Preparing to Backpack Across America

Unless your name if Forest Gump the idea of walking coast to coast may seem a bit crazy and while it may be unusual there are plenty of people dreaming of doing so. A smaller number have even done so. But a hike that can exceed 2500 miles with a completion time measured in months is not to be taken lightly.

Let us understand what your trek will involve, how to prepare and even a few tips to help you along the way. Maybe it will be the little bit of extra knowledge you need to start off across America.

So, what are you really getting into?

It is impossible for anyone to tell you exactly how far you will hike or how long it will take if you backpack across America. This will depend on your specific route, start & stop points, pace, whether you take extended stops along the way and a host of other variables.

What we can tell you is most routes will average 2500-3000 miles. At an average daily pace of 15 miles the trip will take 200 days – if you do not encounter any emergencies, detours or simply decide to spend and extra day taking in the sights along the way. That is a significant commitment.

How much will it cost?

Some novices believe that they can hike anywhere without a dime to their name or a care in the world. If only it were so easy.

Unfortunately, even your dream of hitting the open road and hiking across the nation will cost money. How much money depends on how many perks you want and whether or not you encounter unexpected costs along the way.

I have seen reports of successful hikers going coast to coast for as little as $20 per day or as much as $50 per day – or between $4000 and $10,000 in whole. Like I said, it depends on you and how comfortable you want to be.

If you will be camping, preparing your own food and shopping in the discount isle $20 per day may be enough. If you are eating in restaurants or sleeping in motels even $50 per day will not be enough. Determine your budget and plan accordingly.

How to prepare

Obviously, the first step in preparing to walk 3000 miles is to make sure you are physically fit for such a challenge.

  • Speak with your medical professional before training and again prior to departing.
  • Train, this means walking a lot and on various terrains and even during a variety of weather conditions.
  • Begin to prepare yourself for the mental aspect as well, especially the many hours or days alone.

We suggest you also obtain training in advanced First Aid as well, so you can stay healthy along the way.

Once you are on the trails

There are several concerns you will need to address along the way, the key ones are addressed below.

  • Gear – you will face the same challenge as any other backpacker except for a longer period of time, balanced needed gear against what you can carry. Obviously, it needs to be parred down to the minimum but make sure it includes tent, sleep system, clothing for various weather conditions, first aid kit and 2 pair of favorite sneakers hiking or boots (you will need more but purchasing along the way saves pack space/weight). Most who have done it will also recommend a small cart or even baby stroller- it is much easier to push gear than carry everything on your back and will increase average pace.
  • Food & water – obviously you cannot carry months’ worth of food or water, so it will need to be acquired along the way. Sometimes you will find a kind face who will treat you to a nice meal, but you should be prepared for this to not be the case. Purchasing small amounts of food along the way is often the only choice you have. It is also not recommended you collect water from unknown sources either- many gas stations, truck stops, rest areas or other public locations will allow you to fill a few bottles.
  • Money – as was stated earlier this will not be a free ride, you will need cash along the trail. However, if the idea of carrying thousands of dollars in cash in a money belt as you walk America sounds terrifying that is because it is. Carry minimal cash and opt for credit/debit card. If you start running low on cash, you might want to find some odd jobs along the way.

For additional information check out this YouTube video.

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