Breaking Down My $2,500 Thru-Hike Budget

O ne of the major considerations when contemplating a thru-hike is, “Can I afford it?” Many hikers think they have arranged their finances properly, only to run out of dollars before they run out of miles. For my thru-hike I was determined to ensure that money would not be a limiting factor in my success, so I planned accordingly.

There are many articles out there that describe the how-tos of budgeting for a thru-hike and saving money during your adventure. The main point boils down to watching your spending in and around towns. I can tell you from experience that the vortex is strong and it’s very difficult to resist the urge to buy a lot of unnecessary things when you stop to resupply. That being said, there should be room in your budget to splurge once in a while – like when I ate an entire tub of chocolate frosting and a large pizza in Waynesboro.

The goal of my 2018 thru-hike was to complete the trail in 100 days, not necessarily to do it on a shoestring budget. However, as a money-conscious individual (aka frugal), I attempted to keep my costs reasonable by planning and researching certain aspects of my hike before leaving (such as food, gear, and hotels). By doing so, I was able to keep my expenses to $2,500 without ever depriving myself of trail experiences like hostels or buffets.

I regret nothing.

Note that the costs below are my on-trail expenses only.They don’t include the resupply boxes I sent (which I estimate cost about $500 to pack and ship) nor my gear.

Related: Check out The Trek’s “How to Afford a Thru-Hike” ebook

My Strategy

The largest expense on a thru-hike is, undoubtedly, food. For a number of reasons, one of which was cost, I decided to do resupply boxes for a majority of my food. By dehydrating my dinners and buying items in bulk beforehand, I was able to save a ton of dough.

Despite the process taking a lot of time, the resupply boxes worked out very well. I estimate that I spent less than $500 on all my food and shipping costs for these boxes, which I think was a great deal. Pro tip: use the USPS Regional “B” Boxes for your resupply – they have almost the same capacity as a Large Flat Rate box but cost half as much to ship!.

Resupply boxes be damned, I still had my fair share of trail delicacies.

Another strategy I employed to keep my costs down was to have my gear dialed in. By ensuring that I was comfortable with my kit, I didn’t have to make any substitutions during my hike or buy replacements for low-quality gear that went bad. Although I did purchase a few things along the way (shoes, mostly), I didn’t have any catastrophic gear failures thanks to my research and shakedown hikes beforehand.

Lastly, I kept my lodging costs as low as possible by using rewards points to pay for hotels. I won’t go too deep on this topic here (I could go all day), but there are lots of opportunities to score free hotel stays along the trail by amassing points for certain hotel alliances and redeeming them for nice rooms. I did this a handful of times and saved over $700 in the process.

How I Tracked My Spending

I’ve long been an advocate of tracking one’s expenditures, and I recommend using to do so. Mint allows you import transactions from all of your bank accounts, credit cards, and investments to see exactly where your money is going and also has great features for categorizing expenditures. To track my expenses on the trail, I simply created a tag called “AT” and marked every transaction I made during the hike. Once finished, you can view statistics on the transactions with that tag to dive deeper into where your money went.

The Numbers

Once I finished tagging my transactions in Mint, I was able to see a list of my expenses in various categories:

Mint also shows the exact amounts for each category in list format:

As shown, I spent just under $2,500 during my 97 days on the trail, or about $25 per day. Here’s which expenses fell into the various categories:

Travel: These were my lodging expenses. As mentioned in the fast facts about my thru-hike, I stayed in 13 hostels and seven hotels during my trip and took all five of my zeros at said establishments. I was able to use points I had saved up to help pay for a couple of the hotels, but the rest were paid with cash and they can really add up.

Food and dining: Although I sent resupply boxes to cover the majority of my food needs on the trail, I didn’t skimp when it came to eating in town. I bought lots of meals, pizzas, and just about everything else I could when I had the chance. I also did small resupplies at gas stations or grocery stores a number of times when I was running low or just wanted a snack. The prices at most resupply spots along the trail are quite exorbitant, so I tried to minimize the damage when possible.

