The Hard and Fast Numbers of the Appalachian Trail

Well, I did it.

I started April 22 and finished Aug. 31. In 132 days (four months and nine days), I took every step between Springer Mountain in Georgia and Mount Katahdin in Maine. I’ve celebrated with the friends I hiked with, I’ve had cake and champagne with family, I’ve visited nearly every friend I have in the Southeast, and I’ve even gone back to hike a 100-mile section just for fun. I spent about two months reflecting on my experiences before I finally settled back down (for now) and am back to working.

It didn’t take long at all for me to lustily miss the thrill of trail life. As much fun as it is to have access to a fridge, microwave, bed, and toilet 24/7, I know that the life I love the most doesn’t exist under a roof. And so, as the threat of post-trail depression looms ever closer, I have finally taken to compiling my notes to share for the viewing pleasure of not only myself, but everybody coming out of (or heading into) their next/first adventure.

Though I was not the most disciplined in keeping up with my blog (this one) while I was on the trail, I managed to journal every single day. Meticulously so. And with the help of the Fitbit that I wore every step of my journey, I am proud to post my trail statistics. For your viewing convenience, I have posted my stats under three topics, saving the longest and most tedious for last. The categories are finances, odds and ends, and miles and steps. I am happy to answer any questions anyone may have about any of these numbers, and in fact I welcome them. My hope is that this post will answer some questions aspiring hikers may have, but an actual discussion would be even better.

As I once presented my pack to the hiking gods at the end of the AT, I now happily share these numbers with you. Enjoy!

Finances

As one of the most frequently asked questions I have come across and also potentially one of the more awkward to ask, I have broken my expenses down so that folks can see how much an average/slightly fast hiker spends and what on. Before my trip even started, I spent about $2,000 on my gear. This number included all three pairs of shoes I wore and pretty high-quality, lightweight backpacking gear so that I was able to get my base weight down to about 12 pounds. After that, the total amount that I spent while on trail came out to $3,163.33.

It should be noted that I am from East Tennessee and have ample family and friends for about the first 1,000 miles. This meant that I had a few extra free places to stay and even a few resupplies taken care of by some of the generous people in my life. Even without these kindnesses, though, I would say that I still paid for 90-95% of what I needed for my hike on my own. Keeping these facts about my trip in mind, my numbers are as follows.

Amount Spent per State

Total: $3,163.33; Georgia: $82.23; NC/TN: $649.21; Virginia: $717.02; West Virginia: $0; Maryland: $42.81; Pennsylvania: $237.28; New Jersey: $166.25; New York: $60.08; Connecticut: $115.12; Massachusetts: $137.73; Vermont: $264.07; New Hampshire: $239.31; Maine: $452.22

Amount Spent per Day by State

Overall: $23.96; Georgia: $11.75; NC/TN: $21.64; Virginia: $23.90; West Virginia: $0; Maryland: $21.41; Pennsylvania: $23.73; New Jersey: $41.56; New York: $15.02; Connecticut: $38.37; Massachusetts: $34.43; Vermont: $29.34; New Hampshire: $21.76; Maine: $32.30

What I Spent Money On

Town meals: $863.82; lodging: $696.01; resupplies: $662.44; gear adjustments: $455.37; snacks in town: $153.12; drinks in town (mostly Gatorade): $104.10; transportation (not including to Springer or from Katahdin): $99.50; ice cream: $64.97; recreation: $49.25; laundry: $14.75

What I Spent, by Percentage

Town meals: 27.31%; lodging: 22%; resupplies: 20.94%; gear adjustments: 14.4%; snacks in town: 4.84%; drinks in town: 3.29%; transportation: 3.15%; ice cream: 2.05%; recreation: 1.56%; laundry: .047%

Odds and Ends

This is probably the most interesting section of this write-up, so if you are skimming and are only going to really look at a few numbers, check these bad boys out. I kept track of as many odds and ends as possible during my hike, and here is my collection.

