5 Ways I’m Preparing for the CDT

Myself, Click and Cheesebeard are setting off on a southbound hike on the Continental Divide Trail in June 2017 and although the hike is a long way off I’m already starting to prepare. I feel a lot of people can benefit from this information whether you’ve completed a thru-hike in the past or not but bare in mind these are MY preparations, your priorities may differ.

Photo by Nicholas Reichard

I completed the Appalachian Trail in 2015 and of course it was a huge learning experience, based on that knowledge here are some things I’m doing to prepare for the CDT.

1 – Research and Reading

I love doing research about topics that interest me, I always have. The wealth of good (and bad) information on long distance hiking has grown rapidly in the past ten years and with some selective reading you can find some real nuggets of wisdom. The CDT is the least documented of the three big hikes in the USA so it can be tricky to find solid information, but it is out there. My main areas of research right now are:

  • Route Planning, GPS Data and Ressuply points
  • Gear requirements for the trip based on temperatures, terrain and other factors
  • Backpacking food recipes and dehydrating techniques
  • Visa Requirements (being a Limey does have some disadvantages)

Researching and Reading encompasses the majority of the prep work at this point, I think it is THE most important factor in preparing for a thru-hike.

2 – I’m Thinking about Food!

As long distance hikers we’re often thinking about food. However I’m not thinking about my Hiker Hunger, I’m thinking about what food do I want to eat on the CDT next year. There are two main topics on my mind:

1 – We are going to be sending ourselves food packages on the CDT as resupply is not as straight forward as it was on the Appalachian Trail

This means all of my food needs to be pre staged in boxes and ready to be sent out to the trail towns. There are a lot of logistics involved in this process in terms of the resupply points, dates and amount of food in each box.

2 – I’m making a conscious effort to eat healthier on the CDT so I’m going to be dehydrating a lot of my own food and coming up with tasty, healthy recipes.

I’m going to be experimenting hard over the next few months with recipes and techniques for healthier meals, i’ll be posting those on my personal blog. www.pieonthetrail.com



3 – Im taking note of the Physical State of my Body

Next year I’l be hitting thirty (weeks before the CDT) and my body isn’t what it was in my late teens. An active lifestyle, Brazilian Jiu Jitsu and 2189 miles on the AT are starting to have their effects.

I’m Analysing my weaknesses and coming up with a game plan to fix them. I don’t want to have to quit the trail due to injury having not prepared my body for the abuse it gets on trail.

Here are some of the issues I have and what Im trying to do to improve them:

  • Bad Back – A common Injury for those that practice Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. I need to be very careful over the next few months and avoid sparring in classes. I’ll be working with a physiotherapist and masseuse to make sure it isn’t an issue on the hike.
  • Like many people do, I’ve put on some weight over the holiday period – There’s no point in shaving ounces from your gear when your carrying ten extra pounds on your belly. My game plan is to tidy up the diet, get back to training and walk a lot. This plan obviously goes hand in hand with getting in hiking shape for the trail.
  • Funky ankle after the AT – Luckily I had no major injuries on the AT (maybe because I prepared) but since then my right ankle has never been quite the same. Just like before the AT I’ll be doing plenty of Yoga and Mobility Exercises to keep it from becoming an issue.

I’ve written about how I physically prepared for the AT HERE


4 – I’m Trying to Prepare Mentally

The Mental game was the hardest part for me about the Appalachian Trail and i’d bet it’s the same for most long distance hikers. Physical Injuries are fairly black and white, you can either continue to hike or you can’t. Mental anguish is a big old grey area.

By thinking about my mental struggles on the AT I can come up with strategies for dealing with them on the CDT. For example:

  • Being apart from my girlfriend for 6 months+ – The hardest part of my AT experience for sure. I want to implement a plan to communicate more with her on the CDT.
  • Not having the comforts of home life -By learning to live with less “stuff” in everyday life, when you hit the trail you don’t miss them so much. After six months on the AT with only the stuff in my backpack I had a lesser attachment to the “things” in life.
  • The Monotony of it all – Coming up with On-Trail strategies to deal with boredom and frustration. Podcasts and audiobooks helped a lot last year. Next year I’ll have a camera in my hand for a lot of the hike, hopefully I’ll be so busy I won’t have time to be bored.

