Appalachian Trail Update:a look at the first 400 miles

Approach Trail to Neels Gap

The unofficial starting point of the Appalachian Trail is the 8.5 mile approach trail starting at Amicalolo falls State Park in North Georgia. This is a good challenge trail with nice switchbacks which will give you an idea about what you signed up for.

Eventually you’ll find the starting point on Springer Mountain summit and there begin an undertaking of epic proportions. There’s plenty to see and adventures galore as you hike through the northern part of Georgia in the Chattahoochee National Forest.

You will need to come to terms with hiking a lot for long periods of time and camp life establishing habits and learning the basics of how to accomplish a major hike like this. Make no mistake this will challenge you physically and mentally on a daily basis but there are frequent places to take a break from the trail.

Summit Blood Mountain and you’re on your way to Neels Gap and Mountain Crossings Outfitters and Hostel. This is where many hikers decide to stop and get off the trail there’s a tree full of hiking shoes from those who have opted out.

Neels Gap to North Carolina

The challenges will continue as you head another 50+ miles to reach the Border of North Carolina. Featuring incredible views and fabulous wildflowers throughout this section as you head to the famous NOC (Nantahala Outdoor Center). A large portion of this area shows signs of past wildfires that covered vast areas of Georgia and North Carolina.

A large amount of your hiking will consist of ridge running with small elevation changes. Adding in a stay at the Top of Georgia Hostel in Hiawassee can benefit you with some experienced thru hikers  that work there. Also a fantastic place to visit with a great staff and located just a half mile from the trail.

From Top of Georgia Hostel it’s around a 9-mile push to the border and chalking off your first state. Overall this section can be a pleasant surprise from the start of the trip yet still challenge you physically and the views are amazing.

North Carolina to Fontana Dam

Shortly after you begin hiking past the North Carolina border you will begin some adventurous climbs and summit your first 5,000 foot mountain. Wildfire scars continue for countless miles and will give you an idea of the vast areas affected.

Eventually you’ll find your way to the NOC which features a fantastic hostel type setup with a general store and restaurants. Here you can apply for and print out your permit to hike in the Great Smokey Mountains at the Outfitters.

The climb in and out of the NOC consists of rugged and rocky hiking ultimately leading to beautiful Fontana Lake. The shelter at Fontana has been dubbed the “Fontana Hilton” with actual flushing toilets a shower and solar charging station as well as multiple tent pads.

Two miles past the Dam you will enter the Great Smokey Mountain National Park leaving your permit in the drop box provided.

The Great Smokey Mountains


Incredible views and breathtaking beauty await in this challenging section of the Appalachian Trail. You will cross into your third state (Tennessee) but you won’t stay long as you bounce between Tennessee and North Carolina for close to 100 miles.

The Smokies feature the highest point on the trail and also some of the best ridge running so far. Hikers must use the shelters provided with tenting allowed only if the shelter is full. The starting point past Fontana Dam is the biggest climb with long switchbacks to ease the elevation change.

Be prepared for bad weather at a moment’s notice depending on how fickle mother nature chooses to be during your journey. Spring storms at that elevation can turn into brutal winter conditions. This area is probably the windiest section due to the higher peaks and valleys and some days you’ll hike in the clouds.

When the clouds are high and clear expect stunning landscapes and majestic views of the surrounding mountains and countryside. Breathtaking and gorgeous which is a major understatement the Great Smokey Mountains will leave you in awe.

Permits expire 8 days from the day of entrance into the park. Shelters are spaced at various locations and allow for a flexible schedule even hiking two short days because of bad weather I was able to exit within the permitted time. Davenport Gap is the exit point for northern travel.

Special thanks to the Big Creek Country Store one mile from Davenport Gap for the fabulous Montezuma Lasagna yum!

Davenport Gap to mile 400

Yet another amazing section with plenty of hostels if you need a break the bouncing across State borders continues as you make your way past Hot Springs and Erwin Tennessee. Standing Bear Farm, Uncle Johnny’s Nolichucky hostel, Laurel Hostel, the Station at 19E, and Boots Off Hostel (technically past mile 400) are just a few options that I personally used.

Although the border jumping will seem like it will never end it does and then the hike will circle Erwin Tennessee and Roan Mountain bringing you to the 400-mile mark. Tennessee offers more ridge running and offers amazing views as well as the bonus of rock hopping on occasion.

Final thoughts

I tried to bring a brief summary of what you can expect attempting an Appalachian Trail thru hike. I have not covered everything that you will encounter mostly just the basics. There are guides, books and even apps for mobile devices to help you along the way.

