Beginnger's Guide to Thru-Hiking (Part II)

By Colleen McVay | May, 2020

Welcome back to part II of a Beginner’s Guide to Thru-Hiking! After researching, trail planning, and registering your hike (check out my last article for more details), the real fun can begin! This article will discuss the physical preparation and gear selection that goes into your thru-hike.

Physical Training: 

Proper physical and mental preparation is critical in the success of your hike, staying injury-free, and having a more enjoyable experience in general. Although individual training needs vary between people and trail lengths, it is recommended that you prepare your body at least a few months ahead of your entry date. To consistently hike 10+ miles a day for hundreds of miles, a proper aerobic and resistance foundation is required. An example training plan includes:

  • Endurance training 3x per week (Increasing in frequency and intensity)
  • Strength training 2x per week (Targeting leg and core muscles)
  • Practice hikes 1x per week (Increasing pack weight with each hike)
  • Recovery or yoga stretching 1x per week (Promoting flexibility)

Gear Guide:

Choosing and organizing your gear is one of the most important steps in the planning process, as any unnecessary weight can be devastating. Although pack size will vary between hikers, a good rule is to pack no more than one quarter of your body weight. Some essential items to consider include:

  • Backpack (size and weight)
  • Shelter options (tent, bivy, etc)
  • Sleeping bag and pad (temperature, material and weight)
  • Solid and comfortable footwear
  • Water purification system
  • Lightweight (and warm) clothing
  • First aid and hygiene necessities
  • Food/cookware

This helpful article compares lightweight backpacking gear and provides a sample gear list. The best way to finalize your gear selection is to go out on practice trips and see what gear is crucial for you!

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