Wednesday, August 19, 2015

Lightening that Backpacking Load

One of the things I love to do as a hiker advocate, educator and ridgerunner is helping hikers eliminate unnecessary weight from their packs in shakedowns. I had the opportunity to do this the other day with a young hiker who was dead tired after four miles and ready to quit. Not only was the hiker carrying heavy items like a seven pound tent and a chair, but the backpack did not fit correctly either, and the hiker carried all the weight on the shoulders.
Make the right choices to lighten the load

Not cool and definitely a painful ordeal.

So what do you take out of your pack? Most hikers tend to do overkill with food, toiletries, first aid,
etc. They take every part of a cook set rather than just the tools they need. Sometimes half the medicine chest is in the first aid kit. This hiker I helped had two 8 oz. fuel canisters for three days. Also many lightweight times can quickly add up to pounds. Eliminating these in rapid fashion decreases the weight and make a hike more comfortable.

So let’s take a few of the above.

Food. A good rule of thumb is approx. 1 ½ lbs. of food per day. No need for cans. Check my blog on hiker food ideas to give you nutritious meals without the weight.

Toiletries. No need for a deodorant, brush, shampoo. Ladies – you don't need make up. If you are hiking long distance, chances are great hostels and motels have shampoo and soap. A few baby wipes can make you feel refreshed in camp (but pack them out!!). I have never felt the need to take a brush or comb. Take only what you need for trail first aid.

Cooking. Many hikers take an overabundance of cooking gear to make simple meals. Honestly, all one needs for most meals is one pot and one Spork. No need for a plate, frying pan, or extra pots. And don’t forget a simple stove, like a pocket rocket version (there’s a cheap one on Amazon some have said works good) and a canister to cook. I’ve seen hikers struggle to cook meals over a fire with wet wood and go hungry. Bring a lightweight stove. Substitute a Smartwater bottle for a Nalgene bottle saves some good ounces.  

Lots of heavy bags, stuff sacks etc. Simple, good quality Ziplocs make organization easy and you can see through the bags to help determine what you have. But do carry a good waterproof food bag for bear bagging. And make sure your clothing and sleeping bag are in good waterproof bags.
Electronics can get heavy. Bring only what you need. A phone in many instances can serve as a camera, music player, etc.

Check your pack. Do you REALLY need that huge book? That chair (try cutting an old blue foam pad or ridgerest and plop it next to a tree)? Leave out the heavy knife and egg container. If you don’t think you will use it, don’t bring it.

Lastly, make sure your pack fits you right. Make sure also you are using the waist belt correctly.

Just few ideas to lighten the load and make it a happy trip.  

Thursday, August 06, 2015

Top Five Worries About Thru-Hiking the AT

Blissful Hiking is republishing this excellent guest blog by thru hiker "Datto" with some good commentary on the worries hikers have concerning a thru hike of the Appalachian Trail and applicable in many ways to any long distance trail or hike.

Okay, so you're looking to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail and have some worries and concerns. Let's go through the Top Five Worries About Thru-Hiking the Appalachian Trail -- if others want to contribute and add their list of AT thru-hiking worries and remedies, by all means jump right in:

Worry Five: My [girlfriend, boyfriend, spouse, parents, friends, resident alien, mother-in-law] think the idea of leaving work and your good life back home just to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail is nuts.

It's unsafe. It's irresponsible. It's useless. It's impossible. I could go on and on describing all the reasons I've heard before, during and after my AT thru-hike. The best one was the utterance said right to my face when I had been thinking of thru-hiking the AT: "Why would you ever want to doing something like that?" and I'd responded, "Why did they climb Everest?" and the response back to me was, "That was almost as crazy!" It's still makes me smile to think about that day. Look, the vast majority of people don't like change and society doesn't like things off the curve. But you'll find those experiences are the specific things that make life memorable, that make life worth living, that allow you to live life fully. Taking on great challenges -- and succeeding. I honestly can't thing of many things more enlightening, enjoyable, just-plain-fun, exciting, frustrating or memorable that I've done in my short life than my thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. For extra credit, look at the link to view my listing of the Top Ten Likely Benefits From Completing Your AT Thru-hike that I'd composed previously. And you'd want to give up the things on that list of likely benefits just so you could go to work every day and come home at night to watch Wheel Of Fortune? Maybe your mother-in-law was right about you. Wapner. Wapner at 4:30.

Worry Four: I'll run out of money.

