We're adding one more to our Appalachian Trail Series! One of our own, Jackson, decided to leave Gearhead to try his hand at the AT. If you've been following the series, you know Heath and Will have been trekking for a few months. Jackson began his trip at the end of April and is almost to the half-way point! Here's a recap of Jackson's prep and our interview with him before he left. Stay tuned for more updates along the way!
Q: Why are you doing the AT?
A: I'm doing the AT because I have to. It has been calling my name for quite some time and I could only resist the urge for so long. The simplicity and the freedom that comes with hiking is so liberating. No pressure, no responsibilities, no stress … just wake up and walk. I also need the time to think. I am at a point in my life where it's time to grow up but I'm not quite ready. Hopefully I will have find what I am looking for … I have 2,200 miles to search for it!
Q: What have you done to prepare for the hike?
A: I have mainly just researched gear. I am very fortunate to have worked at Gearhead because I was exposed to a lot of knowledge from my teammates and was able to take advantage of some killer discounts. I only had time to do a short three-day hike and try out some of my equipment, but it went pretty well. You don't really have to be in the best of shape to hike the AT; the first few days are going to suck for anyone! It is mostly being prepared mentally. It is hard to wrap your mind around the fact that you will be hiking through the wilderness for five months, leaving most of the comforts you enjoy on a day-to-day basis at home.
Q: How long do you plan the trail to take?
A: I plan on taking 4.5-5 months to complete the trail. I don't have anything lined up for when I get back, so I could take longer if I need to … well at least until I run out of money!
Q: How do you think the trail will change you (if at all)?
A: I don't think events and experiences change you, I think they reveal more of who you already are. So I figure the trail will simply tell me something about myself that I didn't know before. It will probably show me that I can do without some modern day comforts, and that I can survive without taking a shower everyday. It would be nice if I have some direction once I finish. If not, I guess I will keep searching ... there's also the Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail if I need them!
Q: Any additional information you want to tell us?
A: Not really information, but some advice. People keep telling me, "Do it while you're young," and, "This is the only chance you'll have." I know these are words of encouragement, but I feel like people say this with the belief that they will never have the opportunity to do something similar. You can do it when you're older and there will be plenty of chances ... don't limit yourself. Be courageous, be bold, and go on an adventure. Don't look for excuses not to go but rather reasons why you should. I truly believe you will be glad you did!
Read Jackson's gear prep info below:
When it comes to long distance hikes, gear is the most important thing to consider. Since you will be carrying everything you need on your back, it is crucial to have light, high quality gear. Hikers today are very fortunate compared to the outdoor enthusiast just a couple of decades ago. New technology has made things lighter, stronger, more flexible, breathable, warmer; you name it and we have made it better. So how do you know what to look for in equipment?
That is a very difficult question to answer in a blog post so I will just give you a quick rundown. The three things I look for are quality, weight and price. Imagine it as a venn diagram with each circle representing each of the criteria. If I'm going to purchase gear, I make sure it at least falls into two circles but ultimately I'm shooting for all three.
So how do I know the quality of the gear I'm looking at? The first thing I look for is the brand name. I'm not saying always be a brand snob, but brands get their reputations by the quality of their products. Gearhead is very selective of the brands they carry so I was fortunate to be surrounded by high-quality equipment. Brands such as North Face, Patagonia, Mountain Hardwear, Osprey, Salomon, Icebreaker and SeaToSummit carry a strong name. They put a lot of time and energy into their products and use some of the finest materials. Their warranties are also usually very good, so for strenuous activities, this is a perk.
After I find some brands I liked, I began comparing similar products and checking their weight. Why is weight so important? Since I am carrying everything on my back, I want my load to be as light as possible. I'm not obsessed with weight, but I do take a lot of consideration into how much each item weighs compared to other similar items. Ounces and grams add up quickly so it's important to cut weight when possible. Be careful though. Sometimes the quality of the product can be compromised when the weight is reduced.
One of the most important factors to me is price. I will admit I compromise on quality and weight for a better price on some items, but only those that I don't think are the most important. Price shouldn't be the most important factor, but when it comes down to it, I am pretty cheap! With that being said, I try to find lighter, high quality gear that is in my price range. Of course I make exceptions when needed.
View the final list of my gear here.