Yes. Each hiker must provide for his and her own food on the trail. If you would like ideas on the types of food and meals that work well on the trail, contact us and we can help. Also, you can check out Coyote Camp. They have a great line of delicious, lightweight backpacker meals. And they will include a free gift if you put the code HFMH12 in comments when you check out. In fact, Coyote Camp worked with Tom, a co-founder of HIKE for Mental Health, to develop and test many of their backpacker meals. It's a tough job, but somebody had to do it!
Assembling your gear can be half the fun of hiking. While serious hikers can spent hundred if not thousands of dollars on the latest high-tech gear, it is not necessary to safely enjoy your hiking experiences. If you don't have everything on the list, check with friends and family. Often you can borrow equipment - most backpacking equipment is just sitting in storage for much of it's life. A word of caution: avoid cotton clothing. It loses all its insulating value when it gets wet and is very slow to dry. A phrase among hikers is "Cotton kills". Go with synthetics and/or wool. Here is a basic 3 season backpacking equipment list, adapted from the list published by backpacker.com.
- waterproof/breathable jacket
- waterproof/breathable pants (optional)
- fleece/synthetic jacket or wool sweater
- waterproof gaiters (optional)
- synthetic hiking pants and/or shorts
- midweight long john top
- midweight long john bottoms
- long sleeve T-shirt
- synthetic T-shirt
- synthetic briefs
- synthetic sports bra (optional for men)
- wool or fleece hat
- midweight wool or fleece gloves (good for chilly mornings even in the summer)
- camp footwear (optional)
- waterproof hiking boots or shoes
- wool or synthetic socks
- liner socks
- sun hat
- internal or external frame backpack
- three-season down or synthetic sleeping bag (15° to 30°F)
- sleeping pad (optional)
- trekking poles (optional)
- canister stove and fuel canisters
- lighter and/or waterproof matches
- eating utensils, bowl, and insulated mug
- headlamp w/extra batteries and bulb
- 32 oz. water bottles or water bladder (filter, tablets, or drops)
- pocket knife or multitool
- compass or GPS (and map)
- first-aid kit with personal medications
- stuff sacks
- assorted zipper-lock bags
- sunscreen (SPF 15+)
- lip balm (SPF 15+)
- bear-bagging rope (or canister)
- toilet paper
If you are unable to complete a hike for any reason, the trail director will assist you finding the best way and place to get get off the trail and back to civilization. The Appalachian Trail crosses a number of roads in each section in New Jersey so getting to ground transportation is usually not too difficult. You are responsible for finding someone who can meet you at your exit point. Sponsorship donations will not be refunded.
Absolutely! You are encouraged to "hike your own hike". We generally start and end each day together. Many people choose to hike as a "loose group" spending time with different individuals in the group at different points in the day. It's a great way to make new friends. Even when together, we do not hike as a herd.
Each hike will have a trail director from HIKE for Mental Health. The trail directors, like the other hikers on the hike, have to raise sponsorships to go on the hike. However, they are also experienced hikers who have agreed to help to:
- provide information about the trail and about hiking and backpacking,
- ensure proper utilization of the trail, and
- make the overall experience a positive one for the hikers.
No. It definitely can rain, sometimes hard, but the hikes proceed rain or shine. It is up to each hiker to determine whether to participate and to bring proper foul weather gear.
Many hikes pass through parks which prohibit alcohol consumption. It is important to stay hydrated while hiking, so we encourage drinking water instead.
Cell phone service is intermittent on wilderness trails. Depending on your carrier you can generally pick up a signal at some point each day, but you should not count on having steady coverage during your hike. Besides, you aren't going on a hike to get away from a ringing phone and the steady barrage of email? So turn off the phone for the day and give yourself that break. Your fellow-hikers will appreciate it as well.
Unfortunately, no. The donations are exactly that, donations. They are not hiking fees and will not be automatically refunded. Individual sponsors may request refund of their donations if they so desire.
Generally, no. Wood fires are prohibited along many wilderness trails in New York and New Jersey. For cooking, gas stoves and fuel must be used. Where there are legal campfire pits, we will certainly take advantage of them.
