Thru-Hiking Daily Routine

Orderly but flexible routines are essential when through hiking. Part of this includes tent setup and hiking clothes maintenance.

Prepping Framework – how to think about sustaining yourself outdoors.

When I started hiking longer hikes out in the Cascades of Washington State, I began to naturally prepare the night before a big hike. Usually I’d be waking up early on the hike day to get to the trail head early and enjoy the solitude of the cool morning temperatures before a big climb with a payoff view.

Usually this meant packing a medium-sized backpack with water, a towel, extra clothes, food, and some basic medical gear in case of emergency. For multi-day hikes, this scope takes on a larger component of essentials to include your housing, watering system, recharging electronics, lighting, sleep systems, food, and changes of clothes. This includes the routines around using those items and maintaining them.

For the AT Thru-hike, even though I’m chasing that 2,190 miles from Georgia to Maine, it’s really better to think about the AT in 3-6 day Thru-hiking chunks over time. This breakdown helps to better plan your mileage, how much food to carry, what kind of clothes, and other essential items to be away from home for a sustained period of time.

Daily Routine example

For the 3-6 days that I am thru-hiking, usually broken up by a trail town, trail magic, hostel, or other location to enable a reset on clothes, a shower, or resupply, my day goes something like this:

  • 5:30AM-6AM: Wake up in tent. Have a mild existential crisis. Realize you’re waking to birdsong, are in a tent along the AT, and everything is fine.
  • 6AM-6:15AM – stretch and begin packing. Usually I put my sleeping bag right back into my backpack and other squish-able essentials to start the consolidation process
  • 6:15-6:20AM get out of tent and have a bowel movement, and prep body for hike. This includes applying Body Glide, which is a gift from the Gods.
  • 6:20AM – get back into hiking clothes – yes, this means putting on damp and sweaty clothes from yesterday. You get used to it and it’s fine after about 5 minutes.
  • 6:20-6:45AM – pack up toiletries, tent, put boots on, stretch again, drink water
  • 6:45AM-7:15AM, eat breakfast, which is now a merger of instant coffee, overnight oats, water, and a breakfast essential that I prepare the night before.
  • 7:15AM-7:30- chat with others, plan out day, update notes.
  • 7:30AM – get going! Usually I set a 2-hour timer to ensure I stop somewhat regularly for water or a snack, though this can change based on what my body tells me it needs, a view, or a good stopping point.
  • 11:30AM-12ish – stop for lunch – I am more of a grazer than anything, so lunch usually involves snacks, protein bars, some electrolytes, peanut butter, water and stretching. I also take a few minutes to meditate and reflect on the day so far and what thoughts have developed.
  • 4PM – stop again for a snack and plan out evening, if I stop at a shelter, campsite, planning water stops as well
  • 6-7PM, stop hiking and begin evening routine – if I am camping I setup my tent area, if I use a shelter, set up bed spot in the shelter. Change clothes into camp clothes, get water, replenish gear from day’s use.
  • 7:30PM – dinner time! This is usually my largest meal of the day. It usually consists of a meal packet, definitely a fan of the Good to Go Brand. I throw in a protein bar, nuts, dried fruit, and a chicken or tuna packet with some hot sauce.
  • 8:30PM cleanup, socialize, write in journal, prepare for the next day, stretch.
  • 9PM -Hiker’s Midnight! Usually we all as a group go our separate ways, wind down, and go to bed.

This schedule is subject to change based on weather conditions and other constraints. Even though I sometimes arrive into camp tired or even downright miserable after a tough hiking day, I try my best to stick to the routines I have put in place.

This series of routines developed over about 10 days in Georgia and has essentially stuck in place.

I’ll add more to this as more routines come to mind, hope this helps you think about your day on the AT! 

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