That's a big concern since running out of money is in the top five reasons AT thru-hikes end prematurely. It's pretty simple -- if you haven't saved $5,000 cash to spend on your AT thru-hike, it's likely you'll run out of money or may go into considerable debt just to complete your AT thru-hike. That $5,000 cash includes the money you spend from the time you get on the plane/train/bus in your home town to when you arrive back in your home town after you complete your AT thru-hike. It includes gear you would replenish or replace on the Trail but not gear you start the Trail with at Springer Mountain for northbounders or Katahdin for southbounders. Even if you have $5,000 saved up, here's an important part of the utilization of that $5,000 -- if you're a northbounder you need to have one-half of that amount still available to you when you reach the southern Connecticut border. Reason: the New England states are very eye-opening expensive and you've been spoiled by the cheaper costs of the southern Appalachian Trail states.

Worry Three: I don't know if I'm physically capable of carrying a backpack 2,186 miles.

You would not believe the number of people I know who had started their AT thru-hikes in the absolutely worst physical shape you can imagine. Way overweight, all kinds of medications they had to take that made them [choose your side-effect here], all kinds of physical disabilities. I know people who were seventy pounds overweight who made it from Springer Mountain, GA to Katahdin in Maine. Heck, a blind guy started his AT thru-hike with his white cane and went over all those rocks in North Carolina moving the cane back and forth. Earl Shaffer was just ahead of me on his third AT thru-hike when I was on my AT thru-hike -- and he was 80 years old. That's right -- 80 years old. So, are you telling me you can't do what an 80 year old guy could do, a blind guy could do and someone who starts their AT thru-hike being 70 lbs overweight could do? As some sage thru-hikers before me have said, "It's just walkin'". You get used to it, relish it, begin to enjoy it, begin to enjoy the life on the Trail. And you know what? When you have completed your thru-hike you'll likely think it was the best time of your life.

Worry Two: What if I get bored -- I've never been in the woods for that long of a period of time and I've never been away from my family for that long of a time -- maybe I should arrange to start my AT thru-hike with someone?

Ha, if you're a northbounder you have no worries at all. The Trail will be crawling with people who are starting their own AT thru-hikes. You don't need to find someone to start an AT thru-hike with -- there will be loads of people hiking along with you. Interesting people from all walks of life -- hairdressers, history teachers, recent college graduates, retirees, Army generals, furniture salespeople, people just back from the Peace Corps or similar, computer professionals, divorcees, happily married folks, rich executives, people who've been out of work for a long time, foreigners, domestics, conservatives, liberals, people with alternative lifestyles back in "society", FBI agents, journalists and cab drivers. Those are just some of the individuals who I'd hiked with during my AT thru-hike. On the Trail it's a microcosm of the world. It's not just crazy outdoorsy people -- in fact, outdoorsy people are pretty much few and far between. I would say it's more about people from all walks of life wanting an adventure, wanting a challenge, wanting to do something interesting with themselves. The outdoorsy part you learn on the Trail if you don't already have it when you start. You'll probably meet people for the first time right on the top of Springer Mountain, who've also climbed up the side of the mountain to start their AT thru-hike just like you, that you'll also go up Katahdin with when you finish your thru-hike in Maine. I know it is hard to believe -- I was told that it would be that way by past thru-hikers when I was preparing for my AT thru-hike and I'd been skeptical of it. But you know what? I met up with several of the people I'd first met on Springer Mountain, GA when I went up Katahdin six months later. You develop friendships along the Trail -- sometimes life-long friends, sometimes romances, most of the time it's people you'd never met before you'd started your AT thru-hike. Some of those people are not going to be at all like you -- but you'll still enjoy each others company. I can tell you I met up with introverts, extraverts, groups of hikers, people who liked to hike and camp alone, devoutly religious folks and atheists, Moms and Dads. It's takes all kinds to show up one day by chance and start north from Springer Mountain or south from Katahdin. There isn't necessarily a "type" per se but since you are reading this I can expressly say that you are the type and you'll meet up with many of your type right on the Trail during the first few weeks of your AT thru-hike. So don't worry about it at all.

Worry One: What will I do afterwards?

