START: William Brien Shelter, NY
FINISH: Stealth camp close to Leroy A. Smith Shelter, PA
DISTANCE: 120.2 miles (193.4 km)
DAILY AVERAGE: 40 miles (64.4 km)
TOTAL DISTANCE: 915.9 miles (1473.7 km)
The Boss: Much of this stretch was through New Jersey. Whenever I think of that particular state, invariably one of the first things that comes to mind is Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. In honor of The Boss during this section I listened to some of my favourite Springsteen albums, namely Born to Run, The River and Born in the USA. An all-time great live performer and one of New Jersey’s favourite sons.
The Sopranos: Probably the other thing that comes immediately to my mind in regards to New Jersey is the classic TV series, The Sopranos. Great show. Along with Deadwood, my favourite HBO production.
The Elusive Blackie: After all the hype about how many bears there are in the NJ section of the AT, I didn’t see a single one of the little rascals. Indeed, the closest I came to an encounter of the bruin-kind was coming across a can of bear spray just south of Rutherford Shelter.
Backpacking Gear – A Practical Overview:
Alright, alright……..enough of the random musings, this is a hiking blog after all. In regards to my backpacking kit I try to keep things simple – I bring what I need, I leave what I don’t and once I hit the trail I don’t spend any time worrying about what I do or don’t have. When you get right down to it, there are two things that hikers need to remember on this particular front:
– Have the appropriate gear for the conditions into which you are venturing.
– Have the knowledge and skills with which to use that gear properly.
The knowledge and skills aspects are covered elsewhere in The Hiking Life website. In regards to choosing the right gear, consider the following five points:
1. Research: Not all backpacking gear is created equal. There are a myriad of options on the market. Before purchasing, do as much research as possible………scour the internet, read backpacking magazines, ask the advice of experienced hiker buddies, etc. The website backpackinglight.com is a good place to start; it is full of useful reviews on all types of lightweight gear.
2. Functionality: Always go for functionality over style. A piece of equipment may look fantastic in the store, but unless it performs as it is supposed to out in the wilderness, it will be about as much use as a chocolate teapot. This is where all that research you did comes to the fore………..you don’t want to discover you have a porous rain jacket (albeit a slick looking one) whilst caught in the Mother of all storms.
3. Durability: We all want gear that is going to last. When making your purchase, ask yourself whether the design and materials of the item you are thinking of buying are likely to hold up long term in the conditions in which you will be hiking (eg. An inflatable sleeping mat may not be the best choice if all of your walking is done in rocky, desert-like terrain). Once you step out of the store, the key to making your gear last is doing the “little things” routinely (eg. not overloading your backpack; making sure your tent is clean and dry before storing it; not overly compressing your down sleeping bag for long periods of time, etc).
4. Weight: Hiking is more enjoyable if your backpack doesn’t weigh the proverbial tonne. Innovative designs combined with increasingly lightweight, yet still durable materials, have meant that manufacturers can now produce incredibly lightweight equipment, without unduly sacrificing performance or safety. It is worth noting that most ultralight backpacking gear, with the notable exception of feather down products, are generally less expensive than than their heavier weight equivalents.
5. Horses for Courses: Think about the conditions in which you will be doing most of your hiking and purchase accordingly. There is no point having a -15° rated sleeping bag you picked up for half price, if all of your camping is done in three season conditions.