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Michael Freyman
(mfreyman) - MLife
What did it cost? on 12/15/2005 16:58:28 MST Print View

What did your long distance thru-hike cost?

I realize this is a very individualized question with many variables. But with some context any estimates would be great.

I am hoping for a $$$ per day figure to materialize from discussion.

Thanks.

Ryan Faulkner
(ryanf) - F

Locale: Mid atlantic, No. Cal
Re: What did it cost? on 12/15/2005 17:55:43 MST Print View

I am interested in this as well, but I would also like to hear what gear / clothing to bring. I one day will hike the AT but cant figure out a few things, like when to go, and how fast I could do it.

It is a little soon to start planning this I think, because I will not be able to find time until I graduate high school, and even then I dont want to start college late so I can hike. My big question is if it is possible for a fit teen to hike it during a summer break? It would be difficult but I think I could do it.

I am also concerned about a shelter, do I have too bring one with all the trail shelters? should I bring one just in case?

will a mini zen stove and snow peak 600mug be too minimal for thru hike cooking gear?

if It is in the summer do I have to bring a insulation jacket or vest, I mean how cold dose it get in a main summer?

I love my down bag and never thought it would be a problem on a thru hike, but after seeing Andy Skurkas AT gearlist including a synthetic bag, I began to question this.

If I am mooving fast how much pack volume do I need for food?

there is also a question about resupply stops, is mail better because I am sure about what food I can get,

also what do you think is the best book to read before an AT thru hike
thanks
RyanF

Edited by ryanf on 12/17/2005 10:00:52 MST.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: What did it cost? on 12/15/2005 18:02:03 MST Print View

I'd probably say that your consumables costs (mostly food, but also things like fuel) will probably be around ten dollars per day, maybe a little more. Yes, you can get that number down quite a bit by eating more mac & cheese and ramen noodles, and to a lesser extent by purchasing bulk foods or using a food dryer or making your own, but you'll also pay shippings costs on all of that food, and that turns a running per-day cost into an up-front one.

Shipping costs can be a big hit for some people. It is silly to ship things that are widely available, and even sillier to ship something so inexpensive that you are essentially doubling its cost by mailing it. Oatmeal, breakfast cereal, instant potatoes, and rice are good examples of food you should almost never ship. UPS is usually about half the price of USPS too. Get a UPS card.

Most people's dietary requirements increase dramatically over the course of a distance hike. Most people I've seen on the PCT or AT are carrying a lot more than the "standard" 1.5-2 pounds per day, especially after the first couple of weeks. For me usually serious hunger sets in after 12 to 14 days. After that the dietary requirements go up quite a bit.

Any time spent in a town as opposed to on the trail
can eat up money pretty quickly. In some places you can do work-for-stay deals, and there is quite a bit of cost difference between spending a zero day in a hotel or resort as opposed to spending it in a campground. In neither case is the cost going to be zero. When you are in town you'll probably also want to do laundry and eat an enormous amount. Both of those things cost money too, the latter a lot more than the former.

Gear also breaks. It is a rare distance hiker that hasn't had to replace some item of equipment on a long trip. Usually quite a bit of gear gets replaced over the course of a trip.

Having said all of that, and exclusive of travel costs to or from the trailhead, I'd probably shoot for a minimum budget of around $600 per month. In practice I've usually spent more -- often quite a bit more. I think there are a couple of reasons for that: (1) I tend to buy as much food as I can from trail towns, both to support the local businesses and to minimize the number and size of resupply boxes; (2) What food I do put in resupply boxes tends to be a lot spendier than most hikers eat, though not so spendy as an exclusive Alpine-Aire or Rich-Moor diet would be; (3) I'm willing to stay in motels and don't really mind spending the money for them when in a town.

David Bonn
(david_bonn) - F

Locale: North Cascades
Re: What did it cost? on 12/15/2005 18:31:46 MST Print View

There are lots of good books on hiking the AT. There
isn't any one book that has everything.

I like Wingfoot's hiking guide. It is at times opinionated and there are some errors in it, but it is generally quite helpful and useful.

On shelters: I'd always have a tarp and bugshelter. Sometimes the shelters are a great place to stay. Sometimes they are evil and unpleasant. Be careful about depending on them. Some of the shelters are awful. Sometimes your likely shelter mates make it a very wise idea to camp someplace else. Preferably somewhere far, far away.

Edited by david_bonn on 12/15/2005 18:35:51 MST.

Mark Larson
(mlarson) - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Re: What did it cost? on 12/15/2005 18:57:03 MST Print View

I think David Bonn's comments are spot-on. $10 a day for supplies, and $600 a month total is a safe budget, and it's not too hard to go cheaper.

