While planning any long distance hike or backpacking trip takes a good chunk of time to research, plan and prepare for, it can be hard to even know where to begin! Here are 5 things you can take on action today to help get you a little closer to actually starting your thru hike or long ass section hike.
5 Ways to Kickstart Your First Thru Hike
Don’t feel like you have to do all these things at the same time! These are just some ideas to get you moving in the right direction. If you only have 30 minutes to spare, I get it, we are all busy. So just pick one thing to focus on right now and then add in some more action items while you’re watching tv, or in between loads of laundry, or while you’re bored at work (Kidding! Kind of.)
- Workout. You don’t have to be in body-builder or triathlete shape to attempt a thru hike or long backpacking trip, but being in the best shape you can manage before you start hiking will make your trip that much easier, more enjoyable, and help reduce risk of injury, aches and pains. So go get in a 30-60 minute workout today! Go for a walk or hike with a little weight in your pack. Go for a run, if you’re into running. Do an at home workout of squats, crunches and pushups or planks. Or search at home workouts on Pinterest and take your pick!
- Eat healthy, fuel your body. Start eating healthy, whole food, and cut out fast food and junk food. Start right now. Even if you already had a doughnut, or a few, for breakfast, the day doesn’t have to be ruined, make healthier choices from here on out to eat food that will fuel your body to help you hike longer and farther.
- Research the trail or area you’ll be hiking in. Carve out 20-60 minutes of your day, make yourself a cup of coffee or tea, grab a notebook, and start researching where you want to go. Make notes on when the best time of year is to hike there, do you need any permits, do you need any specialized gear like snowshoes, crampons, or a bear canister, start brainstorming a menu and meal ideas for your trip, what gear do you still need to buy, is there a well-reviewed guidebook for that trail – purchase it if you can afford to now.
- Order some gear. Do you still need gear for your hiking trip? I don’t know many people who can just drop hundreds or thousands of dollars of gear straight away, so it might be easier to accumulate your backpacking gear over time. If you already have your gear, do you need to fix it up in anyway? Maybe it’s time to wash that sleeping bag, or re-seam seal your tent, or re-waterproof your rain jacket? Get what you need to make that happen so your gear is good to go.
- Connect with other hikers. Most trails, at least in the US, have some sort of forum or Facebook group set up already as a place to connect with other hikers who either plan on hiking or have hiked in the area. Once you get past the internet trolls (they’re everywhere unfortunately) there is usually a lot of good information and tips specific to that area. These can also provide a way to potentially make hiking plans or meet up with other people, if you’re interested in that.
Don’t let these 3 things stop your hike
- Negativity from family members, friends, or coworkers. As soon you start saying your plans to go on a long backpacking trip out loud to other people – the opinions will fly free! Why? I have no idea, but don’t be surprised if people tell you what a bad idea it is, how dangerous it is, how you need to stay home and get a better job, on and on…. Just nod and smile and carry on. I really hope at least some of those people will be supportive of your hiking adventures, but there’s always at least one who will try to stop you. Don’t let them! They are the crazy ones, not you.
- Procrastination. For most people, the longer they put off their hiking plans, the less likely they will come to life. You might think oh, I’ll do it one day. I’ll start saving next month. I’ll start training next year. Start today. Start planning today. Start training today. Start saving money today. Every little bit counts and the sooner you start, the sooner you can make your trip a reality!
- Self-doubt. Don’t let self-doubt get in the way. It is totally normal to have doubts and fears, but don’t let them overtake you and make decisions based on them. What is it that you’re doubting? That you won’t be able to hike X miles in a day? Then go out and practice on some day hikes to build up your miles. That you don’t know how to hang a bear bag or set up your tent? Go practice in a state park or local campground or even the back yard. That you’ll get hurt? Go take a wilderness first aid class. That you’ll get lost? Take a navigation class and carry an emergency GPS. You get the idea 🙂
If you’re new to hiking or backpacking, it’s ok if you don’t become an expert overnight. It takes time and practice to get used to your gear, get in a groove of hiking, set up and tear down camp every day, so just start with one thing today (or this week.) Tackle one thing at a time until you feel comfortable piecing it all together in a shakedown hike and you’ll get where you want to go.
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Let me know in the comments what one thing you are struggling within planning your first thru-hike or long-distance backpacking trip.
For more inspiration and tips on hiking the Appalachian Trail, check out these posts:
- Inspirational Outdoor Quotes
- How to tell your unsupportive family about your hiking shenanigans
- 22 Tips For AT Thru Hikers
- Put a Positive Spin on Hike Your Own Hike