Accomplishing a thru hike requires patience and persistence. The best advice I have heard is listen to your body if something is sore there’s usually a reason. It’s also a mental challenge to endure miles upon miles of hiking so keep your brain healthy and in the right state of mind.

Thanks for taking the time to read this article and I hope you found it useful. Feel free to comment below and don’t forget to tell your friends.

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Hiking the Appalachian Trail with a dog

  1. A big decision for you both

So the time to hike is approaching and you really don’t want to leave your dog behind so you can share all the good times together. There’s a lot to consider when you decide to bring your canine companion on a journey like an Appalachian Trail thru hike.

I hope to offer some tips and advice on how to succeed in a successful hike and shed light on potential issues you may incur. Whether you have a registered service animal or just a family pet(member). Logistically you will be adding to an already difficult task and will deal with issues other hikers do not have.

There are 2 areas where dogs (excluding service animals) are not permitted and you will need to make arrangements for kenneling of your pet. They are the Great Smokey Mountains and Baxter State Park in North Carolina and Maine respectively.

Basic health and fitness
The Appalachian Trail or other long trails are rugged and require lots of intense activities. Your canine companion should be in good enough shape to deal with the amount of exercise required to hike for days at a time. I used all of my spare time for nearly a year to keep my service beagle fit and used to Long Day’s of hiking.

Should your dog decide it doesn’t want to hike anymore and it’s of a larger variety your hike is finished for the day and possibly for the dog unless you can coax or carry them to a better location.

Take Frequent breaks

I find that taking a break especially at a location with an amazing view allows me to relax and gives Koko the chance to be silly or nap as well as snack so 15 to 30 minute breaks multiple times a day are a required part of my hike.

I use the time to catch up with family and friends and Koko uses it to nap or play or both and when the break is finished she is ready to pump out a few more miles.

Breaks from hiking during the day are critical to maintain energy levels and break up the monotony of miles and miles of trail hiking. Periodically you may find your pet suddenly stopping just to enjoy the views and the smells of all the fascinating areas you visit. I frequently catch Koko smiling and thoroughly enjoying the day.

Remember to limit your miles based on your animals abilities and to pay attention to their stride to notice changes such as limps. It’s also a good time to give your pet a well-deserved massage to loosen up any tight muscles.

Establish rules and enforce them

Just like children our pups can be adventurous and if they think it’s just a walk in the park or only for fun they may tend to get distracted or want to only play and your basic mileage will suffer. Owning a beagle and keeping her from being distracted is a challenge at times but basic rules and reminders of the rules help her to remain focused on the task at hand.

Obviously but also necessary remember ALWAYS LEASH your companion. This will prevent possible loss of your pet and also establish limits and order and allow for a better hiking companion as well. Simple voice tones and gentle leash nudges are usually enough to remind your pet of whatever your basic hiking needs are.

Leashing your fur friend will also alleviate the endless running ahead then behind which can add additional miles to an already challenging experience. This will only fatigue the animal and they will burn even more energy than needed to hike the days distance as well as adding miles to their hike.

I prefer my leash to be around 11 feet long for hiking and it’s attached to my backpack with a sturdy carbineer and a bungee to subtly pull as if I am tugging at the leash. The extra length is for difficult sections and stream and river crossings where jumping may be required.

Although I dread when I must growl loudly and yell commands I find it necessary when commands are not obeyed. I use a 3 strike approach with the command a slightly louder command and an even louder command if that fails then a harshly growled command with NOW generally works except in cases of rain so far.

Without boundaries essentially the dog is controlling the hike who’s the master?

Feeding and weight management

Be prepared to carry extra weight on a regular basis. You can put a pack on your pet but pack weight should be kept to around 10%of the animals weight. Larger breeds may be able to handle more weight but also need a larger food supply and having them carry it can cause potential issues with hungry scavengers. On a positive note you will generally only need to carry enough food for about 4 to 5 days provided you can get to the next resupply location.

Shortly after you begin to experience hiker hunger so will your canine. Suddenly 4 days of food is gone and you need more already. Again now your pack weight is going to increase due to your pets extra energy consumption with a possibility of double weight to carry in dog food.

Feeding should consist of a high quality diet with a boost of some high energy boosts of human tidbits. I use real bacon bits and pepperoni or cheese and I chop up beef jerky as well. The extra fat and protein are a bonus and they insure good food interest and help break up the monotony of plain dry dog food. There are also commercial brands add in packets that are lightweight and tasty that will help to boost the nutritional value of your companions meals.

