold and rain. Even if you are hiking in the heat of the summer, higher elevations still can produce chilly evenings.
If you are planning a short one-day hike, you should plan on packing as lightly and efficiently as possible. A map and a compass are always a necessity as well as two or three bottles of water. Sunscreen is a must no matter what time of the year you are outdoors. While hiking, choose a sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher. You may not feel the sun doing damage to your skin, so having a high SPF sunscreen ensures that you are protected. Never attempt a hike of any length without a first-aid kit. Be sure that your first-aid kit includes a tourniquet and proper bandages for blisters.
For a one-day hike, pack food and snacks that are high in energy. You can purchase meal packages that are specifically made for hikers. Similar to military meals ready to eat (MRE), these food packages contain one meal and one snack. Some manufacturers include a chemical compound that with a little added water will create steam to heat the meal. Others require that you boil the contents of the package.
You can purchase a camping stove that is specifically made for backpacking. The "stove" is simply burner fueled by a small can of propane. Both items are made to fit inside a pouch and will fit into any nook or cranny of you backpack.
If planning to camp overnight or for several nights, purchase a tent that is specific for backpacking. A backpacking tent weighs in as light as a few ounces, but should not weigh more than 7 lbs. Generally speaking, backing tents are only made to sleep one person, but two-person tents can be purchased. Ideally, the tent should be compact enough to fit inside your backpack.
When shopping for a backpack, a medium-to-large backpack should give ample room to pack everything that is needed for your journey. Oversize backpacks tend to become too cumbersome midway through the trip.
Dogs are not allowed on many trailheads. If you choose to hike with your dog, preplan routes that are canine friendly.
The Appalachian Trail travels through 14 Eastern states, extending from Maine to Georgia, with the 88- mile stretch through New York state being an hour outside of New York City.
When hiking on the Appalachian Trail, be prepared with an ample supply of bottled water, or carry a water purification system. Dehydration is common for hikers who plan an extended trip on the trail.
Check your body for ticks. Ticks carry Lyme disease, which can harbor side effects for many months following the actual bite.
Wear form-fitting, comfortable shoes to prevent blisters from forming. Be sure to carry extra socks in case your feet get wet. Change into dry socks immediately.
Many people assume that if you attempt to embark on the Appalachian Trail that you will be forced to hike a day or more of strenuous terrain before reaching a trail exit. There are many trails located throughout the 2,175-mile jaunt that are prepared for casual strollers and family outings.