Shopping: These expenses accounted for the new gear I bought along the trail, which was almost exclusively new shoes. I developed some painful tailor’s bunions along the way and experimented with several pairs of shoes in hopes of alleviating the pain (which failed), and thus went through more pairs than I would have liked. I also ordered a few things from Amazon, like a bug net and new socks, which I had shipped to my next hostel.

Bills and utilities: The great thing about being on the trail is that you aren’t racking up any bills, right? Sort of. The two items I still had to pay for out on the trail were the monthly charges for my cell phone and Delorme InReach. Combined, they cost about $100 per month which I felt was reasonable for the features I had access to during my hike.

Uncategorized: This was all the cash I took out of ATMs along the way. I’m not sure why it’s labeled as uncategorized, but when I dove deeper I found out what they were from. Some hostels don’t take credit cards (although most do at this point), so I needed to have a little cash on me. I never needed more than $40 at any time, though.

Business services: This includes the shipping cost I paid to send some clothes home from Harpers Ferry, a pair of shoes home from PA, and some postcards I bought at the ATC.

Gifts and donations: After finishing the trail, I had some thank-you cards printed and I sent them to hostels and people who helped me along the way. It was the least I could do for all the kindness I experienced.

Entertainment: This charge was for a month of Spotify Premium. I got sick of the music on my phone pretty quickly, so I signed up for Spotify and got a month of their premium service for free before having to pay for the subscription. It was nice to have out there, but I canceled it as soon as I finished.

Auto and transport: This expense was for my MARTA ticket to the North Springs station in Atlanta the day before I started my hike. It gets it own category.


There’s no right or wrong way to budget for a thru-hike (they call it personal finance for a reason). You can certainly complete the trail for less, although it seems that most spend much more. For my hike, I wanted to do as much work cutting costs upfront so that I wouldn’t have to worry about it on the trail. By sending resupply boxes, having my gear dialed in, and choosing lodging wisely, I was able to easily and thoughtlessly keep my expenditures reasonable without feeling deprived of anything. I hope this helps others to realize that you can have an awesome hike without breaking the bank by thinking a little differently and doing more work upfront. Happy trails and heavy pockets.

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek’s ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

How Much Does It Cost to Hike the Appalachian Trail

appalachian trail hiking sign

The 2,175 mile Appalachian Trail runs from Georgia to Maine and is one of the most challenging long distance hikes in the United States. Less than 25% of all those who set out to complete this trek succeed. Cost isn’t the only factor in determining who succeeds in completing the AT, but it is at least as important as fitness or motivation. If you run out of money half-way through the Trail, it doesn’t matter that you’re able to hike 20 miles a day with a 40 pound pack and are eager to complete your journey. If you’re out of money, you’re done.

Calculating the Cost

There are four major areas of expenses, listed in order, most expensive first:

  • Food
  • Health Insurance
  • Hiking/Camping gear
  • Trail-town lodging

Different hikers may spend wildly different amounts for a thru-hike, but most AT thru-hikers will end up averaging between $1 to $4 per mile, or between $2,000 and $9,000. Spending $2,000 for a thru-hike will be a very spartan journey with virtually no creature comforts, whereas $9,000 would be somewhat luxurious (relatively speaking) with a reasonable amount of time spent in trail town motels and restaurants. Assume it takes 6 months for the hike, starting in Georgia in April, ending in Maine in September. Let’s break it down by the above four cost categories.

Read Post  Guide to the 11 Best Things To Do in Silver Springs State Park in Ocala, FL

Food: Mail Drops or Trail-town Resupply?

You have to eat on the Trail. A lot. But you can only carry about 6-8 days worth of food in your backpack at a time. How do you get more food if you’re hiking for 6 months? You have two choices- mail drops or trail-town resupply. All along the AT are towns that you can walk to or hitchhike to from the Trail itself, most of the time when the trail intersects an auto road. These towns are sometimes few and far between. There is a stretch in Maine where there are no towns or intersecting roads for over 100 miles. But in most of the 14 states the AT goes through, there is a town at least every 30-50 miles that is accessible from the Trail.

