Nov 29, 2023

How to Pack Thru-hiking Gear for a Long Trail?

Thru-hiking, or through-hiking, is the act of hiking an established long-distance trail end-to-end continuously.

The term is most frequently used regarding trails in the United States, such as the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), the Appalachian Trail (AT), and the Continental Divide Trail (CDT). Globally, some examples of thru-hikes include Te Araroa in New Zealand, the Camino de Santiago in Spain and France, the Via Francigena in France and Italy, the Grand Italian Trail in Italy, the Great Divide Trail (GDT) in Canada, and the Great Himalaya Trail in Nepal, all of which are over 1,000 km (620 mi) in length.

The length for a trail to be considered a thru-hike is undefined. Trails most associated with thru-hiking often take several weeks or months to complete, but any completed end-to-end trail in a single hiking season is technically a thru-hike.

Section hiking refers to hiking a long-distance trail one section at a time. Generally, a trail completed as a collection of section hikes is not considered a thru-hike, as the trail was not completed continuously. However, hiking trail sections out of order, e.g., starting at the halfway point of the AT and hiking to the northern terminus, then flying back to the middle and hiking the southern half, still counts as a thru-hike, as long as the trail is completed in one trip.

Thru-hiking, especially on long trails like the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) or the Appalachian Trail (AT), requires careful planning and consideration of your gear. Here's a general thru-hiker's gear list to help you pack for a long trail:

1. Backpack:

  • Choose a lightweight, durable backpack with a capacity suitable for your gear and the length of your trip.

2. Shelter:

3. Clothing:

  • Moisture-wicking base layers.
  • Insulating layers for warmth.
  • Lightweight, quick-drying pants and shirts.
  • Waterproof and windproof jacket.
  • Hat, gloves, and a buff or bandana.

4. Footwear:

  • High-quality, well-fitting hiking boots or trail runners.
  • Several pairs of moisture-wicking socks.
  • Gaiters to keep debris out.

5. Kitchen and Water:

6. Navigation:

  • Detailed maps or a navigation app on a smartphone.
  • Compass and knowledge of how to use it.
  • GPS device if desired.

7. Health and Safety:

  • First aid kit with essential supplies.
  • Multi-tool or knife.
  • Sunscreen, insect repellent, and lip balm.
  • Headlamp or flashlight with extra batteries.

8. Clothing Repair and Gear Maintenance:

  • Sewing kit and repair tape.
  • Extra buckles, cordage, and other repair essentials.

9. Personal Items:

  • Lightweight towel and toiletries.
  • Biodegradable soap.
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste.

10. Electronics:

  • Lightweight and durable camera or smartphone for photos.
  • Portable charger or solar charger.
  • Optional: GPS device, e-reader, or other electronics.

11. Food and Bear Canister:

  • Lightweight, high-calorie backpacking food.
  • Bear canister in areas where bear-resistant food storage is required.

12. Clothing for Town Stops:

  • Comfortable, clean clothes for town visits.
  • Sandals or camp shoes.

13. Permits and Documentation:

  • Trail permits and relevant identification.
  • Trail guidebook or app.

14. Finance and Communication:

  • Cash and credit cards.
  • Smartphone for communication and updates.

15. Leave No Trace Essentials:

  • Trowel for digging cat holes.
  • Lightweight, reusable trash bags.

16. Optional Luxury Items:

  • Kindle, journal, or other entertainment.
  • Lightweight camp chair.
  • Extra comfort items based on personal preferences.

Remember to consider the weather conditions, terrain, and specific regulations of the trail you're hiking when selecting gear. Regularly reassess your gear throughout the hike to adjust for changing conditions and to eliminate unnecessary items. Additionally, always practice Leave No Trace principles to minimize your impact on the environment.

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