View Full Version : any $2,000 hikers out there?

09-09-2003, 10:59
okay- i've read every piece of information i can find on who spent how much on the trail and i'm more confused now than ever. i've seen everything from $1-2 per mile and sometimes much more than that. i realize there are a huge number of variables but i was hoping that maybe some people who spent roughly $2,000 (not including gear and transportation) could tell me about how they spent their money. like, did you avoid towns? did you do mail drops and did those count in your $2,000 costs? i'm hoping to make it on roughly $2,000 so any advice would be greatly appreciated.
thank you! thank you! thank you!

Blue Jay
09-09-2003, 12:45
Yes, avoid towns. Try to only go into those that have cheap accomodations, even for a mail drop. It is so easy to fall to temptation and stay. You have to do Neros as opposed to Zeros. Make sure you get up early within 5-8 miles of the town. Get in do laundry, eat cheap, pick up mail drop/buy some food and get out. It is unfortunate but you may have to limit your social group. Many, but certainly not all, hikers spend much more than $2000. You have to have the will to hike past them. Also if you can stand it, after you buy something, smile and politely ask grocery stores and restaurants if you can sweep floors or clean up around their dumpsters in order to look inside. Usually they will happily give you leftover food. Many rich hikers look down on this, afraid that it will harm the "reputation" of hikers. My regular stops would tell you otherwise. Rich/drunk irresponsible yuppie hikers are the ones who look down upon/piss off the locals.

09-09-2003, 13:07
If you knock out gear and transport costs, I spent about $2500 on the PCT, which is about 500 miles longer than the AT. That would be less than a dollar a mile. If you count in the cost of two flights, two bus rides, four pairs of shoes, and twelve pairs of socks, then the total would $1000 higher.

I lived very well and, when in town, I spent freely. However, I wasn't in town that often and was only out for 3.5 months, rather than the 5 or 6 months that alot of AT hikers are out for. I bought in stores as I went. With one exception, I shared motel rooms with other hikers. I paid for 14 motel rooms total, usually split with one to three others. If you want to keep costs down, either share rooms with lots of hikers (some places do NOT like this), or camp in town (go under a bridge, in a local campground, etc), or try to get into town early, get your stuff done, and get out by sundown. Unless you are really committed, eating out the hiker box won't save you an appreciable amount of money.

Highlander II
09-09-2003, 16:25
I spent about $1800 for my thru-hike this year. This included travel to and from the trail (about $400), food and misc. supplies which I boaght along the way, and hotel stays (I think I stayed 8 nights in hotels). Gear cost was about another $1000 and the minimal maildrops I had didn't run more than $100. Like Chris, I was only out for 3 1/4 months so that had some effect on the total cost. The most expensive part of the trip was not working...

In most of the towns I went into N of Waynesboro, I boaght my supplies and then got out of town. I wasn't really trying to avoid towns but was trying to do more miles and staying in town made that difficult. When I was in town I sometimes would buy a hot meal at a restaurant but most often I would just buy dinner at the grocery store -- soda, canned fruit, yogurt, etc (not trail food but also not a $15 meal at a restaurant.) I also seldom shared hotel rooms -- doing this would have saved even more.

09-09-2003, 17:25
If you want to know how I spent my $2000 along the way:

25% on groceries
24% on meals in towns
17% on lodging
20% on replacement equipment (like boots)
14% on snacks, ice cream, postage, showers, laundry, and other.

The money spent did not include the cost of groceries spend ahead of time for food drops.

Like others have posted, it was my preference not to linger in towns. The only zero's that I took were 2 days to go to Trail Days. But, I did do some neros.

09-09-2003, 18:24
Jeez, I hate to show my ignorance, but what is a "nero?"