Mail Drops

You can mail yourself a package to any post office in the country. All you need to do is write “General Delivery c/o – AT Thru-Hiker” on the package and post offices will hold the package for at least 90 days. Mail drops will usually require you to have a person back home willing to drop off your packages once a month or so for the next four or five Trail towns you will be heading to. It’s smart not to send more than four or five ahead of time because you may end up behind or ahead of the schedule you made up before you started. Sending yourself mail drops allows you to get a lot of the logistics of the a thru-hike out of the way ahead of time. You can go to bulk supply stores and buy 6 months worth of food for a fraction of what you will pay for the same food in small town stores.

Some problems with mail drops are: it makes you dependent upon a strict schedule to reach a post office in the time you thought it would take you to get there, you may end up hating the food you bought and still have to face the thought of four more months of eating the same food. Plus there are postage costs. Assume it takes 25 weeks to hike the entire AT, that will be about $15-20 in postage per food drop, or between $375-500 in postage. You will probably spend at least $2 per meal on average if you shop frugally in advance, or 25 weeks x 7 days x 3 meals x $2 = $1,050. This doesn’t count things like AA batteries for your flashlight, ibuprofen (aka “Vitamin I” on the Trail), shampoo, feminine products, Chapstick ™, sunscreen, etc. A good round figure for 6 months worth of mail drops would be about $1,500.

Trail-town Resupply

What you save in postage by resupplying every week or so on the Trail, you will lose twice over in the higher prices you will pay for food in small town convenience stores. You will be forced to compromise many times if you opt to buy a week’s worth of food in small town store- there won’t be a lot of lightweight, backpacker friendly food at Mom and Pop camp stores. If you are near a larger town, you might be able to get to a large supermarket to resupply, but remember, you’re walking everywhere you go, so if the store is “only” 5 miles up the road, you either walk 10 extra miles with your pack or you hitchhike. A good round figure for 6 months worth of Trail-town food and supplies would be about $2,000.

Best Case: Mail Drops. Cost = $1,500
Worst Case: Trail town food and supplies. Cost = $2,000

Health Insurance

Since the United States has no universal health care, you need to be concerned with how you’re going to insure yourself if something goes wrong health-wise on the Trail. Perhaps you are covered by your parents’ policy? In which case, you’re all set. Maybe you have an understanding spouse who is willing to work full time while you take 6 months off to go hiking and you’re covered under their policy. Again, you’re all set.

However, if you’re on your own without health insurance, it would be wise to take out a short term (less than 12 months) policy with a high deductible. If you’re healthy enough to backpack over 2,000 miles, you’re most likely healthy enough to qualify for the lowest short term policy rates. A ballpark estimate would be about $300 per month for a short term policy with a $2,500 deductible, or $1,800 for the entire 6 months.

If you get the flu and need a chest X-ray, you will have to pay out of pocket up to the $2,500 deductible, so you may think “Why bother with health insurance at all?” But if you end up in the hospital for a 2 month stay after being gored by a bull in Tennessee while crossing a field, you’ll be glad you’re not all of a sudden $200,000 in debt!

Best Case: You already have coverage. Cost = $0
Worst Case: You buy a 6 month policy. Cost = $1,800

Hiking/Camping Gear

There is an entire range of possible options when it comes to outfitting yourself for a thru-hike. The first thing you should start with are boots. Good backpacking boots that will last 1,000 miles cost at least $200. Figure on buying yourself at least 2 new pairs for the hike no matter whether you’re a novice or a veteran backpacker. The next choice is whether you plan on sleeping in your own tent or bivy sack or whether you plan on sleeping AT shelters the entire hike. Sometimes shelters are full, so you should have a backup plan for sleeping outside in the elements, at least a small nylon tarp that you can sleep under. Another piece of gear not to skimp on is a backpack. An improperly fitted pack may cause more people to quit the trail in the first few weeks than any other factor. Get fitted by a professional in a specialty backpacking store, and remember that “Medium” doesn’t mean anything across brand names, so get fitted for the brand and model you’re interested in. It’s possible to buy most of your needed gear used on Ebay for less than a third of the cost that you’d spend for new gear.

