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  1. #1

    Default What costs so much

    In every discussion about the cost of thru-hiking, I see numbers thrown out around $3,000 to $7,000 as the amount required to thru hike. I just don't understand where all that money goes, is that counting the gear purchases beforehand or something?

    Currently I live on about $250-300 a month in food, and I eat out pretty regularly. The only other expense I have is rent and utilities. So not paying those on the trail, I don't see how I won't actually spend less money than I usually do. Five months of hiking x 300 = $1500, and thats more than I spend most months on food currently. I'm intending to start with $4,000, but I'd like to try to do the trail on under $2,000 if possible, not counting to and from the trail or any major gear replacements I have to do.

    What's the cheapest anyone has done the trail, adjusted for inflation.

  2. #2
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    Here’s one thread on this, there are more.
    https://whiteblaze.net/forum/show...king-The-Trail

    I have looked at costs from nearly every angle to understand it. The first thing I think most don’t understand is you will require 2-3 times more food than you are eating now on a thru-hike (if you are NOT marathon training constantly now).

    I can only speak for me, and my planning. I am planning on 5K minimum NOT including my initial gear, and travel to and from the trail. This should give me some comfort room.

    Also, there appears to be almost a linear association with money needed to amount of time (days) you’ll be on your hike and the amount/type of activities you wish to do in towns.

    Below is my list of what costs money once your hike has begun.

    ATM Charges
    Batteries
    Clothing (new)
    Clothing repairs
    Emergencies (health)
    First aide supplies (sun screen, mole skin, anti-septic, etc...)
    Food
    Fuel
    Gear (new or replacement)
    Gear fixes
    Hygiene items (soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, etc.)
    Laundry services / supplies
    Lodging (hotels, hostels, campsites, cabins, shelters, lean-tos / permits)
    Mail drops (receiving)
    Mailing bounce boxes, supplies home, incoming supplies/food, postcards, gifts, etc...
    Maps
    Miscellaneous purchases (gifts, cards, books, etc)
    Phone card / cell phone charges
    Restaurants
    Showers
    Shuttles
    Town entertainment (movie, alcohol, etc.)

  3. #3

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    I did a 4 month hike in 2002 for between $1600 and $1700. And that included 2 motel rooms and a lot of town food and a few beers in town. I took almost all of my zero days on the trail. If you stay out of towns you won't spend as much money. I tried to plan it so that I was only in town for a couple of hours. Get in, get your resupply, get a shower and do some laundry, get a restaurant meal and then get the hell out of Dodge. Even if you only hitch back to the trail and walk a mile into the woods you're saving a lot of money...

    Because if you stay in town in a motel you're talking money for the room, then you're going to go get a second restaurant meal, then you're going to go out and have a few beers with the other hikers staying in town, then in the morning you're going to get a third town meal before you get back on the trail. You will see many, many hikers playing this scenario out on a weekly basis...some every 2 or 3 days. Some of them will stay 2 or 3 days in a town in order to "take a break from the trail." So if you're blowing $100 or more every time you cross a town, and in the south you're hitting a town every 3 days, you're going to spend $1000 a month easy. That is the way A LOT of people do it.

    If you become part of one of these little hiking cliques that form you will spend more money. Groupthink starts to take over and group decisions start being made. You'll hike a few miles farther to keep up with your group, or you'll stop early because everyone else in your group is stopping for the night. You'll stay in town because your group is in town. Every time you pass a town there will always be at least one member of your group that wants to stay in town...and not many in your group will put up too much of a fight at that suggestion...and along with that stay in town comes all of the accompanying expenses.

    So if you want to save money you'll want to stay out of the towns as much as possible and maintain your independence from all of the little high school type cliques that form.

  4. #4

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    I don't know how young you are or what your level of comfort is, but Winds provided an excellent list. And Bronx offered some sage words of advice.

    If you are under 30, I think that what is so difficult for the young crowd is that they meet other hikers along the way and want to hang out. It is going to be hard to stay back at camp while they all have a blast in town. When it has rained 21 days out of 30 and you want to stay in a hostel or motel; when you are starving and can think of nothing but food for miles - you are going to want to hit the pizza places and restaurants at every town you get a chance. Because you will be burning up a heck of a lot of calories! And while you may believe you can avoid towns, when all your clothes are caked in mud and your tent and sleeping bag are starting to mildew, you will have second thoughts!! It's hard to do laundry and just walk past the burger and pizza joints when you are that hungry!

