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Imagine kissing your job and your friends goodbye to thru-hike a long trail over six months, then quitting the trail in just a couple of days. As loony as that sounds, it is what happens to hundreds of people every season as they are surprised by the reality of a thru-hike. About one in five prospective Appalachian Trail thru-hikers quit within the first week!

What's even more surprising is that most of those who quit don't do it because they suffer an injury. In fact, most who quit have no ailments and they adore backpacking. Their love for the outdoors is what motivated them to thru-hike a trail in the first place. They love backpacking and figure a thru-hike is a natural extension of that love.

Such reasoning is flawed, because backpacking and thru-hiking are different species.

People don't discover this pre-thru-hike because they simply rely on their limited backpacking experience, their gut instinct, or Uncle Harry who supposedly knows everything. This article is for people who are considering thru-hiking a long trail and want to make sure they know what they're getting into.


  • Introduction
  • Gear Selection
  • The Backpacking Paradox
  • Learning from Trail Lore
  • Physical and Mental Preparation
  • Food Selection
  • Conclusion

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