Before heading out on a thru-hike, many questions pop up on how best to prepare. Where do I store my food? How do I filter water? How do I get from point A to point B? What is the best gear to buy? Here at THRU-r, we’ve had these questions ourselves and have heard many others with the same questions. Below, we offer our best tips for the first time thru-hiker to get things started:


Invest in quality “big 4” gear items (backpack, tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad). Your life will be a lot easier and more comfortable if you acquire good quality gear that is effective and easy to use. The expense is well worth it and you can save money elsewhere (like with clothing). If you know that you’re doing a thru-hike well ahead of time, you can also be on the lookout for great deals!

Also, make sure to get out and test your gear ahead of time – by way of shakedown hikes – to make sure everything works for you. I (Cheer) did this before heading out on the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) and ended up swapping out my original pack, tent, and shoes (all of which are key pieces).


Guthook Guides is the way to go if you’re heading out on many of the long trails in the USA. Almost every long distance hiker uses this app, at least on the PCT, because it is so easy to use. Having a compass and navigation skills is also a good idea and REI offers classes on this and many other subjects.


A must to preserve the trails we know, use, and love. Pack everything out! Definitely review these principles before heading out, and abide by them to keep nature as untouched as possible. Visit the Leave No Trace Center for more.


The book “Pacific Crest Trials” is a great read to help prepare for a long hike. While it’s written for Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) hikers, the lessons and exercises are applicable to any thru or section hike. Hiking a long trail is a big time mental game and this book is simple and to the point. If you read one book about long distance hiking, read this one.


Not necessarily a must, but it helps! Running, hiking, etc. generally helps to prepare physically before a long hike but there is no substitute for just going out there and starting slow to build up strength and endurance. But everyone has a different style and what works for one person may not work for another. If you feel like you need to train with weight to be comfortable and confident, do it!

However, don’t let lack of training necessarily stop you from doing something so fulfilling as a thru or section hike. There have been many hikers who start with NO training and begin with 10 miles or less per day, work their mileage up gradually, and end up finishing a long thru. If you go this route, avoid getting caught up in the hype/comparison game and remember to stay true to yourself (start slow).

Happy hiking!

Cheer, PCT Class of 2019

Have any tips of your own? Share in the comments!