Relax and refocus

It is important to remember that canines live and exist in the now. They do not dwell on the past or worry about the future as a hiking owner it pays to stay calm during the hike to guide your fur friend along the way. Owning a beagle a breed notorious for distracted attention is a good example and reminder to relax and get the pup refocused on the task of hiking.

Your pet will respond better if your demeanor is calm and you are not stressed during the hike. Take a few deep breaths and get yourself free of whatever personal issues may be bothering you and your pet will be able to feed from that positive attitude and hike better due to your State of calm.

Final thoughts

Consider using a hiking staff as opposed to trekking poles this allows for a free hand to deal with leash tangles and unhooking your leash when needed without having to unstrap a trekking poles to get a free hand.

Poop should be lightly buried or moved off the trail and should you be in town disposed of properly. On the trail I dig a small hole with my hiking staff and gather nearby leaves to cover the waste so others do not see or step on it.

Although hiking a major trail with a canine is an extra challenge it is also a task that can be accomplished with a little knowledge and advice. I hope you found this article helpful thanks for visiting my site and please feel free to comment below.

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Wilderness Survival Guide; Part 2

Today I would like to focus on wild life encounters and steps you can take to avoid the encounter becoming a life threatening situation. Please note the information provided is from researching this subject and not from real life experiences. There is one exception more on that later.

Wildlife in general

When you enter the wilderness you are entering the home of some of natures most majestic and or potentially dangerous animals. Thinking along those lines will keep you safer.

Remember to keep your distance and view whatever you encounter from a safe way off. Never approach wildlife directly. Should the animal become startled it could turn into a fight or flight scenario and even a docile animal can launch a vicious attack.

Black Bears

A bear attack can be devestating and could result in severe injury and possibly death so use caution when in Bear country. I recommend the use of a bear keg or canister and in the case of black bears bear mace is not necessary.

Cubs are naturally curious and may approach you but Momma will not be far off and she can be easily agitated in matters concerning her cubs. Do not attempt to pet or pursue the cubs look around thouroghly especially behind yoirself and try to determine where momma is.

Male bears can be territorial and may stand or growl and bluff charge you, to avoid confrontation follow these steps. +Make yourself larger if in a group bunch together and stand tall while raising yours hands high to appear taller. +Begin to back away while loudly but calmly asserting your intent such as “OK OK I’M LEAVING” +Do not panic even if the bear charges it is natural for a bear to Bluff charge to attempt to scare you away +Continue to back away slowly never turn your back on a bear who is engaging you in any manner + DO NOT RUN!! Running will most likely trigger the chase mode and bears can quickly outrun you +Find a solid stick or good size rock nearby just in case

In the event it appears there is a full blown attack from a black bear you must fight with and for your life. Should a black bear attack you they are treating you like prey. Go for the eyes, ears, snout, and throat these are sensative areas you should target to ward off the attack. You can ward off the attack you may get injured but you’ll be alive.

Grizzly Bears

A grizzly bear can be easily spotted by the hump on the back not found in Black bears and grizzlies are found more in the western part of the United States and Canada. Tips to avoid a grizzly attack are much the same as that of the black bear tactics listed above.

Bear Mace can be highly effective but the bear must be closer than 30 feet for it to work. Should you need your mace have it ready remain calm and aim carefully you only have one shot abd it has to count. Aim should be low and directed twoards the face which is why it is better to let them get into range for maximum intensity of the mace.

An actual attack due to misfire of mace or lack of any at all, your strategy is to survive the encounter. Play dead drop to the ground on your stomach covering your head with your arms and spreading your legs wide for stability. Do not allow the bear to flip you over the idea is to use your backpack as cover from the brunt of the attack. No matter how scared you are remain as silent as possible and if flipped over reposition and maintain a prone position on your stomach.

I surely hope you and I never need this information but if it can save a life it should be shared.

Snakes and other crawly critters

Lets talk about rattlesnakes which thankfully have an early warning system. I have personally hiked near (and Koko was inches away from) a yellow phase timber rattler in upstate New York, and they are very loud when agitated. The frequency was as loud as a whip crack and a sound I will never forget, very hard to describe in words but unique and distinct and it got our attention quickly.

Take a step back and if you must go forward then do so giving the snake a wide berth be sure to capture a decent photo for bragging rights but don’t do anything to further upset the snake eventually it will wander off.

