You’re just walking in the woods, why would it cost that much?!
Of all the reasons people quit their thru-hike–injuries, family/friends responsibilities, exhaustion–running out of money is one of the biggest. The exact amount needed is different for everyone and will require a thorough examination of your current situation. That said, most estimates are about $4-8,000 total.
This is a wide estimate and you could land on either end of that figure. Do you already have lightweight backpacking gear or will you need to buy some? If so, will you buy it new or used? Are you ok only eating what others decide not to pack (free from the hiker box) or are you buying big meals in town? How often are you staying in hotels and how many people are you splitting the room with? All these decisions, made now or later on the trail, will factor into how much the journey will cost.
Below is the amount I have spent and saved, including my financial responsibilities back home. I’ll update my total cost at the end of the trip, but for now, here is what I’ve spent or saved for bills so far. These are estimated for 6 months on the trail.
Here is the full list of gear I’ve collected over the past few years:
THE BIG 3 (OR 5):
- *Zpacks Arc Blast Backpack – $200
- I bought this used.
- *Six Moon Designs Lunar Solo tent – $178
- Pro tip: Six Moon Designs does a great holiday sale all of December.
- *LocoLibre Ghost Pepper Quilt -$269
- LocoLibre also does a holiday sale.
- Sea to Summit Reactor Thermolite Sleeping Bag Liner – $58
- Therm-a-rest NeoAir XLite – $120
* These three links are directly to the makers. Ultralight gear is made and sold by very small shops. I’m not affiliated with these companies, but do love their gear!
- Brooks Racey 7″ shorts – 34
- Lucy Revolution Run Top – $50
- Mountain Hardwear hoodie – $30
- Patagonia Barely Bra – $31
- Altra Lone Peak 2.5 – $43
- I bought these used.
- Injinji Run Lightweight Toe Socks – $12
- Patagonia Capilene Thermal bottoms – $62
- Patagonia Capilene midweight top – $29
- Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer Down Jacket – $130
- Injinji Trail Midweight Toe Socks – $15
- Darn Tough Merino Wool Socks – $27
- Marmot Essence Rain Jacket – $200
- DIY Rain Skirt – $3
- Gloves – $22
- Columbia Omnishield Beanie – Free/Gift
KITCHEN & WATER:
- MSR PocketRocket Stove – $40
- Sea to Summit X-Pot – $45
- Gerber UL Knife – 14
- Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter – Gift
- Black Diamond Trekking Poles – $70
- Bought used.
- Sea to Summit pocket towel – $10
- Petzl Reactik + Headlamp – $79
- Anker PowerCore 10000 – $33
- Shovel – $20
- DeLorme InReach Explorer – $304
- Subscription – $320 (for the year, Recreation plan)
Total gear price = $2448
*There are things that I did not include on this list, such as first aid kit, lighter, journals, pens, etc. I will also be buying a few pairs of shoes along the way and will likely be replacing clothes, so the total might jump closer to $3,000.
My current food strategy is to ship myself dehydrated and specialty items, like powdered coconut milk, that I’m unlikely to find along the way. I”ll supplement that with food in town and items like bars.
So far, I’ve spent about $300 preparing meals and extra snacks to ship. This is of course, not enough food, and I expect the total will be closer to $1,500-$2,000. This is the estimate that past hikers have given, not including restaurants. Again, this can be dependent on personal diet and if you’re willing to eat whatever is left in hiker boxes, and how many boxes you’re shipping.
Here’s where things really start adding up for me. My financial responsibilities do not stop while I’m on the trail. If I really needed it, I suppose I could defer my student loans for a few months. However, I’d like to pay them off someday.
Here is a list of my bills based on 6 months on the trail:
- Rent – $2685
- Student Loans – $1540
- Phone – $430
- Dog food & emergency funds – $860
- Travel Insurance – $400
- Plane Tickets – $129
Costs while on trail:
I’ve seen recommendations to plan for about $1,000 a month while on the trail. This will cover food (part of that $1,500-2,000), hotels, going out and new gear purchases. For me, this means another $5,000-6,000, on top of what I’ve already spent or saved for life. Honestly, I am cutting it really close with my budget and will need to find ways to lower my spending while on the trail. Maybe I’ll find a campsite in town rather than a hotel, bum a shower from someone who is staying at a hotel, scavenge out of the hiker box for food or gear, and go out less to restaurants while in town.
So far, the total I have spent on gear, food, and saved for bills is about $8792. This is not including what I will spend on trail. Once I have finished, I’ll update with a follow up (Part 2) of my total.
For me, this number is OBSCENE! The only way I could pay for all of my gear was to collect over a few years. I did not purchase all at once and I have used most of it. Everyone’s financial responsibilities are different. You might be doing this on far less or much more.
Overall, I’m glad that I took the time to accumulate my gear, giving plenty of time to test it. The past couple years gave me opportunity to save more money and feel comfortable with taking this much time off.
How about you? What would your total look like? If you’ve thru-hiked before, what was your total cost? Comment below.