09-09-2003, 19:01
Nero = Near Zero [day]

09-09-2003, 21:05
I did my thru hike in 99 at $2000 for the entire trip which did include maildrops and some zero days. However, it goes back to the words to hike your own hike... it takes planning and a desire to do your own thing and not be peruaded by a groupl to do other wise. Also as it has been said, plan on sharing the cost of a motel if you use one, also stay out of towns as much as possible and when in town don't be persuaded to spend the extra time. It is very expensive to spend a couple of days in town, especially once your hiker appetite gets into full swing. Some folks I saw fell prey to the party group along the way, and once they were into it, it was most every town and party as long as the money lasted and then they had to quit for lack of it.

I guess the best advice is to hike your own hike and be in control of your finances and time the entire trip and you will be able to do it on $2000 or less... Like everything in life, you have choices and you can choose to spend as much or as little as you want how you want...

By the way, I know some folks that spent probably 100 times that amount and still did not enjoy the trip as much as I did... it all depends on what you want it to be....

Hope this helps...


09-09-2003, 21:24
Hey Highlander II,
I met you at Upper Goose Pond the night we had the large group and played music. Congrats on finishing and hiking the Trail your own way.
A-Train 03

09-10-2003, 07:48
Please walkerat99, tell me that I mis-read you there. For $ 200,000, you could hire a sherpa to carry you the 2,170 miles.

09-10-2003, 10:38
The most that I have ever heard reported to spend on a thru was 10,000 by Special Forces (although he refused the trail name, and just wanted to be called John). He bought a new pack at every trail town, I swear. When we met him he was training for the PCT. The 10,000 was spent on a previous hike. What a character!

Gravity Man

09-10-2003, 10:49
thats a lot of ben n jerrys!

09-10-2003, 12:21
hey everyone,

thank you all for your advice and cost break downs- i agree that it's all about what each person needs and wants their hike to be. i guess i'm just not sure what i'll need or want until i'm actually out there and that's the hardest part of planning. i'd like to think that i could blow off town visits and be very frugal but who knows. so, i guess i'll just prepare as best i can for anything and deal with whatever happens as it happens!

thanks again!

09-10-2003, 20:33
Sorry about the typo, I meant 10 times that amount.... I would venture to say I knew of a couple of people that really did spend over $20,000 or more on the hike. Sorry about that.... my typing is not much better than my spelling..

Happy Trails.....


09-11-2003, 09:01
The best way not to run out of money is to scrimp and save now and get the money locked in. Otherwise, you will have to be careful with towns. Or, maybe go on wellfare for the summer.

09-11-2003, 09:57
well, great! i'm glad to hear that i'm not alone in my challenged wallet status! i just can't wait another year to save but, at the same time, i don't want to sacrifice the experience either. it's tough. Tracey, when are you looking at starting? i'm planning on mid-march. i think i'm also going to post on the page for people seeking partners- just to see if there aren't some more people who want to form a cost conscious crew. i think it could be easier to resist lingering in towns if you don't always have to wander back to the woods all alone.

(a.k.a. poor gal)

09-11-2003, 09:58

i almost forgot- the quote is from, Oh Baby! The Places You'll Go!

09-11-2003, 10:08
Get a second job if need be. Not having to worry or think about money on the trail is a real luxury. One that you don't want to pass up. Alternatively, apply for several credit cards. That will give you some extra money if you need it.

09-11-2003, 10:22

i agree. it would be ideal to get out there and just go with whatever, whenever i choose. unfortunately, i was late to get motivated to do this (reduces my months to save) and am already working two jobs (student loans are a joy and boston is a ridiculously expensive place to live). i've thought about the credit card thing but, i've gotten stuck wondering how i would budget to pay my monthly payments on those cards while i'm away. i'll figure it out. anyway, thanks for the input!

Moon Monster
09-12-2003, 01:16
I spent about a $1.10 per mile ($2370), and I don't feel like I scrimped at all. In fact, until I totalled it up, I thought I must have spent more like $3500. I ate everything I wanted to, I replaced a couple hundred bucks in gear, I stayed in three regular priced motels by myself, I took 14 zeros in trail towns or with friends, I ate four sit down high priced dinners, and I spent a couple hundred bucks on phone cards. What I didn't do was smoke, drink more than a couple beers at a time, figure out in Neels Gap what backpack I wanted, or take back-to-back zeros. I always made it a point to buy whatever I craved to eat and then save on lodging by going to the hostels or back to the trail for sleeping.