In addition, as the months progress, you’ll need to resupply and replace a small portion of your gear, such as socks, boots, gas or propane (depending upon your stove), water filters, etc.

Best Case: Own all gear in advance. Cost = $300 for resupply
Worst Case: Buy all new gear. Cost = $2,000

Trail Town Stops/Motels

It may sound romantic to sleep in the woods every single night for 6 months in a row, but after about a month of sleeping on the ground every night, reality intrudes for most people. As you pass a cheap motel while you walk to the post office to pick up your mail drop, the thoughts of a hot bath and a soft bed are almost too tempting to resist. Even the most dedicated backpackers and camping lovers should budget for at least a few motel nights and a few all you can eat buffets in Trail towns. The great thing about motels along the Trail is that they are, in general, very cheap lodging. Spending $75 for a room would seem like an outrageous splurge. Most rooms would run closer to $40 a night. Also remember you can share a room with fellow hikers you make friends with along the way.

Best Case: Never stay at a motel or eat out. Cost $0
Worst Case: Stay at motel and eat out once a week. Cost = $2,000

Final Thoughts

Be as frugal as possible, but not so much as you’re suffering constantly. Treat yourself once in awhile to a motel room or go ahead and toss all of the Ramen noodles that you just received in your mail drop and replace them with something you’re dying to eat. The more you don’t hate life on the Trail, the more likely you are to finish it! Happy hiking!

How to Hike the Appalachian Trail [The Definitive Guide]

How to Hike the Appalachian Trail [The Definitive Guide]

When it comes to overall popularity, the Appalachian Trail is probably one of the most famous and most popular hiking trails in the world. Trails of Mount Everest, Machu Picchu and Kilimanjaro are the only ones that can compare in that sense. However, it is also among the hardest for thru-hiking. Together with the Pacific Crest Trail, it is considered the longest hiking path in North America.

People all over the world come to see the Smoky Mountains and spend a few days walking and admiring its beauty. Under the National Trails System Act of 1968, the Appalachian Trail is referred to as a National Scenic Trail. In other words, it is a trail of great natural beauty as well as a protected area. In fact, this trail and the Pacific Crest Trail were the first two trails to receive this title in 1968.

Every year, approximately 2 million people take their time to hike on the Appalachian Trail for at least one day. However, the number of hikers that actually finish the entire trail is about 2,700. This says a lot about the difficulty of the trail and how hard it is to cross these mountains.

How long is the Appalachian Trail?

Altogether, the Appalachian Trail is about 2,200 miles (or 3,500 kilometers). As previously mentioned, it passes through 14 states: Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, North Carolina, Georgia. It basically goes through entire East Coast.

Map showing the length of the Appalachian Trail, from How to Hike the Appalachian Trail [The Definitive Guide]

the Great Smoky Mountains. However, you won’t have to deal with extreme heights. The highest peak of the Smoky Mountains is Clingmans Dome (6,643 feet or 2,025 meters) while the lowest is Bear Mountain State Park (124 feet or 38 meters). Due to the terrain, the entire path will feel much longer than it actually is.

How long does it take to hike the Appalachian Trail?

The Appalachian Trail (or the A.T.) is one of the longest footpaths in the world. That being said, it is not surprising that hikers take from 5 to 7 months to cross it. Most people start with 5 to 10 miles per day. However, on average, people cross 10 to 15 miles every day.

Have in mind that this is an average statistic including both people that hike for a day or two as well as those who cross the entire path. But, the variations are enormous. For example, some people finish this distance in one year. On the other hand, the record is just 46 days.

Read Post  What Is The Longest Hiking Trail In North America?

Nevertheless, if you intend to finish the entire trail, you will have to have good pacing. The thing that many people do not realize is that crossing the Smoky Mountains is not a question of strength (or even endurance) but how you utilize your energy and replenish your strength. In that regard, proper nutrition and preparation do much more for you than conditioning (even though conditioning is still very important).