    The main thing is to not put yourself in the position where you aren't able to join your buds or have to mooch meals and rooms off them because you never thought that it would be that expensive. Most estimates are $4000-$5000 for a six-month trip. If you can do it in 5 months - maybe $3000-$4000. If you are able to save it at all, try to budget at least $4500. It may be the worst rainy season to date and it may take you closer to 6 months. You don't have to spend it, but you'll have it when you need it.

    From everything I have heard about, your buddies may help you out a few times, but paying for someone else gets pretty old; pretty fast. Many of these hikers who are not financially prepared are quickly ditched.

    And before you protest, turn it around. I'm sure that you wouldn't mind paying for a few meals or sharing your room with a hiking buddy a few times. But you sure aren't going to appreciate it if it goes on for days or weeks.

    To me, there would be nothing more heartbreaking than to be forced off the trail because you ran out of money...
    Last edited by WIAPilot; 05-13-2012 at 06:51.

  5. #5

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    Biggest expenses to me were hotel rooms and food in restaurants.
    Sure you can live cheap and sleep in a tent near town and eat out of supermarkets.
    But few do. Mostly because you are wet, cold and dirty and in need of some comfort.
    It rains a lot. You start to look forward to a time when you can dry everything out and clean up and EVERYONE thinks about better food than they have in their pack.

    YOu can live on $200 a month for food. Fine. But I bet you can't eating out at restaurants in NY, CT, MA and VT.
    Especially when you just finished their biggest steak and are thinking about ordering a reuben sandwich with fried BEFORE you get your pie ala-mode (maybe a double order at that) Experiences like this can easily cost you $50. And your body can eat it all believe me.

    So, we're talking $80 a night for a room in some of these towns, and $50 for one meal. And your friends decide to stay another night cause there's rain in the forecast. So, now you think about it. Should I spend another $150 or set out in the morning like I planned. (cause they are all at the bar discussing it, and paying $5 a bottle for beer)

    So yeah, you can hike cheap. But will you?
    A lot of your decisions will depend on the weather.

    I once took 2 friends to Springer in Feb. It was 70 deg the day they started.
    A week later, it dropped to much cooler temps and they got tired of being cold.
    They spend over $1,000 each in the first month JUST in hotel rooms.
    They came home after 500 miles.

    Having the money for the unexpected times can make all the difference.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  6. #6
    Registered User Grampie's Avatar
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    It's not the money that is required to be spent, on a thru. It's the money that you select to spend. As you hike north and get into the more densely populated areas you cross more roads that lead to more creature conforts that are hard to pass up. Especialy after being on the trail for several days without a soft bed, hot shower and a good meal. Having enough money to be able to take advantage of this helps in a long way in having a sucessfull thru-hike. The trail can wear you down after hiking wet, dirty and hungary for good food, days on end. When you can get to town, eat a couple of good meals, sleep in a soft dry bed, take a hot shower, wash some dirty cloths and resupply, buying anything you want, having the funds to do this go a long way in making you a happy hiker once again.
    It's not only the young that enjoy towns when doing a thru. I was 66 years on my thru-hike and if it wasn't for the town stops, I probably would have bailed.
    Grampie-N->2001

  7. #7

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    LOL That's a given, Grampie! But most of the older hikers (except for the minimalists ) have already phoned in their reservations and staked out the towns! We know what it is going to cost. And I'm not trying to berate younger hikers in the least. I'm just saying to know the whole story before you get out on the trail, because I really do want them to be successful.
    Last edited by WIAPilot; 05-13-2012 at 07:41.

  8. #8
    Garlic
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    You (the OP) sound just like my hiking partner. He structured his life so he does not have to pay rent or utilities when he's hiking. He eats, travels and entertains anyway. He gets a steady gov't pension. So he says he actually comes out ahead when he's hiking a long trail and I believe him. He just does not understand it when people talk about thru hiking costs.

    But he, and possibly you, are real rarities. The majority of hikers cannot completely stop their town lives and a trip like the AT becomes a net loss.

