One thing about long hikes. You are no longer hiking for a short period of time between point A and B. Instead you are LIVING in the wilderness, which is VERY different and you need some different stuff. You will want a real towel, vitamin c, other meds and first aid, everything that you need to keep clean and rash free - soap and some vaseline or polysporin and other items to ease a body that's been too long on the trail and too long since a shower. And take the best sleping pad you can <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/blush.gif" alt="" /> <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/grin.gif" alt="" />
Jim <img src="/forums/images/graemlins/cool.gif" alt="" />
There are some caveats for this approach on the Appalachian Trail. The AT is NOT a wilderness trail in the classic sense. A thru-hike is basically stringing together a series of 3-5 day hikes for 5-6 months. It's a much more "civilized" affair than the Continental Divide Trail or even the Pacific Crest Trail. Due to its location along the eastern seaboard, it is rare to hike more than a day without hitting a road of some kind. Even in the famed "100-Mile Wilderness" of Maine, there are logging roads and shuttlers will cache food for you if you so desire along the logging roads you'll hit every 15-20 miles.
BUT, what Jim says really does hold a great deal of merit for a thru-hiker or long-distance section hiker. As your conditioning increases, pack weight will become less important. When you buy a pack of batteries, you'll carry all of them rather than toss the extras. You'll often carry a bottle of ibuprofen rather than a couple of packets. A small pack towel is worth its weight simply to save money at hostels where owners routinely charge $1-2 extra for using a towel.
Town stops provide important opportunities to clean yourself and your clothing, especially socks, as well as chowing down on high-calorie, high-interest foods that you can't reasonably pack on the trail. This looks a lot like cheeseburgers, fries, ice cream and beer in the Bearpaw memory book, but towns become nice places to replenish waning body fat stores.
And DON'T skimp on sleeping comfort. Over the course of weeks, and maybe months, poor sleep is a painfully easy way to wreck your body and ruin your hike. Shelters can be convenient, but the floors are wood and your neighbors will likely snore. And mice will typically try to collect their rent from your food bag. A tent or hammock with oversized tarp may be more of a haven than shelters. Tenting near a shelter can mean amenities like picnic tables to cook on and relax while enjoying the company of other hikers while allowing privacy once you return to your hooch.
If you have other questions, PM me or check on Whiteblaze for the hotbox of MANY varied opinions.