I’ve been the manager at an independently owned Patagonia retailer for a few years now. Although working retail might not fully enable me to afford a year backpacking the length of three of America’s long-distance trails, it certainly allows me the wiggle room to head there in the first place. And perhaps, like after the last thru-hike across New Zealand, I’ll be welcomed back energetically.
The bigger question here is not about time, but the feasibility in affording a 7,700 mile long hike. The answer is far from straight forward.
First of all, it is not an easy feat or cheap to hike one long-distance trail, let alone three. Once your bag is packed (an expense pushing easily over $1,000), there is still the cost of transportation, lodging (if you can splurge for such luxury), shipping fees (for resupply packages), meals out, meals in, fuel, laundry, batteries and any other expense we may forget about, like insurance and lost/damaged gear. Some will say it costs $1/mile. Others will say $1,000/month. And yet some, those really frugal hikers, make do with what they have. Rice and beans it is. For months and months and months.
I hope not to fall into this later category, as I’m fairly certain my stomach may never forgive me if all I eat is rice and beans. And fortunately, I don’t think I will. Fortunately I have many kind people rooting me on. But before we get into that, let’s quickly look at some of the costs.
Gear. Backpacks, shelters, sleeping bags, sleeping pads, trekking poles, stoves and electronics can add up fast. A pack suitable for a long hike can run a person, in general, between $200-350. I have a ULA-Ohm and a Granite Gear Crown, which although neither is ideal for this next grand adventure (my ULA has a significant tear and the Granite Gear is a men’s pack designed for a longer torso than my 5’5″-frame), I will make do with one/both of them if need be. Meanwhile, sleeping bags can run twice a pack’s cost. My Katabatic 900-fill down, 22-degree sleeping quilt, in 2011, cost me $420. Weighing a mere 20 ounces, but delivering a world of warmth, it was worth every penny. And it still looks new after 2 thru-hikes! Doing a quick internet search will reveal the numbers for all these core items, and I’m so fortunate that with four long-distance trails under my feet, that I have the majority of gear already. Would I like to update some of it? Yes! But only if I raise enough money without jeopardizing the feasibility of the Calendar Triple Crown. Rice and beans…
Clothing. Besides gear, there is then the ensemble of clothing. Fortunately I’ve been a valuable employee of a Patagonia retailer for the last three and a half years. For those who don’t know of the brand, it is by far one of the most renown, most dependable, most environmentally conscious and most suitable to any outdoor pursuit, be it backpacking, climbing, running or sitting around a lake’s edge drinking a mighty fine craft brew. The company (local and corporate) have been incredibly generous on my other hikes, and I hope to wear their Fall 15′ line proudly next year. (*Note: If you’re a very visual person like myself, color-coordination is important despite what the general consensus may tell you. In New Zealand, I had every color of the rainbow. I did not particularly enjoy walking around looking like a bag of skittles. Fashion lesson behind, this time I am layering colors more complimentary to one another. Again, it may sound trivial, but ultimately it’s a personal decision, just like wearing deodorant while on-trail. (I wore deodorant for 2 thru-hikes. Now I’m lucky to apply it once a month).
Next up on the ways in which to offset the cost of the thru-hikes is acquiring additional sponsors. I just started reaching out yesterday and I’ve already had success with a local energy bar. And I hope my previous sponsors—like Raw Revolution and Sea to Summit—will be interested in fueling my high-caloric needs and ways in which to organize a week’s worth of food. I’m also looking to update my trekking poles (mine have taken to collapsing several times a day, especially during tricky river crossings), in addition to a waterproof camera, shoes (Patagonia has sadly discontinued their shoe line) and I am considering switching to a tarp tent to shed some ounces, although I absolutely love my Big Agnes Flycreek Platinum. BA is also an outstanding company, with dependable gear and great customer service. Oh, and a warmer sleeping pad for the winter thru-hike along the Appalachian Trail. And a proper stove for the AT too, rather than my beer-can stove. Again, beans and rice…
Additionally there is one more company that is helping me raise money to afford some of the expenses along the way. That’s Hop Valley Brewing Company, an exceptional brewery based out of Eugene, Oregon. It might sound wild, but for the last three years, I have been sponsored by a brewery. I know, it’s pretty sweet. And they have agreed to donate a couple kegs to a special fundraising occasion that I’m planning to host in a couple of months. (Early/mid October so anyone in the neighborhood should come!!!). I’m going to throw a big ol’ party at one of the parks in town and for a $10 donation, people can drink beers, have a nibble of food, talk trail (or whatever your interests are) and know that they are helping me raise money to hike this most-definitely-out-there-idea, but equally amazing and awesome idea. No beans and rice here!
Breweries aside, I’m also saving money by living out of my truck. In April I moved everything I owned into my 1994 Toyota Pickup. Overall, I like the lifestyle. For now. One day in a few years I want to live in a house, with a garden. But for now it’s a bean-and-rice approach to living. And if your wondering where I shower, I am again so fortunate that my place of work has a shower room.
Lastly, I have also updated my website to have a donate button. If you’re feeling generous and want to help me achieve this goal, please take a moment to donate the amount of your choice. Perhaps it’s for a meal, a piece of gear or a roof over my head on a cold, winter night. If you’re feeling extra generous, a flight to one of the trails’s termini! I will greatly appreciate it! And if you’re that kind, I’ll even send you a signed copy of my book, Married to the Trail, which is due out in late October.