As some of you may know, this Spring I will be heading off to tackle my first major Thru Hike. I will be thru hiking the Continental Divide trail. As I have begun to prepare for this I thought some of you might be curious as to the status of my preparations, and who knows, maybe this might give you some ideas on how to prepare for your next hike. Hope you enjoy!
So, I have some quick questions for you…
Have you ever gone on a hike? Chances are you have, and that you know what to throw in your day pack.
Ever gone on a weekend backpacking trip? If you’re visiting my website I bet you have, and like me, are confident in knowing how to pack and prepare.
Now, have you ever gone on a 6 month thru hike? Again odds are you are just like me and have not! This isn’t something that most outdoor enthusiasts do. This is a whole other level. So where do we begin?
So how does one start preparing for 6 months on the trail? That’s a good question, and I’m not even sure I know the answer yet! I think it’s different for everyone. Some may take years to prepare, preferring to map out every single detail, and some probably just wing it. I think I fall somewhere in-between. I struggle with wanting to just be on trail, and with wanting to be prepared as possible. When I decided I was going to Thru Hike the Continental Divide Trail (CDT), I had no idea how to even start the preparation process. I was just in awe by the challenge and rewards the hike would bring. Now, with only 3 short months until I start hiking, I still have so many questions and worries. As the time gets closer till I step off, the pressure on my preparations grow.
I consider myself to be a pretty organized guy. I love making lists! So naturally I started to put together a to-do list of sorts to help me organize my thoughts and put to paper all the things I need to accomplish before the hike. As the list grew I realized I could group things together into categories such as: research, gear prep, personal to-do items, and travel arrangements. Once this was put together a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders and I felt better knowing and seeing on paper what I had to do. The next step? To start checking these items off my list. This is where the real time and energy is spent in preparing for a thru hike.
I also thought it important to strike up conversations with experienced thru hikers. This is a great way to learn. I suggest buying them a beer (or three), and picking their brain. Ask them questions you have, even ones that seem so minute. I find that most are willing to share their experiences, and what they’ve learned. Be sure to listen to their stories, pay attention to the hard times and the good times they had. At the very least, maybe you’ll make a few new friends! And of course, get to drink some delicious beer!
3 Big Areas of Preparation:
Quite possibly the most important thing to prepare. There are so many things to consider when putting together your pack for a thru hike: How long is the hike? What weather will you run into? Is being ultralight important to you? Are you solo or with someone? How long will you go between resupplies? Most of what you choose to put together for your hike will be based on personal preference. If you’re like me and are working toward the lightest pack possible, you’ll want to start weighing your gear. Determine your base weight, which is basically everything you’re carrying that isn’t a consumable (this is disregarding food and water). This would include your pack, your sleep system, your shelter, your cook gear, clothing, etc. Now there are exceptions when it comes to being ultralight, most of us like to carry what are called “luxury items” that add weight. For me this is my phone, battery pack, headphones, and possibly a small journal.
**I hope to share with you all my base weight gear set up in a future post, so stay tune**
For me navigation is something I am not quite 100% confident with. The fear of getting lost in a vast wilderness is quite real. From what I currently know about the CDT, it is most definitely not the PCT or AT. By this I mean, it is less traveled, not as well marked, and there are so many route choices. So in preparation I want to make sure I have my maps, know how to read and navigate by them, have a compass (and know how to use it), and have a backup GPS system just in case. For this particular hike, I got myself two map sets to choose from. One is the Ley Maps, put together and offered for free by Jonathan Ley. Second are the Bear Creek maps, which can be found here. I also recommend downloading the Guthook app onto your smartphone. This app has downloadable routes that you can follow on trail, even when your phone is in airplane mode. Again, with this being my first true thru hike, I also plan to carry a GPS as a backup.
I decided to put personal arrangements here because I thought it was very important, and here’s why: I want to make sure that when I’m out on trail the only worries I have are about the basics of hiking. Making sure I’m staying healthy, have enough water, and am on the correct path towards my goal. I don’t want to be worrying about things at home, or distracted by a nagging thought about something I should have done before I left to hike for 6 months. I also want to be able to enjoy the beauty that is the hike, and being in the wild. So I highly recommend making sure your affairs are in order before you head out. Set up auto bill pay for any bills you might have, have your stuff safely put in storage (if that’s the case), and make sure you’re loved ones are well informed about your plans.
As always I’d love to hear your comments and suggestions. If you have any specific questions about my preparations, either leave a comment below or email me directly. I’d love to chat!