• Planning an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike

    Written by: Andy Somers

    Planning an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike

    So, you want to hike the Appalachian Trail? The normal start time is a mere five months away, and you’ve got a million questions about how to do it. This is the first of a series of articles that should allow you to prepare over the next five months. I have broken down planning into five different categories, and there will be dedicated posts each month concentrating on one of the five categories that will get you on your way to hiking the 2,100-mile trail.

    The Appalachian Trail is predominately hiked northbound by those beginning somewhere around the first day of spring. About 80 percent to 90 percent of those hiking the trail begin in Georgia, and do so within three weeks on either side of the spring equinox on March 21. As such, these articles are geared for this type of hike, but if your plans deviate a great deal from this start date, the information is still quite relevant.

    We can break planning into the following five categories:

    1. FINANCIAL

    One of the common reasons that hikers abandon their thru-hike is lack of funds. It’s crucial to have the financial means to support yourself for six months of trail life. At this point, you need to develop at least a ballpark amount of required savings while you have time to reach a saving goal. This budget amount will have as much to do with the type of hike that you want to have as anything, so spend some time thinking of your hiking style and necessary town comforts.

    I’ve seen hikers sleep under a culvert just outside of a re-supply town, hit town early the next day, grab their box of supplies at the post office, and get back on the trail. I’ve also seen hikers stay at a nice resort-type hotel for two to three days, dine on steak and wine, spoil themselves with other town luxuries, and then hike out of town with packs full of imported cheeses and other gourmet trail foods. And I’ve seen everything between these extremes.

    2. GEAR

    This is the fun part for most. At some point, most would-be thru-hikers will have at least one spending orgy at the likes of REI, amassing a $1,000 tab on various lightweight Gore-Tex and titanium items. We’ll get into gear in-depth around Christmas time, so Santa can help you as well. At this point, gear is not a critical item. If you’ve backpacked for a weekend and are comfortable with what you have, there’s really not much additional, special gear that you’ll need for your six-month sojourn.

    3. LOGISTICAL

    These are the details. How do you re-supply? Who will mail you replacement footwear? There are a million questions here. At this point, it’s probably wise to line up at least one person at home to be your support person. This person is vital to your hike, helping with everything from gathering your mail, sending food drops and back-up gear, to just being a contact with whom you can keep abreast of life in your hometown. We’ll get into detailed logistics later, but it’s quite helpful to peg this special support person now. Additionally, if you seek a hiking partner to begin the trail, now is a good time to start looking.

    4. PHYSICAL

    You’ll certainly enjoy the trail more if you begin the hike in good physical condition, so some degree of exercise at this point, at least to develop flexibility and stamina in the joints and feet, is a good idea. But don’t obsess over physical conditioning. Without devoting several hours of daily exercise, you can still prepare adequately for the rigors of thru-hiking. Ultimately, your body will really begin to adapt during the first few weeks on the trail, and you can develop your conditioning effectively by simply starting off slowly at the beginning.

    5. MENTAL

    You are considering making a big commitment to a drastic change in lifestyle. Be sure this is something that you want to try, and examine your motives for hiking. The single biggest determining factor in the success of your hike is your mental state entering it. An unwavering desire to complete your journey, no matter the hardship, will make or break it, so consider carefully your reasons for taking on the challenge. Are they worth being hot, cold, wet, thirsty, hungry, mosquito-bitten, dirty and stinky for days and months on end? Can you realistically handle those rigors and is it worth the price? Now that you’re five months out, reflect and examine what is driving you to make this journey. Also, be aware that if you can backpack for a weekend and enjoy yourself, then you can complete a long distance thru-hike – if your mental state is strong.

    No doubt, there’s plenty to think about, but rest assured, no matter how overwhelming it might seem, all can be accomplished in five months, even for those with packed schedules. We’ll go into further detail in the coming months:

    4. PHYSICAL

    You’ll certainly enjoy the trail more if you begin the hike in good physical condition, so some degree of exercise at this point, at least to develop flexibility and stamina in the joints and feet, is a good idea. But don’t obsess over physical conditioning. Without devoting several hours of daily exercise, you can still prepare adequately for the rigors of thru-hiking. Ultimately, your body will really begin to adapt during the first few weeks on the trail, and you can develop your conditioning effectively by simply starting off slowly at the beginning.

