Will you be going on your firstthru-hiking trip anytime soon? It’s an exciting prospect, but you do have to remember quite a number of things to make sure that your trip is as safe and as fulfilling as it should be.
What do you do when you thru-hike, anyway? When you thru-hike, you hike though an entire hiking trail from beginning to end, continuously. This means that you won’t be hiking through a trail section by section, one at a time. It definitely won’t take a single weekend, and typically takes weeks to months to complete. The Appalachian Trail, for example, takes an average of five months to thru-hike. Because of this, a lot of preparation goes intothru-hiking. So before you jump in, go through these tips to make sure that you’re as prepared as you can be.
Do your research
As they say, knowledge is power. Hiking a long trail from end to end without researching it first is highly discouraged. A thru-hike is not like the other hiking or backpacking trips you may have already gone on. For one thing, you won’t be needing all the things you bring on shorter hiking trips. The preparations you’ll need to do also aren’t the same.
Your gear and equipment need to be much lighter on a thru-hike. Additionally, you’ll need to learn more trail survival skills than you already do. There’s also a big chance that you’ll be meeting more challenges than you expect. Read up on accounts about what you can expect along the trail you’ll be going on so you’ll know what challenges you’ll have to meet.
Know what you have to overcome
The truth is, a lot of people who start out on a thru-hike don’t make it all the way to the end. A lot of people quit before they’re done for a variety of reasons. One of the most common ones is having unrealistic expectations. Many of us tend to romanticize what it’s like to “reconnect with nature”, so to speak, and so they’re not prepared for facing the very real hardships on the trail. This can lead to another reason for quitting—being mentally unprepared. You’ll definitely experience intense exhaustion and intense boredom as well, so make sure that these won’t break you.
Some reasons are more practical and concrete, like running out of money and supplies or getting injured. Both these scenarios can be avoided with proper preparation and planning.
Mentally prepare yourself
While it’s true thatthru-hiking takes a physical toll, it can also be tough to deal with mentally. You can rest sore muscles and aching bones, but spending months in the wild, especially alone, can really take its toll on your psyche. You need to be prepared to keep your cool and think logically even in the face of hunger, tiredness, and boredom.
It’s important not to push yourself too hard. While it’s important to be mentally tough, this doesn’t mean that you have to stoically endure all these challenges. You can take mental health breaks when you really need them. You can spend this time writing in a journal, listening to music, taking photographs and videos, or reading. Do what you need to do to mentally recoup.
Physically prepare yourself
Way before you set off for the trail, you need to make sure that you are in top shape. It’s best to consult with a doctor on how much preparation you’ll need based on your age and current fitness level.
Aerobic training is a good way to prepare for a months-longthru-hikingtrip. You can go on frequent short hikes, and you can also swim, bike, and run regularly. Resistance training is also important, so make sure to do squats, lunges, and planks. If you’re unsure about how much aerobic and resistance training you need and how often you should do it, consult with a fitness expert to avoid straining or injuring yourself.
Create a workout regimen that includes all the exercises you’ll need to prepare for your trip. Make sure that you stick to this regimen for the most optimal results.
Cut down on baggage
You may instinctively think that since you’re going on a very long hike, you’ll need to pack as many items as you can. This is incorrect. The lighter your pack, gear, and equipment are, the better. Efficiency is the most important thing when it comes to packing for a thru-hike. Even the food you bring should need very little preparation. XMRE has a line called Meals Ready-to-Eat, which has nutritious packaged food that doesn’t need equipment for preparation.
The trick here is to decide which items are absolutely essential. Find out which gear and equipment are the lightest and of the best quality. It’s also better for you to have tools and equipment that have multiple uses so you won’t have to waste valuable space on multiple items when one multi-use items can do the trick.
At some points on the trail, you’ll be needing transport to nearby towns to resupply. Since you obviously don’t have your own car with you, you’ll have to find other ways to get the ride you need. Hitchhiking is not recommended. While not everyone who picks up a hitchhiker is a serial killer, there’s really no need to take the risk. Though you’ll probably be hiking alone, it’s very likely that you’ll meet other hikers on the trail. Strike up a conversation with them and see if they’re going to where you need to be.
If you have no other choice but to hitchhike, inform a friend of where you are and what the license plate of the vehicle is. Make sure to keep your phone with you at all times.
