If you live at low altitude as the vast majority of people do, there's not a lot you can do to get ready for the thin air of a mountain hike. Taking a deep breath and holding it as long as you can will help develop your lung capacity. You can do this any time when you're sitting around. Time yourself and see if you are getting better at it. Other than that, just exercising will develop lung capacity.
like WIAPilot just said:
I'll be 24, just got finished with my 6 year contract with the Navy. I paid my car off the within 24 months as a deployment present, the biggest thing I own is a queen sized bed (I literally have no other furniture but that). I have no wife, no kids, maybe $150 (gym, phone) in bills a month. I'll have all my college paid for thanks to the GI bill, and by the time I'm ready to hike I'll have already registered for school and be ready to hit the books the minute I get off the trail.
I actually plan to do the PCT during one of my summer breaks from school, and possibly even try and split the CDT during the summers as well.
One step at a time. I have to keep telling myself to not sprint the marathon. I'm 500 miles into my SOBO thru and have to keep telling myself one day at a time. It's the hardest thing I've ever done, but easily the most rewarding as well
There are so many things that go into making that decision. Its a foolish and selfish endeavor but you have to put one foot in front of the other.
I hiked after working for 5 years post college. I fit in the category between the two obvious choices of before a career and after retiring. Making the hike a priority is only party of it, but probably the most important part. I was successful because I decided that all the reasons why I shouldn't thru hike, according to all those who I talked to about the idea, were not important to me. I made the decision, packed my bags and left. If doing this is important enough to do, you will find a way. Thru hikes are actually incredibly cheap compared to living life off trail. Rent and other life costs are expensive and prohibitive to adventures like a thru hike. If you can find a way to drop them for the duration of a hike, it will open your eyes to an entirely new world without obligations to society.
Best of luck with the decision, it's not an easy one to make.
For my AT thru-hike I put aside enough money to cover what I'd though my thru-hike expenses would be while I was on the Trail. Then, when I was hiking I traded stocks three times and made enough profit to cover the cost of my thru-hike and the expenses afterward before starting another job. One of the things I'd noticed on my AT thru-hike (most people notice it also, not just me) was how things always seem to work out when you're thru-hiking the AT. Excellent Good Half Moon mentioned to me on my thru-hike in Damascus (in Quincy's Restaurant) it was foolish to spend the time on the AT trading stocks. He was correct in that during the time I was trading stocks on my AT thru-hike my on-trail mentality was corrupted by thinking about my trades -- so I wouldn't recommend that as a means to finance a thru-hike.
For traveling and hiking in the South Pacific and hiking in Scotland I'd saved gobs of money because the AT had shown me just how little I needed financially to be happy and that made my saving rate soar.
To become a PCT 2600 miler (which was so embarrassingly expensive for me compared to the AT) I'd made a course correction in my career to become an expert in something that is highly enjoyable to me as well as something in high demand by Corporate America. That, along with leading a frugal lifestyle and quite a bit of success with investing, provides the finances to fund the adventures on the PCT and a part of the (even more expensive and equally enjoyable) adventures on the CDT.
These are just part of the positive experiences and positive learning that came out of thru-hiking the AT. I could go on all day about the positive aspects that come out of an AT thru-hike.
If you've got now kids, an understanding (or no) wife, and like to hike and are fairly fit: How can you NOT go?
I rented my house out, and put my business on hold until I got back.
I found out I liked hiking a lot more than working, so: I did it about every other year for about 14 years.
Now, I can't (wife and kid) so, I just cyber hike and dream of the day when I'll be back (when the kids old enough) (don't care if the wife wants to go or not, I'm going!)
I still do day hikes and overnighters just to remember how good it can get out there (silence, nature, wild animals, finding my way and water, and places to set up shelter, etc.)
Priorities is Everything!
Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams
Actually, a popular way this year seems to be getting fired or laid off. Met several thru-hikers who were drawing unemployment.
Im starting to plan a NOBO 13 hike, currently I have a job but its only a job to make a few bucks before the life job comes about. When the time gets closer I'm leaning towards quitting and hittin trail !
Things in my life are just lining up to allow it and I feel I am suppose to do it. When I feel such a calling you just do it regardless of what the circumstances around me are. I have never been disappointed in doing so. I also see it as a door opening in my life to much better things, so not to do it would not make sense.
When I first read the title for this thread, the first thing that came to mind was not the financial and other physical difficulties you must overcome to thru-hike, but rather the mental difficulties. This is a bit of a turn on the thread, pretty sure it will go ignored but worth posting I suppose. Once a thru-hiker gets through the financial and family obligations, and actually gets on the trail, how does he play the mental game of motivating himself to get up and hike everyday for 6 months? I love hiking, but after 4 days in the woods I'm ready to go home. Is it just me, or is there something I'm missing?