    5. MENTAL

    You are considering making a big commitment to a drastic change in lifestyle. Be sure this is something that you want to try, and examine your motives for hiking. The single biggest determining factor in the success of your hike is your mental state entering it. An unwavering desire to complete your journey, no matter the hardship, will make or break it, so consider carefully your reasons for taking on the challenge. Are they worth being hot, cold, wet, thirsty, hungry, mosquito-bitten, dirty and stinky for days and months on end? Can you realistically handle those rigors and is it worth the price? Now that you’re five months out, reflect and examine what is driving you to make this journey. Also, be aware that if you can backpack for a weekend and enjoy yourself, then you can complete a long distance thru-hike – if your mental state is strong.

    No doubt, there’s plenty to think about, but rest assured, no matter how overwhelming it might seem, all can be accomplished in five months, even for those with packed schedules. We’ll go into further detail in the coming months:

    Part 2: Devising a Budget

    “Take half the clothes and twice the money” is the age-old advice on packing for a long trip, and it’s particularly valid for planning a thru-hike along the Appalachian Trail. As I stated in my first post on the subject earlier this month, running out of money is one of the most common reasons for abandoning a hike. I’ve literally seen broke hikers leave the trail in Maine – a mere two or three weeks from the end.

    There’s still four or five months to stash away funds, and that should be your top priority now to ensure a successful hike – above buying gear, exercising, or planning food and re-supply. I’ve seen folks hike on $1,500, and I’ve seen folks spend $20,000 – and obviously anywhere in between. Personally, I would be uncomfortable leaving for the trail with less than $10,000 saved for the trip.

    Planning finances for the trail can be summed up by the dreaded “B” word* – you need to develop a BUDGET. Since no two hikes are exactly alike, I’ll try to reduce all hikes to commonalities and then talk in general about other factors to consider in budgeting.

    On-Trail Expenses

    This is an estimation of every dollar you spend directly related to hiking from Springer Mountain, Georgia, to Kathadin, Maine, along the Appalachian Trail route. We’ll break these expenses into two types: trail and town expenses.

    Of your trail expenses, 95 percent is related to food, as this is the primary good you are consuming on a typical day. I would recommend budgeting about $10 per hiking day to feed yourself, and then bump that figure up by 20 percent to handle other secondary consumables (stove fuel, toilet paper, occasional campsite fee, etc.). If we assume you’ll travel, on average, 14.5 miles per day, that’s 150 days of hiking. This equates to $1,800 (150 days @ $10/day + 20%).

    Town expenses are where you can really lose control on the trail. I’d recommend budgeting at least $100 per town day. The $100/day figure allows $40 for lodging (most trail towns feature suitable economy lodging); $50 for food (indulge your trail appetite on restaurant food whenever you get a chance); and $10 for miscellaneous items (quarters at the laundromat, an occasional movie, snacks).

    It’s good practice to take a day off each week, and you’re apt to stay in town an extra day or two along the route (sick, wanting to let the rain pass, needing extra rest and so on). This comes to 30 days on a typical six-month hike: $3,000 at $100/day.

    Transportation Costs

    Getting to the beginning and back home from the end of the trail can be a significant cost. This figure can vary wildly depending on where you live, crazy airfares and fees, and the price of gas. Budget at least $200 one-way for air or train fare, $100 for buses, and obviously a lot less if you have a friend or family member taking you to and from the trail.

    If you take a shuttle/bus/taxi to reach either endpoint of the trail, you can spend another $100. Whatever the case, $500 should cover most transportation expenses to and from the trail. Also consider any trips (home or otherwise) you may want to take during the hike.

    Off-Trail Costs

    Also consider some provision for putting your life on hold for six-plus months while you’re out of touch. Account for both your loans (school, mortgage, credit cards, car, etc.), and your bills (cell phone, storage unit, etc.). There’s no way to determine a general amount here, as each is case dependent. Simply estimate your monthly obligations and multiply by six. One off-trail cost everyone should have is medical insurance. Temporary six-month policies with high deductibles are actually quite affordable for most.

