How Much Does an AT Thru-Hike Cost?…Depends

While doing my research for my thru-hike, I have only found a few videos and articles that talk about the cost of thru-hiking the AT, and the answers vary widely. Based on my research, as well as what I’ve spent so far, I am going to attempt to break down how much I think it is going to cost ME. Figuring out how much your thru-hike is going to cost is not an exact science, and there are many variables you should consider, such as injuries and replacing broken gear, just to name two.

I’ve spend a little over $2,000.00 on gear for my thru-hike, and I think I’ve done pretty well. I could’ve spent a lot more if I went with all brand-name gear, but I really didn’t see any benefit in the extra cost. I did make my own hammock, suspension system, and tarp to save a little money. However, I recommend that you don’t cheap out on your shelter, sleep system, pack, or footwear. One thing to keep in mind is that you will need 2 to 5 pairs of shoes to complete the trail (the trail is hard on shoes). Also, this does not include the food you will need on the trail. That will be covered in how much you should have saved for your hike.

While on the trail, I would plan on spending $2.00 to $4.00 per mile for your thru-hike. This equates to between $4,380.00 and $8,760. I am planning on a little over $2.00/mile for my hike. This money is going to cover re-supplies (food and disposable items), replacing broken gear, zero days, hostel and hotel stays, adult beverages (if you are so inclined), and any touristy things you might want to do while on the trail. One big expense that a lot of hikers seem to incur is drinking during town stops. I don’t drink so I’ll definitely save some money there. I’m also planning on limiting my hostel/hotel stays while in town for resupplies. I will be taking zero days in town and will enjoy a shower now and then, but I don’t need to stay in a hostel/hotel every 3 to 4 days when I go into town. I don’t think I’ll be able to save money on town food (being totally honest here). I like to eat, and when I have the chance to indulge in town food, I won’t hold back.

While there are many factors beyond your control on a thru-hike, there are almost as many within your control. How much or how little you spend is really determined by your self-control. As previously stated, I would recommend planning to spend $2.00 or more per mile so you have a cushion for the unexpected. It would be a shame if your hike was going well, but you had to go home because you ran out of money. Remember always hike your own hike and have fun.

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Comments 10

  • David : Oct 26th

    Good information to know about planning your hike. Article is well written and makes you think about some things you wouldn’t otherwise think about when contemplating tour costs.

    • Grumpy Gramps : Oct 27th

      Thank you David.

    • Pete young : Oct 28th

      Good travails my friend I would love to see your progress as your hike evolves !!!!!

      • James Thomson : Oct 29th

        Thank you Pete and if you would like you can follow me on Facebook as well by clicking the FB icon under my bio.

  • rhinestone : Oct 27th

    A couple of questions. Why are you attempting this hike? How many years have you been walking around planet earth? Did you buy any gear used? What do you estimate the daily food supply will cost while on the trail ( not at McDonalds). How prevalent do you think “trail injuries” occur.? Interesting info. THANKS

    • Grumpy Gramps : Oct 27th

      Hi Rhinestone. Hiking the AT has been a life long dream of mine. I grew up in Maine and we had a camp in Andover on South Arm Rd. (the AT crosses South Arm) and my dreams of hiking the AT were born. I will celebrate my 49th Womb Emancipation Day on Halloween.
      I did not buy any used gear but I did make my own hammock, suspension system and tarp. This definitely saved me a good amount of money but there was a fairly large learning curve.

      I haven’t really sat down to figure food costs but if I had to guess I would say about $5.00 to $6.00/day. My plan is to eat a lot of Rammen, Mashed Potatoes, noodles, pasta and rice sides, oat meal, salami and cheese. I am also going to make the DIY Energy & Recovery Drink that my fellow Trek Blogger Brandon Chase blogged about.

      I don’t think injuries are that prevalent with a little planning and caution. Now this is just my opinion and not based on anything but my own best guess.

      I hope this helps and happy trails.

      Grumpy Gramps

  • Christopher smith : Oct 28th

    Love your post we will also be hiking the AT this spring doing flip flop as weel but going north on first leg from harpers.. Go luck to you never know might see you out there..

    • James Thomson : Oct 29th

      That’s great Christopher! See you on the trail!

  • Koty : Oct 29th

    Hey James
    I write for the trek as well and am finishing up my thru hike in the next few weeks.
    I tried to figure out a budget before coming out here as well. The info on the web just isn’t solid. I can throw some numbers your way to help. Anyways, town shower, laundry, a meal, and a bed usually runs around $50+ once a week if splitting cost. Exponentially more if alone. 4 pairs of shoes $320. 3-4 day resupply usually runs around $40-50. So more like $10 a day than $5-6. A lot of these smaller towns are pricey. $1 tunas and knorr sides will be $2-3. So, now a resupply that would normally be $25 is $50+. It adds up quick. Don’t skip the protein. Also, fruit and greens bars really help. Deficiencies happen quick out here when trying to save money. Anyways, Time is a better way to look at it instead of miles. X number of months times X amount of money. $600 – 800 a month is being pretty frugal in my opinion. I’m frugal compared to other hikers I’ve been around and I’m generally around $700 a month. Many out here are around $1000+ a month. I planned to do this hike in 5 months. Didn’t happen. I’m on month 7 and will probably finish at 8.5. Things happen you can’t control such as injuries. I had to take off two weeks in Gorham, NH a little over a month ago.

  • James Thomson : Oct 30th

    Howdy Koty

    Thanks for the great info! I knew that I was being conservative with my numbers so having your numbers def helps. Good luck with the rest of your hike!


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