My Preparation as a Newbie Backpacker

When I decided in April 2019  to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, I didn’t realize how much work goes into preparing for your first thru-hike. I quickly realized I was vastly unprepared for what was ahead. Luckily, I had 11 months to prepare for this crazy adventure.


When I made the decision to attempt my thru-hike in 2020, I had absolutely no gear. I didn’t even have a sleeping bag. I needed everything. I started doing research on what previous thru-hikers used, read articles, and watched all the gear videos on YouTube. I knew nothing about backpacking gear and what would be best for me, so I quickly became overwhelmed. After some time I started narrowing my options down and purchasing gear. I tested things out and swapped out things that didn’t work for me. Finally, after months, I had my setup. (Although, I’m still tweaking a few things.)


While working on purchasing all my gear, I also started paying off my debt. Currently, I have multiple things to pay off while trying to save up for expenses while I’m out on trail. Before leaving in March, I thought it was going to be a long shot to buy my gear and pay off my accumulating debt while saving thousands of dollars for on-trail expenses. I started working every shift I was asked to work while asking people if they wanted the day off so I could work their shift. I’ve been working my butt off for several months, and I should be set and ready to go come March.


Last year, when I decided that I wanted to thru-hike, I was not in shape at all. I had not worked out in over a year and was extremely lazy (still kinda am, but who isn’t sometimes). I knew I needed to start working out to ensure I wouldn’t quit within the first few weeks of being on trail. I started to do short hikes of only a few miles at a time and started taking my dog for longer walks as well.

Before I knew it, I was able to do around seven miles at a time. I tried to go super early because it was summer and it was miserably hot. Now that the weather has cooled down, I’m able to wear my full pack and go over 10 miles. My longest hike so far is 16 miles. I’m hoping that by the time I leave, I can do 20 miles with my pack. I know the terrain is completely different here in Austin, Texas, than it will be on the AT. I’m hoping that if I can at least hike long distances here, I should be somewhat OK until I get my trail legs out there.


Unfortunately, I have not done much mental preparation.  I know, I know, the mental aspect of the thru-hike is what tends to send people home. I’m working on it. I am currently reading Zach’s book Appalachian Trials to help prepare but I will also take any and all suggestions on helping prepare mentally. This is where I think my biggest challenge will be.

Learning about all the little things about what it takes to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail is astounding. While I have done research and prepared on the subjects above, now it’s time to really crack down and learn more about the trail itself. 

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Comments 2

  • Jim Julian : Jan 23rd

    Find some hills and slopes to climb. Going down is as much work as going up.

    Your thighs will thank you once you get on the trail.

    Camp in the rain to get some experience with bad weather camping.

    Good luck

  • Directional Challenged : Jan 24th

    I also suffer from depression for about 25 years. I am 62 leaving from Springer Mountain in March. I too get energy from the outdoors First time AT’er. Hope to meet you on the trail


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