How to Get Sponsored for Your Thru-Hike

“I keep my mind on my money my money on my mind…”

For those of you not familiar with Snoop Dogg’s hit track Gin and Juice, 1. Where the heck have you been? 2. You’re missing out and 3. The Gourds also do a pretty awesome bluegrass cover of it. Check it out, you’ll smile. In this song, Mr. Dogg pays homage to Seagrams and Tanqueray gin amongst talking about the usual rap things: sex, drugs and money. After Dr. Dre throws down an Intro and Snoop Dogg spits his first Verse, we make it to the Chorus. I promise we are almost to a place where we can start talking about hiking, I’m just as surprised as you are that I’m talking about Snoop Dogg on an Appalachian Trail blog…bear with me…

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The chorus is a few catchy lines with lyrics that bring us to the title of this post…”Rollin down the street, smokin’ *candy cigarettes*, sippin’ on gin and juice. Laid back, with my mind on my money and my money on my mind“. If you have thru hiked the AT, are planning to thru hike the AT, or planning any trip/event/vacation/sabbatical/party where you will not have a steady income for 4-6 months, you will eventually have to deal with its financial implications. Therefore, your mind will be on your money and your money will be on your mind. FULL CIRCLE. Aren’t ya glad you stuck around?

Dealing with the reality that living in the woods for half a year is actually quite an expensive decision isn’t an easy thing to do. Being so far removed from traditional, modern society would lead one to think that money on the trail is a non issue. For some people, it is. For me, I knew that in order to even be able to attempt to thru hike, I needed to save up enough money for all of my gear, and have enough of a disposable income left over to resupply on trail (food, beer, gear repair/replacement, beer, hostels, beer…you get the idea). I came home from working at a summer camp in early September and had six months to plan the logistics of my hike and how I was going to be able to afford it.

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A lot of people ask “How much does it actually cost to thru hike the AT?” My answer: I don’t know, I’ve never done it. If you Google around, there are various answers: $2/mile, $1,000/month, don’t leave Springer without at least $5,000 in your bank account. The variety of answers is overwhelming, so I figured I should just save up as much money as humanly possible. I worked three part jobs and had a non-existent social calendar, but I quickly racked up stacks on stacks of hundos enough money to start buying my gear. I applied for the Appalachian Trials Blogger position pretty early on because I knew that maintaining a blog while on trail was important to me. That first step, getting involved with the hiking community, is what sparked my interest in sponsorships.

In my Gear List post last week, I laid out every item in my pack with its purpose, weight, and price. I also organized each item into three categories: things I already owned and did not need to upgrade for the AT, things I bought out of pocket, and things that I had been given by my sponsors. I got an overwhelmingly positive response and had quite a few people ask:

How Can I Get Sponsored for My Thru-Hike?

There isn’t really an easy answer to this question. A lot of it is trial and error. A lot of it is sending out emails to companies who never reply. A lot of it is asking your friends for help. And a lot of it is just luck. I started my Sponsorship Quest with Fitbit. I am an avid Fitbit user and support their products entirely. The Fitbit I had (Fitbit One) prior to any sponsorship needs to be charged every 7-10 days. Not wanting to deal with that hassle, I sent an email to their PR team explaining my situation and  asked if they had any products that ran on a watch battery. They introduced me to the Fitbit Zip and were happy to send one my way. I will write a blog post summarizing my entire hike (thinking about how I am going to do that sounds like a nightmare!!) once I am done and they will publish it on their blog. Easy peasy.

With one sponsor success, I was hungry for more. I sat down and thought about the gear that I wanted to take. I went to those company websites and search for anything that sounded like ‘brand ambassador’, ‘product donation’, or ‘individual sponsorship’ and got in touch with their customer service department. The companies that replied (I’d say 1 in every 7 reply, usually with “Sorry, our sponsorship funds have been allocated elsewhere for this season, try again next quarter…but good luck on your hike!”, but sometimes would sound like “whoa, that’s awesome, let me get you in touch with our PR/Marketing team”) tended to be smaller, self run businesses that were genuinely interested in my adventure and success. Once I had contact with the people that could help me, it was all about selling myself as a brand. I’ve learned that for the most part, humans are great! They care, and they want to see you succeed. Incorporating this into a sponsorship relationship is important to me, as I don’t want to represent products I don’t actually like. Duh. A lot of my emails looked like this:

sample email

Managing finances is never a fun thing to do, and worrying about whether or not you’ll be able to hike the AT based on how much money you have is even less fun. Those of you who aren’t dirt poor and have the luxury of buying all of your gear out of pocket, more power to ya. Those of you who are looking to save a buck by partnering up with various sponsors, my advice is to be persistent and start early. For those of you thru hiking in the upcoming years, look to people who have been sponsored in the past. It’s likely that the companies who are organizing sponsorships will do so again the following year. The Badger Sponsorship is a great example.

