Thru-Hiking for Beginners - What You Need To Know First
So, you think you’re already a seasoned hiker. You already have a few miles in you that you think you’re ready to join the big league - so you decide you’d go thru-hiking. And that’s a good thing! That means that your body is ready for the grueling task at hand because your mind is already thinking about it.
What is thru-hiking?
Thru-hiking is basically defined as an end-to-end backpacking trip on a long-distance trail such as the Appalachian Trail in United States, the Te Araroa Trail in New Zealand, Camino de Santiago in Spain, the Great Divide Trail in Canada and other famous thru-hiking spots in the world.
Thru-hikes can last for less than a month or even as long as a year - depending on the trail spots you want to take on and how fast you can go. In short, extensive planning is a must when considering going on a thru-hiking adventure.
Several things should be taken into consideration when planning your thru-hiking trip. With that said, here are a few of those things that we should always include:
- Plan your budget depending on how long you would be off from work as well as how hassle free you would want your trip to go. Even though you won’t be spending a lot of money on gas or lodging (since you’ll essentially be living in your tent), you will be spending it on food and gear that you would want to last until you reach your destination. So be sure to save up on lots of cash. It’s better to have more and not need it than to have less and need it at the most inconvenient time.
- Preparation Timeline. Most experts would say you should spend more time on planning than the actual hike. And that is actually true. A preparation time of eight months or more should get you ample time to prepare yourself and the things that you need to bring with you during your thru-hike.
- Mapping the Trail/Route. Part of your preparation is researching the trail you’re about to embark on. Check out websites about the site, areas to avoid and places that you need to be to reach your destination safely.
- Possible Obstacles to Consider. Just like any other adventure, anything can go south in just a blink of an eye. We can counter this by making sure you are prepared to face the worst scenario possible.
Speaking of obstacles, two of the greatest obstacles you need to overcome during your thru-hiking trip are mental and physical obstacles. To overcome these, you need to take note of the following strategies:
- Never quit on a bad day. Long hikes and bad trails can lead you into thinking you want to quit, but you must always remember that it’s all part of the journey.
- Embrace Solitude. The majority of thru-hikers are solo hikers. This means not being able to see or speak with another human being for a significant amount of time. Which also means that you have no one to rely on but yourself so you need to be prepared for that.
- Make short goals. Even though it might take you weeks or months to reach your destination, you can temporarily take your mind off it by cutting your trail into small and easy to reach goals. For example, focusing your mind on reaching a certain peak or check point will give you a sense of accomplishment which will fuel you into reaching your ultimate goal.
- Train for your adventure. Taking short trail backpacking hikes on a regular basis will help condition your legs and lungs on the rigidity of the thru-hike. Take trails that have a similar topography as the actual one as well as areas that have the same weather conditions will allow you to get accustomed to different kinds of scenarios for the actual trip. Carrying around a backpack that will have a similar weight can also help in conditioning.
- Train for First Aid. Knowing that you can take care of yourself should you get into any trouble or physical harm can spell the difference between death and survival.
(c) Pacific Northwest Trail Association
While you are making sure that you’re physically and mentally ready for the thru-hike, it is also important to make sure that you have the right gear with you to survive. Here’s a list of essential must-haves during your thru-hike adventure.
- Trail permits, camping permits, campfire permits and border permits are just some of the permits that you need to acquire to make sure you can go on your trip with no problem.
Basic Camping Gear
- Backpack. Choose something lightweight but has enough shoulder and hip pads to help ease the weight of the things inside your backpack especially since you’re going to be carrying it for a very long time.
- Tent. This also needs to be lightweight but strong enough to protect you against the elements without sacrificing comfort.
- Sleeping Bag and Pad. Go for something that is well padded and thick enough to protect you against the cold nights and give you enough comfort when sleeping so you’ll have the energy to go on the next day
- Water. It cannot be stressed enough that you need to be hydrated all throughout your trip – so bring a canister that is light enough to carry yet large enough to last you until your next resupply stop.
- Stove. Pick something that is also lightweight without sacrificing crucial factors like boil time and fuel consumption.
- Headlamp. You can go for something that has sufficient battery storage, bright lights to serve you during night hikes and something that has a red light so you don’t disturb other hikers when leaving a campsite early in the morning
- Trekking Poles. These things will help ease your legs during the hike. Be sure to bring ones that are lightweight since you don’t want them to be too heavy on the back when you’re not using them.
- Footwear. Find a shoe that would match all the terrain in your planned hike site. Also make sure that it’s durable enough to last you the entire trip so you don’t have to switch or buy a spare along the way.
As mentioned, planning the trip can be as much fun as the trip itself. Make sure to consult experienced thru-hikers about other things that you need to prepare for. Tapping into the thru-hiking community will help you better prepare for the trip so you know what to expect once you’re immersed into the activity. As always, leave nothing but footprints and kill nothing but time.