Analyzing My Appalachian Trail Thru-Hike — Expenses and Statistics

In 2019, I successfully completed a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail, starting April 22 at Amicalola Falls in Georgia and ending August 24 on Mount Katahdin in Maine. I follow multiple online thru-hiking groups and people often ask about costs, mileage, time, etc. so since I tracked all of that I thought I would summarize it for anyone interested.

Want to track your own thru-hike? I am making the spreadsheet I used to track my hike and generate all of the statistics found in the post available for you to use as you see fit. It’s a Google sheet so you can just use it on your mobile phone each night in camp, even in offline mode and it will all sync up whenever you get online. One sheet is for tracking your hiking stats and another for tracking your expenses. Two other sheets automatically generate stats and charts from those two. 
NOTE: Please do not ask for permission to edit the sheet. Simply use the ‘File’ menu and choose the ‘Make a Copy’ option.

Breaking Down My Hike: Key Statistics

Totals

Total Distance2192.0 mi. (3,527 kms)
Total Days125
Total Zeros5
Total Days (minus zeros)120
Total Weeks17.9
Total Weeks (minus zeros)17.1
Total Months4.2
Total Months (minus zeros)4.0

Distance Details

There are multiple ways to slice and dice distances. Below is a look at how many days I spent doing different amounts of miles / kilometers.

0-5 Mile days | 0-5 Km days21
5-10 Mile days | 5-10 Km days94
10-15 Mile days | 10-15 Km days145
15-20 Mile days | 15-20 Km days4510
20-25 Mile days | 20-25 Km days3711
25-30 Mile days | 25-30 Km days1128
30+ Mile days | 30-35 Km days226
35-40 Km days22
40+ Km days13

And here are averages and maximums.


MilesKms
Miles / kms per day17.528.2
Miles / kms per day (minus zeros)18.329.4
Miles / kms per week122.8197.5
Miles / kms per week (minus zeros)127.9205.7
Miles / kms per month526.1846.5
Miles / kms per month (minus zeros)548.0881.7
Maximum miles / kms in one day32.151.6
Maximum miles / kms in one week170.7274.7
Miles | kms covered days 1-30446.4718.3
Miles | kms covered days 31-60557.5897.0
Miles | kms covered days 61-90601.0967.0
Miles | kms covered days 91-120519.1835.2
Miles | kms covered days 121-12576.8123.6

Here is a look at how long it took me to do each 100-mile stretch. Since I didn’t start and stop exactly on 100 mile markers, these are calculations and thus not exact, but still somewhat interesting. The longest stretch of 100 miles was 7 days and the shortest 4 days.


Days Ending Mile
Days to Go 0-100 Miles785.9
Days to Go 100-200 Miles7197.2
Days to Go 200-300 Miles7291.3
Days to Go 300-400 Miles7395.2
Days to Go 400-500 Miles5492.6
Days to Go 500-600 Miles4580.4
Days to Go 600-700 Miles6697.3
Days to Go 700-800 Miles7786.7
Days to Go 800-900 Miles5891.9
Days to Go 900-1000 Miles5995.1
Days to Go 1000-1100 Miles41074.7
Days to Go 1100-1200 Miles51195.5
Days to Go 1200-1300 Miles61295.4
Days to Go 1300-1400 Miles51395.4
Days to Go 1400-1500 Miles51497.4
Days to Go 1500-1600 Miles51596.1
Days to Go 1600-1700 Miles51686.3
Days to Go 1700-1800 Miles51793.1
Days to Go 1800-1900 Miles71893.8
Days to Go 1900-2000 Miles61987.0
Days to Go 2000-2100 Miles62096.7
Days to Go 2100-2200 Miles62192.0

Days and Pace per State Breakdown

Here’s a breakdown of how many days I spent in each state. These numbers are approximate as some days I may have hiked in two different states (I assigned that day to the state I ended in even if the majority of the day’s hike was in the previous state).


# DaysMiles/day
GA611.5
NC/TN2515.7
VA3018.5
WV18.6
MD131.9
PA1219.9
NJ318.9
NY421.0
CT320.5
MA519.7
VT819.0
NH916.2
ME1816.6

Day by Sleeping Arrangement

I spent a total of 125 nights across five different sleep situations. My hammock was my primary sleep setup and I used it 61% of the time. I wasn’t a big fan of sleeping in shelters and only did so 10 nights (8%), mostly when it was required (Smoky Mountains) or when the weather was severe (cold or rain). Note that while I only had five total zeros I had 34 nights in a hostel or hotel so I think I was fairly efficient in doing nearos instead of zeros. One other possibly interesting tidbit is that the longest stretch I went without a zero day was 32 days.


# Nights% of Nights
Hammock7660.8%
Hostel2217.6%
Hotel129.6%
Other*54.0%
Shelter108.0%

* Other: 1 night work-for-hire at Madison Hut, 1 night with a trail angel, 1 night with friends, 2 nights with family.

Elevation Profile Details

To know how difficult a day’s hike will be you need to consider not just distance but also the elevation profile. Here’s a breakdown of how the ups and downs played out during my 120 hiking days. I averaged around 4,200 feet up and down per day with the maximum day exceeding 8,000 feet. I had 40 days that exceeded 5,000 feet in gain, which I think is a pretty solid (difficult) day of hiking.