If I had insisted on calling home collect or at least sought more payphones that took incoming calls, then I could have done it all for $2,000. But, I knew my mom and family wanted to talk and I didn't mind paying 20/min. for it. But I would suggest having your family pay for the phone calls and supplementing them with liberal emailing.

09-12-2003, 08:16
Originally posted by Moon Monster
I knew my mom and family wanted to talk and I didn't mind paying 20/min. for it. But I would suggest having your family pay for the phone calls and supplementing them with liberal emailing. Phonecards are something for which shopping around is critical if you're going to be using them much. Pricing is all over the map.

For example, if you know someone with a Sam's Club membership, consider the AT&T phone cards from there -- 3.47 cents per minute. (I'm sure with some searching one could find lower, but these are easy to find and pretty reliable in my experience)

09-12-2003, 09:11
Originally posted by deeddawg
For example, if you know someone with a Sam's Club membership, consider the AT&T phone cards from there -- 3.47 cents per minute.Don't forget that the local payphone owner gets to charge you anywhere from 2-11 "minutes" just to make the call. I was a bit shocked the first time I went up to a payphone with my CC and was told an additional 9 "credits" (read "minutes") would be charged to make the call.

But for $35 for 1000 minutes at SAM's, you'll probably have more than enough minutes for the entire trip, unless you have kissed the blarney stone.

09-12-2003, 10:02
Regarding the money issue on a hike, I managed to do the trail last year on not much more than $1,100. I know that sounds very low and impossible, but for me it has just been a matter of practice over the last 12 years of hiking (and that still included all food eaten, postage, new walkman, pair of new shoes, hostels, and even pizza and ice cream). The first time I thru-hiked, I spent at least $2,000, and that was in 1991 when it was somewhat cheaper to hike. Then while the cost went up, I went the opposite direction and spent less and less. It's simply a matter of transitioning into and getting yourself used to a certain level of self-discipline. It can even become a game of "how little money can i spend in this town?" There are some basic and simple techniques that can go a long way toward this goal. The biggest of which is to minimize the amount of *time* spent in town, including not staying the night. For example, if you plan on getting to town around mid-morning, you can spend multiple hours there doing your resupply and other chores and head out with enough time to do several more miles by dark, or just to the first place out of town to pitch your tent, or whatever. If you restrict your town nights and days off in town to just a select few where you especially feel the extended town experience is vaulable, then you're already making a big cumulative difference over the whole trail. Selecting those places can be based on perhaps knowing ahead of time where the really cheap town lodging/camping is, working off your stay in a few places, and almost never doing motels (unless splitting it with a bunch of people).

Other ways to minimize cost include not being a drinker. for so many people, alcohol adds up to sometimes several hundreds of dollars on top of everything else. Also, eating at restaurants very selectively, and resisting the temptation for much of the time. This can actually be the hardest thing to do when hiking cheaply. but on the other hand, I got so used to my $1000 budget that if i had $2,000, it would feel like the whole hike was filled with town luxuries. So in the end, it's all very relative. Of course, for those spending $3000-5000, what you're trying to do is very difficult, but then again we can always shape our frame of reference to fit whatever the goal is. If you hike as if you can only spend 1000, then 2000 will feel perfectly reasonable.


09-12-2003, 10:21
I just wanted to chime in on the sam's club phone card. They are definitely the way to go for a thru hike. In fact, I even use mine at home for my long distance (programmed the phone number and pin into my auto dial). I've never seen a cheaper rate, and they are really easy to use. The card will charge you an additional 9 units (a whopping 36 cents) to use a pay phone. The pay phone company will not charge you more. They do charge you more when you are making a credit card call. I called home to get an answering machine from fontana dam on my first backpacking trip ever, and I was charged $35!!! I called complained, and they dropped it to $10 if I promised never to use their phones again. Oh, I agreed. On my thru I used the phone to call the Hike Inn. HA! Of course, that was local...