    Other Costs

    You’ll have gear (most notably shoes and socks) that will have to be replaced, so budget $500 to $1,000 for replacements. Another prospect to consider – do you want to finish the trail broke, and headed straight from Katahdin to work the next day? It’s wise to account for four to six weeks of expenses to decompress, as it’s tougher to adjust back to the “real world” than it is to adjust to thru-hiking.

    Finally, consider adding a week’s “emergency fund” to cover an on-trail sickness or injury. This should include your $100/day, plus $500 in doctor’s fees.

    As the military saying goes, “No battle plan survives contact with the enemy.” While the same can be said for trail budgets, this exercise is vital to give you a solid idea of how much you’ll need to finish a thru-hike. Be sure you have on hand, or access to, the cash to meet your budget, and preferably more. In the end, stockpile as much cash as possible, and simplify both your hike and your mothballed life at home, too. I cannot emphasize enough how important finances are on the trail.

    Part 3: Gear & Clothing

    In Part 3 of our series on preparing to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, we go from the dullest topic, budgets, to the most exciting – gear! Everyone seems to obsess over the right gear before starting a hike. My gear recommendations generally follow the lightweight style of hiking, but I am not an ultra-light backpacker. Fortunately, a lot of modern gear allows hikers to lighten their load significantly, without sacrificing function, durability or comfort. As such, I recommend a base weight (without food and water) of 18 pounds, and it’s certainly possible to go even lighter.

    This is mostly a summer hike, but you’ll need additional cold-weather gear for the beginning and end of your journey. Start with the gear recommendation below, and keep these supplies through at least Damascus, Va. Then, you can switch to a lighter load. But be sure to have your starting pack (with the supplies below) returned to you by the time you reach Hanover, N.H., and carry this load for the end of your hike.

    Backpack

    These days, just about everybody hikes with an internal frame pack. Whatever your preference, your pack should weigh less than 2 pounds and never more than 3 pounds. Most people use a pack with a volume of 4,000 cubic inches to 5,000 cubic inches. To keep everything dry, line your pack with a trash compactor bag cinched at the top when packed, and always carry a sil-nylon pack cover.

    Shelter

    I recommend a light double-layer tent – there are several good ones out there. Personally, I think the humidity on the AT would make hiking with a single-layer tent a nightmare, but some folks do it. Also, for the summer months, consider just a bug shelter or net and a light tarp you can rig with your hiking poles. In general, try to keep your shelter to no more than 4 pounds per person.



    Sleeping Pad & Bag

    A closed-cell pad works fine and is cheap, light and indestructible. I’ve also carried a three-quarter-length inflatable pad with a smaller closed-cell pad strapped to my pack to sit on and put under my feet at night. If you sleep average to warm, a 20-degree bag should keep you warm on all nights. If you’re concerned about your ability to keep your bag dry, use a bag with synthetic insulation, as cold rain is fairly common. (Synthetic insulation can still keep you warm when it’s wet, while a bag with down insulation will lose much of its ability to insulate you if the down gets wet.) Consider a lighter fleece blanket for the summer months. One tip: I never use a stuff sack for my bag. Instead, I carry it stuffed in the bottom of my pack inside the pack liner, which helps maintain the bag’s loft and warmth.

    Clothing

    Synthetic clothing is recommended for an AT hike. It will rain often, particularly in the early and later parts of a typical thru-hike, and you will need to deal with cold (nights below freezing) on both ends of the hike. Use a light base layer for hiking*. For underwear, I hike in cycling shorts (without the pad). I then wear nylon cargo shorts over the cycling shorts. I also wear a synthetic short-sleeve T-shirt and a ball cap. (Carry an extra T-shirt if you like to have something clean.) Building from there, I carry a midweight zip-T pullover and midweight bottoms, a warm fleece hat, and a lightweight waterproof/breathable jacket. During the cold portion of the hike add a fleece or light down jacket, a pair of gloves, a light balaclava, and a pair of rain pants. During the summer months, I add sunglasses.

    Cooking

    Cook one-pot meals and eat from your pot. A spoon is the only utensil you’ll need. Most are carrying alcohol fuel stoves, many crafted at home from beer cans. There’s a myriad of stoves and systems with varying fuel types. Go light and simple whatever you decide. I also recommend a pot cozy – very light and keeps dinner warm longer. A light cup or bottle for drinks is also handy.