  • Related:How To Hike The Appalachian Trail Alone Safely

Another thing that needs to be considered is your starting point. The mountainous regions of Maine are much colder than Georgia. In early spring, Maine will still be covered in snow and ice. If Maine is your starting point, May is the best time to hike the Appalachian Trail. On the other hand, those who begin from Georgia should plan ahead so they arrive in Maine around summer.

The Appalachian Trail topography and temperature

Here is how the Appalachian Trail looks like based on altitudinal zones (if you start from Georgia):

  • From Mount Rogers, Virginia to Mount Greylock, Massachusetts – foothill and montane zone (up to 900 meters)
  • From Mount Greylock to Mount Moosilauke, New Hampshire – subalpine zone (from 900 to 1500 meters)
  • From Mount Moosilauke – alpine zone (1500 meter and up)

This is how the A.T. looks in general. Height zones do change but this is the overall layout.

Mount Moosilauke Carriage Road

Mount Moosilauke Carriage Road. Photo credit:

You can see a lot of trees up to Mount Moosilauke where topography becomes barren and rocky with evergreen species being dominant. Parts of Pennsylvania are also very rocky and can be troublesome for hikers.

Maine can be very harsh, with a lot of snow and ice. Furthermore, Mount Katahdin is the second biggest alpine environment in the U.S.

When it comes to temperatures, they can vary substantially. No matter what, as you start hiking towards north, it will slowly become colder.

Spring and fall temperatures can be rather low and you may even encounter snow on higher altitudes. In these regions, temperatures below zero are quite common. However, the summer can be really hot and you will most likely need sunscreen, and sunglasses to protect your eyes.

How much does it cost to hike the Appalachian Trail?

Before anything else, you need to calculate the costs. This is especially important for thru-hikers as it may take them several months or up to a year to walk the entire distance.

Have in mind that you can save a lot based on your preferences. In other words, people who do not wish to visit hotels and instead sleep in their tent can cut the costs significantly. This is especially common for fast thru-hikers who do not wish to stay in towns for too long.

But, you should never skimp on food. Hikers burn a lot of calories during the day and it is necessary to replenish them so that you could carry on.

It is very hard to give you an exact price but the average cost of hiking the Appalachian Trail is between 1,000 and 2,000 dollars per month. Then again, there are people who can do it in less than a thousand and those who make a spectacle out of it, spending more than 3,000 dollars per month.

Here is a brief rundown of all the costs:

  • Transportation – it really depends
  • Gear – $1,000 to $2,000 (make sure to get quality equipment that can protect your from the weather)
  • Replacement gear – $150 (you need to set aside some money in case of an accident, thru-hikers use up 4 to 5 pairs of shoes for the entire trail)
  • Food – $10 to $15 per day (if you eat in towns, it can increase exponentially)
  • Accommodation – $10 to $15 per night (can easily be avoided)

One of the biggest initial costs comes in the form of equipment. If this is your first time hiking, you will need to get everything. As for the transportation, you will have to pay the costs to and from the A.T. People who live in the United States can do this for a couple hundred dollars while visitors from Europe and other parts of the world will have to spend more than a thousand.

On top of it all, there are several fees that need to be paid. First, you will have to get a permit for thru-hiking along the Appalachian Trail which costs $20 (as of this writing). Besides that, you may expect some overnight stay fees, especially in New England and Maine.

What do you need to carry?

We mentioned the basic costs. But, we still need to mention what you need to buy for that money.

If you are an experienced hiker/camper/backpacker, you are probably acquainted with the basic equipment. But, if this is your first time hiking, these are the things that you must carry at all costs:

When you’re ready for a full rundown of the gear to bring, check out our Appalachian Trail gear list.

  • Related:The 6 Best Hiking Boots For Men
  • Related:The 6 Best Hiking Boots For Women
  • Related:The 6 Best Backpacking Tents

On top of that, you should get food for several days (from 5 to 7 days) as well as water for 3 days. As you can presume, you will have to replenish supplies in towns. More experienced hikers use mail drops. With them, you can send supplies and food to towns that are on the trail. When a hiker passes through them, he can simply pick them up instead of shopping in nearby stores.