Thru-hiking can get lonely. While you don’t have to put yourself out there too much, it’s good to socialize with other hikers that you meet on the trail. You of course need to be wary and careful, but there’s no need to be standoffish or too closed-off. You may need directions, some help, or you may even need to borrow something for a bit. When it gets a little too lonely for you, you can ask if you can camp with them for a while before you go your separate ways. Companionship and commiseration can do wonders for your mental and emotional state. It’s also good sense to make sure that other people know where you are, even if it’s just the general area. This is especially important if you don’t have cell phone service.
Don’t push yourself too hard
You do have to tough it out in the wilderness, but not to the point that you’re pushing yourself to no avail. Even though you have set goals for yourself, like the number of miles you need to hike in a day, don’t push it when your body is already telling you no. It’s better to go slower at the beginning of the hike and add on miles to your daily quota later on when your legs are more used to the work.
When you feel too tired or parts of your body ache too much, it’s all right to slow down or take a break. You are your only and harshest critic out in the wild, so sometimes it’s better to listen to your body instead of the voice inside your head pressuring you to keep going.
Running out of money is a deal breaker. It’s important to plan your budget ahead of time and make sure that you stick to that budget as best you can. When you go into town to resupply and recoup, make sure to stick to your budget and spend only on essentials. Remember, though, anything that can be healthy for you mentally is essential, but make sure to strike a balance between keeping your budget and keeping your mental health intact. If listening to music or reading another chapter of your book will do, then there’s no need to spend money on recreation.
Hikers spend an average of $1000 dollars whilethru-hiking, depending on their habits and methods of hiking. You can hike for less, though you can also be more generous with your own budget.
Set your own standards and meet them
When you go hiking, you hike for yourself. This means that you get to set your own standards and goals depending on what’s best for you. If you know someone else that has gone on a thru-hike, it’s good to ask for advice or suggestions but try not to live up to standards that someone else has set.
When you go on your thru-hike, be sure to set a pace that’s reasonable for you. Push yourself when you feel your resolve weakening, but in a way that’s most effective for you. Do what you need to do to recoup whenever you feel that you need to. Remember that setting realistic goals for yourself is important to keeping your spirits up and pushing through to the very end.
Stretch your muscles
This is important to avoid stress injuries. You may experience plantar fasciitis, lumbar strain, or other forms of injury. Stress injuries are a very common occurrence among hikers, but there are ways to make sure that they never happen to you. The best and easiest way is to stretch frequently. It’s best to stretch your quads, hamstrings, and calves when you wake up in the morning, before you go to sleep at night, and during one of your breaks.
It’s important to put stretching in your daily regimen. When you’re exhausted, it’s very tempting to forgo stretching, thereby putting yourself at risk of stress injuries. Having a regular stretching regimen helps you ensure that you will never forget to stretch or decide to forgo it when you are too exhausted to do it.
Have proper footwear
This may already be a given, but it’s still important to stress the need for appropriate shoes and the right socks when you gothru-hiking. Remember, your feet are the ones that bring you inch by inch closer to your goal. It is immensely beneficial for you to take the necessary steps to make sure they are in top shape. Injuries like plantar fasciitis, bunions, neuroma, and other similar conditions can occur when you’re wearing the wrong shoes for your level of activity.
A common footwear combination for hikers is composed of lightweight running shows, synthetic socks, and running gaiters. This combination will help ease the weight off your feet and will prevent blisters. This will also keep your feet from getting too hot, sweaty, and uncomfortable inside your shoes.
Keep a general timeline
While it’s great if you can set a strict schedule and follow it with minimal trouble, it simply won’t work that way. In the wild, you and your schedule will be affected by many factors that are way beyond your control. Instead of keeping a day-to-day schedule (or, God forbid, an hourly one), create a general timeline that won’t be too stressful for you to follow. Avoid scheduling things down to the exact minute.
It’s better if you allow for some flexibility in your schedule. This way, if you fall behind, it won’t be too much of a problem for you and you’ll have given yourself time to catch up. This will let you relax and think of possible solutions without stress or anxiety fogging your mind up and keeping you from finding a solution to whatever problem you’re facing.
Part of toughing it up in the wild is mentally and emotionally rising above whatever obstacles are in your way. There are a lot of survival skills that a lot of hikers focus on, like tracking or building a sturdy shelter, but maintaining a positive outlook is just as essential as all the others. You would need to be able to put things in a better perspective to make sure that you won’t succumb to the pressure. Just think thatthru-hiking is a wonderful experience, and finishing what you started is always a good achievement.