For true adventurers, thru-hiking can be an incredible experience and a truly rewarding achievement that you’ll remember for life. But it’s not for the faint hearted!
What is thru-hiking?
A thru-hike is a long distance walking trail, which is completed from start to finish in one hiking season. It takes months to complete and, similar to a marathon, needs planning, training and a lot of stamina.
For people who love adventure in the great outdoors, thru-hiking is a fantastic way to connect with nature and discover breath-taking views, while challenging yourself to your limits.
How to prepare for a thru-hike
Taking on a thru-hike is no easy fate and it’s important to be fully prepared and know what to expect. You’ll need to be very fit and have experience of walking long distances while carrying weight.
In the months leading up to your thru-hike, you should begin training, increasing the intensity slowly over time. Start with an empty pack and a short hike, then gradually add a little more weight to your pack and a little more distance to your walk each day.
You’ll also need to plan your thru-hiking diet. Educate yourself on what low-weight and low-prep foods are best for giving you that much needed energy. You’ll need to pack enough foot and fluids to keep you going for several days at a time too – corner shops and Starbucks’ aren’t so frequent out in the wild!
It’s important to have an itinerary for your thru-hike too. You may not stick to it entirely, but having a basic plan in place will ensure that you have small, achievable goals to meet. It’s also a safety measure! Make sure you share your final thru-hike itinerary with a couple of friends or family members before you leave. This will ensure that people know roughly how far along the walking trail you’ll be at a given time. It’s also a good idea to check in with someone at least once a week to let them know where you are and how you’re doing.
You can find lot’s more helpful tips on planning a thru-hike at www.cleverhiker.com/blog/21-pro-tips-for-the-first-time-thru-hiker
The best thru-hiking footwear
The footwear you choose for your thru-hike is incredibly important. If you’re going to be walking 2,000+ miles in the space of a few months, you need to have footwear that will keep you comfortable and provide support.
Whether you choose walking boots or walking shoes is a personal choice. Some people prefer the ankle support and extra stability that comes with walking boots, while others prefer walking shoes which allow more bend and flex at the ankle. There’s no right or wrong choice here, so it may be worth trying out both on a shorter hike to see what works best for you.
Whatever you choose, your thru-hiking footwear will need to be lightweight and durable, with good grip that can tackle varied terrain. You’ll also need to consider the varying weather during your journey and ensure that you are wearing the same thickness socks as you’re planning to wear on your thru-hike when trying them on, to ensure the fit is right.
Hi-Tec recommend choosing breathable, waterproof walking boots with a Vibram or Michelin outsole and Ortholite Impressions memory foam insoles. A good cushioning insole and midsole will be a welcome addition to your footwear on a thru-hike. Not only are you going to be on your feet a LOT, but the terrain can be very challenging in places. You don’t want to be feeling every little rock underfoot.
Make sure you do your training in the footwear you’re planning to wear on your thru-hike too. This will ensure they’re fully worn in which will reduce the risk of dreaded blisters!
Take your time
Thru-hiking is NOT a race. It’s an experience. A lifetime experience that will stay with you forever. But also a very challenging one.
So make sure you listen to your body and take it at a realistic pace.
And more importantly - take the time to absorb your surroundings and stop to enjoy the view!
Keep your eyes peeled for part 2 of our thru-hiking blog, where we discover the top four long distance walking trails.