The load can vary from 20 lbs (9 kilograms) to 35 lbs (16 kilograms). Even though this seems like a lot, these are the basic provisions that will ensure that you arrive at your destination safely.

Do I need to register and how to avoid the crowds along the Appalachian Trail?

For the time being, there is no formal need to register. However, the Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) does encourage it as a way to track hikers and their movement.

This is especially important as it helps reduce overcrowding. The entire region is one big national park and in recent years, there has been a lot of damage to wildlife. As a way to prevent this, hikers should pick a date when there are not as many people on the Trail.

How to Hike the Appalachian Trail – The Definitive Guide

Photo credit:

Most people tend to start from Springer Mountain, Georgia northbound (otherwise known as NOBO while southbound is SOBO).

According to the data provided by Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the period between March 1 and April 1 is especially critical.

As a way to prevent all of this, the organization is trying to promote alternatives. Instead of starting from the bottom of the Trail, hikers are encouraged to start their thru-hike somewhere in the middle.

So, if you wish to avoid all the ruckus and crowds, these are some of the alternatives:

  • Harpers Ferry, West Virginia – Mount Katahdin – Harpers Ferry – Springer Mountain
  • Shenandoah National Park, Virginia – Mount Katahdin – Shenandoah National Park – Springer Mountain
  • Pawling, New York – Mount Katahdin – Pawling, New York – Springer Mountain
  • Springer Mountain – Harpers Ferry – Mount Katahdin – Harpers Ferry
  • Springer Mountain – Harpers Ferry – Great Barrington, Massachusetts – Mount Katahdin – Great Barrington, Massachusetts – Springer Mountain
  • Other modified trails

These options are great for people who do not wish to thru-hike the entire trail at once and prefer to avoid the crowds. Have in mind that you will have to make breaks between destinations. For more information, visit this page.

What do I have to know about shelters and accommodation?

There are two main options you should consider: sleeping in towns and sleeping in the wild.

Given the popularity of the A.T., you can find hotel and motels almost everywhere. Here are our top picks for hotels:

  • Skyland (Shenandoah National Park, Virginia)
  • Killington Grand Resort Hotel (Killington, Vermont)
  • Upper Goose Pond Cabin (Massachusetts)
  • Standing Bear Farm(Hartford, Tennessee)
  • White Wolf Inn (Stratton, Maine)

Of course, given that you cannot really choose hotels during hiking, you will have to make do with what you have. Nevertheless, your main concern is a warm bed and full stomach and everything else should come later.

Those who prefer sleeping outside have two options: tents and shelters. There are pros and cons to both options. Anyway, it is best to mix them.

There are more than 250 shelters along the A.T. They are pretty large (8 x 12 feet) and up to 20 people can fit in them. Shelters are a great place to hang your clothes, to socialize, get the latest news and also, to get some food from short distance hikers that brought too much weight.

Here’s a brief video showing the Double Spring Gap shelter you’ll find on the Appalachian Trail:

The main issue with shelters is that they are unpredictable. Although there is a lot of room in them, they might be full. Having in mind there is a shelter on every 5 to 10 miles, it may be too exhausting for you to walk to the next one. Nevertheless, they are a really nice option as there is usually a water source nearby and they are good for socialization.

  • Related:What Are Appalachian Trail Shelters Like?

No matter what, you will have to rely on your tent. If there are black clouds looming over your head, you can quickly set up a tent and hide inside. Also, they give you some solitude and allow you to camp off the track. But, setting up a tent does require some time and strength. If you are tired, this can pose a problem. This is why you have to switch between tent and shelters. In the end, it all comes down to personal preferences.

How to prepare physically for the Appalachian Trail?

Depending on the distance you wish to cross, your conditioning will be more or less important. You have to make sure you are fit enough to walk for at least 10 miles in mountainous terrain. People, who wish to hike a shorter distance for a day or two quickly realize that it can be rather strenuous.