I've pimped this site several other times, but I think www.whiteblaze.net is probably the top long-distance hiking resource out there, though it has an obvious AT focus. Searching those forums will yield a lot of other perspectives.

For some of Ryan's questions...
As for how fast. The supported record is 47.5 days, IIRC. Unsupported is 60, I believe. I know there was a recent 73. Quick is certainly possible. There are also plenty of folks who do it in the 90-110 day range. It's obviously difficult, like any thru-hike, and a different experience. But absolutely doable. Average is more like 150-180 days.

-Yes, bring a shelter--especially when you can something like a Nano tarp that weighs less than some hikers' Nalgene bottles :)
-The zen stove will be fine, but I like a larger pot for larger meals I eat on LD hikes. An Evernew .9L Ti pot works for me.
-Down won't be a problem unless you strap it outside your pack in the rain. Definitely go down.
-You'll eat a lot. I eat about 35-45oz a day on LD hikes. About 200oz of food [5 day load] is something like 7-800ci, give or take.

Check out WhiteBlaze. It really is an amazing resource.
-Mark

Al Shaver
(Al_T.Tude) - F - M

Locale: High Sierra and CA Central Coast
180 lb. Backpack on 12/17/2005 03:52:22 MST Print View

Mark, I carried 2lbs. food/day on a 12 day unsupported transit of the 211 mile John Muir Trail. With 2 bear cannisters on board and water I left the trailhead with a 41 lb. pack.

Unsupported record holder Reinhold Metzger carried similar food weight/day this past summer at age 64 when he did it in 5 days 7 hours. When I seriously take on Reinhold's record I will be enjoying preciously small amounts of sleeping or eating and will start with a 10-12 lb. pack. But that's for our relatively short trail.

You,re telling us that someone went 2200 miles unsupported in 60 days. At your suggested food weight of 45 oz./day plus .5oz. esbit tablet/day plus 9 lb. base load equals 180lb. starting pack weight! And averaged 37 miles/day to boot!

I want to meet this fleet footed gorilla and hear his or her story. I'm sure I could learn alot to help me on my next speed attempt. Please provide more info.

Cheers, Al

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: 180 lb. Backpack on 12/17/2005 04:56:38 MST Print View

Alan,

Sounds like you are confusing "unsupported" with "without resupply".

"Supported" most often means having a crew that meets you along the trail with supplies, eliminating time/effort/detours spent resupplying.

An example: a fella ran the 205 mile Superior Hiking Trail in 4 days and change this year ... his wife met him at most of the 20-something trailheads with food/water/blister kits/etc. The typical fast unsupported SHT times I've heard of are approx 10 days.

Al Shaver
(Al_T.Tude) - F - M

Locale: High Sierra and CA Central Coast
Say What? on 12/17/2005 07:39:15 MST Print View

Jim, You're right. I am confused. You're telling me that if I run the JMT and come across a team member next to the trail holding food for me that it's a "supported" event. But if that food is stashed alongside the trail in a can, all of the sudden my effort qualifies as "Unsupported"? I fail to see the difference in the challenge.

I know the difference between carrying an 18lb. pack and picking up food along the way and starting with a 40 lb. pack and carrying it over 12, 11-14,000 foot passes for 211 miles. Whether the food pick-ups came from a person or a bear box or a bear cannister makes no difference. It's not having to carry everything from one end to the other that matters.

Do we assume from your nomenclature that Demetri Coupounas' "unsupported" 480 mile Colorado Trail trip involved picking up food caches along the way? If so why did he go stoveless and still start with an almost 60 lb. pack?

Your playing fast and loose with the term "unsupported" does a great disservice to people like Reinhold, Demetri, myself and others who find a sacred beauty and completion in the art of travelling self sufficiently in the wilderness; receiving only water, air and the ground to tread upon from nature herself. Lumping us in with people who pick-up food from caches along the way is a confusing bit of language you're using. All the unsupported trips I've participated in or heard about have been without resupply. Once you resupply you've received a powerfull and trip altering dose of support.

Edited by Al_T.Tude on 12/17/2005 07:47:02 MST.

Glenn Roberts
(garkjr) - F

Locale: Southwestern Ohio
Just to confuse things further... on 12/17/2005 08:28:26 MST Print View

Which category does it fall into if the individual (rather than a support team) hikes the food cache out and plants it him/herself?

While this is a slightly tongue-in-cheek question (remember "hike your own hike"?), it does actually describe how Colin Fletcher did many of his hikes (including the trip through the Grand Canyon.)

