Whether you’re looking for a life changing experience or just want a challenging adventure, thru-hiking is one of the best ways to explore the vast American wilderness.
Thru-hikers get to explore thousands of miles of untouched wilderness, but they also face the physical toll hiking and camping takes on the body as well as the mental and emotional challenge of surviving in the wilderness. However, for all of the challenges that come with thru-hiking there is an equal or greater reward in the memories made, relationships formed, and the immense accomplishment that comes with a successful thru-hike.
If you’re thinking about starting a thru-hike, check out ASO Mammoth’s basic thru-hiking tips to know if and how you should start!
Less is More
When it comes to thru-hiking, the less gear your carry is one more step or experience you can enjoy every day.
You shouldn’t hesitate to pack the essentials like food and water as well as more specific essentials like a book, but you should absolutely weigh the usefulness of each item you’re considering packing to keep your pack as light as possible. For example, carrying a camera tripod won’t bother most people on a day hike, but try carrying a full-sized tripod every day for dozens of miles on a thru-hike and you’ll quickly see that it’s probably not worth the extra weight.
A great way to prepare for thru-hiking is to practice ultralight backpacking. Although your thru-hike pack will most likely be overweight to be considered ultralight, ultralight hiking before your thru-hike is a great way to get yourself in shape as well as practice creating a safe but efficient pack.
Invest in Your Plan
One way to keep a heavy pack from slowing you down is to plan ahead and ship specific gear or food ahead of your hike so you can pick it up along the way. For example, if you ship your gear ahead of you then you can hike comfortably through the summer while still having everything you need to hike and camp in the winter by picking it up along the way. You can do the same with food, or you can simply buy new gear while hiking.
No matter what you do, you must know each part of the trail and the unique challenges that come with them before you set out, so invest time in your planning process. Don’t forget to plan out a budget as well to make sure you don’t run out of money while on the trail!
Invest in Your Gear
While thru-hikers are known for their resourcefulness and willingness to help one another on the trail, at the end of the day you’re the one who is responsible for your safety and well-being. Protect yourself early on and invest in great hiking and camping gear.
Start by picking out the perfect pair of boots or trail runners. You will most likely go through several pairs of shoes during a through hike, but if you invest time and money into finding and purchasing the right boot or shoe for you then you’ll never be held back by your feet. From there, always remember that your life could depend on the gear you’re buying, so don’t hesitate to pay a little extra for a good backpack or tent.
Hike Your Own Hike
Lastly, a successful thru-hike is what you say it is. Don’t obsess with completing the entire hike if you’re not ready or something more important back home pulls you away from the trail. The trail isn’t going anywhere, and as long as you accomplish the goals that matter to you then you’ve had a successful hike.