Now there is something to think about while you're hiking. Not every day, just occasionally -- once a month or so. There's a chance when you get to about, oh, mile 2,000, you're going to think to yourself, "I can't go back to how it was before. Not after having experienced this." The "this" meaning your life on the Trail. One suggestion I can give you -- if you have the ability, plan ahead of time to take 30 days after you complete your AT thru-hike to put a plan together before you start moving in any direction with your life. It will give you time for perspective as well as time to get yourself back to experiencing that amazing colossal spigot in the kitchen that has clean flowing water coming out of it that doesn't need to be treated. Take a walk through your local Wal-mart after your thru-hike and gaze upon the people who never had the chance, nor will have the chance, to experience what you've had over the course of several recent months. Watch how other people lead their lives. What you currently think is normal, before your AT thru-hike, may seem so odd when you return from completing your AT thru-hike. When you first watch the Nightly News upon return from the AT, remember about all the kindness that you'd experienced on the Trail, about the happiness you saw first-hand for yourself. That is how the world truly is -- not the way it is presented on a nineteen inch diagonal view of the world. Whatever you decide to do with yourself after you return from your AT thru-hike, I know you are going to be thankful.

Best of adventures to you!


Monday, July 13, 2015

Getting Along with Family While Long Distance Hiking

This is some good advice when hiking with family  - taken from the Orr Family Journal as they hike the Appalachian Trail this year (2015). I met them as they hiked through Shenandoah National Park and was impressed with how they worked together to accomplish their dream of a thru hike.  

"Several people have told us if they traveled with their family they would kill each other. So I thought I'd mention 3 things we use to keep family harmony.

1. Forgiveness: Irritations come up and get larger when you have plenty of time to think about them while hiking. If there is an issue we try to ask forgiveness quickly and always before the sun goes down.

2. Selfishness: we succeed or fail together. If someone needs precious food or water that you have carried many miles, give it to them without conditions.

3. Spend money when Morale is low: I try to save money but things such as sore shoulders or feet, falls, rain, and steep trails tend to lower morale. That is the time to pay for a hotel, eat at a nice restaurant,or replace some equipment.

The biggest threat to an extended family trip are unresolved accumulated irritations with low morale. I already had to ask forgiveness for my attitude this morning and we are eating at a restaurant, improving morale, drying out, watching the rain today."

On our thru hike in 2007

The above makes some good points about planning ahead of time when long distance hiking with family members. Keep your goals fluid and not set in stone, or it adds to the stress of the hike. Have the finances available so if you need a morale booster, like a warm bed or a good meal, you have the money to do that. Realize that some in the family might be having a bad day, so go with the flow and adapt to it, whether mileage or otherwise. I've hiked the whole trail with my son and as a family unit on sections. Above all, patience is the key. Take it one day at a time. And allow the experience to mold and shape you all into better people that can relate better to each other and the world around you.

Thursday, July 09, 2015

Oh, My Aching Knees

 One of a hiker's chief complaints is knee issues that can spring up on the trail. A knee is a rather intricate joint with many ligaments and tendons interspersed through it to make it work as a "hinge" joint. It carries quite a load, and combined with a backpack, on uneven or steep terrain, with long miles, the load on this joint can be incredible. The knee offers a variety of complaints, so much so that is can force a hiker off the trail. 

But there are tricks to keep the knee joint functioning if a hiker treats the joint with the respect it deserves.  


Before a backpacking trip, get into a regimen of strengthening this joint. Do knee bends with a pack on your back. Do stretches for your hamstrings and quads. Knee pain often results from these muscle groups that are too tight. Learn the stretch too for ITB (illiotibial band syndrome). Runners World give a nice article on good knee stretches for the athlete.


Nutrition is a key element to healthy joints. A balanced diet is best, especially on long backpacking trips. Don't skimp in this area. Up your protein which assists in muscle healing after a hard work-out (and hiking is hard on your muscles). When you stop to rest, don't reach for a candy bar. Eat some cheese or nuts instead. Keep an adequate, consistent intake of water on your hike which helps the body lubricate the joints and brings blood to the area. Consider glucosomine, chondroitin, and msm
supplements. A product I found that is working wonders on my knee is eggstraflex that contains eggshell membrane. I have used this in place of glucsomine with good results.

Use good hiking poles. They take the strain off knees, especially on downhills.

Make sure you are wearing adequate footwear and insoles. It's best to get fitted by a professional shop that knows foot types.

Watch your pack weight. An overweight pack can add more stress load to the knees. Try to cut down on any unnecessary weight.

Watch your daily trail mileage. Forget keeping up with others. Take the hike at your pace, even if that means a 6 mile day. If other hikers run past you down the hill, let 'em.

If you have done bicycling and switch to hiking, it will take time for your muscles to adapt. Give them that consideration.