    I tabulated the expenses for my AT hike: Trail food, $800. Town food, $700 (I spared no expense here). Lodging $900 (likewise, no skimping). Gear worn out and replaced, $400. Transportation to and from, $700. Total about $3500 for a 3.5 month hike in 2008. I had budgeted $5000, so I was pleased it was that much cheaper. My life is simpler than most, but I am married and own a house so I can't break out and subtract my regular non-trail expenses.
    "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

  9. #9

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    Garlic: I understand what you are saying, but two things should be noted:

    1. It cost you $3500 for a 3.5 month hike. According to your figures, if he plans to do this in 5 months, he will need $5000. And again, what if bad weather forces him to take 5.5 months? He definitely needs an emergency fund.

    2. Due to the rising spike in gas prices, food and restaurant costs have increased by about 20% in the past 4 yrs.

  10. #10

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    What costs so much is what everyone is "trying" to get away from...society, so that they may become one with nature. Funny how they end up longing so much for civizilation after just a couple days with mother nature

  11. #11
    Garlic
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    I would argue (just for the sake of argument) that not everyone who hikes the AT is trying to get away from society. For many, it's more like an athletic endeavor and camping is more like a necessary evil. Some enjoy being tourists, seeing the towns and meeting local people. There's nothing wrong with that. They support the local economy, too.
    "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

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    Quote Originally Posted by john gault View Post
    What costs so much is what everyone is "trying" to get away from...society, so that they may become one with nature. Funny how they end up longing so much for civizilation after just a couple days with mother nature


    there is much truth in this. I didn't appreciate what a luxury water from a tap anytime I was thirsty or a hot shower/clean clothes on a daily basis was until I spent 5+ months on the hike.

    To the OP, here's an experiment...don't eat for the next 3 days. Then walk into a convenience store and buy 3 hot dogs, a bag of chips, a quart of chocolate milk, a 32 ounce Gatoraid, 2 bear claws and a pint of ice cream (or pick your own items of preference).See what your tab comes up to for just one gourmet feast like the one I described.

    I suppose one can discipline oneself not to partake of such delicacies but after 4 days of instant rice and snickers, if you have the willpower to do so you are much stronger than I certainly was on my hike I did know one guy who was on a very strict budget and he started worrying about $ when we were in places like Franklin and Hot Springs. There's plenty of challenges in a thruhike without worrying about $ (imo).

    Like the poster above said, if you are like most thruhikers, you will get all the hiking/camping in that you want during the 5-6 month walk, it's the break from the routine that provides a mental lift.

    as john gault says, it is the human condition...when we are in town for too long, we miss the woods. when we are in the woods for extended periods, we miss the conveniences of town.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by 4shot View Post
    there is much truth in this. I didn't appreciate what a luxury water from a tap anytime I was thirsty or a hot shower/clean clothes on a daily basis was until I spent 5+ months on the hike.

    To the OP, here's an experiment...don't eat for the next 3 days. Then walk into a convenience store and buy 3 hot dogs, a bag of chips, a quart of chocolate milk, a 32 ounce Gatoraid, 2 bear claws and a pint of ice cream (or pick your own items of preference).See what your tab comes up to for just one gourmet feast like the one I described.

    I suppose one can discipline oneself not to partake of such delicacies but after 4 days of instant rice and snickers, if you have the willpower to do so you are much stronger than I certainly was on my hike I did know one guy who was on a very strict budget and he started worrying about $ when we were in places like Franklin and Hot Springs. There's plenty of challenges in a thruhike without worrying about $ (imo).