Never kill snakes many species are protected and they are very beneficial to the enviorment. Timber rattlesnakes actually play a large role in the control of the tick population by eating small rodents that young ticks nrrd to feed on to grow.

Spiders will bite and can leave a nasty welt and should be avoided as much as possible. You should keep your eyes open any time you are in the back country avoid walking through webs as much as possible. Many species that bite you are harmless enough but a few like the brown recluse and the black widow have very powerful venom that can send you into anaphlactic shock.

Final thoughts

As stated even the most docile of creatures can unleash a furious and devestating attack and animal encounters should not be taken lightly. These are just a few possible scenariosand I will try to cover more in the future.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and please feel free to comment below. Remember to follow along on my hiking adventures on your favorite social media outlet thanks for checking in with the Tipster

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Wilderness Survival Guide;part 1

Today I’d like to talk about what steps you can take in a few worst case wilderness scenarios. Many situations can be avoided by adhering to some leave no trace principles.

Plan ahead and prepare

Oh the 1st on the list of Leave No Trace practices is one of the absolutely critical steps you can take to protect yourself. No one should enter into a back country outing without being ready. Lack of preparation can put you at risk and possibly in danger or worse.

Always carry a map of the area you intend to adventure in as well as a compass. Learn how to read the map and use the compass. A small flashlight or headlamp should be included just in case you lose daylight.

A dependable cellphone on airplane mode can still track you or help you track your way out of trouble even if you can’t get a signal for a call or text.

I also recommend having a charging bank should you need extra battery life.

Travel and camp on durable surfaces

Once again a Leave no Trace principal that is crucial to keep you safe. Stay on established trails wandering off can quickly turn into a bad situation Should you become injured and you are not on an established trail the results could become catastrophic.

When the need arises and you must leave the trail for the call of nature it helps to have about five small bright pieces of cord or boundary marker ribbon. Tie loosely a ribbon on a nearby branch or root for every 20 paces you take off a trail. When the last ribbon is used walk another 20 paces and answer natures call collect your ribbons on the way back to safety.

First Aid kit

All hikers should have a basic first aid kit not so much for emergencies but for the unexpected nicks cuts or scrapes you may receive.

Your kit should include a some band-aids some alcohol wipes adhesive tape small gauze pads I also like to add nu skin for small cuts or for after the bleeding has stopped and the wound is beginning to mend.

BONUS TIP: Cut a drinking straw into 2″ segments squeeze triple antibiotic ointment ito a segment and seal both ends with a lighter result mini tube of your favorite medicines for your back country first aid kit.

Lost? Remain calm

Panic will lead to rash and often unwise decisions, take some deep breaths hum a deep note and clear your thoughts.

Repeat this process often and as needed it is nearly impossible to think rationally in a panic mode your mind will not be able to process information efficiently.

When you have yourself calm enough you can begin to think clearly and this will result in a better plan to return to safety.

Head for higher ground and water sources

In heavily wooded areas’ cell phones will not receive a signal. This makes a call for rescue nearly impossible check your map and try to locate a water source lakes sometimes allow for a better signal.

At higher elevations your phone will register 3g coverage but you need to be above 3000 feet in elevation.

When near a water source be sure to hydrate (filter or treat first) this will be the most important thing to remember until you relocate the trail or are able to call for help.

You can only survive for 3 days without water but 3 weeks without food so drink up as often as possible.


Stay tuned for upcoming posts

I feel this category needs more added to it and I will be addressing other aspects of wilderness survival in the future.

I will be making Wilderness survival guide into an ongoing series and you can help. Do you have a topic idea please add it to the comment section below.

Thanks for taking the time to join me and visiting my blog. I hope this information is useful and better yet never needed.

Remember your state of mind will be the biggest factor in safely getting yourself Found should you become lost.


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My Canon Powershot sx530 review

Koko visits with gramma
All photos in this article are taken by a Canon Powershot sx530 except for the picture of the powershot seen below
Today I will be talking about the Powershot sx530 by Canon. I decided to purchase this camera after researching it and needing to upgrade from a smaller digital. I used the Canon ELPH190 and loved everything about it except the size. The buttons just were too small for my fat fingers.
So after looking into a few other options and many models I chose to stay with Canon a trusted name in photography for any decades. Below are just a few of the many features the powershot has to offer.