RECAP:
1. Figure out what you need: what gear has worked for you in the past? What hasn’t? Do you currently have last years version of a tent but want to upgrade for your thru hike?
2. Get involved in the online hiking community; learn from others. Blogs, YouTube, and Facebook have been my go-to’s.
3. Start looking early: brands that you would think have a preexisting brand ambassador/sponsorship/donation department probably do.
4. Figure out what you (as a brand) can offer the company. Photos? Blogs? Tweets? Videos? They want exposure.
5. Build a relationship with whoever your contact is, they need to trust that you will follow through with your end of the deal.
6. …follow through with your end of the deal. Whether companies want you to give them exposure via social media, or just write a recap at the end of your trip, they are supporting you and you should give them the decency of following through with what you have agreed on.

The process of getting sponsored is definitely not easy. I started in September and was often discouraged by either the lack of responses I was getting, or people rejecting my offer. Patience is important in this situation, as it is in most circumstances.  If you look hard enough, and try long enough, you’re bound to find something. People are amazed that us crazy thru-hikers would even consider walking 2, 185 miles and are happy to help when they can. Being a sponsored hiker is also a great way to stay motivated on trail (I assume…), why would you want to quit when you have support from so many great people?? Sponsorships aren’t for everyone. Like I said, it’s a lot of work and takes a lot of planning. You need to be flexible (with time, donations, money, what they’re asking of you) and figure out if representing that specific company is something you truly want to do. Please let me know if you have any additional questions in the comment box below, I’d be happy to help.

Happy Trails,
Allison

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Comments 10

  • Vanessa : Mar 11th

    Thank you for the info, I really want to do a thru hike as well!
    I just noticed you have 2 days till you leave!! Good Luck!

    Reply
  • Alix Hinnegan : Dec 5th

    ‘Gin and Juice’ Represent! 😉 Great post! I like your styyyylee!
    and as far as this goes “Like most twentysomethings, I’m a hot mess. Not the bad kind of hot mess that you find drunk and crying alone in the bathroom of a bar, but the kind who is willing to admit that sometimes your life is in shambles.” I can relate!!!!!! I hope you keep finding success!

    Reply
  • Lauren : Oct 5th

    Great article! I am definitely one of those people who has been worrying about how I am going to fund my A.T. thru-hike, next March. But I do have a camp and travel blog, and I am a dedicated writer. I plan to use your advice to try to get some support for the upcoming trip.
    P.S. I hope your thru-hike was amazing!

    Reply
  • Drew Heard : Mar 16th

    Thank you , me and my brother Josh, of no blood kin, have decide we are going to start here in Louisiana drive to where the Mississippi River, divides the land. Then swim across ,then walk the tripple crown starting the AT in Tennessee ,would like to go pro the quest of perspectives, being aware of the word of God and living as intended, as the earth was presented. Won’t to stop by nursing homes and talk to everyone there abt life.telling them we are going to try to do all the things that are considered great, as in walking the tripple crown , hang gliding, etc. sword fighting in Rome as a gladiator, these is what were doing don’t know exactly all hills to top but that’s not the issues where not doing it for gain but to show LOVE ,so we have no differences of one accord . Actively looking for someone to help the AT is the first task,after we swim the divide, wisdom of the spirit will set us free ,I’m ready to start walking back home , called by my true name that I haven’t heard, in what feels like 300 years, We walk the crown for you and the kid with no legs ,the one who smiles while he cry ,all. How would I get the world to send me hand wrote massages, to do with it what they won’t. If u won’t me to take a prayer to a peak ,I picture us spreading love. under gods law ,I will seek to do my best to adhere. Plz let me know anything u belive, so our Perspectives gain, love, wisdom,knowledge so we can feel compassion again,by understanding I agree with you in fullocating. COME , HELP . Congrats on ur achievements. Thank you for your time.

    Reply
    • Drew Heard : Mar 16th

      Any expense tips, this journey will require funding ,tell everyone that two men are going to do this things ,with death being are great reward for the quest, we we walk with or without funds ,and will take no flash light so we never blind ourselves from the path. And refuse to expect the pollution of man’s ways , when my son’s of age I will bring him on this journey to ,we stop when we die.

      Reply
  • Drew Heard : Mar 16th

    How do we tell time magazine, life whatever,the more people that embrace love the better.plz know that Ive been secessful in electrical work, have land house pond a lot of space in the woods .lots things. And was unsuccessful in being happy with what have gained and have no job bc of choice .and are now in foreclosure, and when my land is taking from me we begin this quest.very soon and am happy to know I will be striped of everything I own. So I can live again , I was never sad I just have seen perspectives, that i can’t ignore again.Do exactly what u won’t to in life right now.

    Reply

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