A Pre Thru-Hike To-Do List

The months or weeks before a thru-hike seem to pass as slow as molasses.  The current state of the weather conditions outside right now do not help.  It’s currently a frozen tundra in much of the Northeast right now.  The planning and preparation I’m putting into my upcoming PCT thru hike are in some ways very similar to my 2016 AT thru-hike.  For many of the readers this is their first thru-hike.  For others it’s simply entertaining and inspiring to follow along vicariously through the interwebs.

The months and weeks leading up to my hike were full of questions and calculations.  I didn’t plan a single resupply package for my AT hike.  The PCT is going to be different.  I’m assembling my boxes currently.  I also have a good handle on my gear list.  Oh the gear list post… it seems like a right of passage for many.  It’s where we put our lives out there for everyone to see.  What we’ve chosen to use on this upcoming adventure.

It’s very easy to overlook some of the important things we must do before launch day.  I have created a list to remind myself what needs to be done before I fly across the country to begin my next journey.

  • Throw a party: Seriously I cannot recommend this enough.  I had my pre AT hike party at a local brewery and invited friends and family to send me off.  It seems selfish to plan your own party but honestly use this time to thank every single person who shows up.  They will be the ones supporting you mentally and possibly financially while you’re gone.  They are your biggest cheerleaders, please thank them ahead of time.
  • Buy postcard stamps: While you’re crushing miles and eating like a child your friends and family will miss you and will want to hear from you.  It’s the least you can do.  But finding postcard stamps is a royal pain in the behind.  Plan ahead and take them with you.  Buy a postcard and mail them from town.  (Also create a list of addresses of friends and family you’d like to mail a post card to).
  • Decide who you’re going to call first: It may be day 1 or day 100.  But most likely you are going to need encouragement from home to keep you on the trail.  This can be a friend, a brother, parent or smokin’ hott fiance.  But you truly need someone you can rely on to talk you off the ledge no matter how much they want you to come home.
  • Get a shakedown from a previous thru-hiker: This is incredibly helpful!  Have a detailed list of all your gear INCLUDING WEIGHTS of each item reviewed by someone experienced.  I would honestly avoid posting a gear list to Facebook groups.  Everyone has an opinion and most of the people opining have little to no experience hiking for 5 to 6 months.  Save yourself the trouble and have it done privately.  You’ll quickly learn what gear doesn’t belong after 2 weeks of carrying it.
  • Recalculate the food you’ll be starting with: How far is it from the terminus to your first resupply?  I carried 5 days of food when I started the AT.  With the excitement I barely ate half of it before reaching my first resupply on day 3.
  • Write a blank check: To a trusted loved one at home of course.  I mean this literally. Most likely you’ll never need this but it’s an excellent insurance policy to have should you need anything from home.  It also gives them your bank account info should you have an emergency and they need to send money ASAP.
  • Don’t wait until the last minute – for anything:  The last two weeks will fly by.  Packing up your belongings, getting your finances in order.  These things should be done as far ahead of time as possible.  Ideally for me, this is going to be almost 6 weeks before I hit the PCT.
  • Go hiking daily:  Even if you can only do 5 miles a day walking with your pack, do it.  I was hiking 10 miles a day the week before my AT hike just to make sure I was physically ready to become a thru hiker.  Make the time.
  • Download digital media: Anything to keep you entertained.  I listened to Audible books and tons of songs on my iPhone.  Podcasts became our AT Book club.
  • Be present before you’re gone – focus on quality time with your family.  Before you leave spend time with those most important to you.  This trip I opted not to throw a party again.  I plan, instead, to share dinner or drinks with those closest to me before I am gone.  (If it’s your first thru hike, throw the party!)

The last two weeks before a thru-hike go by in the blink of an eye.  Having everything taken care of ahead of time will make your send off so much more enjoyable for you and your loved ones.  Do yourself and them a favor and just be there with them while you can.  If I learned one thing about thru hiking it’s that it may be my legs doing the walking, but everyone is a part of it.  Let your friends and family be a part of your hike.  Some of these items might seem silly before you hit the trail but the value they add is immense.

In closing, if you are going to thru hike and want a virtual gear shakedown I’ll review your list for free, email it to me.  If you aren’t going to thru hike and you’d like a postcard from me, email me your name and address.  I promise to send you a personalized post card from the trail.  Seriously, my email is [email protected]. Put Postcard or Shakedown in the subject line and I will make it happen.  Everybody loves free things and post cards!

For those who are about to hike, we salute you!

Any other suggestions for me to make sure I get done before I leave for the West Coast?  There’s a million more things I’m doing but I don’t want to forget any!  What are you doing to get ready for your next adventure?

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Comments 4

  • Greg : Jan 8th

    Good and interesting article but 2 important topics were overlooked. 1. Don’t forget your taxes. 2. Immunizations. Update your tetanus shot if you haven’t already.

  • Michael Brewer ....aka Huckleberry : Jan 9th

    Well written…let me know when and where the send off party is…and keep me in the loop on your journey…I’m a bit envious…am planning to get dropped off in Damascus in April to take up where I had to drop off…turns out I had broken bone in foot as well as sprained ankle…be well!

  • Brandon Chase : Jan 12th

    Good ideas! I like the private shakedown recommendation. There are far too many varying opinions when you post in a public forum – better to ask someone you know and trust!

  • Joellyn Sargent : Jan 14th

    I’m in those countdown days right now (11 weeks to go), so these tips are timely. I’ve been through all the doctor appointments, have my resupply boxes laid out, and I’m working on the financials/taxes. In the midst of all that, it didn’t even occur to me to have a party. What an awesome idea!


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