Trekking the Appalachian Trail will lead you to beautiful vistas

Photo credit:

Read Post  Northern California family found on hiking trail died of extreme heat

If you wish to hike for several days or weeks, you will have to improve your core strength. Bear in mind, we are not referring to weight lifting. A hiker should have a lot of stamina and should do a lot of aerobic training. Push-ups, sit-ups and squats are all good. Leg conditioning exercises are a must. However, no matter how many hours you spend riding a bike or running, nothing can prepare you for the real deal. Always remember that you have to carry a big backpack during the hike so this will test your resolve even further.

  • Related:10 Tips That Will Prepare You To Conquer an Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike

Your feet are a special case. Not only do you need to improve their fitness level, you will also have to think about your ankles and skin. Excess weight and physical strain simply crush your ankles. Use a balance board to strengthen them. Skin can also be a problem. Open wounds might appear if you are not careful. By using a mixture that will strengthen your skin, you will be able to hike with less trouble. Nevertheless, you will require a med kit as a precaution.

If you’re new to backpacking in general, see our beginners backpacking guide.

Handling nutrition

No matter how fit you are, it is impossible to hike on an empty stomach. Improper diet can make or break your dream of thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.

As said, it is necessary to have food for at least several days. In certain areas, you can easily resupply so this can reduce your load for a little while. Nevertheless, if you do not have enough knowledge regarding the layout of the towns, it is better to constantly have spare food for at least 4 days.

The average man burns around 5,500 calories per day (3,500 for women). This is an enormous amount of energy that needs to be replenished. Basically, you will be food deprived during the entire hike. At the same time, this will allow you to eat almost anything. Focus on protein and fat rich food. You will need strong meals. Otherwise, you will start losing muscle mass. Dry food is a great solution. Make sure that everything is easy to prepare. Finally, you will need increased amount of salts to prevent cramps.

Water is extremely important during the hike. Make sure to drink all the time and have a bottle ready. Electrolyte drinks are also crucial.

There are a lot of springs along the trail. Most of them are near shelters. But, not all of them have drinkable water. This is why you have to make reserves for a day or two in case you can’t get fresh water near a shelter. Anyway, whenever you get it from a natural source, make sure to treat it. Filters are a great solution here.

Are there dangerous animals on the Appalachian Trail?

Here are some of the most common animal and plant species that can cause a problem:

  • Black bears
  • Snakes
  • Spiders
  • Ticks
  • Poison ivy

Generally speaking, there is no real danger of an animal attacking you. Surely, there have been a lot of sightings of bears and snakes. When it comes to bears, they are usually timid and will not approach you unless you do something aggressive or endanger the cubs. They might smell your food and come to your camp as they have become used to the human presence due to increased activity in the area. You should hang your food on trees so they can’t reach it. Also, do not cook near the tent as the smell will remain in the air.

Black Bears are a common sight along the Appalachian Trail

Photo credit:

Snakes and spiders are a different story. Unlike bears, they are hard to spot and you might even step on one of them while walking. Luckily, most of the species on the A.T. are not venomous. However, if you encounter venomous copperheads and timber rattlers, you may be in danger. Make sure to check your clothes before putting them on as spiders and snakes may crawl in them during the night.

When it comes to insects, ticks and mosquitoes are the biggest issue here. While mosquitoes are really annoying, ticks are the ones that represent a health hazard. They can give you lime disease so you will have to perform checks every day. As for mosquitoes, a repellent will be enough.

If you need more info regarding flora and fauna, as well as how to prevent accidents and treat wounds, check this page.

  • Related:3 Best DSLR Cameras for Wildlife Photography
  • Related:8 Best DSLR Camera Lenses for Wildlife Photography
  • Related:Interested In Hiking The Appalachian Trail With A Dog?

What type of environmental issues can I expect on the Appalachian Trail?

Those who decide to thru-hike the entire Appalachian Trail will have numerous considerations regarding the weather. It becomes even harder to predict things given how many months it takes for you to reach the other side. Even with good preparation, you never know what to expect.

