The hiking world is one brimming with excitement, adventure, and many paths less traveled. Nestled between your favorite local loop and bucket-list destination hikes sits one style of hiking avid trekkers from every walk of life have dreamt of experiencing in their lifetime: a thru hike.
So, what is thru hiking...and are you ready for it? Read on to find out!
Unlike typical hiking trails that tend to loop around or come out and back, a thru hike is an end-to-end hike on a long-distance trail spanning upwards of 2,000 miles and taking anywhere between five or more months to complete.
Among the most infamous thru-hike trails in America include the Appalachian Trail (AT) spanning from Georgia to Maine, the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT) spanning from Mexico to Canada, and the newest (and arguably the most rugged and difficult) addition to the American thru-hike trail tribe, the Continental Divide Trail (CDT): a 3,100-mile-long trail along the crest of the Rocky Mountains not recommended for first-timers.
Completing a thru hike isn’t just about being able to walk for long distances; it’s also about mental strength, preparation, and a willingness to deal with struggles and challenges as they arise–and they will arise. Ask most successful thru hikers, and they will tell you that the journey is anything but easy, but still one of the most rewarding challenges a person can experience.
Now, you might be wondering what a typical thru-hike experience looks like. While no two hiker’s experiences are identical, there are a few aspects of life on the path that a thru hiker may experience during their time on the trail.
Most thru hikers take the journey solo. While there will likely be other hikers on the trail with you, you will still spend a lot of time on your own, which after weeks and months of hiking, can become quite lonely. This is one of the most common mental challenges a thru hiker experiences, and where mental preparation is a must.
With the changing elements, terrain, and lack of amenities, life on the path can be downright exhausting. Couple this with feelings of homesickness, and you might wonder why you started and whether or not you should keep going. This is also completely normal, and another aspect of mental preparation one must consider before committing to their first thru hike.
Thru hiking is not like any other hike you’ve done. With months on the trail, you’ve got to pack light, pack smart, and be as efficient as possible. You’ll also need to be good with a map and compass, trust your body, listen to your body, and embrace the struggle. Take time to prepare physically and mentally, and educate yourself on what to expect. All of these aspects will help you avoid trouble and become one of the few thru hikers that make it to the end on time and on budget!
Thru hiking is not for everyone. And that’s okay! If you think it might be for you, there are a few things right off the bat you’re going to need:
If you want your thru hiking adventures to go off without a hitch (or at least less of them), the first thing you’ll want to start with is a game plan, and preferably, eight months to a year or more in advance. In fact, you’ll want a few game plans: one for physical training and one for planning the actual trek.
The latter should include researching the trail you’re hiking, financial needs (the bills still have to be paid even when you’re busy crushing your bucket list goals), itinerary, and other logistical details like travel, transportation, weather, permits, pace, restocking supplies, food, and water. You’ll even have to plan for the unplanned, like emergencies, severe weather, illness, trail closures, and more.
We mentioned earlier that thru hiking is all about efficiency, and ensuring your backpack is filled with only the essentials is a must for reserving energy and making it to the end. This is not a trip where you want to skimp on quality, so choosing lightweight yet rugged hiking gear that can handle the journey ahead is crucial.
For instance, trial runners are favored over heavy, clunky leather hiking boots. You should expect to go through several pairs. If heavier boots are a must, make sure they are well broken in before you head out.
Dress in technical, season-appropriate gear that can shield skin from the sun and elements, wick away sweat and moisture, and keep you comfortable. Pack plenty of new socks, but not just any socks. You’ll want supportive and breathable merino wool hiking socks, cozy socks for sleeping, well-fitting compression socks for men or compression socks for women, and four or more pairs of men's hiking socks or hiking socks for women for long days of walking on dirt and rock covered paths.
Here’s the thing: if you don’t believe in yourself, you won’t make it. Plain and simple. When you plan to accomplish a goal that is as physically and mentally demanding as thru hiking, you have to be able to stare at adversity with a smile and persevere when the chips are down. Embracing the struggles, triumphs, small victories, and the journey will make you a stronger and more confident person in your hiking career and other aspects of your life. It’s one trip worth taking, so start planning!
Your sock size shouldn’t be a guessing game. Our socks range from small to double XL, but the best way to know the perfect fit for you is to match your shoe size to the chart on the left. That way, you’ll know the size you select will give you the fit and feel you expect.
Between sizes? Go with your gut, but rest assured that your socks will still fit great. If you receive your order and find yourself wishing you’d gone up or down a size, just let us know. We’ll happily send you replacements for your preferred size.
Concerned about laundry mix-ups? All FITS® socks are coordinated by color and size, based on the colors you see on the size chart. So, you won’t have to worry about mixing up your sizes with the other FITS® wearers in your home. (But stray socks mysteriously going missing in the dryer? Unfortunately, we can’t help with that.)
Sock sizes are typically measured in inches, not by your shoe size. So, a sock size 6-8 will comfortably fit someone whose feet are between six and eight inches long. However, at FITS®, we make it easy for you to choose the ideal sock size without having to measure your foot. Simply use our sock size conversion chart based on your shoe size to select the right fit for you.
To measure your foot for socks, measure the length from the heel of your foot to the tip of your longest toe. The measurement in inches correlates to your sock size. For example, if your foot is 10 inches long, a sock size 9-11 should fit you comfortably. At FITS®, you can skip this step and find your sock size based on your shoe size using our conversion chart.
The sock size conversion refers to sock size compared to shoe size. While all companies may vary slightly on which size socks to purchase based on your shoe size, you can always measure your foot to find the right fit for you.
Because sock sizes are determined by the length of your foot in inches vs. your shoe size, shoe and sock sizes differ. The FITS® sock size to shoe size conversion is as follows:
Knowing this makes it easy to choose the ideal sock size based on your shoe size without measuring your foot.
Sock sizes typically don’t correlate with age. For kids, age can be a general indicator of what size sock they’ll need, but everyone is different. An adult sock size 9-12 fits anyone whose feet are approximately nine to twelve inches long. For kids’ sock sizing, check with the company to find exact details to ensure your little one gets the perfect fit.
Got more questions about finding the perfect sock size for you? Let’s talk.