Food Stuff

Ramen bombs: 45

Cheesy shells: 13

Other trail dinners: 17

Lone ramens: 25

Tuna packets: 89

Pop-Tart packs: 29

Clif bars: 53

Other bars: 211

Stuff from Strangers

Free beers: 108

Shared marijuana: 27

Trail magic: 40

Hitches into town: 22

Hostel nights: 7

Hotel mights: 11

Other Things I Kept Track Of

Names of other hikers learned: 262

Blisters: Five

Laundry: 20

Zeroes: 16

Neroes: 14

Resupplies: 32

Times I totally ate it: 21

Showers: 30

Bears seen: 19 (14 in Shenandoahs)

And the number I’m most proud of, my most miles in a day: 41.3

Miles and Steps

Miles per Day

These are my straight up raw numbers, the number of miles in each state divided by the number of days I was in that state.

Overall: 16.77; Georgia: 11.84; NC/TN: 13.22; Virginia: 18.13; West Virginia: 9.4; Maryland: 19.65; Pennsylvania: 22.55; New Jersey: 17.85; New York: 24.05; Connecticut: 18; Massachusetts: 21.63; Vermont: 16.42; New Hampshire: 16.13; Maine: 19.51

Miles per Day Without Zeroes and Neroes

Overall, I took 16 zeroes and 14 neroes. For my own sake, I decided to quantify nero days (days I didn’t hike all day) as days that I was finished hiking before 2 p.m. Of these 14 days, 11 of them were less than ten miles (and only two of those were in the first month). So, with the low numbers taken out of the equation, this is what my numbers looked like.

Overall: 20.54; Georgia: 13.82; NC/TN: 17.7; Virginia: 22.4; West Virginia: 9.4; Maryland: 19.65; Pennsylvania: 22.55; New Jersey: 23.8; New York: 24.05; Connecticut: 19.55; Massachusetts: 21.63; Vermont: 24.08; New Hampshire: 19.17;  Maine: 21.02

Steps in Each State

Thanks to Fitbit and their awesomely simplistic Fitbit Zip (basically just a clip-on pedometer), I was able to thoughtlessly count my steps over the course of my trip. My desire to count my steps came after I read Zach Davis’s book, Appalachian Trials, where I first heard that it takes about five million steps to hike the AT. Even acknowledging that my Fitbit definitely wasn’t totally accurate, I was pleased with my results.

Overall: 5,209,067; Georgia: 210,637; NC/TN: 891,807; Virginia: 1,274,975; West Virginia: 50,753; Maryland: 90,758; Pennsylvania: 510,420; New Jersey: 165, 301; New York: 217,474; Connecticut: 129,703; Massachusetts: 204,294; Vermont: 352,003; New Hampshire: 469,668; Maine: 641,274

Bad Steps

In his book, Zach suggests that even with an extremely high accuracy of walking (99.99%), a hiker will still take 500 bad steps. I decided I would figure out my own hiking accuracy, so every day as part of my routine, anytime I took a “bad step” (a step where I had to reset my footing to stay balanced), I kept tally in my head. The numbers below are the amount of bad steps I took in each state. For the record, I found that my hiking accuracy came out to 99.97%.

Overall: 1,430; Georgia: 51; TN/NC: 226; Virginia: 338; West Virginia: 0; Maryland: 19; Pennsylvania: 171; New Jersey: 54; New York: 61; Connecticut: 47; Massachusetts: 43; Vermont: 43; New Hampshire: 148; Maine: 229

Steps per Day

For the sake of keeping this post moving along, I will go ahead and just post my steps per day in each state only for my full days of hiking, that is, not counting my zero and nero days.

Overall: 47,727; Georgia: 34,037; TN/NC: 38,443; Virginia: 51,515; West Virginia: 25,376; Maryland: 45,379; Pennsylvania: 51,042; New Jersey: 53,754; New York: 54,366; Connecticut: 45,934; Massachusetts: 51,072; Vermont: 56,107; New Hampshire: 49,212; Maine: 49,147

Steps per Mile

OK, so this is getting a little bit tedious, but for anyone interested, it is indeed true that not all miles are created equal. This list breaks down how many steps each mile took in each state.