Oh, costco has them too...

Gravity Man

09-13-2003, 03:59
It's certainly best to save as much as you can before hiking as you don't want to have to abandon your hike if you run out along the way.

There are many opportunities along the way to pick up free food from the hiker boxes in the trail town hostels, post offices and hotels. But to avail your self of this you do need to visit these places when in town to check out their hiker boxes.

One young guy I hiked with in '02, Heavy D, supplemented his funds by asking locals if he could do odd jobs for them. I was quite impressed by his initiative and his willingness to get off his butt and earn money along the way. What a great example of American youth he is, a great youg guy!

Spirit Walker
09-13-2003, 12:04
If your bank does automatic payments, set some minimum amount, i.e. $100 month, to go toward your Visa while you are gone. Set it up now, so you can be sure the kinks are worked out. We did this in 1999. The $120 we paid each month was always more than the minimum due, so we were covered. We tried not to use the card too much, but hotels and such were taken care of, and we could use it for gear replacements (i.e. broken tent pole and water filter). Some people use theirs to get cash along the way, but the interest rate tends to be higher for cash advances. The ATM works better for that - no interest.

When we go next time, we'll do an automatic payment for the mortgage, electric bill, etc. It was easier when we were renting, but we still had to prepay the storage unit bill and have someone pay the car insurance bill when it came due in July.

Do you have anything you can sell? A garage sale can sometimes net a fair amount of money, plus it gets rid of stuff you otherwise have to store. Also, for Christmas this year, tell everyone that your only need is for money or REI gift certificates or phone cards.

Matt Pincham
09-15-2003, 07:54
I reckon my thru-hike in 2004 wont cost more than $2000. I no longer drink (except on some occasions), smoke the occasional cigarette (but wont do on the trail) and would be happy eating chilli con carne and snickers bars for eternity.
If the hostels/motels are as bad as I've read, I think I'd rather sleep in a shelter...at least the mice don't charge you!
I will phone home (UK) a couple of times but I'm not one for home sickness.
I truly hope that the experience I will gain on the AT will be life changing and I don't mind spending a few grand for it.
Take care all

09-15-2003, 10:17
thanks everyone for your suggestions- in reading everyone's thoughts i realize that i just have to do what i can do between now and starting and when i get out there it will become clear to me what the journey needs to be; whether it be hiking and relaxing in towns as far as my money will take me or if i really want to get to maine.

and, spirit walker- i'd forgotten about christmas! what a great idea! i think i'll tell folks i need phone cards and books of stamps.

thanks again everyone!

10-09-2003, 16:51
hey kt are you hiking south to north or north to south...im a SOBO hiker and im looking to find a few people who want to hike

10-09-2003, 17:40
You can hike for $2000 for sure but if you don't have to why do it! Personally I liked being able to buy what I wanted and eat what I wanted. If I took soem time here and there to do things I could. No pressure anywhere.

Personally I wasn't even going to risk a second of the AT experince for lack of cash.


p.s If I was doing it for a second time then maybe I could do it much cheaper.

$4000 no less baby!

10-09-2003, 17:44
Hikers who spend too much money buying luxuries miss out on the real trail experience....:D

10-09-2003, 17:53
I disagree....they just get a different experince! A more comfortable one.

If you have only $2000 dollars to spend then I guess that is all you have and that is the experince you will get! However isn't nice to have the option to stop and have a town stop when you feel like it, not because of what your bank account tell you. For many of us it is back to the daily grind afterwards, so why skimp when you can really enjoy yourself.

At lot has to do with what sort of hiker you are anyway. You may have a $10000 budget but only $2K because yourack up big miles and you are never in towns. However it is nice to have the option.


