Hello everyone. I am new to this site and am looking for any info that you have to offer. I will be doing a thru hike on the Appalachian Trail in march of 2014 and am looking for any advice (gear, clothing, food...) that anyone has to offer. I have purchased all the maps and several books to help me prepare but would love some hands on advice. Thank You in advance for any info.
Congratulations on your plan. Hope you have as much fun as I have had. I've done it twice, and health permitting, I plan to do it again.
First, you've come to the right place. We deal in lightweight approaches, and that will be very important. You need to get as light as you can. Real serious lightweight. The Neel's Gap dropouts all seem to be the ones who are heavily loaded. Incidentally, the store people at Neel's Gap will go through your gear for you and recommend changes to lighten up. Plan time and listen carefully. They know what they are doing.
Second, White Blaze is a very good suggestion. I don't go there often, but it's in my "favorites" list. Also take a look at the ATC website. Some very good stuff there as well and while you're at it, look in the bookstore. Get at least one of the thru hiker report books, and look for the "planning a thru hike" book. It has some very good stuff that will be useful at this stage. Wait to buy the guidebooks, maps and data book until December or January, just before you hike because they have a special of all the guides (and maps), the data book, and I think, the "companion" as well (you'll need that) for a good price (plus, you get the very latest available information).
One key element: remember that a thru hike is more a mental challenge than a physical one. You have to be able to get up every morning and say to yourself," heck with the aching muscles and the rain, I want to go for a long walk today".
Also, remember that a thru hike is just a series of week long trips. Your gear is the same, and you'll usually need to resupply (and shower, wash clothes and raid the AYCE (all you can eat) food bar) every five to eight days. I rarely carried more than five days of food. Food is heavy.
Once you have briefed in, I'll be happy to answer any specific questions, and I suspect that goes for BrianLe as well (he's better qualified than me, so if we have different answers, follow his)
Loc: Washington State, King County
Hard to add much to great advice so far --- whiteblaze really is "the" place for AT prep.
Do you anticipate an early March or late March start in 2014? If early March then you might make sure to get some experience at walking in/on snow and ice beforehand and tune your early gear to be able to handle somewhat cold and windy conditions during the day and temps that can get into the teens at night. I'm not sure how fast that gets on average "better" as you approach later March, and of course conditions can vary a lot year to year.
I hesitate to mention this, as I'm really not trying to shamelessly advertise (!), but I wrote a book aimed at folks pretty much like you --- the "planning" type of person out to do their first thru-hike, wanting to get the most out of their planning time and money. Hopefully the moderators will make clear if I'm crossing a line by mentioning it, but assuming that's okay the book (in Amazon Kindle format only) is here: http://www.amazon.com/dp/B00AJ68TVW