    Water Carrier & Treatment

    Most of your water will be from fairly clean springs and streams. I’ve used light chemical treatments for a long time with success, though many still carry pump-type filters. A bandanna filters silty water in a pinch. For most of the hike, you can carry water in a 2-liter hydration bladder with a drinking tube and bite valve. Just grab a couple extra Gatorade bottles for the few long waterless stretches in Pennsylvania, and dump when you’re finished. A large capacity vessel is nice for bulk water in camp.

    Footwear

    I opted long ago to forgo classic boots for trail runners and a light pack, and have never turned back. To do this, your ankles need to be limber and in good shape. Expect to blow through at least three to four pairs of lightweight shoes on a thru-hike. I carry three pairs of light wool/synthetic socks, and wash them frequently. Ankle gaiters save your socks and keep your feet drier and cleaner. A pair of dry fleece socks is nice at night, and Crocs make great camp shoes.



    Miscellaneous

    A simple Swiss Army knife is a must, as is a small LED headlamp. A strand of duct tape rolled on itself fixes a lot of things, as does the 50 feet of parachute cord you’ll need for hanging food. Use a small stuff sack to carry your toiletries, such as a toothbrush with paste, floss, comb, Q-tips, a small bottle of soap, lip balm and a camp towel. You’ll need a small first-aid kit with a basic stash of pills: ibuprofen, anti-diarrheal, decongestant, multi-vitamin, etc. Carry your camera in a soft case strapped to a shoulder strap or your hip belt for quick access. (And don’t forget extra memory cards.) Finally, you’ll want your maps and trail data, plus your favorite paperback and journal.

    Part 4: Logistics

    Every step you take along the 2,100 miles of an Appalachian Trail thru-hike comes with a lot of advance prep work. So far, in our special series on planning a thru-hike, we’ve covered important categories from financial planning to gear lists in previous installments. In Part 4, we’re tackling logistics – a daunting topic, but like budgeting, it’s an important aspect in achieving your goal of completing the entire length of the trail.

    In spite of everything that I am about to write, remember this one truth: If you can get yourself to Springer Mountain in Georgia with the proper gear, all bases covered at home, enough money in the bank to support yourself for six months on the trail, and three days of provisions, then you have all you need to start your hike. If you get behind in your planning, always fall back to this premise: Save your money, get your gear, and handle your personal affairs for a six-month hiatus.

    Picking an At-Home Support Person

    There is no substitute for an at-home support person while on an extended AT thru-hike adventure. Select someone who is both excited about your hike and trustworthy to handle your affairs at home. A multitude of situations can arise while you are on the trail and you need someone assigned to take care of them in your absence, so you don’t have to get off the trail.

    Now is the time to pick that person, if you haven’t yet, and also start prepping a list of potential circumstances that may come up while you are on the trail. Consider granting power of attorney if your situation is complicated enough that such will be required. Your support person is the one you will call on to mail gear and possibly some hard-to-get food items that you are craving, in addition to handling your bills and mail.

    Food Supply on the Trail

    Everybody needs to eat and you have to create a game plan to ensure you get the calories necessary to complete an AT thru-hike. To accomplish this, your choices include: a) purchase food on the trail, b) buy in bulk at the start and ship it to yourself at towns along the way, or c) a combination of both.

    I strongly recommend that you buy as you go. The savings realized by shopping in bulk before the hike is lost in logistical hassle, expensive postage for mailing heavy packages across the country, lost or spoiled food in transit, unanticipated changes in appetite, and too much repetition in diet. I mailed myself a jar of peanut butter at every town stop along the trail – and then I could not eat the stuff for two years after my thru-hike. I still have not eaten a sardine since my hike 17 years ago.

    There are enough towns with suitable supermarkets spaced apart on the trail to resupply completely on your own as you go – thereby, catering to your morphing appetite in real-time. In the rare cases where a grocery store is not available in an upcoming town, it’s much cheaper to put together a food parcel about two weeks ahead of time (in a trail town) and mail it ahead to yourself.

