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  1. #1
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    Default 2020 Sobo Thruhike cost

    I thought I'd post an answer to a question that is frequently asked here on the forums, namely what does it cost to complete a thruhike?

    A bit of background information: I started the trail with my Katahdin summit on July 2nd and finished on Springer Mountain on Nov 27th for a total of 149 days. I took 12 zeros making it 137 days of hiking. I started the trail with the intention of having no schedule to keep or budget to stay within. It would take me as long as it needed to and I would spend as much as I needed to. I don't drink alcohol or smoke. I don't like walking in the rain and avoided long stretches of bad weather or really cold nights by staying in town. When in town or at a hostel I got a private room whenever it was available (which was most of the time). Having been backpacking for years I already had the gear I needed and didn't buy anything special for the hike. The only gear I had to replace while on trail was my trekking poles (broken), poop trowel (lost), and shoes of course (new pair every 500 miles). That all said, the total cost (minus getting to Baxter and getting home from GA) came to roughly $8,300. The only time I balked at paying for something was for a shuttle from Uncle Johnny's into Erwin (I rode a bike instead!).

    My hike would probably be described as luxury level. I never split costs with anyone to save money and to be truthful, usually never looked at the total bill anywhere before paying. As I said before, I was going to pay whatever it cost to complete my hike while being comfortable and enjoying myself. The end result was I never had a bad day on trail. There were hard days but I never felt like I didn't want to or couldn't continue my hike. Not having a schedule or budget removed two of the biggest concerns I might have had and I could simply enjoy myself every day.
    "Ghost"
    NPT Nobo 2013, AT Sobo 2020

  2. #2

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    $8,300 works out to be under $4.00 a mile ($3.78 +/-) You probably hit the high end of average. 3 to 4 dollars a mile is likely the average spread these days.
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  3. #3

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    Thanks, Ghost.
    Teej

    "[ATers] represent three percent of our use and about twenty percent of our effort," retired Baxter Park Director Jensen Bissell.

  4. #4

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    Thanks, that is about my game plan for this summer. Hope to start a little earlier. Same no budget.

    Funny, I have no problem using 3 sided shelters, but get a little creeped out with bunk rooms. Seems like many hikers are the opposite. Did you mostly tent, or use shelters?

    Did you find most places open? Did you get one of the book guides or just use Guthooks?

  5. #5
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    Stayed in a hammock (Warbonnet Ridgerunner). Didn't use a pad so staying in a shelter was out of the question even if they were "closed". I used the Guthook app for almost all my trail information. I didn't run into many places that were closed until I got down south and that was more because some hostels had closed for the season. Had more shuttle drivers that weren't taking riders but still had no trouble finding a ride when I needed one.
    "Ghost"
    NPT Nobo 2013, AT Sobo 2020

  6. #6

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    $8,300!!!! either the private rooms or the lobster dinners were expensive?

  7. #7

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    The OP said up front he went luxury. Not that hard to spend.
    137 days on trail using nice grade dehydrated food and organic bars you could easily spend $30/day = $4,110
    4 pairs of shoes @ $150= $600
    12 zeros in town and 12 others due to rain, private rooms @ $100 = $2400
    Town food 24 times, $50 dinner, $50 between breakfast and lunch =$2400, less $360 of trail food cost = $2,040
    I’m at $9,150 right there. No shuttles or tax.

    Clearly could be done much cheaper, but given his parameters not hard to imagine.

    Not sure his or her deal, but I’m a similar age and will be cash in a few hours from those 60-80 hour weeks of my youth that fortunately paid off, but precluded hiking when the discomfiture of a tighter budget might not have been as objectionable.

  8. #8

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    It's refreshing to see an honest cost attempt. I have seen some numbers that ran quite low but a little digging revealed hidden, unmentioned costs or tactics. Not necessarily malicious, but like forgetting to count the cost of care packages from friends and family.

    I've done a quick estimate of a 2 week section hike: 100 gallons of fuel, $300; 5 nights hotel, $500; 4 days travel food (I bring a cooler and eat at Subway), $100; 10 days trail food (FBC prepared at home), $200; shuttle, $400.

    total: $1500.

    I am trying to estimate on the high side. This does not take into account on-the-road car repairs or gear. I am guessing on the shuttle. I figure it will take me 20 such trips to section the AT so total cost will approach $30,000 over several years. The fuel cost will actually come down as each hike gets closer and I may be able to shave 1-3 nights off of hotel stays.

  9. #9
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    No matter how luxurious you want to make a long distance hike, it is far cheaper than any other form of travel for the length of time of a long section or thru hike. Even with private rooms in town, the average cost per night is pretty low since camping costs nothing and is the accommodation most of the time. Iíve personally found that $2-3 per mile for on-trail expenses is about right for me on a longer hike. Not including gear or transport to and from the trail.

