9 AT Thru-Hikers Share Their Top Advice

We polled our ’22 AT Bloggers to see what they learned over the course of their journey from Georgia to Maine. Read on to see what these nine thru-hikers had to say about their favorite gear and what their advice would be for hikers looking to follow along in their footsteps.

Responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Owen “AT Home” Eigenbrot

Favorite Gear: Zpacks Plex Solo Tent

MSRP: $599
Weight: 13.9 oz

Super spacious for one, disgustingly lightweight, and easy to pitch in tight spots. It’s kind of the perfect shelter for a solo thru-hike, especially in buggy conditions.

Top Advice for Future Thru-Hikers:

  1. Go early. With a mid-February start, I experienced an extremely quiet trail, avoided uncomfortable heat and humidity, had access to abundant on-trail water, and dodged the worst of the bugs. If a quieter, cooler hike feels like your jam, then don’t be afraid to make it happen. Views through the leafless trees were pretty sweet too.
  2. Don’t sleep on the AT just because you’re from the West and used to big mountains. You may feel like the Appalachians don’t have anything for you, but the AT really is a special trail—pictures don’t do it justice at all. The variety is shocking, amazing, and endlessly frustrating. Maine rules and the Whites are no joke—they’re the hardest section of any of the Triple Crown thru-hikes, considering reasonably normal conditions.

Alexa “Happy Camper” Carpenter | @lexatreks

Favorite Gear: Hyperlite Mountain Gear 3400 Junction 55L Pack

MSRP: $378.95
Weight: 2 lb 2.9 oz

This bag was my faithful home; it kept my kitchen, shelter, and belongings dry and safe and had endless space to store my survival essentials (i.e., potato chips and marshmallows). It’s an extremely durable bag and is well equipped to endure snow, rain, mud, and worst of all, mice attacks.

Top Advice for Future Thru-Hikers:

  1. Learn to find beauty in the struggle and in the rugged, rustic paths you step along. If you allow it, you’ll find your home among the trees and your ceiling painted by stars—you’ll be sore, tired, and hungry, but in step with the wilderness you occupy. You can build yourself a life, a community, and happiness with each painful and beautiful pace forward, and in my experience, there’s nothing more enriching than this.
  2. Embrace both the good and bad parts of the experience. One day, without your conscious knowledge or intent, you will wake up and feel changed and empowered. Experiencing this “renewal” takes sacrifice, grit, and suffering through the hard times. The trail will break you down before putting you back together, but rest assured, the “you” that is rebuilt by the trail is one you will treasure for the rest of your life.

Trishadee “Dandelion” Newlin | @wanderingtdee

Favorite Gear: Leki Corklite Trekking Poles

MSRP: $119.95
Weight: 1 lb 3.1 oz

They help with momentum on the uphill, save my knees on the downhill, and help me balance on crazy terrain. Leki has been a great company by helping me replace parts when needed – I put my poles through a battle, for sure!

Top Advice for Future Thru-Hikers:

  1. You need money to hike the AT, but the biggest budget to build is time. So many thru-hiker friends I spoke with said they wished they had slowed down, especially at the end. I took “zero” days to rest and explore trail towns and kept my pace and miles at a level that let me enjoy the trail. I took my time because I wanted to be able to walk away from Katahdin feeling like I didn’t leave a single stone left unturned, and I believe I accomplished that.
  2. Turn off your online advice groups the moment you’re on trail. The internet can be an extremely valuable resource when looking for reviews on gear, resupply ideas, general town info, etc., but once you step on, you’re part of a community. It’s one of the most amazing things about hiking – people really do look out for one another on trail.

Matthew “House” Poole | @mf.poole

Favorite Gear: Dan Durston X-Mid 2 Tent

MSRP: $300
Weight: 35.4 oz

I met the love of my life on this trail. We moved quickly, and when we wanted to “move in together,” this tent was a lightweight palace for us to retreat to at the end of every day.

Top Advice for Future Thru-Hikers:

  1. Do your research. Have realistic expectations of the trail and your gear.
  2. Anyone can do it, but it’s up to you to make sure you finish.

Michelle “Spitfire” Petix | @mum.k.p

Favorite Gear: Big Agnes Tiger Wall UL2 Bikepack Tent

MSRP: $499.95
Weight: 2 lb 15 oz

Best deal for the cost, weight, and extra space and storage. 165 days and zero issues.