    Handy Planning Resources

    Obviously, there is a wealth of information available on planning hikes on the Internet. A great starting point is Whiteblaze.net. If you want to carry one information source on your hike, I recommend ALDHA’s Thru Hiker’s Companion. This publication outlines all trail services, mileages and towns, so you can plan your resupply and town stops, as well as each leg of your hike between resupply.

    Another important data source is the official AT Data Book. It is a better “at a glance” information source for planning campsites and water stops.

    One last source to consider is the official maps and trail profiles published by the ATC. They help decide destinations for each day’s hike, rest points between camps, and points of interest along the way. All are available at the Appalachian Trail Conservancy’s online store.

    Prepping “Bump Boxes” & Getting Mail

    It’s a great idea to put together a “bump box” or “town box” to mail ahead to yourself on the trail with spare gear and items you’ll need to replenish along the way. Items to include would be things you have to buy in bulk but not carry the whole package (e.g., Q-tips), maps for upcoming trail sections, and maybe even town clothes.

    The Thru-Hiker’s Companion contains a list of several hiker-friendly establishments that will hold parcels for you. Also, you can mail to any U.S. post office and it will hold the package. Use the address below and include an estimated arrival date on the package:

    Your Name

    c/o General Delivery

    City, St ZIP

    Creating a Trail Itinerary

    It’s a good idea to set up a trail itinerary to plan your town stops and how much food you’ll need to carry between them. Again, the Thru-Hiker’s Companion is an invaluable source for setting your itinerary. This will also give you a good idea when you’ll be at a certain point to better plan for visitors to meet you, possible obligations that you’ll have to leave the trail to handle, and where folks can send you postcards or care packages. Click the link for a sample itinerary: AT_ThruHike_Sample_Itinerary

    Part 5: Physical Prep

    The start date for most northbounders is only a few weeks away. If you haven’t begun any physical preparation, try to spend these final weeks to develop your trail fitness. Some people take physical conditioning to the extreme before setting off, but for the AT, this is overkill. The ability to hike five to 10 miles per day out of the gate should allow you to comfortably keep pace with the average new thru-hiker in the north Georgia mountains. For this trail, a month of physical exercise should be enough to easily get you to that point.

    Feet: Your feet are the most important part of your body on a thru-hike. Take care of them. Do yourself a big favor – get some miles under you before you start, and train in the footwear that you are going to start out in. Any walking is going to help you, and it’s best to take brisk walks with elevation gain and loss. Walk in your neighborhood, walk with your dog, walk in the park, walk in the woods – anywhere you can walk, walk! You will start to develop endurance in your feet and get some of the inevitable soreness out of the way before setting out. Gradually increase your mileage and time, and try to carry a pack of at least 30 pounds part of the time to get a feel for both balance and how your body is going to handle the pack.

    Ankles: I am an advocate of hiking in trail runners or low-cut, lightweight boots. As such, you are not provided the ankle support of a traditional lug-soled hiking boot. To compensate, you will need to limber up your ankles. When you’re walking, get on uneven ground and let your ankles rock and pitch a bit. This will give you more lateral strength in the ankles, and help prevent twists and sprains when you are on the trail. Even a mild ankle twist or two in training, I believe, is a good thing in the long run to limber the ankles and get them trail ready.

    Knees: If you’re going to get hurt, it’s most likely going to happen while walking downhill. Descents with a steep pack wear on the knees most of all. You’ll need to prepare for this, and it helps to get used to walking downhill with a loaded pack if you have good hills or mountains in your area. The steeper the better here. As you begin the AT, you will encounter plenty of steep Georgia descents, perhaps in rain or late-winter snow. Be ready for this. If you prepare your knees before for setting out, you can prevent an on-trail injury.

    Gym & Weight Training: Many folks are going to insist on at least some sort of gym exercise. The traditional barbell squat is a great exercise for building the legs. Additionally, seated leg extensions help build hiking-specific muscles. Avoid stair-climbing machines, as these tend to isolate muscles that are not used as heavily in hiking. An inclined treadmill is your best bet if you insist on using a gym to do your conditioning. Stretching can do wonders to increase your flexibility and balance, and get you in much better trail shape.