10-09-2003, 17:58
:banana :banana :banana :banana :banana

12-08-2003, 11:31
Funny what buys happiness.

Scenario One
College Grad. School Loan Payments, Mortgage, Car Loans, Insurance(s), Utilities, SkiMobile Payment, Car Maintenance, House Maintenace, Oil, Gasoline, Crappy-Takeout. Decides he/she wants to hike the AT. Scrapes together pennies from underneath the Acura Seats, and Leather Furniture. Struggles to sever ties of economic debt. Tries to hike on $2,000 with a mountain of debt collectors upon arrival home. Stress. (This excludes those who have the monstrous responsibility of kids).

Scenario Two
Average Joe Nobody. Small apartment, beat up Geo-Metro, Hot Dogs, Ramen, and window-sil Basil. Works nights at Cumberland Farms reading Tokien, and days at EMS playing with gear. One job pays his/her bills, one job pays for his/her hikes. Weekends for roadtrips. Works 6 months a year. Hikes on $6k-$7k for his other six months.

I'm in neither of these scenarios, but I'd like to move closer to the second one...
I've managed to eliminate all my debt, and I'm quitting the best job I've ever had this spring to go on a road trip around the continent doing day hikes. I hope to be an individual in Scenario #2 when I return. It's a bit of self-enlightenment I'm glad I had before digging myself too far into the Western Tradition. But HYOH, my $0.02.

12-09-2003, 02:31
Scenario Three
Early retired bloke, paid his dues working 30 years at a job most people wouldn't do, 2 ex-wives, no kids to speak of, house, car, close friends and 12 months a year/income to do what he damn well pleases. Wouldn't trade places with anyone.

12-09-2003, 07:28
My friend hiked last year and did it for 1400 dollars. Check out his journal @ Trailjournals......Jersey Joe is his name.

12-09-2003, 08:44
Weather carrot didn't mention this, being modest I guess. But there is a very good article @ http://www.whiteblaze.net/forum/wcadvice.php about hiking cheap. I plan on using this in 12 years when (hopefully) I get to retire & do the thru. Granted, by then a sub $2,000.00 hike will be nearly impossible, but the tips will still be valid. :D

Have a good hike no matter what. :jump


12-09-2003, 09:12
with drawn

warren doyle
12-09-2003, 19:45
Sneakers/running shoes bought in goodwill - never spent more than $3.00 a pair. I use about three pair per thru-hike = $6.00 total cost footwear.
Tarp - 7x9' nylon rain fly from tent bought at yard sale - Total cost of tent (only used tarp though) = $3
All clothing from Goodwill/Thrift stores = $25 approximately
55 gallon trash can liner for raingear; use 3 per thru-hike (20cents per bag)= 60 cents total
one ski pole - bought for $1 in a thrift store
Sleeping bag - fleece sleeping bag at walmart = $14
Sleeping pad - blue from Walmart (about $6)
Money spent on lodging on the hike - nothing
Money spent on alcohol/cigarettes on the hike - nothing
Food - on trail:little Debbie brownies, bread sandwiches, cheap cookies
in town: supermarket meals; AYCE meals primarily; leftovers on other people's tables
Socks - mostly ones I find on the trail and in laudramats along the way.
No stove; no hot meals.
Canteens - one nalgene - usually ones that are left behind at the Pipestem Gathering or at dance weekends

I very seldom buy any equipment/clothing that is new.

My main expense on the trail is AYCE meals including half gallons of ice cream (three meals at once! - had twenty in 2000)

Why waste poverty on the poor?
Reuse and recycle.

Rain Man
12-09-2003, 22:11
Money spent on alcohol/cigarettes on the hike - nothing

Warren, you get my vote on that cost savings. No need for either of those drugs on the trail. IMHO.


12-10-2003, 10:40

ford escort wagon baby..

window-sil basil

I gotta 160 sq ft small garden...supply myself with lots of food...good fresh stuff!

