Important Jobs Skills Gained While Planning a Thru-Hike
Planning a multi-month backpacking trip is no joke. If you’re about to embark on a thru-hike, you know how much work it actually takes. Not surprisingly, it also develops some valuable job skills. There are really too many to list, but here are just a few of the important skills I’ve used in planning my PCT thru-hike.
I Got Skills!
Planning is not only a skill in itself, it also incorporates all of the other skills listed here. Once the decision to thru-hike is made, there is so much to be done to make it happen, including research, collecting data, analyzing data, creative problem solving, organization, and a lot of learning.
Research and Learning
Since I knew very little about thru-hiking, I had to use my research skills to find out what it means and how to do it. This included learning about the trail, the types of backpacking gear, how to resupply, what foods to take, how to pack, mountaineering and snow travel, and even the mental challenges I might encounter. Basically, this involved hours upon hours of internet research as well as trips to gear and grocery stores. I read The Pacific Crest Trials, and many other books about the PCT, mountaineering, snow travel, and backpacking. I tested different types of food, practiced setting up camp, and hiked with various weights. I spent so much time doing the research and learning that it was practically a full time job itself!
I am a data nerd. I love data. I love charts and numbers and spreadsheets. My thru-hike spreadsheet currently has no less than 17 sheets. The data I’ve collected includes gear comparisons and prices, gear I’ve purchased with running total, gear I’ll need/want on the trail, Sierra specific gear, sponsorship requests, food options, food prices, meal plan, resupply stop options, actual resupply stops, what each resupply box will contain, the permits required, physical training, and of course, a to-do list. Looking at the numbers and charts allowed me to make important decisions and keep track of all the information I collected.
This goes hand in hand with data collection, because as I collected the data I analyzed it, and reanalyzed it, over and over. Gear comparisons lead to gear choices. Resupply options lead to meal plans and resupply strategy. Knowing what permits were needed and what still needed to be done lead to setting priorities and making a timeline of action.
Creative Problem Solving
There are many ways this skill gets put into action. It could be about what to do about your home, how to keep in touch with family and friends, where your pet will stay, sponsorship options, or even just how to pack everything you want into your ultra light pack. In my case, it was how to make some money before going on the trail. I didn’t want a permanent job or a job that requires being at a desk. So I had to get creative with my job choices. First, I started captioning videos online. It pays very little, but I can do it anytime, from home. Next, I found a local adult hockey league that was looking for scorekeepers. It was only a few hours a week, but it fit with my schedule. Then I happened across a job advertisement for an errand person, who was to be hired in a 7-story building while their elevator was being replaced. Basically, I carried stuff up and down the stairs for people. I think this job was purely a gift from the universe. Lastly, I made myself available as background for TV and movies. Not reliable at all, but fun when it happened. By being creative, and having an open mind, I was able to find ways to make money that were flexible, kept things interesting, gave me a workout, and don’t involve a desk. To top it off, I could take my backpack to work.
Finally, it takes some decent organizational skills to make it all happen. Organization skills can include prioritizing, time management, and co-ordination. Prioritizing, mentioned earlier under Data Analysis, goes hand in hand with time management: getting everything done that needs doing before the hike. Co-ordination is imperative when it comes to the resupply strategy, if I want my packages to get to my resupply points before I do. Lastly, organization includes making sure all of my gear is ready and together, my resupply boxes are packed and ready to send, and my Sierra gear is collected for it’s arrival at a later date. Being organized can make the whole preparation process less stressful and ensures a smoother transition into the actual thru-hike.
Take it with you!
These are only a few of the important job skills that can be gained from planning a thru-hike, and this is before the actual hike! The hike itself will be another amazing learning opportunity for a whole new set of skills. All of it, from planning to hiking to finishing, gives us the opportunity to learn and practice new skills that we can then take into the next phase of our journey, whatever it might be.
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