Planning a hike of several weeks or months on one of the main trails brings additional challenges for ultra-light hiking. Physical conditioning and re-supply are key factors for a successful easy hike.
Even before you start putting together your supply packs, you need to start conditioning your body. If your feet and legs are in good shape, your chances of success are much higher. Remember that about 40% of walkers stop before they finish their planned trip, so do your best to eliminate the most common causes of not staying on the trail. The best preparation for hiking is hiking. Seems easy, but while you are busy with everyday life, it will be difficult to take enough time to get into shape.
You can do cardio and the stair master in a gym, but that’s not the total answer. You have to hike and walk a lot in the shoes that you will use for your long distance hike. If you plan to walk the entire length of one of the main trails, remember that you may need to shrink two or three pairs of shoes. If moisture drips into your shoes, it’s the same as crossing a stream, so it’s good to get your feet in shape by hiking when they’re wet. Start your hike with socks that provide plenty of cushioning as your feet tend to swell and even lengthen on long hikes.
It is a bad plan to think that you will get in shape while hiking. Since you won’t have much recovery time when you start your long distance hike, you need to be in shape at the start. Walking shorter kilometers at the beginning of your journey may be more sensible, but it is not the easiest solution. Before you start your long hike, you can better prepare for your training hikes if they have many ups and downs. Older hikers run the risk of having knee problems, especially on steep descents.
Staying hydrated and well fed is probably more important than you think when you start your hike. If you are like most hikers, you will lose weight anyway, so eat well and drink well from the start. Drinking a lot tends to lubricate the joints and the muscles won’t be so painful. Start with extra ibuprofen and hope you don’t have to use too much as the days go by.
If you are planning this hike with a partner, remember that he might get out while you want to continue. Make sure you take all the equipment you need with you and don’t rely on others. Your pace can be faster or slower than with a partner, so independence gives you security when you are behind or in front of the trail.
Your training hikes are a good opportunity to test all your equipment. Desert hiking at the beginning of the Pacific Crest Trail requires different equipment than the Sierras or North Cascades. Test everything you will use. You can enjoy not using a tent in the desert. Know how much space a bear container takes up in your backpack as you explore the Pacific Crest Trail. Be comfortable with your rainwear on the Appalachian Trail. Sharpen your card with skills on the Continental Divide Trail, as it is not so well defined. If you are using Permethrin to keep insects away from your clothing, remember to treat any clothes you have your companion send you during the hike.
Have access to your money and remember that nothing costs less than you expect, but there will be a lot to spend your money on, especially in trail towns. If you arrive in a city, you’ll probably want to indulge yourself with restaurant meals, a warm bed and other things that will burden your budget. If you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy the rhythm and feel of the trail and want to leave town as soon as possible. Most hikers have a paid credit or debit card or both. Remember that paying your credit card is something your support person should help with, so leave a few signed checks behind. Most hikers have a phone card with many minutes. And it’s always good to have some money for times when a credit card doesn’t work.