Here are 5 things you have to look out for:

  • Snow (especially in northern regions where winter begins earlier)
  • Heat (especially in southern regions and during summer)
  • Hypothermia (due to cold rains and bad protection)
  • Rivers
  • Lightning

Obviously, there are numerous things you have to consider before you are on your path. When it comes to bad weather, you shouldn’t consider it; you should count on it!

Early spring and late autumn can be really perilous. Even if you are in southern parts, you can still expect snow. This shouldn’t be particularly surprising given that you are in the mountains most of the time. On the other hand, in northern states (mainly Maine and New Hampshire) you can even expect snow in June. If you need more precise data regarding the temperature, visit the National Park Service website.

Keeping track with the current weather can also help you with the next potential problem – heat. Virginia and West Virginia are notorious for their low humidity during summer which can interfere with perspiration. As a result, hikers can expect cramps, burns, heat exhaustion and heat strokes. This is why you should always try to hike in early morning and before sunset. Avoid too much exposure during midday and try to find proper shelter when resting.

Hypothermia is directly caused by cold rain, strong wind and lack of proper clothing. It can be especially disastrous for thru-hikers as they approach their goal. After a while, their energy reserves will be depleted and they won’t be able to make up for the loss of body temperature. As a protective measure, make sure to stay hydrated, well fed and rested, to take cover as soon as you notice cold rain and to wear synthetic and wool clothing. Waterproof boots should be considered as well.

River crossing is something that most hikers do not consider as a hazard until they fall into water. This can be especially treacherous during and after cold days, when the ground is slippery due to ice, snow and rain. You can easily fall down into a river which can result in hypothermia and other cold related illnesses. If the terrain seems problematic, try to find an alternative, safer crossing.

Lightning is not as dangerous as the other natural threats but there is still a chance to get struck. Finding a shelter is the best way to prevent any accidents. Avoid tall trees, solitary rocks, open terrain on high altitude and tall, metal structures and objects.

Even though may not actually face a life or death situation, it’s prudent to possess at least basic outdoor survival skills.

How to Hike the Appalachian Trail – The Definitive Guide Sunrise

Photo credit:

Additional tips and considerations

  • You will never be lonely – There are a lot of hikers on the A.T. especially in the southern parts, during early spring.
  • Break your boots in – Don’t tackle the AT in brand new boots. Most boots take some time to mold to the unique shape of your feet, which makes them much more comfortable. The more comfortable your footwear, the more likely you are to push on. If you have wide feet, get hiking boots made specifically for wide feet.
  • Be grateful and considerate – Make sure to be polite and work with others to conquer the mountains.
  • You do not need a map – Areas are well marked so it is hard to get lost as long as you are following the Trail. However, it is good to carry a map in a case of emergency.
  • Campfires are not permitted on some parts of the Trail – Many areas along the A.T. restrict fires to designated sites only or prohibit fires altogether. Here is a chart listing regulations for fires and camping. Learn safe ways to build a fire here.
  • Reduce weight whenever you can – It is one of the main things that can contribute to your success. Check out these Ultralight backpacking tips.
  • Pace yourself – You shouldn’t be too hasty. There is a long way ahead of you and you need to go day by day.
  • Lace Tying – Learn the various ways of tying your boots. This seemingly small thing can make a huge difference in your daily comfort.
  • Do not think too much – If you start thinking about all the miles that are ahead of you, it will be much harder. Hiking is also a mental game.
  • Take rest days – Unless you are into a fast thru-hike, make stops in towns and rest properly. You will have a lot of injuries, blisters and fatigue over the course of the hike and you will need to treat your body properly.
  • Keep at least some level of hygiene – Even though this sounds impossible, you will have to keep your cleanliness in check. Make sure to filter your water and utensils to prevent any diseases. Dispose of your food properly so that you don’t attract wild animals to shelters.
  • Medical care – Treat your wounds as soon as they appear. Use lubricants or sprays to prevent and treat chafing. Ventilate your feet to prevent blisters.

I hope this guide helped you and that you will have an incredible time on the Appalachian Trail!




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *