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. It’s a Google sheet so you can use it on your mobile phone each night in camp, even in offline mode and it will sync up whenever you get online. I originally made this after my A.T. thru-hike but I significantly improved it after my PCT thru-hike and it now allows you to choose one of the Triple Crown trails or create your own customized trail. It also allows you to track a flip-flop or multi-section thru-hike.
NOTE: Please do not ask for permission to edit the sheet. Instead, use the ‘File’ menu and choose the ‘Make a Copy’ option (if using the mobile app, click the 3 dots at the top right, then click ‘Share & export’ and you will see the ‘Make a copy’ option). This will keep the main sheet clean and safe for all to make a copy from.
Breaking Down My Hike: Key Statistics
|Total Distance||2192.0 mi. (3,527 kms)|
|Total Days (minus zeros)||120|
|Total Weeks (minus zeros)||17.1|
|Total Months (minus zeros)||4.0|
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.
|Daily Distance Ranges (Days)||Miles||Kms|
|“Marathon” days (26.2+ Mile days)||6|
And here are averages and maximums.
|Per day (minus zeros)||18.3||29.4|
|Per week (minus zeros)||127.9||205.7|
|Per month (minus zeros)||548.0||881.7|
|Maximum distance in one day||32.1||51.6|
|Maximum distance in one week||170.7||274.7|
|Distance covered days 1-30||437.6||704.1|
|Distance covered days 31-60||578.6||931.0|
|Distance covered days 61-90||606.7||976.2|
|Distance covered days 91-120||546.1||878.7|
|Distance covered days 121-125||23.0||37.0|
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.
|Miles Ranges||Days||Ending Mile|
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).
|AT Section Statistics||Miles||Hiking Days||Miles/Day||Kms/Day|
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.
|Sleep Situation||# Days||%|
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.
|Elevation Gain Stats||Feet||Meters|
|Total Elevation Gain||507,926||154,816|
|Elevation Gain per Trail Day||4,233||1,290|
|Elevation Gain per mile||231.7||70.6|
|Highest day of elevation gain||8,400||2,560|
|Elevation Gain Ranges (Feet)||Days|
|Total Elevation Loss||502,171||153,062|
|Elevation Loss per Trail Day||4,185||1,276|
|Elevation Loss per mile||229.1||69.8|
|Highest day of elevation loss||8,960||2,731|
|Elevation Loss (Feet)||Days|
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 FarOut (formerly known as Guthook)—unlike the iOS version—could not calculate elevation numbers between points but now it can.
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
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.
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).
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.
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!
Wondering how the PCT and A.T. differ? See the post I made comparing my experiences on both trails.
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Test your memory but I own the old yellow house in Delaware Water Gap, as you come into town from the south.
I run the trail a lot in cheap sketchers. I was wondering how your trail shoes where on the rocks.
The house is nearly ready to be a hostel/bed and breakfast.
Your break of your trip is excellent information. I talk to as many hikers as I can when they pass the house.
Hi Marty. I think I do recall your house. As for my shoes, I really liked them and still use them (a new pair lol) post-trail. I didn’t have any issues with them on any terrain, including the rocks of PA. Good luck with the hostel/B&B (let’s hope COVID is under control soon).
JB, I’d like to use your spreadsheet as a basis for my own record-keeping. Do you mind if I do this? If it’s OK, can you tell me how to do it? I’ve used Excel but only the basics. I’d just like to have a file with your categories ready to calculate and all formatted. I could create a stupid, simple spreadsheet but I’d like to not waste the time when folks like you have already created a better one.
I made it for others to use, so please do. In the File menu there is an option to “Make a copy” that will create a copy in your own Google Drive account. Alternatively, there is also a “Download” option that will let you download an Excel (or other) version if you prefer that way. I like using Google Sheets because you can access it from any device and it can work offline as well. As for actually using it, I have tried to color highlight all the fields that actually require input. You can ignore the rest as they will do their own automatic calculations based on what you enter. Let me know if that is not clear.