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Ask Section Hiker

Ask SectionHiker - Information Desk
Ask SectionHiker – Information Desk

Got a hiking or backpacking question for Philip Werner, the author of SectionHiker.com? Ask it using this form. All responses are summarized below for easy reference. I’m happy to help.

Winter Sleep System

Q: I’ve got a duomid and superlight bivy from MLD and will be winter camping in northern minnesota. What have you found is an effective sleeping winter pad or combination of pads?

A: You want a combined R-value of at least 5.5 for winter camping. R-value is additive. I recommend two pads, with at least one being foam. I used a Therm-a-rest Z lite pad with a Therm-a-rest All Season inflatable pad. Check out this table that lists sleeping pad R-values.


Hiking the Long Trail Off-Season

Q: I would really like to hike the LT, but could only do it after mid Oct, and before mid June. I was thinking it might be best to do it in 2 sections. Half this fall, and half next spring. What are your thoughts on this? Thanks so much for being there to answer questions…I’ll have alot more when I get set to go!

A: I think that’s doable although you need to be prepared for cool temps in Oct. In November, you run a serious risk of snow. The Green Mountain Club requests that people stay off the trail before memorial day because there is no much spring snowmelt which would cause erosion if it were hiked on. Damn unpleasant to hike in cold water too! I section hiked the LT in 6 trips and it was a fine way to do it. Great trail and far less crowded than the AT.

Q: So, if I hiked for about a week, starting in the south around mid to later Oct. I should be ok. Any tips for hiking in the coolertemps of fall…..especially clothing hints. I get pretty warm hiking, but need warm stuff for nights. It looks like staying in shelters is the way to go….to avoid hauling a tent. My gear is a bit “old fashioned” I’m not up on the latest goods.

A: My approach hasn’t changed at all since this trip under very similar conditions. http://sectionhiker.com/backpacking-gear-for-cold-wet-weathe/ it will be cold and wet.


Best Time to Section Hike New Hampshire Appalachian Trail

Q: Want to start section hiking the AT in May, trying to find the best, most comfortable time to hike NH. I know that the weather can be unpredictable specially on Mt. Washington. I’m just making plans, to find the best times, and weather.

A: June is THE best. There’s still snow in May. Have fun!


Section Hiking the Georgia Appalachian Trail in November

Hello. i have done many backpacking trips but othe longest i have been out is 5 days in PA woods.

Q: My new years resolution was to start hiking the appalachian trail and i wanted to do georgia. i have done the laurel highlands which is about a 65 mile trail and thought why nt start at the beginning. The main questions i have are due to not ever being to georgia and not knowing what to expect to their mountains as well as weather. i plan to start on november 13th and i have 10-12 days to hike if need be. any advice would be appreciated.

do you use the data book or the companion for resupply/ landmarks?

A: I would definitely encourage you do do some homework before you start a late autumn hike in Georgia. First off, register at Whiteblaze.net which is the main Appalachian Trail Forum. There’s a lot of excellent information there about the AT and a large community that provided helpful advice to all who ask for it. Next, buy the NOBO (Northbound) AT Guide by David Miller which lists all of the landmarks and resupply points you’ll encountry on the entire Appalachian Trail. Everyone carries pages of this book when they hike the AT because it has so much useful information. Finally, there are a lot of good sites on the Internet that have historical and season temperatures and weather data that you can research. Here’s one http://weatherspark.com/averages/30422/Gainesville-Georgia-United-States. Use google to find more.


Umbrella on the Long Trail

Q: I’m headed up to do a SB LT hike in a few weeks. Last year I did the VA seciton of the AT NB. It rained quite a bit during that trip. I used the Packa, it worked very well but thought I could improve my rain gear by using an ultralight umbrella in conjuction. Are the trails too tight to use an umbrella? Also it is feasible to leave the tent home and rely on shelter space?

A:Bring a shelter just in case. An umbrella could work but you need two hands to hike the northern LT. Have a good hike. PS it may be cold then


Cardio Fitness on the APT

Q: I live near the Weaverton Cliffs section of the APT and am bored with it. Are there any other sections of the APT that offer a more strenuous hike? I’m looking for a good day hike to strengthen my cardio fitness. Any trail will do. APT or whatever.

A: No idea. Sorry.


Intermediate Backpacking Trip in the White Mountains

Q: I’m just getting into day hiking this year and have hiked the whites this summer. I’ve done about 6 4k’s and about 10 other peaks in the whites. I’d like to expand my hiking into overnights and backpacking. What is a good way to work into this and what are some good overnight/weekend trips/destinations/trails that would be a good fit for me? I have the gear.

A: I’d hook up with one of the AMC chapters (see the trips listed at Outdoors.org) I’m a leader with the Boston Chapter and we lead dozens of trips each year. There are also a lot of meetup.com groups that peakbag the whites. Try Random Group of Hikers.


Climbing Mt Washington

Q: I am a student in Pittsburgh, PA, willing to find and take a chance of climbing the Mount Washington in the recent fall. I would like to know is it possible to make it happen with a group of people? I do not have much climbing experience, but I am physically well-built and used to challenges. If yes, could you, please, supply me with the information about climbing (group, equipment, training, prices, etc.) I would be very grateful.

A: Look up the trips offered at outdoors.org.


Backcountry Solar Chargers

Q: Hey Philip, if you ever have the chance I’d love to see a post of your thoughts and reviews on backcountry solar chargers.

A: http://sectionhiker.com/powermonkey-extreme-solar-panel-and-battery-recharger/ more coming. Basically they suck if you hike in heavily wooded areas.


Blisters from River Crossing Grit

Q: We have had discussions about blisters before, and I thought on your first TGO in 2010 that you were lucky not to get any blisters, so, I am surprised that you got some and that your socks were getting torn up. I recall on your first trip that you started using gaitors but, ditched them, and I think you were using smart wool liner socks. In other articles on your website you have talked how you had some old nylon work socks that you have used for hiking that never wore out.

On the latest TGO, did you bother to wear gaitors at all? If you did not,how do you think that wearing gaitors would have affected your overall performance in terms of keeping grit out and keeping socks intact and helping to prevent blisters?

As well, what brand(s) and type or types of socks did you take with you and wear?

If you did not take and/or use nylon socks, how do you think that they would have stood up under the conditions that you were hiking a)if you did not use gaitors and b) if you did use gaitors?

As well, since it seems that blisters are a hikers worst enemy, I was wondering why you did not deal with it right away on the trail? Perhaps there was not much you could have done about it under the conditions that you found yourself.

What were the differences between this trip and the first GTO where, to the best of my knowledge you did not get blisters?

Other than the blisters and near hypothermic conditions, it looks like this trip was incredible. The pictures are great.

A: I used Smartwool liners on this trip, just like in 2010. I brought them even though I knew they weer less durable because being wool they provide a little bit more warmth than the synthentic Gold Toe socks I wear as well. The latter are more durable than the Smartwool liners, but they will also wear out if abused.  As explained in the trip report, I brought gaiters but didn’t use them because they failed to stick to my trailrunners – basically gear failure. It wouldn’t have mattered anyway because the sand and grit from the river crossings came into my mesh shoes and gaiters would not have prevented this. The blister I got really came from road walking. I’m not entirely sure I could have done anything about it given it’s location (ball of the foot) when it cropped up because that area is very difficult to protect. I managed with it and it wasn’t that big of a deal after I found some new socks to buy.