12-10-2003, 12:00

I bought a '90 5spd Dodge Caravan, removed the back seats, and turned it into a road-mobile. It gets like 35mpg! I still have my '97 Ranger Pick-Up parked in the drive-way that I'm trying to sell ($2500 if anyones interested!). All my family and friends shake their heads when they see me drive-by in my van :p

I am fortunate enough to have learned how to turn a wrench, so I spent 3 months rebuilding the engine, transmission, suspension, and brake system in the van. Originally I planned on leaving last spring, but I decided to stay another year to really rack up the savings. I plan to leave sometiem in April, and return the following spring.

Matt Pincham
12-18-2003, 20:16
Good for you Warren.

Nice to see someone who does the trail on the super cheap. I wish I could do the same but I'm going to have to afford myself some luxuries as it will be my first long distance hike.

Don't intend to stay at lodgings too much though. 1 night in a hotel/motel or a weeks food? I know what I'd go for.

12-18-2003, 21:23
okay- i've read every piece of information i can find on who spent how much on the trail and i'm more confused now than ever. i've seen everything from $1-2 per mile and sometimes much more than that. i realize there are a huge number of variables but i was hoping that maybe some people who spent roughly $2,000 (not including gear and transportation) could tell me about how they spent their money. like, did you avoid towns? did you do mail drops and did those count in your $2,000 costs? i'm hoping to make it on roughly $2,000 so any advice would be greatly appreciated.
thank you! thank you! thank you!

I think the hack.net server is down for the time being, but I will post these to whiteblaze.net (Thanks, ATTroll!) when I get back from hiking in early January.... provided I don't freeze my little cookies off.

[at-l] budget hiking.... redux
... Some may recognize the reposting of "Towns=Time=Money" planning ... lite, and cheap trails
to all, Sloetoe __________________________________________________ Do ...
mailman.hack.net/pipermail/at-l/2003-April/015162.html - 4k - Cached - Similar pages

[at-l] pt 1: A question of money: estimation of throughhike costs
... money: estimation of throughhike costs; From: [email protected] (Sloetoe); Date:
Thu, 13 Dec 2001 11:09:57 -0800 (PST). TOWNS = MONEY; TOWNS = TIME; TIME = MONEY ...
www.backcountry.net/arch/at/0112/msg00992.html - 9k - Supplemental Result - Cached - Similar pages

[at-l] pt 2: A question of money: estimation of throughhike costs
... money: estimation of throughhike costs; From: [email protected] (Sloetoe); Date:
Thu, 13 Dec 2001 15:23:36 -0800 (PST). TOWNS = MONEY; TOWNS = TIME; TIME = MONEY ...
www.backcountry.net/arch/at/0112/msg01019.html - 13k - Supplemental Result - Cached - Similar pages

12-19-2003, 00:58
i just hiked the AT this past summer and didn't really keep track of what i was spending, but tried to keep expenses at a minimum. there's lots of little things that you can do that will add up.

there are hiker boxes here and there along the trail. i think they are more prevalent in the south because so many people start down south and overestimate the amount of food they need in their maildrops, so it ends up at the p.o.'s and the hostels.

you'll might find yourself hiking with folks who preplanned their food drops as well and either end up not needing it/liking it and are willing to give it to needy folks such as yourself.

splitting rooms with other hikers was not only a good time most of the time, but was also usually less than $20. plus, if you are disciplined, there's no need to stop in every town and stay. there are quite a few places where the distance between towns is 3 days. no need to shower and do laundry and sleep in a bed every 3 days. splitting laundry with other hikers is another cost-cutting measure, but beware of hikers who leave superglue in their pockets!

i kept maildrops down to 11 places where i thought the resupply choices weren't that good. but it's definitely cheaper to buy along the way. you can send stuff to yourself for those places that the guidebooks say don't have very good resupply options. also, you'll have a good idea of how much food you need to cover the distance to the next resupply.

one last thing, being a girl, i think i ate less, and thus spent less money than a lot of the guys.

well, i hope all that rambling was helpful. good luck!