For pain, an ice pack can help as well as NSAIDS (non steroidal, anti inflammatories such as Aleve or Advil).  I found the cho pat duo knee brace works well. But I try hard to limit its use. Once your knee adapts to it, it's hard to go without it. Prevention is best.  

If you find after a hike your knee is quite swollen, or you have crippling pain or the pain persists, be sure to get checked out by a sports MD. There may be other issues involved, such as strained or sprained ligaments or even Lyme Disease (which can affect joint health). 

Related Blogs:

Ankle Injuries
When Injury Sidelines You
First Aid Kit and Wilderenss Medicine
Sore and Achy

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Heat-Related Ilnesses while Backpacking and Hiking

It’s the height of summer and time for great hikes. But it’s also time that heat-related illness can affect you while exerting yourself in hot temperatures.

The two heat-related illnesses one needs to look out for are heat exhaustion and sunstroke. Heat exhaustion can be managed on the trail, but sunstroke is a life-threatening emergency where the hiker must get to a hospital.

Heat Exhaustion can occur in hot, humid temperatures when the body becomes depleted of fluids necessary to cool itself - (severe dehydration). There may be heat cramps involved. The skin may be pale, cool, clammy, the hiker slightly anxious, pulse and breathing are basically normal. However, if the hiker is not cooled down, it can advance to the life threatening sunstroke as the core body temperature begins to rise.
Seek rest in a shady, cool spot. Sometimes resting on rocks that are in the shade or beside stream beds are cool. Or find an area next to water or in a wet environment. Breezes can also help you cool down by allowing convection to happen. Drink! – Especially replace lost salt and water. Having an electrolyte type mix in your hiker bag is crucial to helping replace sodium and potassium lost during sweating. Gatorade is also a favorite choice. When you get to town, eating a banana helps with cramping.

Sunstroke occurs when the mechanism to keep yourself cool begins to fail and your internal body temperature rises. Your skin becomes red, hot and dry. You can become disoriented, confused, and irritable. Pulse is rapid and there may be a seizure. Cool immediately by immersing into a cold stream or river or pouring water over the body. Give fluids if still awake and you can massage limbs to draw out the heat. Call for help.

How to prevent these illnesses from happening on a hike: 

  • Take frequent rest breaks in cool, shady areas
  • Drink plenty fluids and eat salty foods. Carry electrolyte replacement granules to add to water. Be sure to carry plenty of water in desert environments
  • Wear lightweight clothing and bright colors. Wear a lightweight hat
  • If you feel hot, dry, your urine output is low, that means dehydration is setting in. Stop and rehydrate. 

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Hiking Vermont's Long Trail

I'm seeing some hikers planning a Long Trail adventure and decided to go ahead and share this blog back from 2012 when I did my southbound hike of it. I found the End to Ender's Guide and the map sufficed. I did not carry the Long Trail Guide as it only has descriptions for a northbound hike and I was hiking southbound. I also took a GPS device as well that really did come in handy on a few of the situations I found myself in. 

On September 23, 2012, I completed a southward trek of Vermont’s Long Trail. What began back in 2010 with the completion of the trail from Maine Junction (where the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail part) to Rt 2 in Massachusetts, I hiked from the Canadian border to the Maine Junction this fall. 
Looking into Quebec, Canada at the start of the Long Trail
So what is the Long Trail? As taken from the Green Mountain Club's web site – “Built by the Green Mountain Club between 1910 and 1930, the Long Trail is the oldest long-distance trail in the United States. The Long Trail follows the main ridge of the Green Mountains from the Massachusetts-Vermont line to the Canadian border as it crosses Vermont's highest peaks. It was the inspiration for the Appalachian Trail, which coincides with it for one hundred miles in the southern third of the state.

Although the Long Trail is known as Vermont's "footpath in the wilderness," its character may more accurately be described as backcountry. As it winds its way to Canada, the Trail climbs rugged peaks and passes pristine ponds, alpine bogs, hardwood forests and swift streams. The Long Trail is steep in some places, muddy in others, and rugged in most. Novice and expert alike will enjoy the varied terrain of the trail as it passes through the heart of Vermont's backwoods.
With its 273-mile footpath, 175 miles of side trails, and nearly 70 primitive shelters, the Long Trail offers endless hiking opportunities for the day hiker, weekend overnighter, and extended backpacker.”

Some noted observations made while on my hike –

Atop Mt Mansfield looking toward the Adirondoacks of NY and Lake Champlain
Best part of the trail – Except for a bit of a nerve wracking ascent up the chin and then the calamity with my backpack on the forehead, Mt Mansfield was one of the trip's highlights for stunning scenery.