    Start Slow

    My final – and best – piece of advice is to ease into the hike. Bear in mind that there is no physical exercise to prepare oneself for backpacking 15 to 20 miles a day for weeks on end without, well, backpacking for 15 to 20 miles a day for weeks on end. That said, 99 percent of people must work out physical kinks on the trail, because they can’t duplicate thru-hiking efforts before they hit the trail. You will not be able to get yourself into true trail shape without working your way into it. Period.

    I have seen dozens of gung-ho hikers (typically, young males) start out at a sprinter’s pace, only to be sidelined early on with stress fractures, shin splints, or other overuse injuries, some of which force them to abandon their hikes less than a month into them. So don’t try to do big days until you’ve been on the trail for a while. Your body should start giving you signs after a few weeks that you’re ready to turn up the miles. Pay attention to your body, take rest days when you need them, and cut yourself plenty of slack at the start. The AT thru-hiking season is long enough for anyone, no matter your fitness level at Springer, to complete the trail by October with a March/April start.

    Part 6: Final Advice

    The time is here. If you’ve been planning and preparing for months, years, maybe even a lifetime, to thru-hike the AT, your day has come. But, before you hit the trail, consider some last-minute advice.

    Focus on Goals: The AT is a daunting task. For most, it’s a grueling six-month journey over difficult terrain in weather that will be frigid and sweltering. Bugs, poison ivy, blisters and a myriad of other uncomfortable obstacles will lie in your path. If you think of the trip as a journey to Katahdin, the goal is too far out. You’ll have an easier time remaining motivated if you make short-term goals for yourself – the next town, a major point of interest, a state line. Reward yourself as you meet your goals (a night in a hotel, a new piece of gear, a special meal, etc.). Remember, this is really just a series of four-day-long backpacking trips done back-to-back-to-back-to-back… Just concentrate on the next leg, and put Katahdin way in the back of your mind.

    The “Virginia Blues”: It’s natural for northbounders to get the “Virginia blues.”That’s the stage when the novelty of the hike has worn off, and you’ve walked hundreds of long tough miles, but you realize you’ve got a much longer way to go. The scenery is not as dramatic, the “green tunnel” has closed in around you as trees are in full foliage, and you’re hiking most days in hot, muggy conditions. For most people, these blues set in after the first 500 miles or so. These “middle miles,” all the way into New Jersey and New York, are the toughest mentally of the trip. If you can expect this mental letdown, you’ll get through it much more easily. Above all, realize that you are going to have many tough days – it’s a long trip.

    Quitting: Most thru-hikers consider quitting at some point. I know that I sure did. For some, it’s an idea that creeps in on a few tough days, but it passes. However, if you have persistent thoughts about quitting, then it’s time to analyze what you’re doing. Pull off the trail if you have more than about two to three bad days in a row that aren’t directly due to some abnormal condition (health issue, etc.). Take time off in a trail town, and consider a side trip to a larger city. For many thru-hikers, a few days off provide the tonic they need. Believe it or not, hiking and being in the woods can get pretty old. After you return to the trail, see how it feels and re-evaluate the reasons you’re hiking. If you’re still miserable after two to three of these episodes, there’s no shame in going home. There’s too much time, effort and money involved to be doing something that doesn’t fulfill you.

    Unplug: There’s way too much technology on the trail. For every iPod, iPhone, iPad that you carry, you are diminishing your ability to truly “get away from it all.” The idea of this whole journey is to enjoy the natural world. Modern technology simply links us back to our lives at home, developed society, and the rat race that you are supposedly disconnected from. Each person has to make his or her decision on what technology is too much, but give this serious thought. There are plenty of connections back to society for true emergencies – you’re not as isolated as you think. I think you’ll enjoy your journey more by simply living in the moment while you’re hiking.

    Good Reads: A paperback is a good trail companion as is a nightly read of the shelter registers. Use your time to read books that you’ve always wanted to but never had the time. Keep a journal of your thoughts. If there’s an area of your life that’s lacking, pick up a book on it and try to improve while your mind is unpolluted by the daily grind. Three excellent trail books that I find particularly inspiring are David Brill’s As Far as the Eye Can See, Cindy Ross’s A Woman’s Journey, and Earl Shaffer’s Walking with Spring, chronicling the first ever AT thru-hike in 1948.

