Tips For A Successful Thru Hike

by | Oct 24, 2018 | 2 comments

Tips For A Successful Thru Hike

There are many tips for a successful thru hike, but the best lessons are learned through failure. I was scrolling through Facebook recently and came across an excellent video by Jeremy Coody. Sadly, the video has been removed, but the lessons are timeless. Jeremy is an Appalachian Trail hiker who abandoned his hike in 2018 due to injury. He shares valuable insights for a successful thru hike that might make a difference for you!

I don’t know Jeremy or much of his story, but he hits on many of the key points that can make or break a hike. His top five pieces of advice create a solid foundation for any hiker. Let’s look at his “Top 5” and further break them down.

Tips For A Successful Thru Hike

Training Matters For A Successful Thru Hike

Jeremy discusses how assuming you will get in shape on the trail is not a good strategy. I could not agree more! There will be an adjustment as the body gets into a hiking rhythm daily.

Bodies need time to adjust to carrying an extra 20-30lbs after all. Here’s where the training months beforehand come in. If you take the time to properly train and get in shape, you decrease the stress on your body and make that transition smoother. Decreasing the stress is what reduces your chance for injury!

Nutrition Matters For A Successful Thru Hike

Jeremy also mentions that you should only bring what you know you will eat to reduce pack weight. The military has done numerous studies on pack weight and injury rates and found a strong correlation. Hikers on the Pacific Crest Trail took an average of a week longer for each pound in their pack. You can visit Halfway Anywhere and search through his yearly surveys to learn more about pack weight for hikers. A light pack won’t guarantee a successful thru hike, but it can reduce stress on your body and improve your comfort.

Listen to Past Hikers

Jeremy eludes that past PCT, AT, or CDT hikers have a wealth of information, and if they are willing to share it with you, listen. Before we left for our PCT hike this year, I spent much time at Halfway Anywhere, pouring over Mac’s surveys. I really like that there was a similar “Top 5” list, a pass down to next year’s cohort. Each year hikers consistently comment they had trained more and eaten better while on the trail.

Pack Weight Matters

Similar to excess food adding weight, Jeremy discusses unneeded items causing excess pack weight. If you are not using an item to get where you need to go, he advises you to ditch the unused item. I typically carry a deck of cards and travel cribbage board for downtime at camp and I used them often. However, on my PCT hike, I rarely used them and wound up sending them back home. Interstingly, PCT hikers reduce their pack base weight by nearly 3lbs on average each year. As the miles add up, hikers become more aware of what they need and use to be comfortable.

Listen to Your Body

This is a great last point by Jeremy. Pain is a lagging indicator that something is wrong. There are actually signs that your body gives you before pain sets in, but they are easily ignored. Maybe it’s a tight muscle daily, a nagging foot pain, a hot spot, swelling, or something worse. Sharp, stabbing or electric sensations are not good, nor is a deep ache or pain with certain motions. These are signs that need to be listened to. Days will be hard, and you will have sore muscles, but learning to distinguish between pain and discomfort is very important for a successful thru hike.

Updated 5/8/24


author avatar
Lee Welton