Most of us would consider the gearlist below to be anachronistic, though it certainly
worked for Earl in 1948 (and with a few modifications on his later long-distance hikes as well).
Gear technology has evolved significantly since Earl's first hike, as have our collective
sensibilities regarding the impact of a multitude of hikers on the forest. What's listed here reflects the
insights gleaned from years of hiking experience during an earlier era. The Earl Shaffer
Foundation presents it here for its historical value rather than a specific recommendation.|
Earl Shaffer's Advice for Long Distance Hikers|
on the Appalachian Trail, circa 1950
Good planning, a sturdy physique, exceptional determination, and
ingenious adaptability are essential on a long and strenuous foot
journey. Most attempts to travel end to end on the Appalachian Trail
fail within two hundred miles. Above all, do not underestimate the
difficulties involved or overestimate your own capabilities. Both good
luck and good management are necessary. Preliminary experience on
shorter trips is very helpful.
The weight and bulk of the packload should be kept to a minimum, yet
the necessary equipment must be carried. The pack should be rigged low
so the weight rests mostly on the hips and is kept as near the body as
possible, to reduce the backwards pull. Food supplies should be as free
of cans as possible to reduce weight, yet maximum nourishment is
There should be no exact day-by-day schedule set in advance. Conditions
of weather and terrain prevent this. But a steady pace, if persistently
followed, will result in a good daily average. Don't expect a picnic
stroll. Mountain hiking is hard work.
EQUIPMENT: total weight approximately twenty pounds.
- Framepack--Mountain troop or similar, with large pocket removed.
- Poncho--serves as raincoat, parka, groundcloth, shelter cloth, etc.
- Rainhat--indispensable because of variable weather.
- Sheath knife--small size. Pocket knife as auxiliary.
- Small axe--necessary for maintaining campfire in rainy weather.
- Compass, waterproof matchsafe, snakebite kit-just in case.
- Cook kit--Mountain troop or similar (two nested kettles and frypan)
- Sleeping bag--blanket type (April-October), down or kapok in winter.
- Extra set of clothing--for added warmth, rather than heavy underwear, and as a dry change after a rainy day.
- Socks--(heavy) reinforced wool or spun nylon.
- Canteen--flat, one quart, slung to side of pack.
- First aid kit--include foot powder such as quinsana, insect repellent.
- Headnet, flashlight, plastic food bags.
FOOD: Recommended staples: cornmeal, oatmeal, flour, brown sugar, salt,
raisins, potatoes, powdered milk, rice, dried meats, dried fruits,
dehydrated vegetables (if available). Diet can be varied by immediate
consumption when visiting stores.
FOOTGEAR: Moccasin-type leather boots with nine-inch tops (protect
ankles from sprain, bruise, snakebite). Avoid low shoes, sneakers, knee
high tops, rubber footgear. Use lots of foot powder.
AVOID: tent, bulky sleeping bag, cans and jars, air mattress, large
sheath knife, large axe, bulky jacket or overcoat, conventional
Guidebooks are available from the Appalachian Trail Conference for
those desiring detailed information. These are rather bulky and heavy
for long distance hikers however. National Forest and National Park
maps are helpful. Most road maps at least show the general route of the
Trail. The Guidebooks contain sectional maps which could be detached
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