    Like the poster above said, if you are like most thruhikers, you will get all the hiking/camping in that you want during the 5-6 month walk, it's the break from the routine that provides a mental lift.

    as john gault says, it is the human condition...when we are in town for too long, we miss the woods. when we are in the woods for extended periods, we miss the conveniences of town.
    In addition to the feast, I'd always try to walk out of the store with "treats" for at least the next meal, if not the next two meals. The stores you encounter are in mostly very rural locations and charge more than the local corner store in your home town. It will add up quick...
    2011 Through Hike - May 2nd Springer to Daleville, VA <> August 11 Katahdin back to Daleville, VA on December 22nd.

    http://www.trailjournals.com/abouttime

  14. #14
    Registered User Moose2001's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bronk View Post
    Because if you stay in town in a motel you're talking money for the room, then you're going to go get a second restaurant meal, then you're going to go out and have a few beers with the other hikers staying in town, then in the morning you're going to get a third town meal before you get back on the trail. You will see many, many hikers playing this scenario out on a weekly basis...some every 2 or 3 days. Some of them will stay 2 or 3 days in a town in order to "take a break from the trail." So if you're blowing $100 or more every time you cross a town, and in the south you're hitting a town every 3 days, you're going to spend $1000 a month easy. That is the way A LOT of people do it.
    Bronk is right. This is where the money goes fast. After several weeks on the trail, it's very hard to pass up any opportunity for a meal in town, a shower and some comfort. It takes a lot of discipline to go into town, resupply, hitch out and hike on. I'm not saying it can't be done but it's not any easy thing to do. Also, don't discount the social pressure from other hikers to hang and have a good time.

    It's your hike. Only you can decide how much money you are going to spend.
    GA - NJ 2001; GA - ME 2003; GA - ME 2005; GA - ME 2007; PCT 2006

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  15. #15
    ME => GA 19AT3 rickb's Avatar
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    People mold thier hikes to match those of others.

    HYOH? Yea, right.

    Thru hiking didn't always mean food orgies and beds with sheets, but hard to get around that now.

    SOBOs may stand a better chance.

    Too bad more TP Walters aren't our there showing an alternative path-- for those wo might end up wanting to go that route.

  16. #16
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    Andrewsobo
    The rule is that it's better to have it and not need it than it is to need it and not have it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by rickb View Post

    Thru hiking didn't always mean food orgies and beds with sheets, but hard to get around that now.
    Grampa, please tell us how hard it was to SOBO back in your day!

  18. #18
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    let me just say that if you think you aren't going to hit the restaurants and buffets at least once a week and more likely twice a week or that you won't regularly stay in hostels and some occasional hotels then you are kidding your self.

    Food is ALL the hiker thinks about.. ok.. almost all. All that costs money. Plus there will be places where the cost of lodging isn't so cheap as in places in the south. Sometimes you can bunk at a hostel for free to 20 bucks. Other times, you'll shell out 50-100 for a hotel room. The further north you go, the pricier things get.

    in 2012, you can EASILY spend 5,000 plus on a thru hike and that's not including cost of gear and transport to trailhead and back home.

    DavidNH

  19. #19
    Registered User weary's Avatar
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    I hiked in a different era and at a different age than most. 1993 and age 64. And I sent around 25 mail drops to avoid convenience store prices, and the temptations of towns. Quite often post offices are closer to the trail than stores and expensive restaurants. Unfortunately, I didn't keep a close tab of expenses, but I suspect it was well under $500 a month. I stayed only three nights in motels and enjoyed being a compatriot of 20 somethings occasionally during town stops, and overnights in hostels. I didn't skimp on restaurant meals or beers, and bought an occasion bottle of bourbon, but I did minimize town stops. I walked too slow to get tied closely into cliques, but I did keep running into the same groups again and again. I was much slower on the trail, but younger people spent much more time in towns. Anyway, I started April 13 on Springer and finished 6 months and 3 days later on Katahdin. It was worth every penny. And I enoyed everyday -- or at least most days

  20. #20

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    Also, since you're asking, make sure you have 1/2 of your AT budget available to you when you cross into Connecticut (assuming a northbound AT thru-hike). You'll be shocked at how much money it costs in town if that's you're choosing when you reach the northeastern states. By that time you'll be cracking out miles and your body (and possibly the completion of your thru-hike) may require way more calories than you can imagine reading this text in front of a computer sitting in a comfy chair. I saw a considerable number of people who just plain ran out of energy in the northeastern states when their budget dwindled to early in their thru-hike.

    In the southern states (for a northbounder), you'll usually have very inexpensive town costs (comparatively) but you'll likely be hiking through days and days of rain and mud and somewhat cold weather. You may not yet be attuned to long-distance hiking and might choose to go into town without a thought of the costs of a town visit (I'm cracking myself up here).


    Datto

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