First off, thru-hiking is going to be one of the most rewarding achievements to happen in your life. You start the trail as yourself, and by the time you're done, you have completely changed into a New YOU. Spending months listening to natures heart beat. You will endure jaw dropping experiences, and develop friendships that turn out feeling like family. It might just be the best decision you’ll ever make to set out on a first Thru-hike. Here are 5 tips to make sure its a truly amazing experience.
1) Hike Your Own Hike:
I can’t stress this enough. Your also going to hear this hundreds of times along your hike. What it basically means is do what makes you happy and comfortable. Its your hike, and you can do anything you want. Don’t feel pressured into doing something you don’t want to. Experience things for yourself.
2) Don’t Forget to Stretch! STRETCH! It is so worth it and you’ll thank yourself after the first couple weeks when you realize your body basically hates you for working it so hard. Stress injuries are common among long-distance hikers, and the best way to avoid them is through regular stretching. Take a few minutes to stretch your calves, quads, and hamstrings every morning, evening, and during rest breaks.
3) Take Care Of Your Feet: Taking excellent care of your feet is such a crucial part of completing any thru-hike. Your feet are your vehicle. They carry you and everything keeping you alive. If your feet hurt, every step will hurt. Don’t be afraid or hesitant to sit down and rest or take in that view a little longer. You’re going to take around 25 million steps, so treat your feet like the champions they are. The majority of thru-hikers wear a combination of lightweight running shoes, synthetic socks, and running gaiters. That combination will let your feet breathe, keep weight down, and minimizes blistering.
4) Mental Fatigue: There is no way around it, completing any thru-hike is primarily a mental battle. Your legs are going to get into the best shape they ever have and your endurance levels will rocket. But 4-6 months is a very long time to let your mind start to wander in nature. While you're cold, wet, sore, blistered, and so hungry your stomach feels like its falling out is where the real challenge happens. There is plenty of ways to help keep a level head during your hike, wether it be photography, music, videography, reading, writing, or podcasts. Everyone can figure out the right way to deal with their mental challenges.
5) Budget Your Money: An easy way to have your hike cut short is running out of cash. You're going to want to plan ahead and even track your budget along the way. Hostels, restaurant bills, hotels, resupplies. You’ll want to keep track of that because spending too much money on those things can add up quick and you won’t have a choice other than to call it done. When I thru hiked the AT a comfortable spending amount was about $1,000 per month average. In reality it all depends on the style of hiking you get into. Some people spend a lot less. Another factor you want to keep in mind while saving is any bills you will need to pay while your gone hiking.
Hope this helps! Do you have other tips? Let us know in the comments!
Written by Erick Gaudreau: Erick is an AT thru hiker, trail runner, and dog owner. From Ashburnham Massachusetts, his favorite place on earth is the White Mountains of New Hampshire. If you're wondering, he's an American Chop Suey kinda guy!