Travel Forums North America Thru-hiking

1. Posted by sonofanders (Budding Member 3 posts) 20w Star this if you like it!

has anybody here been on a thru-hiking? what do I need to think about and how can I prepare? what dangers are there?

2. Posted by goodfish (Full Member 187 posts) 20w Star this if you like it!

I have not (done a thru-hike) but some background for others who may be wondering what those are plus some info on gear and training...

The article above is specific to the U.S. long-distance trails but general financial, planning, physical prep, etc. points pretty much apply to all in North America. Obviously, what you'll need for gear plus specific dangers to be aware of, such as potentially hostile regional wildlife, will depend on specific trail and season(s).

[ Edit: Edited on 13-Oct-2020, 13:48 GMT by goodfish ]

3. Posted by Psamathe (Budding Member 127 posts) 20w Star this if you like it!

I'd suggest 1st thing to decide is which trail? The main 3 are very different between (number of hikers, signage, remoteness, etc.). I've not done any (planned for PCT but then arthritis in feet started ...).

Can you take the time off/without work, what's your experience distance hiking, do you have the gear (or can you afford it) do you prefer meeting others or being alone, do you want to do it in one hike or in different sections each year.

You question is very open/broad and the initial ones are questions only you can answer. It's a massive undertaking and there are (or at least were) specialist mail-lists for each trail (or there was for the PCT)

(Assuming you mean thru-hiking in the US on AT, PCT or CDT)

[ Edit: Edited on 13-Oct-2020, 13:59 GMT by Psamathe ]

Post 4 was removed by a moderator
5. Posted by karazyal (Travel Guru 2939 posts) 20w Star this if you like it!

"....what do I need to think about and how can I prepare? what dangers are there?"


If you are an out of shape guy (or lady) start doing some walking around your hometown to strengthen your legs and build some stamina. There may be some local trails you can walk not far from where you live. (Wherever that is.)

I have gone on long hikes and camped out but not for weeks or months at a time as a civilian. I have had cold weather camping in the military and did NOT like it at all! And on the flip side I have had to "camp" out in jungles and did NOT like the bugs and other crawly things either! But I am a better person for picking up a few of these skills.

Appalachian Trail is popular. There has been some violence on that trail but this is rare. You probably have more dangers on your own city streets. All alone out in the woods who knows what could happen. Maybe you get bit by a poisonous snake or have an encounter with a mama bear and cub and end up being a snack.

There may be some sort of hiking club in your area that you can look into. You could sign up for a survival course too. Do a course in basic first aid too. All alone out in the boonies you could fall in a hole or trip and break something needing medical help. Your cell phone may be out of range. What do you do? BOAKYAG

Start small, work up. Gain experience and skills before doing a hike that lasts for months at a time.

Weather. The month you go for your great walkabout will determine the weather you get. If on a long hike weather could change along the way.

Up to you.

6. Posted by AndyF (Moderator 2213 posts) 20w Star this if you like it!

I had to look up the term "thru-route"; in the UK we'd call this Long Distance Walking, and there are some good trails you could consider.

In Scotland, the most popular route is the West Highland Way, and this links to the Great Glen Way to make a route from Glasgow to Inverness. A pal of mine just completed this taking two weeks. There's also the Southern Upland Way going coast to coast across southern Scotland - I found that one a lot quieter.

In England, the best long distance path is generally agreed to be the Coast To Coast Walk; this also takes around two weeks and has been voted the 2nd best route in the world, in a poll of writers of walking guides.

I think Europe's most spectacular route is the GR20, which is a high-level route across Corsica's mountains.

New Zealand has a series of 9 Great Walks which are multi-day hikes. The Milford Track won 1st place in that poll of writers, though I think the Routeburn and Kepler tracks are equally good.

All of these are worth a look.

7. Posted by Psamathe (Budding Member 127 posts) 20w Star this if you like it!

Quoting karazyal

"....what do I need to think about and how can I prepare? what dangers are there?"

If you are an out of shape guy (or lady) start doing some walking around your hometown to strengthen your legs and build some stamina......

From memory, for my preparation/research for the PCT (which I never ended-up doing as my feet started suffering arthritis) some of the challenges/logistics.

1. You generally start late April on the Mexican border heading north arriving at the Canadian Border Sept'ish - the idea being you get through the deserts before it becomes impossibly hot and arrive at the snow as it is melting (hopefully though some years people have a pause at the start of the higher areas) and then arrive at the Canadian border before too much snow starts. It is still hot in the deserts and you still end-up hiking through snow and you'll likely catch more nearer the Canadian border.

2. People recon on 25 miles per day carrying full camping gear, food, etc. (and some sections you may be in the wilds without supplies for 10 days). In some sections (often desert sections) locals will leave caches of water bottles for thru-hikers or go park their camper van up for the day and provide water/snacks.

3. In some sections you should (and normally are required) to use a bear box for your food (hanging in sacks high in trees in not allowed). So there are logistics to get/hire a bear box for those sections as no way do you carry the extra weight anywhere you don't have to.

4. Everybody goes ultra-light (as you are carrying everything the entire distance).

5. People spend a lot of time (months) before starting working on logistics. Drying and packaging food, working out convenient post office locations and making/addressing parcels for friends to post on particular dates - so you can collect supplies en-route. Including replacement pairs of shoes (as you will likely get through several pairs and you can't be breaking in or trying out unknown footwear in that situation.

6. You cannot expect to walk that daily distance every day through wild country for that many months unless you are properly fit and experienced.

7. Even back when I was researching sections were sometimes closed due to fires (and you have to find a detour). I'd be surprised if this situation has not got worse in recent years.

8. Relatively few people actually achieve a thru-hike of PCT each year (used to be a hundred or so though these trails do tend to get more popular over time, CDT is behind the PCT which is behind the AT). There are record books along the route (at identified locations) you need to sign as "proof" of your completing sections if you want to get the badge once all finished.

9. You need (or are stupid not to) get a long distance permit. The trail passes through national parks, private land, everywhere (it's bound to being that long).

10. The above may easily be out of date as I was researching several years sgo and getting arthritis was a massive disappointment so I stopped watching it (as it just kept reminding me of what I was unable to do!).

MOST USEFUL OF ALL: Each trail has an "Association" (that has volunteers that maintain the trail/signs, etc.) that record hikers, provide info, permits, etc. so they will be the best and up-to-date source of information for each trail.

[ Edit: Edited on 15-Oct-2020, 13:39 GMT by Psamathe ]

8. Posted by calliealbert (Inactive 5 posts) 17w Star this if you like it!

I recommend that people throw in a headlamp into their backpack just in case you get delayed on the trail