6 Advantages of Being A Section Hiker

This summer I am hitting AT for the first time. I have spent way too much money on gear, scrutinized every gram of every piece of gear going into my pack, and tested different dehydrated foods. I have annoyed my wife with too much “hiker talk” and also read every single blog post on the Internet about hiking the AT. I am excited. I hike in 100 days. And I am a section hiker. Yes, I am going to hike for a few weeks with my brother and a few friends and then come home to my bed, wife, and kids.

When I think about the possibility of being a thru hiker I get excited, but I quickly realize how hard it would be. I have come to realize that I am happy being a section hiker. I want to share with you why I am becoming a happy section hiker. Here are the big advantages for us section hikers:

1) Less Financial Investment

Let’s face it, a big part of a thru hiker’s preparation besides their gear is raising the funds to be without work for 5-6 months. For section hikers like myself, we do not have to empty our savings account or eat ramen noodles for months before being forced to eat ramen noodles for months. We can instead take a 6, 8, 12 months to save for our section hike for transportation, food, gear, or flowers for our spouses as we are gone.

2) Do not have to quit your job or sell your house

Section hikers do not need to sell their house to fund their hike (see #1) as a few thru hikers have already done this hiking season. There is also no need for us to quit our jobs to take a hike. Instead we can save a few extra vacation days or just let our roommates know we will be gone for a week or two. We do not have to move all our items into storage or have garage sales while managing 10 eBay auctions.

3) Don’t have to leave your family and friends for 5-6 months

As a father and husband I cannot see leaving my kids and wife for longer than a week or two. Even then I feel like I will miss way too much. In 6 months my kids WILL need their dad and my wife will want me around for killing spiders that get into the house. Thru hikers will miss BBQing with friends on the opening weekend of summer as well 4th of July fireworks. As a section hiker we can schedule around these important life events.

4) Less Pressure To Hit Daily Miles

As a section hiker, you are set to a schedule but that schedule is more relaxed, because of a lack of “trail legs” section hikers are more apt to put in lower mile days. This relaxed pace means section hikers can sleep in each morning, take an afternoon siesta at the top of a great overlook, or cut the hiking down short and enjoy nature.

5) Make More Hiking Friends

Most section hikers plan to hike the trail once or twice a year (or more if we can). In doing trips like this, we have the ability to meet many more awesome people on the trial then thru hikers do. We will meet thru hikers, section hikers, day hikers, and the occasional hiker out looking for bears to feed. There will not be as much pressure to hit resupply points, meet friends and family, or join a killer party in “town,” so we are able to form deeper friendships out on the trail with those we meet. Unless they are crazy, then we move on.

6) Pick When and Where You Hike

I saved the best for last because I am in marketing and we want you to read the entire article. As section hikers, we can pick when and where we hike. This means we can choose to hike somewhere we have wanted to see without suffering through parts of the trail we would rather skip. You can hike before the bugs come out in Pennsylvania, or after the snow has left GA, or before the humidity sets in. If you want to hike into Damascus for trail days then you can do that as well.

A section hiker has a different mindset than a thru hiker. We are faced with different challenges. We love and support thru hikers and while we approach things different, what we do share is a love for the AT.

Photo Originally Uploaded by Compass Points Media

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Comments 5

  • Bill Appleby : Jun 3rd

    I started my thru hike in 2014, but had to leave because of a financial problem. I started the Trail yesterday where I left off last year (Harpers Ferry), and I consider myself a thru-hiker……I just took 330 zero days! – 55 SOG GA*ME on!

  • Dave Michel : Sep 3rd

    Agree with all points. As a 15 year section hiker (disclosure, will do a supported through hike in 2016) there are some disadvantages. One main one is by the time you get your hiker legs, its time to go home. Come out the next time, and you break in all over again. Through hikers do the break in once or twice, and take advantage of their hiking legs.

  • Andrea Carsrud : Mar 26th

    My friend and I are section hiking for the first time also. We are driving to Georgia from Iowa memorial weekend! So excited!

  • Nancy : Mar 27th

    My section hike begins June 10, 2016! I have 16 days to do my hike w hopes of doing approx 165 miles. 10 miles a day is doable for me…next year…Harper’s ferry!

  • dina deleon : Sep 18th

    Section hiking sure sounds fun. When I find a good point in my career I’d love to do this. I would love to try this with the Pacific Crest Trail, reading stories about other hikers who have done it has been so inspiring to me. I couldn’t imagine being a thru hiker but I think it would be so much fun to be out in there for sometime although not possible since I have children and other needs I have to attend to it would make it hard. Hope you enjoyed your adventure through AT. I have created a small blog myself. http://dinasdeleon.weebly.com/blog.


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