I find that a true 1p tent needs about 23+ square feet and a true 2p really needs about 30 to work for most people for more than a week or two at a time.
I’ve made do with less (my wife and I put about 1200 miles on our Copper Spur), especially with vertical sides which make the interior feel bigger, but the extra space is huge in making a tent livable.
I’ve really noticed that since moving to a Triplex life has really been better when we tent.
I see a similar dynamic with the Durston cult members. That is a 32 square foot 2p tent. People using it are often just much happier.
I realize that some do ok with less space. There is that group of couples who hike while sharing a 1p tent. However, for us, for a 5’5” and 5’8” couple, I’ve found that 27-28 square feet is too little for long term use on a trail.
It was great for short trips, but for month after month it started to feel cramped.
37 square feet is grand, especially in the rain and keeping your gear inside the tent instead of the vestibule. And it is in line with what twice a 1p interior adds up to.
The difference the extra space makes is subtle, but 20-30 days into a backpacking trip you will find yourself more likely to look forward to alternatives to your tent every night if it is “too small.”
And I suspect how much rain you are getting makes a difference as well as to what is “too small.”
With more space I’m suddenly much more willing to use the tent instead of a shelter or looking for a hostel as we finish the AT.
Thought I’d bring that up. Curious what you think the right space numbers are and what factors into it.
I’m writing about tents to be used for long trail hiking/backpacking trips and shared by two people. By people who are going to use the tents a lot (so cost per use isn’t as big of a factor).
But the recommendations change if you aren’t sure you want to do that (you will only know once you start) or are limited in time/money.
If you haven’t started backpacking and if you aren’t a hiker doing long trails but more into car camping (drive some place and camp) or base camp style camping (hike in, spend a weekend and hike out) your needs are different.
10 and 11 May I [“I” in this is Jim MacKay/Wings speaking in the first person. d20’s notes are in ] attended the first sessions of an AT Institute (ATI) course.
Below is a summary of my experience. I consider these excellent reasons to attend the $300 (“suggested” donation), four-day course:
You are Ebenezer Scrooge-level cheap
You believe in, and appreciate being inundated with, logical fallacies
You have an overwhelming desire to become a Jennifer Pharr Davis FKT fanboy, or envision your thru-hike as an unsupported FKT-esque effort [Note, I and the author think highly of Jennifer Pharr Davis].
You are insecure enough to draw confidence from a fallacious correlation between attending ATI and a three-fold increase your chances of completing a thru-hike
You need to update your dumpster diving techniques
I signed up for, and traveled to attend, the Appalachian Trail Institute course under the construct that I would take every action possible to be mentally prepared for my planned 2022 NoBo thru-hike (deferred since 2020 due to Covid).
Despite reading negative reviews of the instructor and his cantankerous style, I had intended to glean valuable nuggets from the course.
Since my planned hike has few time or financial constraints, and the FKT cult is an anathema to my hiking philosophy, it took fewer than 24-hours to conclude that the ATI was not compatible with my thru-hike preparation and represented an unmitigated waste of time.
Things I did learn from my time at ATI:
I do NOT want to hike 16 or more hours every day
I do NOT want to jump in my sleeping bag within ten minutes of arrival at camp and get on the trail no more than ten minutes after awakening – solely so I can avoid carrying a tent or cold weather gear
Attendance summary: the course began at 1:00 pm, Monday, with five hours of digressive pontification.
We broke for dinner and reconvened at a local grocery store at 7:00 pm for a walk through intended to highlight appropriate trail food choices.
Since two overarching guiding principles of the ATI thru-hiking philosophy include Ebenezer Scrooge-level cheapness and FKT-like speed to completion, there was repeated emphasis on buying the most calories for the lowest cost.
That’s it – cheap Kcals are the holy grail. Warren offered advice to buy and eat an entire box or bag of cookies for dinner and wash it down with a half-gallon of milk; cheap and lots of calories.
Or, buy a bottle of Hershey’s chocolate sauce and drink it straight. Or, buy whipped cream and eat it from the spray can – all in the pursuit of “cheap” calories.