  10. #10
    Registered User LittleRock's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by perrymk View Post
    I've done a quick estimate of a 2 week section hike: 100 gallons of fuel, $300; 5 nights hotel, $500; 4 days travel food (I bring a cooler and eat at Subway), $100; 10 days trail food (FBC prepared at home), $200; shuttle, $400.
    total: $1500.
    FWIW, I spent only $600 on my last 2 week section hike (Port Clinton, PA to I-87 in NY, which included 2 travel days and 13 hiking days):
    $75 Gasoline (roughly 1,000 miles of driving in a Toyota Corolla)
    $250 for two shuttles (total driving distance was about 200 miles)
    $175 for trail supplies (including trail food, on-trail food stops, and canister fuel)
    $100 for one night in a motel

    I saved money by bringing food with me to eat in the car, not taking a zero day (due to COVID), and I was able to drive to and from the trailhead in one day (though at 8 hours each way I've now likely reached the limit of what I can drive in one day). My only night in a motel was when I stopped for resupply/shuttle in Delaware Water Gap.

    This also of course neglects the cost of gear, which I did not include because I've been doing this for years and already have a complete set of gear. But, I did buy a new pair of boots specifically for this trip which would add another $150 to the cost.
    It's all good in the woods.

  11. #11
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    I sectioned most of the AT. Most of it was car supported and about a third was car supported with two cars. The person I hiked with and I both had high gas mileage compacts and with two cars we could self shuttle. We looked at the cost of shuttles then compared to our costs to run two cars and they just about balanced out over a two week hike (two shuttles). The big thing we gained was time. We could leave NH after work, drive to PA, grab a cheap motel room, get six hours of sleep and be in NC by noon (earlier the farther north we were). We would drop off a car then head to the start of the hike without building in time for meeting up with a shuttle. At least once we had to shift our hike due to Hurricane that unexpected came on shore in NC so we just headed south to GA and then came back week later when the trail was reopened. The guy I hiked with had ankle issues and we ended up our last stretches of trail slackpacking with either two cars or doing key swaps. We hiked off the bubble and found that many of the shelters down south were readily reachable by Forest Service roads and if we found a convenient one we might use it for few days.

    Sure college kids or anyone on a budget can scrape a low budget hike together and many will pull it off and have a great time, but IMHO, there is definitely a curve for a budget. When someone is on the low end of the curve its easier for them to get bumped off the trail due to budget. I have met more than a few thru hikers in the whites over the years that ended their hikes in Gorham NH when they ran out of money. I have also met folks who had no issues raiding dumpsters at restaurants on their town days and a couple that probably would not be opposed to stealing what they need.

  12. #12

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    Here is an article on cost to hike the trail.

    https://www.rei.com/blog/hike/how-mu...alachian-trail

    Iím not sure of the date of the article, but based on trail length quoted (ďnearly 2190 milesĒ), and dates on comments, probably written in 2018.

  13. #13

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    Quote Originally Posted by HankIV View Post
    The OP said up front he went luxury. Not that hard to spend.
    137 days on trail using nice grade dehydrated food and organic bars you could easily spend $30/day = $4,110
    4 pairs of shoes @ $150= $600
    12 zeros in town and 12 others due to rain, private rooms @ $100 = $2400
    Town food 24 times, $50 dinner, $50 between breakfast and lunch =$2400, less $360 of trail food cost = $2,040
    Iím at $9,150 right there. No shuttles or tax.

    Clearly could be done much cheaper, but given his parameters not hard to imagine.

    Not sure his or her deal, but Iím a similar age and will be cash in a few hours from those 60-80 hour weeks of my youth that fortunately paid off, but precluded hiking when the discomfiture of a tighter budget might not have been as objectionable.

    To each his own! I guess!!
    Since when did hiking become such a couture to where you had to spend such outrageous $$$

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by perrymk View Post
    It's refreshing to see an honest cost attempt. I have seen some numbers that ran quite low but a little digging revealed hidden, unmentioned costs or tactics. Not necessarily malicious, but like forgetting to count the cost of care packages from friends and family.

    I've done a quick estimate of a 2 week section hike: 100 gallons of fuel, $300; 5 nights hotel, $500; 4 days travel food (I bring a cooler and eat at Subway), $100; 10 days trail food (FBC prepared at home), $200; shuttle, $400.

    total: $1500.

