Pelican Flyer • May 16, 2021
So, you hike all the time. You have hundreds of weekend backpacking trips under your belt and know a thing or two about surviving in the wilderness. Now, you’re itching for a new hiking challenge. You want to immerse yourself in the wilderness and take your backpacking skills up a notch.
For many weekend hikers, the next step is completing a thru-hike. Often described as being a deeply rewarding and enriching experience (and incredibly grueling, but we’ll get to that in a minute), thru-hiking could be the most incredible adventure you ever have. But what is thru-hiking and what do you need to know as a first-time thru-hiker? Pelican is here to explain.
People like to bicker over the definition of thru-hiking, but in general, it refers to backpacking long-distance trails in a continuous fashion. The two most notable thru-hikes in North America include the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and the Appalachian Trail (AT), which are 2,650 miles and 2,200 miles long, respectively. Hiking either of these trails is a mammoth-sized undertaking that can take hikers anywhere from five to seven months.
Many avid hikers never end up completing a thru-hike, even when it’s at the top of their bucket list. Why? The answer mostly comes down to having responsibilities.
Here are a few obstacles that often get in the way of hikers living out their fantasy of completing a thru-hike.
Thru hikes typically take up an entire hiking season and require a ton of preparation. In addition to working out the logistics (getting time off, paying bills in advance, planning your route, etc.), you also need to make sure that you have the right gear and necessities to complete the hike safely. Here’s a list of what you’ll need.
Note: Although you probably have many of these items already, keep in mind that thru-hikes require ultra-lightweight gear that will stand up to multiple seasons and potentially thousands of miles. You may need to upgrade certain items to cut poundage and make the journey more bearable.
In case we haven’t hammered this point home enough, thru-hiking requires a lot of planning and hiking preparedness. Trust us; you don’t want to be that guy or girl who brags about their big plans to hike the PCT, only to give up after a few weeks on the trail. Here are a few tips for preparing for your thru-hike.
Try not to compare your thru-hike to anyone else’s. This is your hike and yours alone, so go at your own pace. Remember to follow the seven Leave No Trace Principles and be kind to your fellow thru-hikers. What are you waiting for? Get out there and hike on!
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