Students around me were appalled and began to murmur disapproval of the course content – and this was only the first day. After 35 minutes at the grocery, we returned to ATI and spent another hour and a half listening to Warren pontificate about his glory days, preach the Jennifer Phar Davis FKT fan club story, as well as digress on unrelated tangents.
We finally reached escape velocity at 9:10 pm with plans to meet back at ATI at 8:00 Tuesday morning for a 6.5 mile “diagnostic” hike. I was frankly baffled at how the instructor could “diagnose” anything since – assuming due to morbid obesity — he did not hike.
He dropped our class at a trail head and drove to meet us at the end of the section. So much for leading by example and being able to “diagnose” by direct observation. Following our hike, we had lunch and returned to the ATI in anticipation of an afternoon in class.
However, I had already reached the conclusion that a miserly, <140-day, non-water filtering, no tent, FKT-style hike had limited relationship to my planned NoBo. Remaining for the rest of the week appeared to be a waste of my time so I departed less than 24-hours since arriving.
With an instructional style alternating between pontification and digression, the instructor carries a flip phone from the early 2000’s and distributed printed copies of the 2014 (seven-years old – because, of course, “the trail doesn’t change”) ATC Trail Data guide, while presenting a sort of proud Luddite vibe.
He advanced a number of concepts I found objectively false, illogical, self-aggrandizing, disrespectful, or at times next-level annoying (the instructor thinks it is clever and good technique to repeat three times in a row, in a monotone, concepts he deems important, as well as reading, word-for-word, his entire two-page hiking manifesto. (Suggestion: Do NOT read the pages. Do NOT read the pages. Do NOT read the pages).
Modern, useful information like introducing the AWOL interactive .pdf (which weighs exactly zero ounces) is eschewed, while presenting the following dubious advice and ideas:
instead of buying an adjustable, lightweight, flexible carbon fiber trekking pole that attenuates energy and vibrations potentially preventing injuries, hikers should purchase a used, non-adjustable aluminum ski pole at a surplus store, available for only $1.00. Who cares if equipment is cheap? What good does it do if it is unsuitable, heavy, or contributes to injury?
despite frequent exhortations about minimizing gear weight and creature comfort, he bafflingly advocates for buying a $25.00 flannel sleeping bag at Wal*Mart because it is cheap.
repetitively and unproductively mocking his perception of societal fears, for example; “when did we all get afraid of things we can’t see like viruses”?
He went on a long rant about how we should not be afraid of things we cannot see, like Covid, HIV in blood, and Giardia (since “the body adjusts”).
Oh, except Norovirus. Hikers shouldn’t stay in shelters or hostels because inexplicably, in those places they should be concerned with viruses they cannot see.
he repeatedly mocks the idea of bottled water to no discernable end besides hearing himself talk.
he does not use Permethrin – an important tool to avoid ticks and tick-borne diseases. Yeah, that makes sense.
there is no need to filter water on the trail, claiming that “your body will adapt” while supporting the claim with the false equivalence “there is a whole industry selling probiotics.”
Perhaps 50 years ago one could hike the AT and not filter water. However, with the level of runoff from cattle operations and pollution, thanks, I’ll carry a filter.
a strawman argument for not using GPS on the trail by trying to conflate it’s use with people using GPS driving their car in a Washington state forest and getting lost. This represents a false equivalency of driving a car and blindly following automotive GPS with using GPS while hiking the AT.
an unabashed cheerleader for activities including hiking in National Parks last year when closed by the Federal government, and despite Baxter State Park rules prohibiting hikers younger than six years old climbing above the tree line, it was “great” that a family broke those rules and disrespected the park by climbing with their four-year old.
dismissive of those who respected trail communities, other hikers, and the ATC request to leave the trail. Claims that no hiker-induced COVID impact on any of the trail communities in 2020.
