A Beginner's Guide to Thru-Hiking: Part I

A Beginner's Guide to Thru-Hiking: Part I

By Colleen McVay / April, 2020

What is Thru or Section-Hiking?

Thru-hiking describes the act of backpacking end-to-end of a long distance trail, such as the Pacific Crest or Appalachian Trail. These treks require extensive preparation, training, and knowledge in the backpacking field, as well as an appreciation for the natural wonders that come with them. 

I’ll be writing this series as I prepare for my own section thru-hike this summer through the John Muir Trail, documenting my tips for how a beginner can prepare for a similar adventure. These blogs will be in conjunction with “Mari’s Thru-hiking Basics” OA video series, so be sure to check out her videos on how to properly pack your backpack, recipe tips, and more!

Initial Considerations:

Before deciding if you want to embark on a long distance trek, it's helpful to establish that you will be physically, mentally, and financially able to do so. Some considerations include:

  • The mental challenge of living out of your backpack for months on end.
  • The physical training required for hiking 10+ miles a day.
  • The financial obligation of gear, food, and little income for a long period.
  • The extended time commitment and seasonal weather patterns. 

Where to Begin:

Once decided to follow through with your trek, the exciting planning process can begin! It’s helpful to start reading up on the basics of your specific trail through their websites, like the Pacific Crest Trail Association and the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, or look into classes offered at your local REI store. I also joined Facebook and website communities devoted to thru-hikes, to get a sense for current conditions, gear advice, and personal stories. 


Registering Your Hike:

The next step requires you to decide your entry/exit points and obtain permits for access to certain high demand locations (necessary for most of the PCT). and are two great resources for obtaining backcountry National Forest and state park permits. This OA video delves into great detail on how to apply for backcountry permits for the JMT, check it out here!

I hope you follow along with this blog series to learn more about route planning, gear specifics, physical preparation, food basics, and more!

Adventure Responsibly!

1025 Ext. Circle Dr. 

Davis, CA. 95616.

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