Um, wasn’t I supposed to start the AT today?

One thing life in general and experience has taught me about hiking, is that you must stay flexible. The unexpected happens, the weather turns bad, the water source is dry, the shelter is full, a cold front moves through causing temperatures to crash, and the list goes on. All you can do when on the trail, or getting ready to get on the trail, is roll with what ever Mother Nature throws your way. Staying flexible, rolling with the punches, and not letting things outside of your control get you down not only applies to a thru-hike, but life in general.

Yes, I was supposed to start my Appalachian Trail (AT) thru-hike today and no, I am not on the trail. Last night when I got into Atlanta, it was already late in the evening, so getting to the trailhead was unrealistic. Leading up to my start date, I kept a close eye on the weather forecast; let’s just say it wasn’t pretty.

The weather forecast for Springer Mountain on the day I got into Atlanta was for a low of 17-degrees with winds up to 30 mph. That translates into a windchill factor of -10 degrees! While I am prepared for cold weather, I am not ready for -10 degrees. Today’s weather forecast is for a low of 25-degrees with winds around 10 mph. Tomorrow’s weather forecast is for a low 36-degrees with 5 mph winds.

So, after much soul-searching, I decided to hole up in a hotel for an extra day and start my hike on Thursday instead. Simply waiting another day will put me in much warmer temperature and more in my comfort zone. While I have hiked and slept in 25-degrees before, it wasn’t comfortable or much fun. From personal experience, and knowing my gear, I thought it best to sit out the freezing temperatures.

Last minute gear change

With the unpredictable spring weather found along the AT and knowing my 20-degree bag isn’t really a 20-degree bag, but more like an 28-degree bag, I thought it best to up my sleeping temperature values.

There are various ways to do this, each with its own cost in terms of money and weight. Since I live on a fixed income, money is usually the most significant determining factor in most of my purchases.

The most expensive option to up my sleeping temperature values would be to buy a new sleeping bag with a better temperature rating. I did consider buying a sleeping bag with a 17-degree rating, but it only had a comfort rating of 28-degrees. So, for $300 I could get a new bag, but wouldn’t truly gain anything.

Another option is to use a sleeping bag liner. This method has some factors that favor it, in my opinion. First being, it is the least expensive way to increase the temperature range of an existing sleeping bag. Second, a liner helps to keep your bag cleaner longer. It is easier to wash a sleeping bag liner than a sleeping bag. The one downside to sleeping bag liners is the added weight.

With the frigid weather on the AT this spring, I thought it best to invest in a sleeping bag liner to help keep me warm on those really cold nights. I’ve not used one before, so I’ll have to see how it works out. I hate trying new gear on a long-distance hike, but I didn’t have an option this time.

About Gerard Saint-Pierre

I'm a long-distance hiker, writer, photographer, environmentalist, & digital nomad. I'm thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail NOBO starting in March to help raise awareness about mental health. Come and follow along as I blog about the good, the bad, and the ugly aspects of a thru-hike while battling depression and PTSD.

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