I just ordered my tent, a Lightheart Gear Solo with a wedge, since it's on sale till 2012.  I watched the video on their website that shows how to set it up, and I can handle it, even though it's not a free standing tent.  They suggest practicing a few times ahead of time and I see why.  I've read some suggestions that I practice setting it up in the dark, in the rain, in wind, with my eyes closed and hands tied behind my back, etc.  I guess if I don't get in all my practice I'll have to learn it on the trail, which is pretty much what everybody says anyway.  You can't train to backpack fifteen plus miles a day for four to six months until you do it.  That's not to say I won't prepare, though.  I plan to have a lot of cardio and stair climbing prep wearing my fully loaded pack, along with strengthening of individual joints and proprioception (knowing where my feet are in space), balance, and trying to correct any structural weakness or imbalances in my body that could cause injuries.

I was accused recently of over-thinking things.  Guilty.  But that's nothing new for me.  Maybe I'll learn how to be more in the moment and get in the flow while I'm hiking.  In the meantime, I'll continue to obsessively plan my hike and study long-distance backpacking in general and specifically how people do it on the Appalachian Trail.  Recently I've been reading the estimates of costs to hike the AT.  The estimates vary widely depending on your choices in town mainly.  I can cut costs by pooling with other hikers for everything from laundry, hotel rooms, buying food in bulk together, and transportation.  I can also save money by not drinking much, not getting hotels, not staying in towns overnight, not going to restaurants often and hitchhiking instead of paying for shuttles to and from town. 

If I budget $4000 for this hike and can stick to it, I will have a frugal hike with some of those town "luxuries."  Also, the faster I do the hike, the less money it costs.  This is important because plenty of attempted thru-hikes end due to running out of money.  It will be hard to turn down hot restaurant food, a cold beer and a soft bed, but if the other option is to run out of money and have to end my hike, well, I'll have to make those choices every time I'm in town.  I can sleep in the mountains much cheaper after I go into town and resupply, do laundry, get a meal, buy a shower and hike back out.  So, that's my plan for most of my town stops unless I can find really good deals or a Trail Angel appears and helps me out.

I also lucked out and found a used sleeping bag and backpacking stove that I've purchased from another hiker.  They won't arrive until next week, so soon I hope to have a report for you on all three items.  I'm super excited though, because this is my top choice of sleeping bags at a significant discount and it was only used three times with a liner (according to the seller).  If I hadn't found it used I wouldn't have been able to get it at all, and since it's down, which is very lightweight, compressible and warm, it only weighs 2lbs 7oz and keeps me alive to 15 degrees.  Plus, it STRETCHES!  I did have some concerns about the cruelty of down products, but I feel better because I bought a used one that had already been made, so no new animals were harmed in making my sleeping bag.

So far I've purchased my backpack, sleeping bag, and stove all previously used, and the tent and trekking poles were discounted.  My next major purchases will be my sleeping mat and shoes and then just minor things here and there.  Maybe I'll find them on sale, too, but if not, at least I know I did pretty good.  I'm proud that I'm getting really good gear for major discounts and I'll continue to be frugal as I prepare and as I hike.

I'm almost ready with gear and after tonight (New Year's Eve) I'll actually get back on a healthy eating plan.  I haven't even weighed myself since the last post where I had lost four pounds.  I don't want to know, to tell you the truth.  I have decided that getting fit is actually more important to me than losing weight, but don't worry, I'm not giving up on losing weight before my hike.  I still want to lose the weight of my pack off my body, but I realize any weight lost will benefit me and so that is still my goal. 

Happy 2012!