Powershot sx530 by CanonErgonomic body with a 50x Optical zoom and more

Featuring a solid body and ergonomic grip the self-contained lens stands out as one of the best attributes of this DSLR. With normal image ratio a wide angle mode and 50x zoom feature for superb close-ups this lens can handle whatever situation you need it to. One touch will move the lens into its maximum zoom length extending it an additonal 3 inches or shrink it in 1/2 an inch for wide angle or panoramic views.

The body itself is made with a composite plastic that is rigid and textured in areas for a better grip. It has a built in flash that can be activated with the flick of a finger. Canon included state-of-the-art facial technology to track and search for the designated target to keep it a consistent size throughout the shooting sequence They also included an autofocus button that tracks objects in view to pinpoint the best shot.

The shutter button features a zoom toggle, the mode button is rounded and the power button offset and lower to eliminate accidental shutdown. Included video mode at the touch of a button recording time varies by the size of the memory card you use. Playback, gallery, function/menu buttons placed below the thumb area again avoiding a possible lost shot.

The lcd screen is 2×3″ and host around 461,000 dots for a stunning display. Loaded with 16 megapixels of resolution images are sharp, crisp, and clear.

A fantastic waterfall in Bolton Landing NYImage Stabilization

Canon put a lot of thought into this model and included many state-of-the-art features found in the top models available today. This camera has 4 Image stabilization modes to ensure you capture the moment as it happens and in whatever type of shot you’re trying to achieve.

Also, included are 4 Image Stabilization modes for video capture. Groups, moving images, and landscape videos will be cleaner and stable producing sharp clear videos that will make you feel like a pro.

Wifi/Nfc sharing

So you’re all set with your shooting for the day and can’t wait to get your shots out in Social Media sites. Canon has you covered with push of a button built in wifi for simple downloading to your mobile device. This option requires Canon Easy connect app to function. You may also link the phone and camera through an NFC connection all downloaded photos will appear in a separate folder in your phones gallery.

Using the wifi setting will also allow you to control the camera remotely via your smartphone and Canon’s camera connect app. Simply put an incredibly versatile option for self-portraits that look like someone else took the pictures. This feature can come in handy if you like to record video clips or want to catch yourself in action.

Point and shoot or manual

While using the powershot the possibilities are endless with multiple automatic modes or full control by you. Auto mode will sense subjects and focus and capture pictures. Hybrid Auto mode takes short video clips as well as a photo for each shot. Other modes include an effect mode, Fish eye lens, Manual, movie mode, scene mode, and others which may be of interest for many applications.

You may be an avid photographer or even a professional and like to experiment with aperture and shutter speed effects. Perhaps you have almost no knowledge of how a complex SLR (Single Lens Reflex) actually works. Regardless of your skill level its difficult to take a bad shot with this camera,

Koko enjoying the view

Tipster’s Choice

One of the most amazing features this camera boasts is its weight which is only 1 pound making this powerhouse camera an extremely lightweight option. I was also impressed with the price which is reasonable for the quality of the camera.

I will use this camera to document my Appalachian Trail hike and with its next to nothing weight it contributes only a tiny boost to my overall weight.

This is a truly remarkable camera that is built with quality craftsmanship. I would highly recommend this DSLR to anyone regardless of their skill levels. With the combination of long distance capacity and the technology and advancements found in todays cameras the Canon Powershot sx530 is my choice for consistently great pictures.

Fantastic job Canon you nailed it with this gem. On a 1 to 10 scale I am tempted to give this camera an 11. In my humble opinion a solid 10 and well-deserved.

I hope you found this review helpful as always thanks for taking the time to check out Feel free to leave a comment below and remember to follow along on your favorite Social Media outlet.




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Hygiene in the wilderness

So you decided to go on an extended trip in the back country and your only 1 day in your sweaty and possibly stinky. On top of that your tired good news I have a few suggestions to freshen up so you feel like a human again.

Lake Colden high peaks wilderness area upstate New York in the Adirondacks

My dirty secret; Wet wipes

What a great invention and not just for bathroom purposes. There’s a good chance you won’t need to use 40-60 wipes to clean up after you’ve taken care of your waste elimination. Within reason, you can sacrifice a few daily to keep your hands, face and other areas clean.

When you have a used wipe that didn’t turn black turn it inside out for your armpits. Limit the use of your wipes to before a meal which could help you from getting ill and ruining your adventure. Hand sanatizers alone will not keep you clean and using wipes to freshen up will reduce the chance of germs contaminating you.

Bonus Tip; after using your wipes to clean up let them dry before adding to your garbage they’ll weigh less!

