It’s exhilarating to make the decision to embark on your first thru-hike. As soon as you decide to go hiking, your journey begins, and it can be exhausting to do all the research, get gear, go through the motions of logistics, read books, and sift through forums online.
Many of us who enjoy backpacking wonder what it would be like to complete one of America’s most famous trails, such as the Appalachian Trail (A.T.) or the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT).
Is it a fantasy or a nightmare? The dream is within your grasp if you can just keep putting one foot in front of the other, day after day. An outline of the most important thru-hiking subjects is provided in this blog:
Table of Contents
What Is Thru-Hiking?
To put it simply, a thru-hike is a long-distance backpacking excursion like the Appalachian Trail or the PCT that is completed from start to finish. Between Georgia and Maine, the A.T. and the PCT are more than 2,100 and 2,600 miles long, respectively.
The Continental Divide Trail (CDT), which spans more than 3,100 miles along the Rocky Mountains’ crest, is the newest trail in this category. It’s not recommended for first-time thru-hikers due to its ruggedness, remoteness, and lack of trails.
Some Of The Most Common Thru-Hike Challenges
In the course of a half-year thru-hike, you will face numerous challenges that will put your willpower to the test.
1. Mental Challenges
Solo hikers make up the majority of thru-hikers. Although you will meet and camp with a lot of other hikers on the Appalachian Trail and the Pacific Crest Trail, you must be comfortable with your own company. The Zen of solitude might degenerate into a state of utter loneliness.
In certain cases, you may begin to wonder why you decided to embark on this journey in the first place after a few hundred kilometers. You may even consider ending the relationship.
2. Physical Challenges
Just by glancing at the PCT’s data, it’s clear: Total elevation gain: less than half a million feet over 2,650 miles. The A.T.’s numbers will be similar.
Blisters, serious injuries, Lyme disease, and altitude sickness are also examples of other physical problems. Prepare for all of these and know that you will have to conquer at least a few.
3. Financial Challenges
When you’re laid off for six months, you won’t be earning a paycheck. Budgeting for the trip can be difficult, even if you won’t be spending much on gas or lodging.
Most hikers’ major expenses are clothing and food, with the price of a complete thru-hike ranging from as low as $1 per mile to as much as $8,000 per person.
Thru-Hiking Gear Set
Many of the items you’ll need are already in your backpack if you’ve been traveling that way before. As you build your personal packing list for a thru-hike, consider acquiring some new gear and sacrificing some of the pleasures you can afford on overnighters.
A Lighter Gear: You’ll be able to reduce the weight you’ll be carrying for tens of thousands of miles by using lighter equipment.
A Robust Gear: Gear that can withstand the abuse of thousands of kilometers of use is more durable by design.
A Seasonal Gear: The idea of having seasonal gear that you can swap out at important resupply points along the trip is sound. Items like microspikes and a warmer sleeping bag can be used in the spring and fall as well as in the summer when it’s cooler and lighter.
Apt Footwear: Other hikers choose full-leather boots, while ultralighters prefer trail runners. No matter what you decide, you’ll need more than one pair—at least two if you’re doing trail running—of shoes.
There are some folks who pre-order several pairs of their favorite boots because they adore them so much. However, this can be dangerous due to the fact that your feet are likely to alter form throughout a hike. You should break in all of your new boots before the trip, especially if you’re going to be wearing them for a longer period of time.
Thru Hike Planning Process
You’re embarking on a significant journey. The majority of experts agree that you should plan your hike ahead of time, even if you just have a few days to spare. Begin the planning process at least eight months in advance, and don’t be afraid to get creative.
Our A.T. and PCT publications, as well as classes at your local REI store, can assist you. Visit the PCTA (Pacific Crest Trail Association) or the ATC (Appalachian Trail Conservancy) and whiteblaze.net websites for additional information. Research and contemplation will be required in each of the following areas of your plan:
When and where to begin and end: The state of the weather has a significant role.
Transportation: You’ll also want to think about shuttle services near trailheads when planning your transportation from the area’s airports, trains, and cars.
Permits: Trail permits, campfire permits, Canadian border permits, backcountry camping permits, and more all fall under the umbrella of permit categories. Regulations can change frequently and trail quotas can be difficult to meet. A few permissions aren’t necessary, but you’ll need to apply for them well in advance.
Mileage: You need to know how many miles a day you plan to average so that you can figure out when you’ll be done, even if it fluctuates.
Contingencies: Prepare for contingencies, such as severe weather, trail closures, injuries, and more, by researching alternate routes in advance.
Resupply stops: Rest and resupply breaks are few and far between, so you’ll want to plan ahead for those days.
Don’t Forget The Basics!
Food: One of the most difficult things to plan is the food you’re going to serve. This means you’ll have to measure your desire for calorie intake against your desire to maintain a healthy weight. Some people plan their entire journey in advance, sending food supplies for each leg of the journey in advance via postal mail. At resupply towns, some hikers prepare to buy some of their food supplies to satisfy any appetites that may emerge.
Fluids: Don’t forget to take care of your water demands. Knowing where to get water on the PCT’s arid stretches might literally be the difference between life and death. Some sections of the Appalachian Trail may be devoid of water during the summer months. Even if water is plentiful, you need to take precautions to ensure that it is safe to drink. A large part of planning a trip is figuring out how you’ll transport and purify all of the water.
Conclusion: Final Thoughts!
Thru-hiking is a life-altering experience. From the way you interact with others in your neighborhood to the way you view nature to the way you relate to yourself. The Trail makes you more aware of your own frailty and transience. As well as educating you about your ability to persevere and your physical capabilities and strength.
With the Trail, you’ll be able to meet other thru-hikers and the people in the communities that support the trail. If you want to build yourself back up, you have to accept and embrace the changes that the Trail brings about in your life.
I am Jordan James, I am a writer and researcher over here at Outside Origin. I love spending time in nature and just being outside. I have hiked many trails such as the Appalachian Trail, Pennine Way, Half Dome to name a few.