Top Advice for Future Thru-Hikers:

  1. Believe 100% that you will finish – envision yourself on Katahdin, and when someone asks where you are going, always say Maine baby, Maine.
  2. As great as your trail family is, be open to meeting and hanging out with as many new hikers as you can.

Jake “Sidetrack” Arens | @sidetrackhiker

Favorite Gear: LiteAF Feather Weight Fanny Pack

MSRP: $50
Weight: 2.3 oz

It’s awesome for carrying things I need immediate access to on trail, and especially in town. I put my phone and battery in my fanny pack rather than my hip belt pockets so that I can carry more snacks in my hip belt pockets. That way, I don’t have to stop and take my pack off to grab snacks while I hike.

Top Advice for Future Thru-Hikers:

  1. Think about mental strategies, not just gear. Having strategies for handling tough days will make a tremendous difference.
  2. Be disciplined. You won’t want to hike every day—in fact, you might not want to hike at the start of most days. Once you get up and start, though, the momentum will carry you through. You can always do one more day, one more mile, and one more step.

Katie “Spice” Frawley

Favorite Gear: ULA Circuit Pack

MSRP: $279.99
Weight: 37.3 oz

As a beginner backpacker, the ULA Circuit was perfect for me. I love the simple design, how comfortable it is, and the roll-top closure, which makes the pack smaller or larger based on your needs. I think I tried five or six packs in the pre-trail preparation process, and the ULA Circuit is the only one that didn’t pinch, rub, or hurt my shoulders or lower back.

Top Advice for Future Thru-Hikers:

  1. If you want to hike the AT but don’t have much backpacking experience (like me), don’t count yourself out! I believe anyone who is highly motivated and determined can hike the AT with a decent amount of preparation. My preparation advice would be the following: read blogs and books, talk to folks who have thru-hiked before, test your gear before you start the trail, write down and bring along your “why” for hiking the trail, and most importantly—keep an open mind.
  2. Find shoes that work for you and test them on shakedown hikes before your thru-hike! Every single step on trail starts with your feet, so you want shoes that will be comfortable and durable. Also, even if you think you’ve found the right shoe, don’t buy multiple pairs before the trip because your feet could still change on your hike.

Jana “Ducky” Giles | @jana.v.world

Favorite Gear: Cocoon Silk Mummy Liner

MSRP: $69
Weight: 4.7 oz

I’m the kind of person who wants a sheet over me, even in the summer. Curling up with a silk liner every night is my personal form of platinum blazing.

Top Advice for Future Thru-Hikers:

  1. Hiking the AT is a lifestyle change – the first week is the hardest. Like any habit, give it 30 days to stick, and it will become habitual and enjoyable.
  2. NOBO isn’t the only way! Do what works with your life and timeline. Whether that’s finally doing a section hike, braving a SOBO start, or flip-flopping from your hometown, there are so many ways to enjoy the trail.

Wendy “Serendipity” Boller | @wboller

Favorite Gear: HOKA Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX Hiking Boots

MSRP: $170
Weight: 1 lb 6.7 oz

These shoes are wonderfully bouncy, give me a little hug of ankle support, and have a stable, wide base.

Top Advice for Future Thru-Hikers:

  1. Pre-hike, I was stricken with anxiety about the logistics of resupply, shuttling, and how to arrange hostel/motel stays. There is a huge network of support all along the trail and also stores like Walmart, Dollar General, and Amazon. I was never not able to arrange a shuttle, book a hostel, find food I could eat within my dietary restrictions, or send myself resupplies up ahead on the trail.
  2. The best advice I got in my pre-hike anxiety days was to break the overwhelming whole down into manageable bite-size pieces. You’re not going to be trapped in the wilderness for months – you’re going on a series of 3-6 day shakedown hikes where you can repeatedly tweak your routine, gear, and supplies to perfection. Even the 100-Mile Wilderness included road crossings, delightful trail magic, and the option of a food drop from Shaws.

Many thanks to these bloggers for sharing their top advice from their time on the AT, and congrats to all of the hikers from the AT Class of 2022! Interested in hearing what our ’22 PCT Bloggers had to say about their experiences? You can read about them here.

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Featured image: Graphic design by  Chris Helm (@chris.helm).

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