The Presidential Range of NH from the Lincolns
I also liked very much a lone mountain called Laraway Perch. I had a beautiful view of Mansfield that day. The trail also meandered below huge rock formations.

Another favorite was Mt Abraham in the Lincoln region. My last views above tree line as I headed south.
Worse part of the trail – I attempted to climb Camel’s Hump in sixty mile an hour winds and heavy rain. It got so bad that I was obliged to take a side trail to avoid the exposed summit. On a clear day, this would have been a great mountain. But on adverse weather, it made for a treacherous and rather frightening experience.

What I’m glad I took – I accepted a fellow hiker's generous offer to carry his GPS with me. This served me many times when the trail became a bit confusing in ski areas such as Jay Peak (and the trail crosses many ski areas). It also helped me navigate back to the trail when my backpack fell out of the “Needle” portion of the forehead on Mt Mansfield and careened down 100 feet into a ravine. After retrieving my pack, I was able to bushwhack back using the GPS. I'm also glad I did take a 15 degree bag and outerwear for my September travels. Many hikers out there were pretty cold in their 30 plus degree bags in September.

Regrets – I didn’t need the mail drop at all in Jonesville, even though the post office is directly trailside. Between Jeffersonville (which has a nice general store) and Waitsfield, there is good resupply for the northern hiker. I ended up ditching some food at the inn at Waitsfield.

Speaking of which, the B&B's I stayed at (Nyes Green Valley and the Waitsfield Inn) were first class, friendly to hikers, did up laundry for free, and provided shuttles. Great breakfasts too. Worth the hefty price.  

Favorite place to stay on the trail – I had a great time at the ski lift hut on Spruce Peak. And I had wet gear that dried quickly that night inside the hut. The view overlooking Stowe was lovely. Stark’s Nest is another great place to stay, with views from the porch extending toward the Presidential Range of New Hampshire.

The Finish at Maine Junction. I did the southern part on my 2010 hike of the AT southbound

What I Learned – When the going gets rough, listening to the still small voice telling me where to go and what to do (like trying to negotiate the rocky traverse of the Camel's Hump ascent) really saved my hike.   

My Long Trail Journal on Trail Journals.

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

The Bear Facts of Life

I photographed this bear in a tree in Great Smoky Mountains National Park
And this bear up a tree in Shenandoah
Bears can be a hot topic in the hiker forums. After the recent events in the Smokies where a bear was reported to have taken a hiker out of his hammock, it makes good sense to go ahead and share the facts when encountering these animals in the woods.

Most bears are skiddish when encountered on the trail, but a mother with her cubs can and will attack to defend her young if she detects a threat. It's prudent, therefore, to know the basics of bear safety when out hiking. And it's wise also to be aware of their scent to let you know they are nearby. I was taught the scent of a bear from a hiker/former ranger, and she said it smells like a wet dog. Once you recognize a bear's scent, it will alert you to their presence and avoid surprise encounters.   

Below are some general bear safety tips taken from the Shenandoah National Park website. If you are out west in grizzly country, that's a more dangerous area, and bear spray, bear bells, and other protection are needed, as well as bear canisters in many places (such as Yosemite National park which requires it).

Avoiding Bears While Hiking
  • Stay alert to your surroundings and the presence of wildlife while hiking.
  • Make your presence known by keeping the wind to your back (your scent will alert bears), if possible hike in groups, and make noise.
  • When you spot a bear, stay 300 feet or more away and never linger or take photographs for long periods.
  • Slowly back away and leave the area or take a detour. Making noise during your retreat is appropriate. Keep children close to the group. Do not turn your back on a bear. Do not make eye contact.
  • Do not pursue and NEVER surround a bear. Give it room to escape.
  • DO NOT run from a bear. Bears will pursue prey and flight is a signal to them to start pursuit.
Encountering a Black Bear
If an encounter occurs …
Remain calm and don’t run. Like dogs, bears will often chase fleeing animals. You can't outrun a bear. They have been clocked at speeds up to 35 mph! Climbing a tree is futile since black bears excel at climbing trees. Jaw popping by the bear is a signal to you that it is uncomfortable.
Let the bear know you are human. Talk to it in a normal voice and wave your arms. If a bear cannot tell what you are, it may come closer or stand on its hind legs to get a better look or smell. A standing bear is usually curious – not threatening.
Move away slowly, but don’t turn your back. If the bear follows, stop and hold your ground. Black bears may approach at a measured pace and attack the human as prey. The calm appearance of the black bear may have lure some of their victims into a false sense of security.  If leaving the area is not an option or if the bear gets too close you should make yourself appear as large as possible. Lifting your arms and a pack over head, moving to higher ground or, if in a group, huddling together will help discourage the bear. Make louder noise by banging pots and pans or using other noisemakers, but never imitate bear sounds or make a high-pitched squeal. Throwing objects at the bear may be appropriate but only when you are “cornered”. A black bear calmly and steadily approaching who is not bothered by yelling or thrown objects should be considered extremely dangerous.
Avoid eye contact with the animal.
If a bear charges…
Don’t run! Bears often make bluff charges, sometimes to within 10 feet of their adversary, without making contact. Usually if you hold your ground they will back off.