    Final Thoughts: The most difficult aspect of thru-hiking the AT is actually getting to Springer Mountain fully prepared. It takes so much planning to arrive at the moment when you’ve pared down your life to the bare essentials that sit on your back, and your life at home has been mothballed, you’ve placed sufficient funds in the bank, your normal job has been handled or vacated, and you’ve endured all sorts of weird advice and words from naysayers. You are to be commended if you’ve made that effort and tried to realize your dream. Whatever your trip becomes – each will be different – may success and good fortune follow you this summer. Happy Trails!



    About the author

    Andy Somers lives in Huntsville, Alabama, with his wife Karen and two daughters, and works there as a civil engineer. Andy has hiked the full length of the Appalachian Trail and Pacific Crest Trail, and has ridden a bicycle across the United States. In addition to his long distance hiking and cycling pursuits, he’s climbed the highest mountain in 39 of the 50 United States, including Washington’s Mount Rainier.
    http://www.theadventurepost.com/all-...ail-thru-hike/
    Comments 7 Comments
    1. gbaribeau's Avatar
      gbaribeau -
      Thanks for all the advice. Going to do a 9 day section hike for the first time. Springer to US 64, close to Franklin, NC. Good way to test my gear and myself.
    1. realdeal64's Avatar
      realdeal64 -
      Quote Originally Posted by gbaribeau View Post
      Thanks for all the advice. Going to do a 9 day section hike for the first time. Springer to US 64, close to Franklin, NC. Good way to test my gear and myself.
      Thank you so much for all the great info.I am doing Springer to Harpers in 2013 then Harpers to Maine 2014.Due to work constraints.Anyway thank's again great stuff !!!
    1. Turtle'13's Avatar
      Turtle'13 -
      Great article, Andy.

      On the budget, having $10,000 in the bank is a safe, conservative approach. But, would you plan on spending that much? All the research I've done seems to hover around the 5K mark. Is the extra 5K for contingencies or would you plan on spending that much? If so, would love to hear for what. Back rubs? Lincoln Town Car rentals? Helicopter tours?

      Thanks for the terrific writing and advice.
    1. henry g wilgo's Avatar
      henry g wilgo -
      Quote Originally Posted by N2CVZ View Post
      Great article, Andy.

      On the budget, having $10,000 in the bank is a safe, conservative approach. But, would you plan on spending that much? All the research I've done seems to hover around the 5K mark. Is the extra 5K for contingencies or would you plan on spending that much? If so, would love to hear for what. Back rubs? Lincoln Town Car rentals? Helicopter tours?

      Thanks for the terrific writing and advice.
      if it cost that much,,,guess i cant go...got a lot of stuff already,,,mostly all of it...just need to get travel plans for public transportation to springer mt...guess i will have to section hike because of the money issue.

      would like to hear a comment or two from someone that has done this trip,,even section wise,,,for the cheapest amount of money....
      do i need a water purifying system,,or just tablets.
    1. orangebullet's Avatar
      orangebullet -
      One of the best short summaries I have seen! You covered just about everything! Thanks for posting...........I'm starting at Springer 3/18/13. All prep is done, and I'm just impatiently waiting until the day I leave!
    1. maptester's Avatar
      maptester -
      My son is ready to finish his 2012-2013 thru-hike this week. I have been supporting his hike and have maintained a spreadsheet of costs and expenses, and calculated the cost per mile: $4.27. This includes travel (train, airfare, bus), equipment replacement, motels, food, etc, but not the cost of his original equipment. During the summer of 2012 in Virginia, he usually did one zero day every 7 day or so. In Maine and the White, he spent more zero days due to the difficulty of the trail. During his last 600 miles this spring, he has hardly stayed in-town at all, preferring to re-supply then take a zero at a shelter. (He hiked from Harpers Ferry to VT, with very few other hikers on the trail in this section) Hope this helps someone planning their hike. Happy trails.
    1. SS/SB's Avatar
      SS/SB -
      a lot to digest here and it looks like some serious thought went into it

      my wife and I are planning a thru hike after I retire in a few years so we have started the planning...this advice will be invaluable

      We're in Salem AL by the way!
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