Another dirty secret; swimming holes

When you are hiking near a lake or pond and need to freshen up take a break and head on in. Whatever you do don’t bring soap you don’t need it and it will only contaminate the water that some may be using for a water source. You don’t even have to swim just wade out a little and sit down a few minutes in the water will do wonders and leave you squeaky clean as well as hydrating your skin.

Bonus Tip; leaving your stinky shirt on will help to remove the toxins causing it to be so funky!

My 3rd dirty secret; Bandannas

Every hiker has at least one if you’re close to fresh water dip it into the source soaking it remove and wring it out some away from the source. Now you have a refreshing wilderness washcloth to freshen up with. I would avoid armpits and your nether regions chances are you will need the bandanna for sweat after it dries.

Bonus Tip;hiking with a furry friend give them a wet bandanna collar to keep them cooler!

A view of Algonquin peak from above Marcy Dam

Yet another dirty Secret; Streams, brooks, creeks, and rivers

Generally speaking they may not be deep enough to bathe in yet you can use them to freshen up. Avoid this activity in areas of campsites simply travel downstream about 200 yards and freshen up there. Once again avoid soap let the water do the work and by being down from the crowd there is no chance of contaminating everyone s water source. Use caution in fast flowing water and be aware of underwater obstacles.

Bonus Tip; boiling a small amount and adding cold water can provide a decent camp bath that you can enjoy in the privacy of your tent!

Final Thoughts

You may be on an extended trip or possibly a thru hike but there will be opportunities available to help you feel like a million bucks. Take advantage of these whenever possible the morale boost alone can put a pep in your step. As always thanks for visiting my site feel free to leave a comment below. I hope you’ve enjoyed this article remember to follow leave no trace practices.


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Hi I’m Earl aka Hiking Tipster

Earl Lussier aka HikingTipsterI am a 54-year old from upstate New York born and raised in the city currently residing in Saratoga Springs.

At age 38 I was working and became injured due to a compressed air explosion. The force of the impact nearly killed me in fact I literally bent steel with the back of my head.

Brain Injuries are no joke and some never recover from the effects of their injury. I however am one of the lucky ones although I suffered from severe memory loss and total deafness in my left ear.

As a survivor I have overcome many problems associated with my brain injury and manage to function well enough to not require special assistance in my daily routine.

The road to recovery has been long and winding.
OK so enough of the negative time to dwell on the here and now and what will be.

I always have had a desire to achieve great things and I’m a very goal oriented individual. I enjoy helping people which is one of the main reasons I started my blog.

I am going on an upcoming Thru hike of the Appalachian Trail that I begin on March 16th of 2018.

Join me on my adventures
I have an active Instagram account and many of my photos can be found on google maps. I will be vlogging some aspects of my thru hike on you tube. Google+ is my go to when I share updates about my blog and of course here at

Traveling with my beagle Koko who is my hearing assistance. Hiking is my passion photography is my hobby and helping others is my calling.

I hope you enjoy this site if you like the content please leave a comment below I look forward to hearing from you.

Hiking Tipster aka Earl Lussier

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Osprey Hydration Reservoir; my opinion





Today I would like to look at the Osprey 3 liter hydration reservoirs that I use while hiking. This is an unendorsed review and simply my opinion of this item. I will be covering the aspects that I think are important to us as users and I will try to offer solutions to common drawbacks you may experience.

Quality Craftsmanship

First of all and most important topic is the quality of this hydration bladder. I have used other bladders in the past which were well-made but not as well-made as this Osprey product.

The bladder itself is sealed and of a high quality BPA free material that is tough and durable. You will obviously want to avoid sharp edges near the bladder itself I usually don’t pack sharp items in my backpack. Normal handling of the item will prove its durability and resistance to rocks and branches when refilling in the back country.

Unique Design

Osprey has outdone itself in the design of this hydration reservoir. Most bladders on the market are simply made and frankly difficult to load into a backpack. Osprey however has a unique Flat Back rigid design that stops the reservoir from swelling and provides a slimmer profile which makes it so much simpler to reload in your backpack. Loosen a couple of straps and push a few items forward and the reservoir will slide into place without a huge struggle.

Additional Features

This reservoir has many other features that you won’t find on other hydration bladders.

+ Detachable drinking tube, for ease of filling the drinking portion of the tube separates from the unit and doesn’t have to be rerouted onto the straps of the backpack.

+ Carry Handle, after the unit has been filled it is super easy to transport back to camp, made of sturdy plastic and set below the top one of the best features of this unit.