If a bear actually makes contact…
Fight back! In rare instances black bears perceive humans as prey – if you are attacked by a black bear fight back. Try to focus your attack on the bear’s eyes and nose.

In camp...

Eat away from your sleeping area. Never store food in a tent or vestibule. Use bear poles or bear cables or hoist your food in a tree ten feet off the ground and four feet out in a bear bag. Cookware and trash should be similarly secured as well as anything scented such as toothpaste, toothbrush, medications, bug repellent, soap, etc.
In some places where bears are known to be aggressive on the Appalachian Trail, especially with food in areas such as Georgia near the Blood Mountain region or in New Jersey, carry a bear canister to store your food. Canisters are also required in the Adirondack region of New York State. Check your local areas for updates on aggressive bear activity.

Feel free to share your trailside bear stories and what you learned.

Thursday, June 04, 2015

Warranties, Repairs, and Not Cheating the Gear Manufacturer

Inevitably after you have been hiking for a good while you will be saddled with gear issues. Some could be gear defects. Or wear and tear. Or gear that needs repair.

I had the unfortunate incident of tearing a hole in my new Big Agnes UL tent. I plastered it with duct tape which seems the cure-all for some gear repair in the field. It did fine until I got home and called the manufacturer.

Pillow with a defect, handled well by the mfct
Which brings me to this. When in doubt on your gear, call the manufacturer directly to get their opinion. Just last week I had a pillow that suffered a defect – (see the photo). You can tell when a
piece of gear has an obvious defect. I called Exped, talked to a helpful rep who then immediately sent a replacement upon receiving a photo of the gear issue. No fuss, no issue.

For the tent issue, I talked to a Big Agnes rep. The tear was my fault. It was not a defect or anything else. I caused it. They helped me figure out how to repair it, suggesting Tear Aid, a special kind of patch. I gently removed the duct tape (the manufacturers are not keen on duct tape as it leaves a sticky residue where repair patches like Tear Aid do not). I cleaned off any lingering residue with some rubbing alcohol, then made the repair.

Tear in the the tent fabric

Applying Tear Aid to patch the tear

I had also broken a buckle on my ULA Catalyst pack. ULA immediately got a new buckle out to me, no questions.

Then comes the gray areas of gear and clothing. Just last week, in my job as a ridgerunner, I was talking to a young thru hiker who was upset that an outfitter would not take back his socks and exchange them en route. He had hiked in these socks nearly 1000 miles since Springer MT in GA (he was now in upper Virginia) and since he had holes in this one pair and they had a lifetime guarantee, he should get new socks. I disagreed with this. There are going to be issues with gear or clothing under normal things like wear and tear. Manufacture guarantees usually do not guaranty against constant use, especially thru hiker use and abuse. In the past manufacturers and companies' policies have been abused by people who think they deserve their clothes or shoes to make it through 2000 miles. REI had that issue with their lifetime guarantee where hikers would bring back used gear, ages old, in an attempt to get new gear. Thus the company was obliged to change its policy to one year. In this case, getting a 1000 miles out of a pair of socks before you see a hole is excellent wear in my humble opinion. And time to buy another pair of socks rather than abuse the good graces of the manufacturer and their supposed lifetime guarantee to get freebies. But in this case the manufacturer, Darn Tough Socks, agreed to send him a pair. I read their guarantee, and they seem to dare folks to wear out their socks. I guess this guy decided to prove the issue. He lucked out by a great company. I am curious how long their policy will remain. 

Gear manufacturers are most willing to work with hikers on gear issues. But a hiker needs to realize too when their gear simply needs to be replaced because it has been used and loved to death.