Overall: 2,353; Georgia: 2,541; NC/TN: 2,249; Virginia: 2,344; West Virginia: 2,699; Maryland: 2,309; Pennsylvania: 2,264; New Jersey: 2,315; New York: 2,260; Connecticut: 2,402; Massachusetts: 2,362; Vermont: 2,382; New Hampshire: 2,648; Maine: 2,347

If you’re still reading at this point, congratulations! If you are interested in any further resources, I would be most happy to share my spreadsheets; just send a message to [email protected] and I’ll hook you up. Also, here is my list of gear I used on the trail https://lighterpack.com/r/26yeev

Thanks for reading and happy hiking!

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Comments 9

  • Matt : Nov 18th

    Great adventure you had Carl I Envy you.
    Amazing that you kept track of everything.

    Reply
  • Norman D. S. : Nov 18th

    Love ur post and detail, can only wish to aspire to your level. Keep on, and I’ll also keep on.

    Reply
  • Connie Minish : Nov 19th

    Having finished just 30 miles of the AT in Ga, wanting to start back. Please let us know how you trained for this. We were carrying a 30 lb pack & were only able to hike 5 miles a day. Thanks for this Information and Congratulations on your AT victory!

    Reply
    • Carl Stanfield : Nov 19th

      Hey guys, thanks for sharing! As far as my personal training went, I didn’t actually do a ton, but I did do a few things that I think helped a bit with my success. I picked up a part time job that had me on my feet 6 hours a day, which was probably the most helpful piece, but I also went on a few jogs a week and would also put my pack on with extra weight and just walk a few miles in it 3 or 4 times a week. This physical training was certainly helpful, but I think the biggest factor in my success was figuring out how to get my pack weight down so low. I’ve been backpacking for about 7 years now, and until this summer I had never set out with less than 30-40 pounds. Having a lightweight set up is seriously like having a superpower. It almost even feels like cheating. The few comforts I sacrificed to get my weight so low were minor compared to the massive comfort boost that I felt each day with so much weight off of my shoulders. I recommend cutting your weight down as low as you can stand it, then cutting off a little more, then going out for a night or two and seeing how it treats you. Best of luck!

      Reply
  • Tim Bowman : Nov 19th

    Great stuff, Carl! My wife and I are planning to NOBO late April 2019 as well. Did you like starting after the mass of people and would you recommend it?

    Reply
    • Carl Stanfield : Nov 19th

      Hey Tim, I hope your preparations are going well! I was surprised to find that even starting on April 22nd, I was still in a pretty big bubble of people. Most nights I’d roll into a shelter around 5:00 or so to a shelter packed with people spilling out into big camps of tents even. After the first month or so that mass had dispersed a good bit and the trail fell to less than crowded, but all the way up the trail it was never uncommon to find a shelter already full of people at the end of the day. So, my findings were that even by the end of April it is still decently crowded. From what I heard, folks that started much earlier (March-Mid April) found the trail totally packed, with many of the shelters in the first few hundred miles frequently getting 100 people each night! In addition to missing a lot of the crowd, I was also extremely pleased with the weather that I had. I managed to beat the cold on both ends. After my first week I sent home my down jacket, and I finished the trail before it got cold enough to need it again. Based on my findings, I would absolutely recommend a late April start. Best of luck to you and your wife Tim!

      Reply
      • Tim Bowman : Nov 21st

        Awesome! You’re the man!

        Reply
  • Ron : Nov 19th

    Fantastic detail tracking! Very informative and interesting as hell! Very impressed

    Reply
  • Devin (Jukebox) : Nov 23rd

    Yay Carl. This is such an incredible write up! So proud and inspired by you. As if any of us need more reason to believe you are the true Professor. Xx

    Reply

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