Thru-hiking refers to backpacking long-distance trails which are thousands of miles long continuously.
It is said that only 1 in 4 thru-hikers complete a long-distance trail because of the physical and mental demands of thru-hiking. Not only do you have to invest a significant amount of time and money in planning and preparing for the trip but you also have to spend months away from your family and friends.
Thru-hiking is definitely hard because of all the challenges it presents but it is definitely not impossible.
Given below are some tips for a successful thru-hiking journey.
- Find A Good Hiking Trail
The thru-hiking trail you choose should depend on a few factors like,
- Time – How much time can you devote to the hike? Depending upon the trail, thru-hiking can last from a few weeks to a few months. If you can afford only a week off from work, pick a trail which is between 80-100 miles. If you have a month go for trails which are between 300-400 miles. Long distance thru-hike trails will range from 1000-2500 miles.
- Season – You might want to do more research on the seasonal changes of your region and trail. Usually winter trails tend to be better in the southern states and summer trails in the northern states.
- Do Research And Plan Ahead
When we talk about planning for thru-hiking we mean way well in advance.
Some people end up planning and preparing everything at the last minute. Trust me, this is a bad idea. You don’t want to be in the middle of your trail and find out that you haven’t packed an essential item or run out of supplies way sooner than you thought.
In case of normal hikes, it is not risky to make preparations at the last minute. But when you are considering hundreds and thousands of miles, winging it is a serious risk.
- Pack Light
When you are travelling long, hard miles everyday, you want to make sure your pack isn’t weighing you down.
You should also make sure your clothing is comfortable and light. Don’t go around hiking in jeans. Make sure you wear lightweight pants, preferably hiking pants. You can find the best hiking pant recommendations on Res Marty’s blog.
The heavier your pack, the more stress it will put on your body and the faster you will get tired. While packing for a thru-hike don’t pack like you are going on a long and comfortable vacation.
Pack only the things you need and get rid of all the unnecessary weight. Invest in light equipment and gear even if it means spending a little more money.
- Plan Your Budget Wisely
On an average, thru-hiking can cost about $1000 per month or $2 per mile depending upon the length and condition of the trail.
It also depends upon other factors like your spending habits, how fast you run out of supplies, hiking style etc. The most expensive thing you will spend your money on is hiking gear. If you head into towns or stay at hotels, the costs will add up further.
You might also need to replace some hiking gear on the way if they wear out. You can save money by,
- Investing in high quality gear which doesn’t wear out easily.
- Avoiding eating at restaurants and drinking at bars.
- Proper researching and planning ahead.
- Resupplying from hiker boxes and weekend backpackers.
- Get Advice From The Experts
If you know someone who has completed a fair number of thru-hikes, consider asking them for some practical advice and tips.
If you don’t know anyone, there are plenty of thru-hikers who have online forums and other social media groups dedicated to hiking discussions.
- Choose Your Companions Wisely
Thru-hiking is no walk in the park. Considering how tiring and strenuous it is going to be, make sure you pick your companions wisely if you are going to pick any.
It is not compulsory to have companions, you can hike solo if you want.
You might make friends along the way and meet other hikers who are on the same schedule.
- Prepare Your Body And get In Shape
Going into a thru-hike out of shape is the worst thing you can do.
Thru-hiking will be one of the most physically intense things you will do in your entire life so make sure your body is physically ready for it. You can go for practice hikes and test your gear while you are at it.
Commit to an exercise routine everyday and include strength training especially for your core and legs.
- Set Goals
List out some goals you want to accomplish in your thru-hiking journey.
You don’t have to set a strict time limit for your hike. Set simple goals whether it is to enjoy the hike or finish it.
- Have A Flexible Schedule
Thru-hiking won’t always go the way you want it to. Sometimes you might come across unexpected obstacles which will throw you off track.
You might also take more time than you thought to reach a certain spot. Hike at your own pace and don’t feel pressured to be constantly rushing all the time.
Thru-hiking is not a race so don’t feel like you have to compete with anyone.
- Take Rest
Taking proper rest is more important than you think. Don’t rush or push yourself too far to the point where you physically hurt yourself.
It is absolutely okay to take a day off from hiking.
Taking time to recover will refresh you and allow you to continue your journey with a clear mind.
- Document Your Journey
While there are difficult parts in thru-hiking, it is important to know that there are amazing parts as well.
Take pictures of all the wonderful sights you see and other moments of your journey.
You can take pictures of the difficult moments as well so you can look bac
at them and remember how you got through them.
- Eat Well
Thru-hiking is not an excuse to load up on preserved and highly processed foods.
If you think protein bars are going to sustain you through the entire hike, you are wrong.
Try to eat as many whole foods as you possibly can although you might have to stick to trail food for a few weeks between resupplying.
Res Marty is a world traveller and is the founder of resmarty.com. He is passionate about hiking and camping and talks all about the best hiking trails, gear and related topics on his blog.