Just thinking about these and other aspects help me to get into a positive state of mind. There has to be a certain level of acceptance about the hike. If you know to expect bad days then hopefully they won’t be so bad.

5 – Thinking about Gear

The CDT is quite a different animal from the AT and therefore requires a modified gear list. Here are the major factors that differ from the AT:

  • Temperature and Weather – We’re going to be hiking southbound starting in June so it’s going to be cold up in the mountains, potentially for the majority of the trip. We may have a good amount of snow and ice on trail. That means warmer base layers, solid gloves, Micro Spikes etc.
  • Bears – I saw three black bears total on the AT. On the CDT we’ll be going through areas populated by Grizzlies which are not afraid of humans and a real threat. I’ll be using some combination of Bear Spray, a Bear Bell and Bear-proof Food Storage.
  • Maps, Compass and GPS – The CDT is somewhat a “create your own adventure” with multiple different routes, the trail is not marked thoroughly like the AT. What GPS unit to buy and what map sets to use?..
  • Camera Gear – I’ll be carrying some serious camera gear this time round. The days of carrying just my iPhone and a Stickpic are unfortunately behind me. What do I need and how light can I go?
Autosave-File vom d-lab2/3 der AgfaPhoto GmbH

Photo by Nicholas Reichard


So there’s a lot of stuff to be doing and thinking about over the next six months, it’s nice to have so much time to prepare. As time goes on I’ll be able to zero in on more specific areas of preperation and will share some more thoughts here on The Trek.

I’d love to hear from any of you that’s hiked the CDT in the past or if you have any other ideas to help me prepare then leave a comment below.



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Comments 14

  • Blade : Jan 12th

    First of all I’d like to say that the upcoming project of you guys is really impressive.

    I don’t like the cold weather you have to face on the CDT for a very long time and that’s why I can’t imagine to do it.

    Thru-hiking by itself is enough work on a daily basis for a couple of months. Putting another layer of stress on it doesn’t sound very tempting to me… 😉

    Regarding the mental thing I’d like to share my experiences (in case I didn’t told you already)

    Accept what is. Things you can’t change right now have to be accepted as they are in that moment. Fighting against that what already is, is just a waste of time and energy. It’ll be draining your batteries and has a huge impact on your mood.
    Awareness is the key. But it takes a while. Being totally and always aware and in presence is hard to achieve.

    So don’t trust your thoughts without questioning them. If you get stuck on a thought and you maybe start arguing or discussing it in your head will get you in rage, at least your energy is bound to that.

    It took me quite a while to figure that out. By listening to “spiritual” audio books (Eckhardt Tolle is awesome) you will realize what’s going on in your head. And that you can simply let such thoughts go by “putting them on a cloud and blow that cloud away”

    Focus on you and what’s around you. Work with your mind and try to get behind the scenes of your reality.

    Sounds a little bit crazy, I know. But it helped me a lot.

    Trying to stay busy so that you don’t have to deal with your mind isn’t really a solution because such sticky thoughts will come back. You can’t just simply get rid of them. You have to deal with em- sooner or later.

    And very important but I think you already know that one: take some time off of the group. All of you guys of course 😉

    And last but not least: don’t forget to BE, no matter where you are. Stay focused when needed, relax and chill the way you like to do it.

    You guys rock!


    • PIE : Jan 16th

      Blade thank you so much for the thoughtful insights, I’m going to copy and paste your comment to refer to before, during and after the hike. I have read one Eckhart Tolle book and found it so helpful and interesting, I actually have another one on audiobook that I’m sure I’ll be listening to on the CDT. I’m super excited to follow along on your TA adventure. How is the planning going for that? Are you going to be blogging about it?

      You sir rock most superly!