+ Wide Mouth fill and pour spout, makes refills simple and at camp you can pour easily right from the reservoir. Refilling is done from the top of the unit most use the sides or bottom and have no handle to support the reservoir while filling.

+ Sliding Closure System, just fold the spout in place and slide the lock on the top providing a leak proof unit. Most models and brands use screw tops which must be fastened properly to avoid leaks.

+Locking Bite Valve, done drinking lock the valve and no water dripping from the mouth piece keeping you dry and avoiding lost resources


So until this point we have covered the exceptional features of this item. The use of hydration reservoirs is a personal choice below are reasons some do not use them. -Additional weight, water weighs around 9 pounds per gallon carrying 6 pounds of water increases overall pack weight solution possibility use a smaller reservoir which increases the chance of running out.

-Tubes freeze in cold weather, frozen tube equals no water. Solution I prefer to blow back the water in the tube while hiking in the cold this keeps the water in the bladder and makes the tube and mouthpiece less likely to freeze. I also tuck the bite valve(mouthpiece) in my jacket keeping it warm with body heat and eliminating any chance of tube freeze

-Water in the tube heats up in hot weather, ugh a mouthful of warm water not very refreshing. Solution another blow back fix simply blow back the tube water returning it to the bladder until your next sip. I have also wrapped the drinking tube with lightweight foam(white for light reflection) which works very well to prevent tube warming.

-No way to tell when you’re empty, that is until you hear that dreaded sound of air. Solution…Dear reader’ please excuse the writer for trying to perform a miracle without a permit. Seriously though, this is probably the biggest drawback to hydration reservoirs. My advice always begin with a full reservoir and whenever possible practice the camel method of filling up before you begin your hike these strategies will lessen the chance of running out of water.

An Excellent Hydration Option: My rating * * * * *

5 stars – I would have to say this item is far superior to other hydration reservoirs on the market today.

I have covered the best features it has to offer and ways to address the shortcomings of hydration reservoirs in general.

The Osprey 3 liter Hydration Reservoirs is in my honest opinion the very best bladder system available it is reasonably priced and provides exceptional value for its price.

I hope you have enjoyed this article please feel free to comment below you may also choose to follow along on your choice of Social channels as I move my brand forward. Thank you for visiting my website and if you are in the market for an amazing product head on over to Amazon from the link below a small portion of your purchase will help support this site.





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Appalachian Trail Gear List;My Gear

I have done lots of research and gone over the list time and time again.

My start date approaches and I have zeroed in on the gear I intend to use when I hike the Appalachian Trail.

Comforts of Home; the Tent I use

I chose the Sierra Designs Flashlite 2 for my home away from home. Features include 2 entry doors with 2 external gear closets. The tent comes equpped with a light diffuser which spreads light evenly and brightens the tent excellently. Both doors include bug netting and tent material in case of rain, it is small yet roomy enough for myself and Koko.

Standing height in the middle is 45″ but allows me to sit upright and still have enough room to change but not enough to stand. The tent including 3 poles and tent stakes weighs 3.3lbs which may not be the lightest but it is lighter than others I researched.

Sleep System; gonna miss my memory foam

I have an Alps Mountaineering closed cell self inflating air matress,it is around 1.5″ thick when inflated and not entirely uncomfortable. I tend to get claustrophobic in sleeping bags so I have a handmade sleep quilt system that utilizes 3 down blankets with the bottoms sewn differently for each quilt. 1 footbag is mummy style for very cold nights which will provide one more ground layer below me.

The footbags of the other 2 quilts are sewn as traditional sleeping bag style one at the seams and the other entirely closed in to block drafts. With this system I can use all at once for maximum warmth or mix and match depending on the conditions i find myself in. I also have a down pillow and an inflatable pillow as well because I am a side sleeper.

On the nights that I don’t need all of the quilts Koko will have some extra cushioning and in extreme cold we will share body heat. Which simply put means she will press close and stay toasty warm as I tend to crank out a lot of heat.

I also have a Therma Rest trail pad self inflating which doubles as Koko’s sleeping pad and she carries her own blanket.

Clothing; less is more than enough

A Marmot Down jacket hooded with wrist gaiters 800 fill power will be my protection from wind snow and cold. For hiking 1  pair of waterproof fleece lined pants in cold weather 1 pair of shorts with included breifs for warmer weatherand 1 pair of ricehole gym shorts for sleeping. I will have 2 polyester T-shirts which will alternate daily to reduce potenital odors and a cotton t-shirt for sleeping.

