Thru-hikes are expensive

DSC_7918-1: More hikers
Image by stannate via Flickr

If you’re gearing up for a major thru-hike this spring, make sure you have enough money set aside for the undertaking. Thru-hikes are expensive. Over the years, I’ve met hikers, usually young people, who had simply run out of money and had to give it up. On the Appalachian Trail in 2003, I remember one hiker ran out of money just as he crossed over from New Hampshire to Maine. 

Let’s consider the Appalachian Trail, 2178 miles long. The days of averaging a dollar a mile are long gone, although it can be done. Twenty-three years ago, Roland Mueser, in his later book, Long Distance Hiking–Lessons from the Appalachian Trail, came up with an average cost of $3200.00 dollars or about $1.50 a mile. But that was 1989.

The above averages included equipment, food, hostels and campgrounds, motels and boarding houses, restaurant meals, travel, phone, mail, equipment and clothing along the way (new footwear, for example), and miscellaneous items. He’d sent out a questionnaire to all the thru-hikers that year (1989) and also found that younger and older hikers spent the same amount of money.

So what about today? Figure about $2.50 a mile, or $5500.00 for the A.T., and that is conservative. One recent blogger said he wouldn’t feel comfortable unless he had saved $10,000 for the hike.

The problem of added expenses arrises when you take extra time in towns along the trail. And who doesn’t want to get clean, eat hardy, and get extra sleep after a rough week in the wilds? I couldn’t wait to get into a town. I had trouble sleeping in hostels and preferred a private room. Early on during my treks, I’d hit town and leave the next morning, but somewhere in the middle of every thru-hike I’ve done, I’d start taking zero days. I loved taking that extra day to rest, read, and let my body catch up.

Put any extra money aside. It would be a shame after all your planning and training to fall short because you ran out of money.

Hiking the Appalachian Trail
Appalachian Waterfall
Appalachian Trail thru-hike
A. T., New Hampshire

Published by Ray Anderson

Hiker and writer. Have hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, The Long Trail (Vermont), and some of the Continental Divide Trail. My trail name is "HAMLET." Have written three hiking novels (thrillers). The first one, "THE TRAIL," was traditionally published in 2015. My second hiking thriller, "SIERRA," released Oct 2016. Book three in my AWOL hiking-thriller series, "THE DIVIDE" releases from Turner Publishing 8/18/2020.

6 thoughts on “Thru-hikes are expensive

  1. Wow! That’s hard to believe, but I’m guessing it’s about right. One tends not to think about that sort of thing when you’re hiking, but 3 or 4 months of backpacking food and hostels would really add up!

  2. Wow that seems to be a lot of money. I mean if you sleep in hostels and restaurant whenever you pass by a village it seems reasonable but I think I’d spend less than that. I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I do it 😀

    1. Yes, it does seem high, but the expenses sneak up on you. Especially if you are out there 5-6 months and take zero days. The costs include all initial equipment to do a thru-hike. Let me know how you make out.

  3. Makes you wonder if the trail magic that use to happen has turned into trail capitalism. How much do I pay for what I need right off of the trail as opposed to somewhere else? Are the thru-hikers being preyed upon these days?

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