In July 2020 I am hiking the 170 mile Tahoe Rim Trail. In 2002 I hiked the Southern half of the Appalachian Trail (1000 miles) before business school. While the long distance hiking pattern of sleep, walk, and eat remains the same, much of the long distance hiking experience has changed in ~20 years. Differences include:
Technology: In 2002 I carried an AT&T long distance calling card. At trail towns, I waited in the payphone line to call my family. I carried disposable cameras and sent them at maildrops. The Wingfoot AT Trail Data Book mapped my route. Only one thru hiker I encountered carried an electronic device. His palm pilot worked okay until he lost the stylus. In 2020 I’ll carry my Apple iPhone and extra batteries. The phone includes my phone, camera, gps, maps, camera & other apps. I’ll also carry a paper map and excel summary of my hike.
Social Media: In 2002 I visited the local library in every trail town. At the public internet terminal, I sent an Appalachian Trail email newsletter to friends and family describing my adventure. Good news – those dispatches are also available on this site. In 2020 social media is omnipresent. I’ll post pictures to Instagram and describe my adventure on the website #outstanding
Lightweight Backpacking: In 2002 lightweight backpacking was niche. Ray Jardine published Beyond Backpacking in 1999 which updated his PCT Hikers Handbook. On the AT, I started with an almost 50 lbs backpack and shed much of the weight through the hike. In 2020, lightweight backpacking is mainstream. My base weight is ~12 pounds.
Merino Wool: In 2002 wool was scratchy and worn by lumberjacks. In 2020 materials evolved significantly, and Merino wool is my favorite . Merino wool shirts like Woolx are soft, stay warm when wet, & odor free. I also wear wool socks, merino long underwear, & wool blend boxers.
Social Distancing: In 2002 folks social distanced by going hiking. In 2020, I’m adjusting for COVID-19. I’m packing a wool buff, a N95 face mask, and a small bottle of alcohol to keep myself safe.
Facial Hair: In 2002 most male long distance hikers grew beards. In 2020 most guys grow beards due to Shelter in Place vs. hiking.
While many things change, the spirit of adventure remains the same. Thru-hiking in 2020 and 2002 remain one of the best ways to explore nature, recharge, and push yourself.