Steps to Prepare for a Thruhike

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Common tasks to complete prior to beginning a thruhike.

Friends, Family, and Employment

  • Find a person or service to handle your mail.
  • Regarding employment, determine whether you will quit, request a leave of absence, etc. Notify your employer.
  • Notify your landlord.
  • Ensure a trusted person has access to important personal documents and passwords in the event of an emergency.
  • Establish emergency contacts, and make sure the information is on you at all times and accessible to first responders.
  • Set expectations with family and friends regarding how frequently you plan to be in touch (daily? weekly?) so they don't worry. If there are periods of time when you will be out of contact, let them know ahead of time. For example, there is a segment of the Sierra section of the Pacific Crest Trail where hikers commonly have no cell phone reception for as long as two weeks.

Logistics & Life Organization

  • Arrange travel to your starting point.
  • Carry some cash with you as a way to tip when hitching, and for those times when card readers are down.
  • Learn which phone carriers are most reliable for your trail, and consider switching, if necessary.
  • Setup your blog/social media/etc.
  • Put your belongings in storage.
  • Set your email vacation reminder/auto-reply.
  • If you have a vehicle that will be placed in storage or not driven, have someone routinely run the vehicle, or disconnect the battery and add a fuel stabilizer to the gas tank
  • If you have pets, determine who will care for them while you're hiking.


  • Figure out section-specific gear. Will you need warmer layers? An ice axe? Extra water capacity?
  • Check the condition of your gear, and make any needed repairs.
  • Verify camera quality/video bitrate, determine your data storage needs, and take your camera gear on test hikes.
  • If bringing an external battery pack, consider the longest possible stretch between charges, and determine your needed capacity.
  • Use your backpacking stove at home in the way you intend to use it on trail (including cozies, cleaning your pot, etc), and try out any homemade dehydrated meals/recipes before you hit the trail.
  • If you're getting a new tent set it up several times before your start date. Use it as if you were on the trail. Sleep in it. Make sure it works for you in practice, not just on paper.
    • Verify number of stakes (including spares) and swap out stake types if desired.
    • If it's a trekking pole tent, make sure your current poles fit (especially if you have fixed-length poles).

Trail Planning & Resupply

  • Obtain all necessary permits for trail, campsites, and campfires.
  • Confirm that water sources will be available during your intended timeframe.
  • Learn about the resupply options on your trail. Determine if and where you would like to send resupply boxes.
  • Keep an eye on the snowpack, if applicable.

Bills & Finances

  • Consider the pros and cons of pausing or canceling your car insurance. Depending on location, local laws may require comprehensive-only/parked car insurance, even if a car is in storage. If applicable, surrender plates/registration.
  • Cancel or pause subscriptions (and utilities if applicable).
  • Ensure all bills are set to autopay with email and text notifications turned on for payment status.
  • Notify your credit card company you’ll be traveling. Make sure you know your debit PIN.
  • Check the expiration date on credit and debit cards, drivers license, passport, and so on. Renewing while on the trail can be difficult.
  • Lock credit reports.
  • File taxes.

Physical Training & Skill Building

  • Research and physically train according to the conditions expected on trail.
  • Practice snow traversal with microspikes/crampons and self-arrest using your ice axe.
  • Review the Seven Principles of Leave No Trace.
  • Go on some shakedown hikes to test your gear and comfort levels.
  • Practice throwing a bear hang, if necessary.
  • Learn to identify plants such as poison ivy, poison oak, and poodle-dog bush, and learn how to safely remove ticks.
  • Learn wilderness first aid skills.


  • Visit your doctor for a check-up, and renew prescriptions for the duration you expect to be on trail.
  • Obtain vaccinations/boosters.
  • Make a dentist appointment.
  • Learn about travel insurance options. Purchase travel/health insurance that provides coverage for the entirety of the trail. Some healthcare plans now include optional coverage for wilderness rescue. Determine whether the plan will cover things like medevac / helicopter evacuations.

Navigation, Cell Phones, and Apps

  • Choose your navigation method. If using an app, consider bringing paper maps as a backup.
  • If bringing a GPS device/beacon, set up the subscription, configure the device, and practice using it. Share GPS tracker access information with key family/friends.
  • Learn how to configure your devices, e.g. cell phone and GPS device, for optimal battery life. For more information, see the article, How to Conserve Phone Battery Life While Hiking.
  • Download books, movies, and music for offline entertainment when no cellphone connectivity exists.
  • Download navigation apps, as well as offline maps within the apps, and go on test hikes to familiarize yourself with the app's features.
  • When traveling internationally, determine whether your phone is compatible with the cellular network at your destination, and obtain a new phone if necessary.