At the trailhead of the Appalachian Trail’s 100 Mile Wilderness in Maine, a sign stands informing all how the 100 Mile Wilderness is so named due to the nearest town being 100 miles south.
Hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness is a challenge, and backpackers are explicitly told to turn back unless fully outfitted – including at least 10 days of supplies!
So, here’s what can make the difference between success and failure:
Tip 1 – Bring the right gear.
Clothes, sleeping bag, tent or tarp, and the cooking kit: bring the lightest weight gear affordable and not too much of it. 30 pounds would be ideal, but most people will start around 45 – 50 pounds, including food and water. Here’s a complete Backpacking Gear Checklist for Hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness
Tip 2 – Bring enough food and water.
For food, your daily intake should range between 3000 to 5000 calories crammed into 1.5 – 2 pounds. Avoid processed foods that won’t promote energy, opt for high protein and moderate carbs. Concerned about food? Check out this post I wrote: How much food do you need hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness?
Carry at least 2 liters of water per person and replenish when needed, while not forgetting to purify. Here’s a post I wrote about Filtering and Purifying Water in the 100 Mile Wilderness.
Tip 3 – Get your head in the game.
If you’re considering the 100 Mile Wilderness and your first thought is “Pack for 10 days! Shouldn’t I bring a donkey?” you might want to reconsider! Understanding the challenge is critical. At the start, your pack could weight 50 pounds, so be mentally prepared for carrying that weight through rivers and over mountains.
Tip 4 – Assess your level of readiness and experience, as well as that of any companions.
This trail section is not for the weak or inexperienced. Ask yourself, “Am I experienced enough to hike ten days with all the food and supplies I need on my back?” Plan to bridge any deficits in skill, knowledge, and strength prior to your attempt. Beware there are dangers that can kill you in the 100 Mile Wilderness.
Tip 5 – Know your limits.
Due to the isolation, don’t expect to easily throw in the towel and be helped. With outside help being scarce, you must assume you, and only you, will be responsible for walking in and out of the 100 Mile Wilderness.
Tip 6 – Establish personal meaning.
Hiking the 100 Mile Wilderness is a challenge. When the swamps, mountains, or bugs are beating you down, be sure you have a go to reason for persevering. I once met a grown man crying because of the mosquitoes in the 100 Mile Wilderness. Another time, as I hiked into the 100 Mile Wilderness, I met two young men that were hiking back out, driven back by a relentless rain that soaked all their gear on the first night.
Tip 7 – Make a realistic hiking plan.
Combining your mental toughness and god-like strides, surely you can knock this trail out in 2 or 3 days, right? Wrong. Study the terrain, know when to go, where to go, and what you will need. If the water levels are high in the swamps, realize that the trail will slow you down, no matter your physical prowess.
Tip 8 – Be physically fit.
Compare this trail to running the Boston Marathon. The time to train is before your attempt, not during it! When we fail to train, we train to fail. If needed, ramp up with smaller trips to increase endurance.
Tip 9 – Plan your route.
Get maps from the Maine Appalachian Trail Club, about $8 bucks for non-members, and plan to cover at least 12 miles per day for 8-10 days.
Tip 10 – Expect bad weather.
Being Maine, a winter attempt may not be the wisest choice, but regardless of which of the other 3 seasons you choose, expect to get wet, whether from rain, crossing rivers, or sweat. Be sure your schedule and selected gear accounts for the wet, as exposure can kill.
Tip 11 – Break in your gear.
Do not hike the 100 Mile Wilderness with brand new boots. New boots cause hot spots on your feet that can become blisters. A blister in the wrong place on your foot can slow down the hike, adding a day or two to the hike. For that matter, all gear should be well tested before backpacking the 100 Mile Wilderness.