What I Have Learned To Improve My Thru-Hiking

I do feel pretty confident about starting the Pacific Crest Trail, mostly because I am doing smaller trails beforehand to dial in my gear as well as my physical and mental conditioning. But I can promise you, a bonehead mistake will most likely happen somewhere along the way. Completing two of the three Triple Crown trails wasn’t perfect.  There were quite a few challenges along the way. To more experienced hikers these will seem pretty hilarious, but I was a noob at one point. I guess the best way to learn is to fail, sometimes miserably.

Packing Too Much

It is almost a rite of passage to pack too much for your first trip. Yeah, I was more concerned about having gear and not looking into what thru hikers use.  Tent – check, sleeping bag – check, etc. I started the AT with a full military GEN III sleeping system that weighed 9.5lbs.  Yeah, I can laugh at myself now, but when a fellow hiker tossed me her bag one morning in Maine, I was beside myself. On the Arizona Trail, I weighed my pack at a motel to find it at 50 lbs. Needless to say, by the time I hit the CDT that year, it weighed significantly less.


Yup, I am that guy.  So, what happens when you get out on trail and find a place to camp, then look at your tent and go hmmmm. How does this go together?  It took three of us over an hour to figure out how to put up my tent, using the trekking poles as my tent poles. I was so embarrassed afterwards; I did not ask anyone how to light my stove! ? So all I had was granola for dinner, then breakfast, and lunch the following day, before I figured out how to light a simple PocketRocket. The 100-Mile Wilderness section could have been so much worse.


Scrolling through pictures of previous hikes I find a lot of them are of amazing views, landscapes, and wildlife.  I can remember so many times when the weather was just miserable.   Hiking the AT during winter sucked. Even today I really despise cold weather.  My worst section of the CDT was going through the San Juans.  It was two weeks of freezing temps and wind that blew in your face, no matter what direction you were facing.  Regardless of what weather you run into, you just push through it.  It’s going to suck; it could suck a lot.   Always remember, it will get better.

Just Get Out There

Thru hiking is amazing and will be even better for you if you can learn from my mistakes.  Do not be obsessed with gear and be aware military gear is not a good thru hike choice.  Test your gear before starting a long-distance trail. Be aware that weather will not always be enjoyable, be prepared to “embrace the brutality” as they say on the CDT. Most of all, get out there on trail.** On a side note, I did get my permit through the PCTA for 20 July.  Getting excited!

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Comments 8

  • Anna Birdy B. : Jan 12th

    Not eating anything but granola for 3 meals–that whole paragraph was pretty hilarious 🙂

    • MAV : Jan 13th

      Yes, it is all hilarious now. Glad I pulled through.

  • Tie Edwards : Jan 12th

    You’ve come a loooong way since I met you @ the Medway bus stop. Love your writing style.
    You go MAV. ??

    • Maxheap : Jan 12th

      Go MAV and go Tie! Two great hikers and humans who have enriched my life considerably. See you on the PCT this summer MAV!

      • Rawena Prasad : Mar 18th

        Any advice on finding a LD Hiking backpacking buddy no one I know will go out with I hike all the time but I’ve never cared out and I need to find a buddy to go with.

    • MAV : Jan 13th

      I have! All for the better, I think. Thanks for the compliment!

  • Astraea : Jan 13th

    Hey dude, congrats on the article. I hiked with you a bit on trail, and I think you also hiked with my friend winter, or fuzzy, I’m not sure what he changed his name to. Tall dreadlock kid with glasses and super tan. Just wondering if that image of the hiker with orange shirt and black socks is him? I’d bet money, lol. Good luck on future hikes! Remember to have fun.

    • MAV : Jan 13th

      Thanks. That picture is me while hiking the GR11 in Spain. Hope to meet again on trail.


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