Definitely. Each person on the hike is responsible for his or her own first aid supplies. Most times hiking you won't need it, but if you ever do, you want to have it with you. Check out this link to appalachiantrail.com for recommendation on what to include.
Please don't. Dogs are allowed but must be leashed in many wilderness areas. They can create problems with bears and other wildlife on the trail. For their safety and enjoyment as well as that of others on the hike (who may have allergies), we ask you not to bring pets on the hike.
All hikers must be 18 years of age or older and must be sponsored. To hike with your adult children, they must register separately and collect sponsors.
Generally, no. We practice "Leave no trace" hiking and camping, so plan to carry out anything you carry in. Having said that, many hikes do cross through park headquarters or other places that provide the opportunity to unload trash a few times along the way.
Neither do we! Our hikes are organized to provide some guidance each day but are by no means regimented. Each person should "hike your own hike" as phrase goes. Feel free to hike on your own, at your pace and schedule, or to mingle with others as you choose throughout the day. Most people tend to do some of each, enjoying the solitude at some points in the day and forming new friendships with others cool people on the hike at other points. It's your call how you do the hike.
We usually start each day together, making breakfast and breaking camp. Once we hit the trail, generally around 9 a.m., everyone hikes at his or her own pace, choosing whether to hike alone or mingle with others on the hike. We take rest breaks during the day as needed, usually with a longer lunch break around mid-day. We generally reach our camp for the evening around 4 p.m. We unpack, set-up camp, and make dinner. Evening activites are varied according to the desires of the group. It can be quiet, individual time, or time for socializing. Believe it or not, we often even take little walks to explore the area or look for wildlife in the evening after dinner, in case we didn't get enough of hiking during the day! Of course, all of the above varies widely on a case-by-case basis according to the desires of the group, the weather, the length of the hike each day, and other conditions.
While bear spray is legal in New Jersey, we do not encourage it. Instead, be attentive to surroundings, practice proper food handling and storage, and practice proper bear-encounter techniques.
Obviously, the temperature, wind speed, and rainfall can vary tremendously from day to day. Always be prepared for severe weather. In general, the average day-time high temperature in August is in the low 80's and the average night-time low is in the mid-50's. In October, the average day-time high is in the low-to-mid 60's and lows average mid-to upper 30's. Rainfall averages about an inch per week in the summer and fall. Again, the conditions on any given day can cary widely, from clear blue sky to torrential downpour. Be prepared. Check out weather.com for more weather-related information.
Yes, there are snakes in New Jersey, including two venomous snakes, the copperhead and the timber rattlesnake. In New Jersey, copperheads are so rare and reclusive that people almost never encounter them. Copperhead bites are even rarer, and almost never fatal if they do occur. Timber rattlesnake are more common, found in the summer in wooded forests and valleys and in the fall sunning themselves on rocky outcropping or open fields with south-facing exposing. They are quiet and docile unless provoked, preferring to remain quiet and let people pass by instead of rattling and calling attention to themselves. If disturbed, however, they will bite. Watch where to step and where you put your hands when climbing.
Virtually all the Appalachian Trail in New Jersey is in country inhabited by black bears. Bear activity is particularly high in the area around the Kittatinny Ridge. On her 2011 record-setting thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, Jennifer Pharr Davis spotted seven or eight bears while passing through the New Jersey section. Despite the bears' presence, bear attacks are extremely rare and usually occur when the animal feels cornered or threatened. If you stumble upon a bear, back away slowly while watching the bear, but do not make direct eye contact. Do not run, even if the bear charges (which is extremely rare) as many charges are "bluffs." Of course, prevention is always the best approach, and hiking with others is great way to reduce the risk as it usually allows the bears to hear you coming down the trail and more safely away. Also, keep food and cooking utensils out of bear's reach. Appalachian Trail shelters in areas of high bear activity often provide bear-proof boxes to store food overnight. If bear-boxes aren't available, food bags should be hung using proper bear-proofing techniques.