Another false argument. Thousands of hikers DID respect the ATC request to leave the trail out of respect for trail community health. To claim that there were no hiker COVID impacts utterly ignores the fact that thousands fewer hikers were on trail in 2020, so town exposure may have been reduced by as much as 90%. To claim it proves hikers didn’t bring COVID to AT-adjacent towns is to willfully ignore the reduced exposure last year.
just use “common sense” with regards to Covid. Notwithstanding how one may feel about Covid, there is no such thing “common sense” with respect to an infectious, lethal virus. To suggest there is Covid “common sense” is flatly ludicrous. The virus doesn’t have “common sense” and doesn’t care about yours.
since there is no compensation incentive, insisting that hiking the trail is a “job” is objectively untrue, another false equivalency, and a useless comparison.
claims to have hiked much of the trail not carrying a “canteen” (??), since he knows where all the water sources are. Although that claim strains credulity, even if he did know, what possible relevance does that have for thru-hikers attending ATI? It is one more piece of puffery employed for self-aggrandizement.
the pseudoscience “formula” that: % chance of injury = pack weight / pace. This so-called formula is based on myths and intuition. If there are ANY peer-reviewed studies of hikers that validate this bogus “formula”, the underlying assumptions, or injury correlation, I’d love to find them.
the faulty causality argument that, while approximately 25% of thru-hikers are successful, approximately 75% — or three times as many — ATI graduates successfully complete their hike. This is fallacious argument since the statistical sample groups are not randomized. The sample included his group of graduates is self-selecting and includes potential thru-hikers who are oriented to do everything they can to finish. This group is already likely to finish at a higher rate BEFORE attending ATI. So, to claim ATI is the reason 75% finish as compared to 25%, is a false comparison as there is no correlation.
Accepting the argument that one is three times more likely to finish due to ATI attendance may breed false confidence for believing in a logical fallacy
Summary: I am not motivated by epic levels of cheapness or a desire for an unsupported FKT.
The Jennifer Pharr Davis fan club and cult worship experience is ridiculous and I’m allergic to repetitive puffery and logical fallacies. I could not waste any more time than I already had listening to blather about the 497 times the instructor met (trail name) “Mercury” during her supported FKT.
All of which resulted in deciding continued attendance at the ATI was not valuable.
Note that in the original post this is cited from Warren Doyle was involved in discussing it and basically asserted that he did not teach dumpster diving. That is the only complaint that Mr. Doyle raised in the discussion.
See below for the discussion about dumpster diving for food.
J—- J—– No dumpster diving lessons? He’s slacking.
–— Darn. I completely blanked the dumpster diving lessons. Yes, he advocated for dumpster diving to save money. He also advocated for hanging around restaurants and eating food from other patron’s plates before the plates are bussed after the patrons have left. GROSS.
Warren Doyle Fact check: I have never advocated dumpster diving.
Fact check: yes, you did during our class, and from J—J —-‘ss post above, apparently not for the first time.
You will see a lot of reviews of “stoves” for backpackers. Most reviews are tied into Affiliate Marketing Links, so they are focused around trying to sell you on a choice you have already made and are often focused around the “top sellers.”
(On the trail, stove means “cannister stove” or alcohol fueled stove. Cannister stoves net out weighing less, cooking much, much faster, and are legal places alcohol stoves are not. Esbit stoves have pretty much disappeared from the AT).
The reviews you will find on-line will list a lot of stoves and basically give you a reason to justify buying any stove on the list. Many reviews just aren’t giving information so much as trying to sell you something after you’ve read the review so that they get an affiliate marketing kickback from the review.
The same marketing > relevance issue is true with lists of features for stoves and the things that go with them.
For the Appalachian Trail, some features don’t matter. Two that don’t matter so much are wind resistance and multi-fuel capacity. Brands often don’t matter either.
Wind resistance really isn’t an issue for 99.9% of the trail. It is huge for other places and other trails.
Multi-fuel capacity. Multi-fuel stoves are huge in some parts of the world. On the trail you can pretty much get fuel cannisters almost every forty to fifty miles. Multi-fuel is just extra ounces on the trail.
Brand of titanium pot. Or brand of aluminum pot. Those pots all weigh about the same, have about the same quality, many are manufactured by the same company with just different brands for different markets. Aluminum long handled spoons actually weigh less than titanium ones– much to my surprise.
Other things that may or may not matter.
