Budgeting Info & Tips For a Successful Thru-Hike

For many would-be thru-hikers, a big question looms over their dreams: “How much is this going to cost me?”

While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all answer to this important question, you can research to get a better idea of the types of costs you’ll be facing if you want to trek the entire Appalachian Trail or conquer the Pacific Crest Trail (though those aren’t your only only options, as this list shows).

Here’s your quick guide to the costs of a thru-hike, plus helpful budgeting tips.

Understanding the costs of thru-hiking

According to Backpacker, “Most people find that a thru-hike will cost, at the bare minimum, $2 per mile, plus the cost of gear and travel to and from the trailhead. Another calculation puts it at $1,200 per month, plus travel and gear. Obviously, it varies a lot depending on what trail you are on, your hiking style and fitness level, and your level of hiking experience.”

This is a good guideline to start with when saving money for your big adventure, though there are ways to thru-hike for significantly less if you want to get creative. For example, this guide details how to drastically cut down on food costs.

Saving money on thru-hiking gear

Gear gets pricey fast, especially if you need to purchase or replace expensive items like your tent, sleeping bag, and backpack prior to setting off. There are several ways to save serious cash on gear, however:

  • Your local Craigslist. Craigslist can be a gold mine, especially if you live in an outdoorsy area where people often update their gear.
  • Online retailers. Often, Internet-based retailers can offer cheaper prices on gear. Just make sure to thoroughly read reviews and double check return policies.
  • Gear consignment shops. If you’re lucky enough to have a secondhand gear store nearby, you can score some amazing deals on new or gently used gear.

If you plan to complete several thru-hikes, gear will hopefully be a one-time expense.

Planning is the best way to budget for a thru hike

If you plan strategically, you have a much better chance of keeping your budget under control (and this doesn’t mean cutting costs wherever and whenever possible). In fact, spending more money on quality gear, nutritious food, and other essentials will save you from unwelcome expenses down the road.

So, make a plan to plan thoroughly. Figure out your fixed costs, how long you intend to hike for, estimate on-trail costs, and set up an emergency fund. Don’t forget about ‘town days,’ either! Hotels, restaurant meals, and entertainment in civilization tend to be the biggest budget busters, but they’re a rejuvenating break from trail life.

If all else fails, there’s always one tried and true way to reduce costs on a thru-hike: pick up the pace and/or hike for longer periods each day.