4 Reasons To Hike SOBO

Are you considering attempting an A.T thru hike? Consider going South Bound! You’re already going to take the road less traveled, here’s a list of reasons why you should take the road traveled even less!

1. The Start Date

This is the biggest bonus of hiking SOBO. If you’re a student, attempting a SOBO thru hike could be the best decision you’ll ever make in your life. Ever.

Are you a junior or senior in high school and want to explore a bit of the world before starting college? By choosing to go SOBO rather than NOBO, you free yourself from a ton of stress. You don’t have to start until after graduation! Having your hike start at the very end of May, or beginning of June, gives you time to prepare yourself physically and financially (you’ll have a constructive outlet for all that graduation money you’ll be receiving!). You will have already applied for college(if that’s the path you decide to follow; you do you!), but it is perfectly fine to start in January as opposed to August. Consider it a semester abroad. This is a once in a lifetime experience, and you should take advantage of this time!

Are you a college student wanting to attempt a thru-hike, but feel unsure of whether you can get enough money as well as graduate a semester early in order to get that March start that is generally needed for a NOBO hike? Here’s your answer: SOBO!! You don’t need to worry about pushing yourself to graduate early and you add 5 months of money earning time that you wouldn’t have going NOBO! Also, you can help yourself by following those that are able to hike NOBO; by the time you get started, they will have gotten their trail legs and (generally)figured out what they’re doing. Use their stories to hype yourself up and learn from their experiences. It’s like watching a preview for your own journey.

2. The End Date

Probably the second largest bonus of hiking SOBO.

Those hiking NOBO have a deadline. Baxter Park closes on October 15. Katahdin is regularly shut down even sooner due to weather. I can’t imagine how difficult it would be to hike 2,180 miles, only to be unable to hike the final 5 and summit Katahdin. Thankfully, this isn’t an issue for those going SOBO. There is no cut-off day for your hike. You can take 7 months if you want. Granted, the weather will still suck once late fall and winter hit(even in ‘the south’), but you’ll still legally be able to hike. You’ll just have to prepare for snow towards the end of your hike. You’ll also be finishing your hike at the start of holiday season. Who doesn’t want to celebrate Thanksgiving while still experiencing hiker hunger??

3. Solitude

Another bonus of hiking SOBO is avoiding the hiker bubble. Now this may not be a bonus for everyone, but quite a few people I’ve talked to are looking forward to spending time alone with themselves while hiking. If you choose to go SOBO, you are more likely to enjoy alone time. According to this fantastic and informative post, only 242 people attempted a SOBO thru hike last year. Compare that with the 2,500 that attempted a NOBO hike. (Note:Despite the huge difference in numbers in those attempting a thru-hike, approximately the same percentage of each group completed their hikes: 29% of south-bounders and 26% of north-bounders.) While this means you’ll spend more time alone, it also means you’re likely to develop stronger bonds with those you do hike with. There are not as many opportunities to bounce from group to group, so you’re more likely to tough it out with a single small group.

4. Preparation

Going SOBO, you start out with some of the most difficult stretches and terrains of the entire trail. 100mile wilderness You’ll start out with Katahdin, then head straight into the 100 mile wilderness, which will be followed by the mountains of New Hampshire. Sound intimidating? It is.

However, look at this as a good thing. You’ll have to prepare yourself for the 100 mile wilderness. The majority of thru-hikers quit with-in the first two weeks. The 100 mile wilderness prevents you from quitting within the first week. North-bounders are faced with towns and outfitters within the first 30 miles. While there are obviously benefits to this, there is also a lot more temptation to quit and head home. If you can make it through the 100 miles and into New Hampshire, you’ll know that you are physically capable of finishing the trail.

If you haven’t considered going SOBO, hopefully this will get you thinking! There are plenty of other bonuses for hiking SOBO, these are just some of the biggies. No matter which direction you decide to go, whether you do it all at once or over years, get out there and hike!

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Comments 7

  • Jackson Watson : Feb 7th

    As a SOBO in 2011, I can definitely vouch for all of these. However, word of warning for those who’ve never been in the NE in the summer, the black flies are not to be taken lightly. Those first few weeks in Maine and NH were definitely some of the toughest mentally and physically, but you come out ready to handle just about anything. Good luck on your adventure!

  • Steve : Jun 15th

    Can you talk about the weather and bug differences with a SOBO, as well as the availability of water?
    Thanks for this great post.

  • Mike Manning : Oct 14th

    Great post! Please let us know how it all works out. I like the idea of heading right into the tough part, rather than having it at the end. Always a fan of getting it over with. I’m a few years off from a thru-hike (gotta get 2 kids through college first!), but definitely want to go SOBO. Will probably need to entertain a “shakedown” hike through the 100-miles. That way, I’ll already know I can do it.

    Good luck!

  • George : Oct 14th

    I pretty sure that every spring scads of NOBO hikers deal with the runs and pukes because they are always packed so closely together too

  • Paul Boulay : Oct 14th

    SOBO, left Katahdin Aug 5, 1978.
    1) Better ater access. Drought was experienced in the Fall in MA, CT, NY, NJ instead of VA. Dealing Sring, Big Walker Mtn was 20 miles, bone dry.
    2) MD side of the Potomic, notorious for rattlesnakes was in snow in Jan’79.
    3) I saw no other human for 10 days straight, Jan’79, in Shenandoah NP. That was sublime.
    4) Perishables: I routinely made a 1lb pack of hot dogs last 5 days after Oct. – great chopped into the mac & cheese dinner.
    5) Resource competition: Crowded shelters in Aug in the 100-mile, but nowhere else.

  • Joseph Barnett : Jan 20th

    Planning SOBO Late July 2019 when retire 2019. Other option is to wait till spring for NOBO?? Thanks!

  • Charles : Feb 22nd

    Hiked the pct in 15 and again 2018, (50 year anniversary) after reading all the great post and not so great, I would go sobo less crowding, less noro, when thru hiking less is more, except food and miles, plus alot more water on the AT compared to the Pct, both trails are bad ass and look forward to the ass whipping the AT
    As a sobo and skip the nobo madness.


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