Mark Larson
(mlarson) - MLife

Locale: Southeast USA
Re: Say What? on 12/17/2005 08:40:44 MST Print View

Good comments. I recognize that the experiences are qualitatively different, and that some put more hair on your chest. I tend to use the terms in the following fashion:

-Supported. You have handlers, who often do things like bring you hamburgers and Gatorade at convenient points, take care of blisters, set pace, provide encouragement, etc.

-Unsupported. You assess and address your own needs as you go along. You hitch or walk into town, shop, and head back out. Tape your own feet. The "support" you get isn't really planned or requested in advance.

-Self-supported. You take care of your own logistics ahead of time to supply yourself as you expect you will need. A cache for food or water would fit here.

-Without resupply. No resupply. All that is needed is carried from the start.

So what I meant by "unsupported" is that Ward Leonard walked the AT in 60 days unaccompanied, resupplying in town as do most folks.

Whether your food comes from a box or from humans does make a difference. Humans tend to be more cheerful and supportive, more intangible benefits. But I do agree that resupply makes for a different type of experience, with its own set of possibilities and limits.
-Mark

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
Re: Say What? on 12/17/2005 08:52:48 MST Print View

>> Your playing fast and loose with the term "unsupported" does a great disservice to people like Reinhold, Demetri, myself and others who find a sacred beauty and completion in the art of travelling self sufficiently in the wilderness; receiving only water, air and the ground to tread upon from nature herself. Lumping us in with people who pick-up food from caches along the way is a confusing bit of language you're using. All the unsupported trips I've participated in or heard about have been without resupply. Once you resupply you've received a powerfull and trip altering dose of support.<<

Alan,

The generally accepted definitions of supported vs. unsupported for Long Distance hikes are as Jim stated.

Generally people with unsupported hikes don't do food caches anymore. Though it was practiced many years ago on the AT. I don't know of anyone who's tried to cache the entire PCT or CDT. The logistics would be a nightmare. I personally have cached food and water on some sections when it was convenient.

Today people simply either mail food to towns located along the trail or resupply from local grocery stores.

As such the vast majority of thru-hikers are considered unsupported. Even though many do have a support team at home to ship food and gear as needed.

A few do have a support crew, generally a relative, who may shadow the hiker and meet at trail junctions with food or to drive them into the nearest town.

Again we're talking about people hiking 4 to 5 months and 2000 or more miles.

The phenomenon of people hiking several hundred miles without resupplying is fairly new relatively rare. I have heard of people doing it in the past though many of these stories are unconfirmed. Perhaps someday it'll have its own nomenclature, but in the long distance hiking world, Jim's diffinations are correct.

Back to some of Ryan's origional questions:

1) I am also concerned about a shelter, do I have too bring one with all the trail shelters? should I bring one just in case?

Yes - You should always have some form of shelter. Even on the AT. As you can not guarentee that there will be space in the shelter when you arrive.

1) will a mini zen stove and snow peak 600mug be too minimal for thru hike cooking gear?

No - Alcohol stoves, esbit, snow peaks have been used succesfully by many people on thru-hikes. A friend has over 5000 miles and 2 thru-hikes on his alcohol stove.

2) if It is in the summer do I have to bring a insulation jacket or vest, I mean how cold dose it get in a main summer?

A light 100 weight fleese is recommended around camp in the mornings and evenings. And maybe in the early mornings as you're warming up. Though on the AT in early Spring many carry warmer jackets as daytime temps often are quit cold.

The western trails tend to warm up during the day and I find very little insulation is needed for hiking. A good wind shirt is desirable.

3)I love my down bag and never thought it would be a problem on a thru hike, but after seeing Andy Skurkas AT gearlist including a synthetic bag, I began to question this.

I've used a down bag on all three trails with no problems. Today's modern bags have excellent shells with good DWR finishes. Though for the most part I'd recommend a W/B shell such as epic.

4)If I am mooving fast how much pack volume do I need for food?

In general the longest food stretch of any of the longest trails is 8 days and there are maybe 2 or 3 of them depending upon which routes you're hiking. In general people resupply every 3 to 4 days.

If you're ultralight you can get by with 3000 ci pack. It may take a little careful selection of gear. Generally 4000 ci packs are more than adequate.

5) there is also a question about resupply stops, is mail better because I am sure about what food I can get,

Resupply from towns frequently reduces your options especially in the small towns located near the trails. However, in recent years these towns have done a much better job providing hiker specific food.


Buying all your food in advance can save money on bulk purchses, however shipping cost can more than offset thoes savings.

Also you may find after a few weeks you've developed a vile distaste for some of that food that tasted so great in your kitchen. Now your stuck with a lot of bad food to be dumped into hiker boxes along the trail.