  • Becca : Jan 12th

    This is so cool! I’m looking forward to following your journey! When do y’all expect to finish by?

    • PIE : Jan 16th

      Hi Becca

      Thanks for the kind words, have you hiked the CDT? We anticipate finishing in November December time, we are going to be shooting a movie on the trail so there’s a good chance that will slow us down a little.

      All the best


  • Michael Sweet : Jan 13th

    Awesome, Pie! I’m heading SOBO on the CDT starting in June too.

    I’ve been working through the food planning as well. I’ve decided to go a different route and not pre-package much at all. Going to buy on the trail and mail ahead where needed. The trail and mileage variants are much different than anything I’ve done before, so I’m not going to worry about it now. It’ll happen.

    It’s only 158 days till June 20th.

    • PIE : Jan 16th

      Nice Michael! What long hikes have you done in the past? The pre arranged food option is completely new to me after the AT, I’ll be honest it does seem like a lot of work and I’m really glad we have plenty of time between now and then to get organised. Do you know how easy it is to get resupplied on the CDT?

      158 days, phew…

      • Michael Sweet : Jan 16th

        Hey Pie, I walked most of the AT (600 or so miles to go) in two hikes in ’90 and ’91 where I resupplied as I went. I walked the John Muir Trail in ’15 with my wife and daughter with two maildrops for resupply. That convinced me I don’t want to do drops for an entire long trail. I’ll set-up the five or six really required ones, but the rest I’ll put together as I go. The more I study Yogi’s guidebook, the more I believe it will be easier that way. I’ll know what I’m hungry for, how much I’m eating, and what kind of miles I’ll be making.
        See you out there!

        • PIE : Jan 17th

          Nice, the John Muir is quite high on my list of trails to hike. I liked resupplying in towns on the AT, It allowed me to really get what I want when I wanted it, rather than being stuck with what I have in the boxes. I’m not sure how easy that will be on the CDT though, more research to be doing I guess.

  • Rock-Hopper : Jan 13th

    Sweet! I can’t wait to read the next articles – best of luck to you!

  • PIE : Jan 16th

    Thanks Rock Hopper! What are your hiking plans this year?

  • Connie : Jan 16th

    I purchased a Fujifilm Finepix F550FXR w/GPS 24mm wide 15X optical zoom camera and has video, that has RAW ACDSee software and other software will read. Of course it has JPG and HypersnapDX software handles JPG without “jaggedies”. 7.85 oz

    I purchased a 1/4 x 20 thread stainless steel screw and drilled into to top of the handle of my hiking stick to glue it in place. I use a tiny ball head for small adjustments. I steady the monopod with my leg forward.

    I can also have a makeshift tripod with two sticks: I prefer shooting sticks and add a double-sided velcro strap.

    There are a number of portable handy steady cam devices at eBay, if you choose a little camera for video. I like Sanyo Xacti MPEG/H.264 video and convenient flip and angle viewscreen. It is necessary to go to the website to find all the features in the Manual PDF.

    These are features I value for backpacking.

  • Connie : Jan 16th

    I forgot to mention I like Easy Cam camera stabilizer.

    There are clip-on lenses for these phones worth looking into.

    If you still consider a phone weighs less after all, Samsung has stunning quality.

  • Bob : Mar 17th

    Thanks for posting. I look forward to reading more about your resupply decisions. I’m gearing up for a northbound thru hike this year myself. Like you I’m figuring out some of the logistics from outside the States, so there’s going to be a good bit of rapid organization once I get there. Should be good though. One of the big things I’m considering isn’t food but transportation. I may leave my truck outside of Glacier at a friend’s house and have it there at completion. Lots to think about!
    See you out there this summer sometime!

    • Pie : Mar 19th

      Hi Bob

      Yes it’s definitely a work in progress and something I’m spending a good amount of time one. Luckily I’ll have around a month in the USA before we actually start moving, we are also hiking as a group so can share the planning and transportation a little. Connect with me on facebook or my personal blog and we can maybe run into each oither out on the trail.

      All the best



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