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.