    I am trying to estimate on the high side. This does not take into account on-the-road car repairs or gear. I am guessing on the shuttle. I figure it will take me 20 such trips to section the AT so total cost will approach $30,000 over several years. The fuel cost will actually come down as each hike gets closer and I may be able to shave 1-3 nights off of hotel stays.
    why so many nights at a hotel? isnt the purpose of a hike to stay in a tent? kinda defeats the purpose? and.. (new pair every 500 miles) really? to hike the AT you will buy 4/5 pair of shoes?
    Of coarse Im new to hiking, Ive never did an all nighter , just many long daily hikes(10-20 miles)... ...and could be speaking in hearsay..but?

  15. #15
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    "Since when did hiking become such a couture to where you had to spend such outrageous $$$"

    I didn't have to spend that much, I chose to. I started my hike with the conscious choice of not caring how much it was going to cost. Other hikers make their own choices.

    I've heard it said that completing a thruhike is 90% mental. I'm convinced that one of the major factors in my not having any issues with that aspect was not having to worry about finances during my hike. Whether it might take me longer than I expected to finish or that I just wanted to spend an extra day or eat a good meal in town, I didn't care.
    "Ghost"
    NPT Nobo 2013, AT Sobo 2020

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by FŽanor View Post
    why so many nights at a hotel? isnt the purpose of a hike to stay in a tent? kinda defeats the purpose? and.. (new pair every 500 miles) really? to hike the AT you will buy 4/5 pair of shoes?
    Of coarse Im new to hiking, Ive never did an all nighter , just many long daily hikes(10-20 miles)... ...and could be speaking in hearsay..but?
    Let me answer your questions one at a time ....

    1) Nights in motels/hostels fell into two catagories. Usually I stayed in town overnight when I needed to do a resupply. That can that be done without staying overnight but I used the opportunity to also do laundry, take a shower, etc. The other reason was to avoid weather. I don't like hiking in the rain so if there was an extended stretch of wet weather coming up I would try to time my town stops to be off trail. The only double zero I took was to avoid rain. There was also an unusual stretch of cold weather when I was in PA that I hostel hopped because my sleep system would not have kept me warm enough. Staying inside at night enabled me to continue using my lighter gear for another 350 or so miles before switching to heavier gear.

    2) For me the purpose of "hiking" was to hike the trail. I like staying in my hammock but that wasn't the reason I was out there. Played tag for a couple weeks with another hiker who was slackpacking most of the trail and only occasionally staying in the woods. He was having the time of his life just being able to hike every day. The "camping" part was secondary to him.

    3) I hike in trail runners. They are good for about 500 miles and then the midsoles are shot. The uppers and tread would still be okay. Doing the math means you'll go through about 5 pairs in completing a hike. Could I have kept hiking in them longer? Sure, but my body would have paid the price. I had no issues with my feet or legs the entire trip and I'm a 60 year-old man. I attribute that to not pushing too hard too fast and always having good shoes. The last thing I wanted have happen was to have to get off the trail because I couldn't/wouldn't spend $100 or so on a pair of shoes that would have saved my hike.
    "Ghost"
    NPT Nobo 2013, AT Sobo 2020

  17. #17
    Garlic
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    I've known plenty of AT thru-hikers with $10K+ in expenses, even nearly twenty years ago. My AT hike cost me about $3500 in 2008. But I normally live inexpensively, had experience on other long trails, and I had a fast hike at just over 100 days. My partner spent about $5000, the main difference being food costs. We'd go to the same grocery store for trail food and he'd spend four times what I did. Same at restaurants.
    "Throw a loaf of bread and a pound of tea in an old sack and jump over the back fence." John Muir on expedition planning

  18. #18

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    Quote Originally Posted by FŽanor View Post
    why so many nights at a hotel?
    It's 25 hours of driving from my house to BSP. I will probably take 2-2.5 days to drive this. I prefer staying in a hotel to sleeping in my car. Plus I can afford it. The fifth day is an 'in case' mid hike day.

  19. #19

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    Quote Originally Posted by garlic08 View Post
    I've known plenty of AT thru-hikers with $10K+ in expenses, even nearly twenty years ago. My AT hike cost me about $3500 in 2008. But I normally live inexpensively, had experience on other long trails, and I had a fast hike at just over 100 days. My partner spent about $5000, the main difference being food costs. We'd go to the same grocery store for trail food and he'd spend four times what I did. Same at restaurants.
    $3500 in 2008 would be the same as $4230 in 2020.
    $5000 in 2008 would be the same as $6043 in 2020

    Inflation source:
    https://www.usinflationcalculator.com/

  20. #20

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    Here's another thread with a brief discussion on cost

    The Don's Brother Method---My Second Book (whiteblaze.net)

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