5 Tips For Thru-Hiking on a Budget: It’s Possible

Wait, I’m Paying How Much to Hike?

According to the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, the average thru-hiker spends around $1,000 per month while hiking the AT…and this doesn’t even cover the amount of money you’re going to spend on gear before hand.

These numbers, even as I type them now, are incredibly daunting.  Between Tyler (my boyfriend and hiking partner) and I, we’re paying off student loans, car payments, etc., and will still be expected to do so while we are on the trail. Unfortunately, the real world doesn’t stop just because you choose to step away from it.

It’s scary knowing that you will have to finance your regular life as well as your Trail Life at the same time, but it is possible.

Financial Planning Tips

  1. Save Money

    Saving money is hard. Trust me, I know.  But if you’re going to do something like this that requires so much money, it’s something that you just have to do.  One trick that I learned from my Grandpa is to save your change. Now I know it doesn’t seem like change is really going to add up, but trust me, it does.  Every time you use cash, put the spare change in your trusty piggy bank, and don’t touch it until it’s full.  I know this may seem silly and childish, but I promise you, if you start doing this now and are patient, it WILL add up.

    Pro tip: Roll your own coins and take them to the bank to cash out so you don’t lose money on the automatic coin counters.

  2. Make Smart Purchases

    Gear is expensive. But considering the gear you choose is basically going to be your home, you don’t want to short yourself of quality items because you feel like you can’t afford it.  Find sales, find thrift stores, find anyone who is selling gently used items…YOU CAN FIND GEAR FOR A CHEAPER PRICE.   Spread out your purchases so you can find the best deals. It’s still going to hurt your wallet a bit, but don’t feel like you have to make all of your purchases all at once.

  3. Become a REI Co-Op Member

    Chances are, REI is going to be one of your first stops when you start looking for gear.  Let me tell you, there are so many perks to becoming a member. You know how I was saying find sales and used gear?  REI provides special member sales and Garage Sales with 50+% off used goods, and these discounts can help you get some high quality gear for some super cheap prices.  Plus, if you sign up for a credit card, you get a $100 gift card which can really help.

    (Bonus Life Tip: If you’re young like me, and you’re going to be spending the money anyway, this is a good way to help build your credit score)

  4. Use Your Support Team

    I have had SO many people asking me what they can do to help me with my AT trip.  They don’t feel obligated to, they just think its a cool experience and are genuinely interested helping.  Take advantage of this!  No, not in a greedy way; but if people are adamant about helping and want to donate to the cause, give them the opportunity!  When people ask me, I’ll tell them I need small things like baby wipes or basic hygiene items.  These things don’t cost a lot of money but people get excited knowing that they’re helping you accomplish so cool.  Another thing we’ve done is develop a list of people asking to help with food.  Once we have a rough plan of where we’ll be needing to restock on food, we’ll give these people a list and let them sign up to send food along the trail.  If you have people wanting to support you on you adventure, remember that they are doing it because they care about you…don’t expect them to do it, and make sure to show your appreciation.

  5. Be Aware of What You’re Spending on the Trail

    When you’re on the trail, the thought of a nice warm shower and comfortable bed in the next town will seem super enticing. So will that pizza, cheeseburger, and beer. But keep your budget in mind.  I know in the moment you won’t even think about prices, but if you go over budget, it can really mess up your plans.  A ton of people don’t finish the trail because of the simple fact that they run out of money.  Keep track of your finances while your hiking, and budget your money before you leave to get an idea of how much money you can spend in each town.

    But don’t forget that you’re doing this for fun…you can splurge every once in a while.

I know money is a tough subject to talk about and an even tougher subject to deal with, but it’s a huge thing to consider when you’re planning a Thru-Hike.  You are choosing to partake in a really awesome journey, but it is also your responsibility to finance it. So take the right steps to prep for your thru-hike.

 If you really want to do it, you can find a way to make it work.

Hasta Luego Friends,

Eiryn (I’m really enjoying these trail name recommendations)

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Comments 2

  • Ashley : Feb 2nd

    Greetings Eiryn,

    Thank you for posting this information. These tips could also be transferred to everyday use, especially saving change. I financed 60% of my gear purchases last year through change alone. It really helped. I keep coming across this $1,000.00/month number. Is this including your student loans/car payments/cell phone or is this ONLY trail spending?

    I purchased a duplex in 2016 and plan to rent my half (my tenant will stay until 2020) while I attempt my first thru hike. I figure the bottom unit will pay the mortgage and the top unit will go to my personal bills (mainly student loans, ugh!!!) with about $170-$200 left over per month for property maintenance. I will save money prior to leaving to finance my adventure as well. With that being said, is $1000/month still applicable? Any additional information would be fantastic. Thank you for your articles; I especially enjoyed the Adulting and AT one. Take care!

  • Mark Kromer : Jul 8th

    $1000 a month????

    No. This is not true. A dollar a mile is about right. Even a bit less.

    I have been out twice. No one spent that much; maybe Israelis.


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