How much money do you need for a thru-hike? It’s hard to say how much you personally can get by on. I know one hiker who started with $300 and would fly signs in town asking for work. I know a different hiker that blew through $8000 and was broke by New Hampshire. I personally spent $2000 (not including gear) by being frugal, and I only had $5 to my name the day I summited Katahdin.
So, what do you need money for?
•Food. You will start eating double or triple of what you would at home. Groceries will cost you $25-40 every time you go into town. You’ll probably want a hot meal while your in town too.
$ Saver Trick: Only buy the cheapest food items at the store, like Pasta Sides and oatmeal. Skip the Mountain House meals and Clif bars. Instead of going to the diner in town, go to the deli in the grocery store.
•Motels and hostels. Hot shower and soft bed? Yes, please. You will spend around $15-30 for every stay in town.
$ Saver Trick: Do work-for-stay at the hostels that allow it. Stay with trail angels that open their homes. Keep an eye out for free showers. Camp right outside of town, so you can get in and get out.
•New Gear. Sometimes your gear will need replaced, you’ll wear through your boots, or you’ll need new hiking clothes. New boots and major gear items will add up. There’s also small expenses, like a new fuel canister every few weeks.
$ Saver Trick: Lots of gear companies will replace broken or worn out items because they like to keep a good reputation with the thru-hikers. Call the companies before you make purchases to find out what their policy is. REI is awesome about helping hikers.
•Bills. Student loans, car insurance, credit cards, rent, medical bills? Do everything you can to minimize those bills before you hit the trail. I forgot about that last $50 I owed my credit card when I hit the trail. When I finished 6 months later, it had turned into $300. Whoops.
$ Saver Trick: Give up your apartment, and move your stuff to Mom’s house. Cancel your car insurance. Defer those student loans.
•Booze, weed, and cigarettes. There is a lot more partying going on than you would think. Lots of hikers smoke cigarettes too. Have fun, but don’t forget to hike sometimes.
$ Saver Trick: Let cheap whiskey and Busch beer become your friends. If you can’t quit smoking cigarettes, switch to rolling your own.