There are hiker generated town guides that list all the stores and their potential for resupply for each of the major trails. These guides will tell you about stores, PO's, hotels, tranportation options, distance of town off trail, difficuly of hitch hiking, etc.

Get one for the trail you're hiking early in your planning cycle. Study it get the most out of your hike.

Ron

Edited by rmoak on 12/17/2005 09:02:40 MST.

Jim Colten
(jcolten) - M

Locale: MN
Re: Say What? on 12/17/2005 10:12:54 MST Print View

Alan,

I was addressing your line of reasoning that a "60 day unsupported thru-hike" meant starting the hike carrying 100% of the hike's needs (except water, air and light).

On the broader topic ... such are the risks of using a single word to characterize such a rich and varied activity.

Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
My AT Gear List on 12/18/2005 13:25:30 MST Print View

Ryan - I would not put too much stock in my AT gear list, particularly the synthetic bag. Although it represents a huge improvement from my starting AT gear list, the equipment that I finished with is neanderthal-ish compared to what you would find in my pack today. Consider that I hiked the AT in 2002, before working for GoLite and Backpacking Light, and before hiking the Colorado Trail and the Sea-to-Sea.

A gear list that is more reflective of the current contents in my pack can be found on GoLite's site: www.golite.com/2seas2feet/andy.asp

It is a "recommended" gear list -- by no means is it the lightest, and by no means is it perfect for every application.

Edited by askurka on 12/18/2005 13:27:44 MST.

Ryan Faulkner
(ryanf) - F

Locale: Mid atlantic, No. Cal
thanks Andy on 12/18/2005 15:20:42 MST Print View

thanks Andrew,

I had seen your other gearlists before, and had always wondered why your AT list was so diferent. I am working on an AT list right now, and for a long distance hike, I am adding in a few extra "comforts" so the base load I estimate to be anywhere between 6-7lbs. a little heavier than my usual 3.5lb base load, but I think I will be happy to have a few extras.

And Andy,
I know you work for BPL and Golite, I would like to know how you got these jobs, and what I would need to do to get a similar career. I love backpacking and one day hope to have a full time job that deals with it. Anyting from gear production and design to an editor for BPL.

thanks.

Edited by ryanf on 12/18/2005 16:20:08 MST.

Andrew Skurka
(askurka) - F
Tips on finding a job in the industry on 12/18/2005 20:25:58 MST Print View

Ryan - At 15, I would say that you are well ahead of any person I have heard of to become a great backpacker. That is, perhaps with the exception of Ryan's son, Chase, who is 8.

Send me an e-mail anytime if you want to talk about things more. askurka@comcast.net. My advice, for now, would be to graduate high school.

Ryan Faulkner
(ryanf) - F

Locale: Mid atlantic, No. Cal
Re: Tips on finding a job in the industry on 12/19/2005 04:02:12 MST Print View

thanks Andrew,

you are a nice guy, I think I will send you an email later, but just to clear something up, I am 13 years old, sorry for any confusion.

Al Shaver
(Al_T.Tude) - F - M

Locale: High Sierra and CA Central Coast
Definitions on 12/19/2005 05:25:29 MST Print View

Mark, Jim, Glenn and Ron,
Thanks for sharing ideas and definitions with me. They do vary greatly from what I've heard and read from hikers out west. Perhaps we have a different language out here because our trails tend to be remote and therefore lack the resupply options of eastern trails? In your lexicon it sounds like my trips are "without resupply".

Of course there are other catagories such as Hans Florine's claimed 4 day ascent of California's 14, 14ers involving "serial un-resupplied climbs linked by supported motorized transits"; or "human powered" events that would allow bicycles and "non-mechanized" which would not. It would be handy if we all sat down at the annual conclave and came up with one set of definitions so we don't have to describe each event in detail to convey the "style" of the achievement.

In any case I appreciate the dialogue and education.

Cheers, Al

Ron Moak
(rmoak) - F
Re: Re: Tips on finding a job in the industry on 12/19/2005 08:25:26 MST Print View

>> but just to clear something up, I am 13 years old, sorry for any confusion. <<

Ryan,

At 13 you're not too young to put in some long backpacking miles. My son was 13 when he did 700 of the hardest miles on the AT. Then he joined me on the PCT for 1200 miles at 16. We hiked together from the start of the Sierras to the Oregon/Washington border.

I met a young lady recently who thru-hiked the PCT two summers ago at the age of 10. The youngest recorded thru-hiker of that trail. There have been a few younger ones on the AT.

Good Luck,
Ron