What was once thought as a means of transportation is now considered as a way to enjoy and pass time as well as a very satisfying way of seeing the world. Thru-hiking is not your regular day hike, as it requires months even years of preparation and the actual hike takes at least half of that, depending on the trail you’re planning to take on.
With that in mind, let us take on a journey of knowing what it takes to be a thru-hiker and the things that you need to prepare like the professionals even if this might be your first time doing it.
Identifying Your Purpose
Given the length of which you would have to be actually away from people you know, the places you regularly go, it is vital that you actually assess and think through what exactly drives you to go through this very strenuous activity. Some just wanted to be temporarily away from all the responsibilities of adult life, some would want a drastic change in theirs and some would want to go out and seek guidance from some “higher knowing” before making a very big life-changing decision.
For some it may just be a way of getting really physically fit. What better way to test your physical and mental endurance that being out in the wilderness for months on end and rely on nothing but your wits and survival skills and what’s on your backpack.
Some people just want to get a different and better way of appreciating nature. Though most thru-hikers do it solitary, this can also be a good way of finding new friends; friends who would have the same interests as you. And some just want to find the inner daredevil in them, seeking adventures that one would normally refuse just because they think the risks outweigh the benefits, and going out there and proving them otherwise.
It is very important that one needs to reevaluate their life choices before even planning on going on a thru-hike as the things that you need during preparation would drastically alter your way of thinking.
Things to Prepare
It is very essential that you save up for your thru-hiking adventure. High quality hiking gears are not cheap, and they are priced that way because of their reliability when you’re out there are trying to survive through rough terrains and possibly terrible weather conditions. Bring more than the estimated costs, as there might be emergency situations that would require you to bring out your extra cash.
- Train Your Body and Mind
Seasoned thru hikers will always tell you to prepare yourself mentally and physically for this activity, as you will certainly face multiple challenges along the way that would make you question your decision of ever going and trick you into quitting. Physical fatigue may be challenging, but mental fatigue can be worse.
You always need to remember that it will always get better in time, and that the rewards will make it all worth it. In short, hope for the best but expect the worst. It is advised that you go on multiple short hikes during your preparation period as this will train you for the task ahead.
Select spots that will have similar conditions as your thru hike trail. This will allow your body to get acquainted with the terrain and the weather for your actual trip. And when you get to the point where you’re doubting whether or not you should continue, look back on your preparation period and think about why you decided to do this in the first place.
- Always Make a Buffer
Not only should you bring extra funds during your hike, but you also need to consider that you might not make it on your expected date and time. As a beginner always assume that the hike will take longer than they say it would. Rough weather conditions will almost always slow you down, as these will make your trail a lot less forgiving that it usually is. With this in mind, give a more strategic timeline to your family and friends of when exactly you’re coming back.That way they will also have an idea of when they can expect you to return or alarm the authorities if you’re not back by the estimated time.
Now that you’ve saved enough money and a few extra for your trip, you’ve managed to train like hell and the actual hike day is near, this is the time to recheck your gear and make sure that you have everything that you need to have to survive the actual thru-hike. Things that you need and should always be in your checklist are the following:
- Hiking Backpack. Make sure that it’s not too big or too small. As much as possible go for something ultra lightweight but durable enough to withstand extreme weather conditions and carry everything that you need.
- Weather Appropriate Clothes. If you’re planning to go on a trail with a possibility of extreme cold conditions, make sure you bring extra clothes for layers. Remember it’s always better to dress in multiple thin layers than a few thick ones as they will drag you down when it gets wet.
- Hiking Footwear. This can be depending on your personal preference. However make sure that your hiking boots or shoes will cover different kinds of terrain and durable enough to last the entire trip. Remember that you are almost always on your feet, and your shoes or boots are the only thing separating you from the ground where there can be hard rocks and possibly animals that might bite through your foot and cause injuries.
- Food and Water. Make sure to bring plenty of these. And make sure to replenish them on your stops or you’ll starve and may not have enough to last you the entire hike. As much as possible try to bring food that is ready to consume to save time and effort. It is also helpful if you bring water purifiers with you just in case you run out of fluids during your hike and the rest stops are still a few miles away.
- Navigation Tools. Maps and compasses are essential hiking gears. It can be hard to rely on landmarks alone so learning a few navigation lessons would be extremely useful.
- First Aid Kit. This is also very important as accidents can happen anytime, anywhere. Enrolling in first aid lessons during your preparation period can also help save your life and others during emergency situations.
- Knife... Or any multi-tool for that matter can be of great help during your hiking trip so make sure to bring one with you
Do Not be a Lone Wolf
Though doing things on your own will give you a sense of pride, approaching other people in the hiking community or even during the trip won’t hurt. In fact it will likely increase your chance of surviving the journey. Joining communities will allow you to listen to other people’s success story, and why they vowed never to quit even during the most challenging of times.
What you need to remember is that everyone starts at being a novice. So aside from doing your research online and learning on your own, it is also important that you ask opinions from those who have gone through hell and back. Keep in mind everyone will have a different experience and that will factor in your actual trip. For example, you can ask seasoned hikers the best time to do the trail, the good places to check out and rest, and other tips that only those who had the experience will be able to give.
One thing that a beginner should always remember is that thru-hiking is not a race, unless you’re trying to set or break a speed record. Thru-hiking is all about endurance, and making the most out of the journey. Forget about who has done it the fastest, how far behind are you or whether you’re winning; for that will do you more harm than good. So forget all about those unnecessary things and just focus on finishing it, that’s already winning in and of itself.