Socks I am using 3 pairs of Injinji mid weight trail socks and one pair of no shows for camp and sleeping. I also have a pair of dirty girl lightweight gaiters to keep dirt out of my trailrunners. Total weight of clothing is 3.6 lbs and I may have overpacked. I also have a lightweight raincoat for those times when I get caught by bad weather.

Koko will also carry a small pack which holds her 2 favorite toys Stick(a synthetic non splintering chew toy shaped like a stick) and Duck(her favorite non stuffed duckie)  a towel and blanket for resting total weight is 3 lbs for her pack. I will carry her raincoat and puffy coat when she isn’t wearing them or her pack if she is.

Food Storage, Kitchen, and a few other things

My bear vault bear canister will hold my food and toiletries I plan on being semi stoveless using my pocket rocket style stove for morning coffee and occassional meals or water boiling. I prefer a high fat high protein diet when hiking and will focus on salami, pepperoni , peanut butter and  bacon bits for the fat and protien aspect. Occasional mashed potatoes (add bacon bits) and some soup packets to round things out.

Breakfasts will be oatmeal or carnation instant breakfast and snacks will be a mix of trail mix and snickers depending on resupply options. Coffee in the morning will be a priority Starbucks Via packets cuz they’re the best to fresh brewed.

I will also have a few other essential items like nail clippers and a callus shaver a head lamp a couple of bandannas and my Canon powershot Sx530 which is a fantastic DSLR that only weighs 1lb. Spare battery and memory card for the camera and the charger. I am looking at a total weight (including a fully loaded Osprey 3 liter bladder)of 26 lbs.

At the time of this publication have still not decided if I am including my chromebook for days off the trail.Blogging by phone will be a challenge but adding an additional 2.2lbs is also a challenge. I have the duece of spades for a potty trowel and intend to bring a 4oz can of body spray so I will noy be too offensive when I reach civilization every few days.

Osprey Atmos 60 liter backpack

I got a great deal on last years model and have added this awesome backpack to carry all of the items I will need for the next 5 to 7 months.  I actually paid around 1/2 price with free shipping. All of my gear that will be in bad weather has been waterproofed with Scothgard type spray. This includes Down jacket, tent, raincoat,and backpack rain cover.

I will also carry a contracter style garbage bag inside of my pack to ensure that all of my items remain dry. I will post final weight as an update to this article after I pack up my bear canister with 3 days worth of food which I am reluctant to buy until I am ready to start my thru hike.

I am so excited to start this amazing adventure and will be hopping on an Amtrak in 45 days. Don’t forget you can follow along on my adventures in whatever format pleases you.  If you enjoyed this article feel free to comment below.




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Thru hiking on a shoestring budget

As I first began to research hiking the Appalachian Trail it was obvious that it would require a lot of money.

My current life situation as a minimum wage employee makes the goal even more daunting. These are steps that can be taken before and during a thru hike to minimize costs and potentially maximize your experience.


Take your time acquiring gear

Gear to hike with can easily become a major expense, rushing online to buy that backpack that someone insisted you should have may not be the best option for you.

Gear should be purchased at your comfort level including cost, take the time to research and select your gear within your budget.

The cost of essential thru hiking gear can stretch into thousands of dollars if you let it, take your time sometimes you can find it cheaper if you search hard enough.

Limit your in Town time

Town time can be the biggest cost during your hike hotels, motels and restaurants will chew up your budget quickly.

Look for hostels or consider tenting in nearby parks to save costs, I have an ongoing membership to Planet Fitness and it allows me to use any PF location in the country which will come in handy for free showers and relax time.

I am not saying that on occasion you can’t treat yourself but you can pool together with others to keep hotel costs to a minimum.

Restaurant visits do not need to be at full service sit down facilities good food can be found even at small diners and fast food places for a fraction of the cost.

Hiking Food

Still to be thought of is the food you will be eating while on the trail. As time progresses your needs may change or you may begin to dislike one of your choices.

Throwing away food can get expensive consider trading unwanted items with another hiker who may have an option you do not.

Last resort you could place unwanted food in a hiker box and might be able to trade from the box if others also left something you may be craving.

Final thoughts

I am sure that I have not covered all the steps to save money on or off the Trail pooling for shuttles and hitching a ride come to mind as another cost saver in town there is usually public transportation.

Please feel free to leave a comment below if you have other ways to reduce costs or if you enjoyed this article.

For some amazing pictures on Instagram follow @hiking_tipster and I just started a you tube channel Hiking Tipster.

I hope you find this helpful



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