What is Thru Hiking and How Do You Do It?

thru hiking

A thru-hike is walking a long-distance hiking trail from start to finish without leaving it for any extended period. If you complete the entire trail within 12 months, your endeavor will qualify as a thru-hike. An example is the Pacific Crest National Scenic Trail, which covers an elevation gain of almost 500,000 feet over 2,650 scenic miles from the Mexican border to the Canadian border through California, Oregon and Washington.

How do you prepare for a thru-hike?

Going on many backpacking trips before a thru-hike is essential. Furthermore, it might be a good idea to do a first-aid course and stock up on your medical kit. Potential problems include anything from blisters to altitude sickness, Lyme disease and more.

What are the financial challenges of a thru-hike?

The most significant financial challenge involves the absence of a paycheck for six to 12 months. Additional expenses include the cost of the thru-hike, your food and the necessary gear.

What should be considered when preparing an itinerary?

The following are some ideas of matters to consider when you draft your itinerary:

  • Plan your start and finish: Consider the season and weather when deciding where and when you would start and finish.
  • Obtain permits: Find out what permits you need and apply for them in advance.
  • Project mileage: Plan your average daily mileage and project the date you will finish.
  • Plan resupply stops: Opportunities to stock up provisions will be few, so plan the where and when with care.
  • Consider contingencies: Plan for unanticipated events like trail closures, severe weather, injuries, etc.
  • Food and nutrition planning: This challenge needs balancing calories, flavor and convenience to maintain nutrition and weight.
  • Water supply and safety: Water availability may be limited in certain areas, and what is available might be contaminated, needing treatment before you can drink it.

What should you consider when choosing gear?

Gear for a thru-hike will differ from your usual backpacking needs. You would want your gear to be lightweight; however, it must be robust enough to withstand wear and tear. Also consider how the seasons and altitudes will affect your gear choices.

Footwear — A catch-22 situation

You could expect to need several pairs of footwear. Will you carry extra hiking boots or trail runners with you, or replace them on the way? You might be very far from providers of good quality footwear when you need them. On the other hand, how much will extra footwear add to the poundage of your load?

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    Riley Draper

    Riley Draper is a writer and entrepreneur from Chattanooga, Tennessee. As a world traveler, he has been to more than fifty countries and hiked some of the most elusive trails in the world. He is the co-founder of WeCounsel Solutions and has published work in both national and global outlets, including the Times Free Press, Patch, and Healthcare Global. When he's not writing, he's probably on a hiking trip or climbing in the mountains.