FeetMeters
Total Elevation Gain507,926154,816
Elevation Gain per day (minus zeros)42331290
Elevation Gain per mile23271
Days < 1000 feet gain5
Days 1000-2000 feet gain10
Days 2000-3000 feet gain14
Days 3000-4000 feet gain20
Days 4000-5000 feet gain31
Days 5000-6000 feet gain24
Days 6000-7000 feet gain8
Days > 7000 feet gain8
Highest day of elevation gain84002560


FeetMeters
Total Elevation Descent502,171153,062
Elevation Descent per day41851276
Elevation Descent per mile22970
Days < 1000 feet descent2
Days 1000-2000 feet descent11
Days 2000-3000 feet descent15
Days 3000-4000 feet descent27
Days 4000-5000 feet descent25
Days 5000-6000 feet descent22
Days 6000-7000 feet descent9
Days > 7000 feet descent8
Highest day of elevation descent89602731

Note: My daily elevation numbers were taken from the Appalachian Trail Distance Calculator. Some days are quite accurate because the starting and ending points are both listed in the calculator as options. Other days (e.g., when stealth camping) I had to do some estimating/interpolating. In 2019, the Android version of Guthook—unlike the iOS version—could not calculate elevation numbers between points. I believe the newer version in 2020 can so that should make tracking your own gains and descents easier.

Miscellaneous

One statistic I didn’t track but wish I had is the number of days that had some rain. I have added a column in the spreadsheet for that in case you want to track it.

Budget & Expenses Summary

Total Expenses

Below I will go into details, but with gear, my total thru-hike expenditure was $5,878.48 or $47.03 per day. That equated to $27.17 daily for expenses and $19.85 daily for gear (amortizing the total gear costs over my total days on trail). Thinking about it in per mile terms my overall cost was $2.68 per mile while my gear costs were $1.13 and my other expenses were $1.55.

Gear

I was new to long distance hiking so I had to buy almost all my gear new. Considering that, I think my $2,482 total isn’t too bad. Here’s a detailed breakdown of what I spent based on the kind of gear. I would call my gear lightweight but not ultralight. My base weight fluctuated as I swapped out gear on the trail, but it was generally around 16-18 pounds. If interested, here’s my Lighterpack pre-departure gear list.

I spent $700 on gear while I was on the trail. The two main expenditures were a Therm-a-rest NeoAir Uberlite (loved it) and an Ursack (convenient but too small). Other things that i bought included a new Sawyer Squeeze, new socks and liners (I had a lifetime warranty for the socks but didn’t use it), new thermals (instead of shipping from home I just bought more on Amazon), a lightweight pair of pants, a new headlamp, a new MicroSD card, a new stove (gas to replace my alcohol stove, though shortly afterwards I went stoveless), a new water bag (CNOC Vecto – loved it), a new titanium spoon (I started with a foldable version that I didn’t like), a new pillow, a second pair of trekking poles (after a hard fall in southern Maine destroyed my first pair), an inexpensive replacement wristwatch (I’m old school like that), and two fairly inexpensive insoles.

Finally, note that I only bought one pair of replacement shoes! I cannot believe I did the whole thru-hike in just two pairs of Decathon Kiprun Trail XT7 trail runners. And, the first pair probably had at least 200 miles on them before I started the trail. The best part? Together they cost only $106.25. I loved them and think that they were my biggest surprise savings, though for comfort I really should have used three pairs.

Gear – Total$2,481.77
Gear – Before start$1,760.29
Gear – On trail$700.21
Gear – Bought but didn’t use$21.26
Gear – Clothing (Packed)$203.51
Gear – Electronics$108.98
Gear – Food, Water, and Trash$399.13
Gear – Pack$218.36
Gear – Shelter$361.56
Gear – Sleep$378.22
Gear – Permits and Ancillary Costs$98.94
Gear – Rain Gear$141.99
Gear – Toiletries and First Aid$61.00
Gear – Utility Items$108.38
Gear – Worn Items$380.45

Though most people don’t look at it this way, my total gear expenses averaged over my 125 days thru-hiking was $19.85 ($20.68 excluding zeros).

On-Trail Expenses


TotalAverage
Lodging$953.70$7.63
Food$1998.33$15.99
Transportation$202.90$1.62
Laundry$38.75$0.31
Mobile$127.08$1.02
Gear$682.00$5.46
Misc$75.95$0.61
Total$3,396.71$27.17
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As already mentioned, I made heavy use of nearos rather than zeros, but even so I spent a lot of nights off trail. To me that was money very well spent as I usually got a hot meal, hot shower, and did laundry, without significantly slowing down my progress. That’s the benefit of a trail like the A.T. which has so many trail towns and hiker hostels.

Averaging the lodging number across my entire hike is interesting but more useful is taking a look at it across the actual number of nights I stayed off trail, which was 34 (not including free stays with friends, family and trail angels). 22 of those were bunks in hostels, 10 were in hotels shared with another hiker, and two were in hotels solo. My nightly average was $28.05. Also note that most of my off-trail stays were in the southern part of the trail where costs were lower. By the time I hit the more expensive northeast I was doing bigger miles and stopping less often.

The $15.99 I averaged for food includes resupply for the trail and town food. Since I went into town fairly often that number might be higher than it otherwise would have been (resupply food is generally pretty inexpensive). On the other hand, I rarely ate expensive meals in town so that helped keep the number pretty low.

I didn’t do much shipping since I mostly ordered things from Amazon using free Prime shipping. I sent a few gear items back but those costs are just thrown in the miscellaneous category.

Summary

There you have a detailed look at my thru-hike experience in numbers. No two hikers are alike so I don’t know how similar your experience will be to mine, but hopefully seeing my numbers will be of some value to you. Good luck with your hike!

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