There is always one question that gets asked when you’re about to start a thru hike. How much will it cost? So I did the hard part for you, analysed four and a half months of transactions to find out how much it cost me. So how much does Appalachian Trail Cost? Not including my gear, it cost me approximately $4,800. This post will run down everything I spent during my hike with explanation, and what to expect for your Appalachian Trail thru hike. If you’re new to the idea of thru hiking or the Appalachian Trail head over here for some basics.
Overview of my costs:
As I stated above, my thru hike cost about $4,800. I broke down the cost into two graph which ultimately show the same thing. I was a northbound Appalachian Trail hiker in 2017. My hike lasted for about four and a half months. So my speed was quicker than average but the cost was right on par. There will be another post coming out soon with more details on my cost breakdown and thru hike analysis.
Here is how I broke down the categories so you can make the most of the data. All of these may be off by a few dollars but will be relatively accurate.
- Restaurants – This includes all food that didn’t directly go into my food bag. Meaning this category contains things like drinks from gas stations, and alcohol.
- Resupply – Categorized by food going in my food bag. It all included other items that required replacement along the way like ear plugs.
- Lodging – This was the hardest to analyze because most rooms were split and I didn’t log the transactions but this should be within $100 or so.
- Gear – Everything that I made mistakes with regarding to gear or things that needed to be replaced went in this category. Including things like clothing and shoes.
- Misc – Basically a catch all for anything that didn’t fit into the other categories. Example being the $20 permit for the Smokies.
Analysis of the Appalachian Trail Cost
Completing the Appalachian Trail is more than anything about having the ability to adapt well. Adding in a tight budget just means that you have to be a bit more skilled. Personally for the trip I budgeted right around $5,000 but would have preferred to spend less. My goal of spending was $5,000 and I made it by about $200. I did the trail relatively quick, in about four and a half months. I budgeted correctly and didn’t have to worry about skimping at any point throughout the trip.
Ah, the bane of my budget. I ended spending way more at restaurants than I would have liked to. Ultimately, it did provide a great deal of happiness throughout my hike. What other time in life can you truly eat WHATEVER you want and not gain weight? Exactly. So needless to say I went a bit overboard at times. If you want to save money on this categories I highly suggest eating/drinking something high in calories right before going to a restaurant and you’ll likely make more logical decisions. Doing it again, I would implement this strategy in more situations. Another tip is to not order beer or any drinks with meals, save it for after because you’ll save a ton! I think comfortably I could have reduced this number by $300 to $500.
This is an area where I was pretty lax. I bought the food that interested me at each stop and didn’t worry too much about price as long as it was roughly 200 cal/$ or higher. Two of my luxury resupply items included Kit Kats and Lara bars. I was also stoveless so I didn’t eat much of the staples such as Ramen, Knorr sides, and so on. This is one place where you could reduce a bit but personally I wouldn’t sweat it too much.
A lot of people end up getting stuck in town vortex’s and spend a lot on lodging. My lodging expense wasn’t terribly high. Most of the times that I did get sucked in, I ended up stealth camping near town. Sometimes even in ridiculous places (Looking at you Rangeley IGA). If you have a comfortable setup you won’t mind skimping on lodging. The longest I went without staying in a hotel/hostel was about 250 miles from Delaware Water Gap, PA to Great Barrington, MA. I could have easily reduced this to under $1,000 if I would have skipped a few zeroes towards the end of the trip.
This is a category where I likely spent less than most. I only replaced one gear staple throughout my entire hike and this ended up being my sleeping pad where I bought a $30 closed cell pad. The majority of this spending came from two pairs of trail runners which totaled $240. Meaning I spent about $150 in gear over the course of the trip. Buying the right gear before hand really pays off.
The misc category was mostly my leftover transactions that I didn’t have a place for. Some of the transactions for the category were things like the Smokies permit, Kindle books, tips for drivers, and entertainment like movies.
Cost isn’t Everything
Sitting here, writing this article I find myself picking through the data and saying I shouldn’t have spent that. I should have saved more! Since, in the comforts of society I find myself to be quite the saver but yet on the trail I felt spendy. There isn’t anything quite like that first meal when you get into town after a 30 mile day. Nothing beats a few beers on a 90 degree day sitting inside a cool hotel room. The important thing is to have fun out there, enjoy your trip! Be reasonable with yourself and budget accordingly. No-one knows more about the cost of the trip than you. You’ll learn where you don’t mind skimping and where you love to splurge.