I don't know if there's a "one size fits all" answer to this, but for a lot of people it's a matter of initially adapting to and then liking and thriving in the lifestyle. I can recall some trips in the past where I was ready to go home after 4 days too, so I'm not sure that means that you would never enjoy it. Hard to say, really. I do think that if a person has to work hard to "play the mental game of motivating" themselves each day after being on trail for a while (a few weeks), then perhaps indeed thru-hiking isn't going to be their thing. With enough will-power a person can gut it out and endure all sorts of things but --- life's too short, no? (!)"I love hiking, but after 4 days in the woods I'm ready to go home. Is it just me, or is there something I'm missing? "
PCT: 2008 NOBO, AT: 2010 NOBO, CDT: 2011 SOBO
It just so happened I found the consecutive 195 days on my AT thru-hike most enjoyable. Quiet for the most part and pretty much stress-free except for the occasional face-plant, fantastic scenery, intelligent people, people with a sense of humor, everyone having a common goal (getting to Katahdin), everyone going through the same Georgia challenges (blisters, cold weather, soreness from sleeping on a Ridgerest, knees that hurt all the time, how does this stove work again questions).
Another thing -- once you're in relatively good trail shape, the challenge isn't as physical anymore -- it's not that the pains have gone away, you just don't notice them as much and have accepted the pain as part of the life of a thru-hiker. Northbound thru-hikers are usually in trail shape by Damascus, VA (milepoint 454 or so for a northbounder). Being in trail shape means the mountains don't seem quite as mentally daunting as they did in Georgia. So in the grand scheme of things, the ability to foresee that you can actually complete your thru-hike, if you choose to do so, becomes evident. That milestone -- seeing that you can actually do this and complete your AT thru-hike -- becomes extremely important to reach for Type A personalities. Seeing that the impossible (from looking at the map) is actually possible provides mind-blowing encouragement.
For me I think three of the most important elements to just wanting to get up and start hiking every day were:
a) hiking with people around me who had a sense of humor -- hiking with those people was loads of fun everyday. You can't have Jester up ahead of you leaving messages in the shelter register about the upcoming climb of High Cock Knob in Virginia ("It's not much of a climb if you hike it during cold weather.") and finding yourself laughing out loud. Other examples -- Godfather walking up to the first shelter design we'd seen on the AT where there was a moat in the front of the shelter and Godfather remarking, "That's where the home improvement loan ran out." We would see the Shelter With Moat design used extensively up north months later -- the moat is evidently used to ward off the chewing porcupines that eat the shelter boards for the salt). I actually carried a mirror during the first days of my AT thru-hike and woke up one morning to discover Don King was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail -- the mirror got disposed of at The Blueberry Patch near the Georgia/North Carolina line along with a pile of other "extra stuff" I was carrying up and down the mountains. Trail economist Ziggy on Day 2 coming down the side of the mountain to where Godfather, Harriot Tubman and I were sitting at a picnic table -- Ziggy, holding out a can in front of himself saying, "Hey, did you know people are dropping cans of tuna on the Trail?" After the laughter settled down we'd spent a good half hour trying to figure out how to open all the tuna cans Ziggy had scarfed up from the dirt up until I remembered I had a P-38 in my pack.
b) starting my AT thru-hike in relatively good shape
c) having done a considerable amount of prep hiking, including a considerable amount of hiking in the rain, prior to starting my AT thru-hike. -- to prepare for the AT I hiked 10 mile hikes several times every week after work while wearing my full backpack. Then I did several weekend overnight hikes and eventually did several week long hikes. Some of those were in the rain and snow and some were during times of excessive heat and humidity. All of that sure got me prepared for hiking in the rain for extended periods of time and hiking in the heat and humidity of Virginia.
That last item -- previous experience hiking in the rain -- was pretty important because I hiked in the rain all the time on my AT thru-hike and had already been used to hiking in the rain before I started at Springer Mountain. The shock value of always hiking in so much rain wasn't as big of deal to me as it was to some of the others. And Year 2000 when I did my AT thru-hike wasn't near as bad for rain as had been experienced by previous classes.
One of the concepts I've talked about in the past when preparing and completing a thru-hike is the idea of understanding "Incrementalism". This is where a small amount of consistent progress, made every day, adds up to big accomplishments over a period of time. One of the challenges of a thru-hike is to overcome the feeling that it can never be done. That "normal" people can't carry a backpack for more than 2,000 miles through rain and wind and snow and sleet.
Once the idea of Incrementalism is understood, doors that were once closed open up fully to you. You begin to understand that even seemingly huge monumental challenges can always be chunked into 12 mile days.
Here's a graphic that explains the idea of Incrementalism:
Thank you for the time and effort you put into that response. It is appreciated.