Integrated pot/stove combinations. Those are neat, but they weigh more and the efficiency of the heat exchangers is off-set by the fact that wider & shallower pots heat up faster than you would expect.
Indeed, one of the big surprises for my wife and I was that for 1.7 liter pots (which my wife and I use since we share our cook systems and meals), the heat exchanger system we have isn’t any faster than our wide pot with a lid on it. Fuel efficiency is much different on a tall/narrow pot or cup than on a wider & shallower pot or cup which off-sets the heat exchanger advantages.
Extras. While a few people will want a coffee press or some of the other fancy extras you can get, after a hundred or two hundred miles most people lose interest and ship the extras home or leave them in a hiker box. So a French press coffee maker, a bread maker insert, or an infuser as an option might work for car camping but for long distance hiking they are just extra weight after a while.
Piezo electric starters may be a positive, may be a negative. For many people piezo electric starters fail often enough that they will find that everyone carries a Bic lighter (and a Bic will start your stove even if the Bic is out of fuel — it will still cast sparks). Once you are always carrying the mini-Bic you have to ask yourself if the lighter is really a benefit or not.
For 95% of the people, after the first hundred miles or so, a stove exists to boil water. Boil water, add food stuff, let sit until cooked. If you carry a pan too, it exists as a lid for your stove, to make quesadillas with and to pan fry steaks on your first night out of town. 95% of the time it will just be a pot lid (which you need anyway).
Most people aren’t going to carry a pan. They will just carry a lid. However, a pan is light enough that it is worth considering.
The bottom line is that you are pretty safe with choosing a stove and pot system used by lots of other hikers no matter which stove and pot you get. You can make most of the tests irrelevant by just using a wider & shallower pot or cup instead of the narrow and tall models often sold and used.
So yes. I still love our MSR Windburner, I’m just not willing to carry it while we finish up from New Jersey to Vermont on the AT. Lots of people like the integrated systems on the trail and if you like yours, there is absolutely no reason to give up your Jetboil or your MSR.
Yes, that BRS stove is amazingly cheap — and endorsed by a number of prominent YouTube personalities. It actually works.
Yes. Other brands are great too, and have advantages (such as adjustability, ability to simmer, wind resistance and efficiency).Hike your own hike and feel confident your choice is the right one.
Ignore the advertisements masquerading as reviews.
A couple will probably do best with a 1.7 liter pot. That is large enough to cook dinner for two. Individuals tend to do just fine with something between .5 liters and a liter. You will need to experiment to see what works best for you.
For reference, Jetboil Stash = .8 liter pot. MSR Windburner base pot is l liter. Jetboil Flash = 1 liter pot. Standard Toaks Pot = .75 liters. Snow Peak set includes a 1 liter pot and a .7 liter pot. Soto Amicus system has a 1 liter pot and a .5 liter pot.
About every 40-50 miles I’ll resupply. At a dollar general four days will run about $40-$45. Better grocery stores will cost more.
If I get town food every 40-50 miles it will cost between $15 (burgers at McDonalds) and “more”. Easy enough to spend $20 on a pizza or restaurant hamburger with a soft drink and if you toss in beer it can cost more.
More if I get breakfast too.
Hostels will run between $25 and $50 for a bed, sheets, shower and laundry. Again maybe once every four days/50 miles or so. Double if you take a zero (and more town food too).
That is $40+$15+$40 every 4-5 days x 7 times a month. More for beer or better food.
That is where the $1000 a month goes. Add more for shuttles, gear replacement (new shoes every couple months or so) and such.
Gets more expensive in the north. Some real deals in the south (donation hostels that only expect $20 a night, that sort of thing).
I’ve met people who were really spending very little until they discovered town food and beer. Made a huge difference in their expenses.
Sharing a $70 a night hotel room can drop the price rapidly. Getting a private room can kick the price up.
Add in fuel cans every so often, and extras here and there, insurance, paying for your cell phone and it all adds up.
But if you start breaking the cost out that way it helps to show where the money goes and why the trail costs what it does.
(For practice go to a dollar general and price six thousand calories a day of food for four days. Now price that at a Kroger’s or similar store).