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The 2018 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Survey: General Information

The 2018 Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Survey: General Information

Two years in the past, The Trek expanded our annual Appalachian Trail thru-hiker survey to incorporate questions not solely about foremost gear gadgets, but in addition extra detailed demographics, the timeline of AT thru-hikes, favourite and most troublesome sections of the path, climbing companions, and their adherence to Depart No Hint practices.

Individuals have been recruited by way of social media, notably Fb teams for the AT thru-hiker class of 2018. Knowledge have been collected from Sept. 25, 2018, to Nov. three, 2018.

Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker Survey Demographics

310 individuals who hiked on the Appalachian Trail in 2018 took the survey.

The common (imply) age of hikers within the survey was 34 years previous, plus or minus 13 years, with a median age of 29 years previous. Hikers ranged in age from 18 to 74.

Fifty-five % of hikers have been biologically male and forty-five % have been feminine. Relating to gender id, 54 % of hikers recognized as males, 44 % as ladies, and 1.6 % recognized as non-binary.Appalachian Trail surveyThe overwhelming majority (95%, n = 286) of hikers within the survey have been white non-Hispanic. Six hikers recognized as Hispanic/Latino/Latina, three hikers as Asian, 4 as multiracial, one as Native American/Alaska native/Hawaii native, and one as black.

Appalachian Trail survey

Almost half of hikers within the survey (46%) had bachelor’s levels. One of many 4 hikers who had not but completed highschool was solely 19 years previous.

Appalachian Trail surveyAlmost all hikers have been from the US (89%), with England and Canada a distant second. There was one hiker every from Denmark, France, Guyana, India, Israel, Italy, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Scotland, and Switzerland.

Unsurprisingly, states with the very best numbers of AT hikers have been states that the Appalachian Trail passes via, in addition to probably the most populous US states (California and Texas). Moreover, a excessive proportion of US hikers have been from Florida. From my private expertise, I’m guessing extra hikers come from AT states as a result of the path is extra well-known in these locations. For instance, I grew up climbing within the Smokies and discovered concerning the AT as a toddler; the place I stay now in Mississippi, most individuals don’t even know what it’s. For me personally, exploring my homeland earlier than I moved away from it was a main purpose I selected to hike the AT as an alternative of one of many different lengthy trails.

Climbing FundamentalsAppalachian Trail survey

The majority of hikers had gone backpacking between one and 7 nights. Only a few had no tenting or mountaineering expertise, simply as only a few had accomplished long-distance backpacking. Nevertheless, this yr the % who had backpacked three-plus months greater than doubled from the earlier yr (7.2% in comparison with three.2% in 2017).

Appalachian Trail survey

Through-hikers have been the goal of this survey, and comprised nearly all of hikers who took it.

Of the 47 survey members who didn’t thru-hike, 11 had meant a piece hike. The different 36 have been unable to complete meant thru-hikes. Accidents have been the most typical purpose that hikers give up. Observe that some hikers have been nonetheless on the path on the time they responded to the survey. This annual survey doesn’t go into element about causes hikers give up, however take a look at our knowledge on a separate path casualties survey for extra info on sickness, accidents, and causes hikers give up.


The overwhelming majority of thru-hikers who took the survey walked northbound, which is by far the most typical course for AT thru-hikes. The proportion southbound and flip-flop hikers who took the survey declined from 1 / 4 (24%) to a tenth (10%) of survey members. The survey was distributed virtually a month earlier this yr which is a possible contributing issue, as many southbounders or flip-floppers are nonetheless trekking as I write this.

The majority of hikers began their hikes between early March and early April (with March 28, April 1, and April four being the preferred dates), which is taken into account the bubble for AT thru-hikers. The earliest hikers started in fall 2017. The newest begin date for a thru-hike was Aug. 30, 2018, and this hiker reported that they had left the path for household/private causes. Whereas there are far fewer southbound and flip-flop makes an attempt than northbound makes an attempt annually, mid-June seems to be the preferred begin time for southbound thru-hikes.

Appalachian Trail surveyThe commonest end dates for northbound thru-hikers have been all through September, and early October. Most southbounders have been nonetheless climbing once they took the survey.


For thru-hikers, the typical and median tempo they walked was 17 miles per day, with two-thirds of thru-hikers sustaining a mean tempo between 14 and 20 miles per day. The slowest tempo reported by a thru-hiker was ten miles per day whereas the quickest was 30 miles per day.

In distinction, the tempo was a number of miles per day slower for part hikers and individuals who tried, however didn’t full, thru-hikes. The common tempo for part hikes and incomplete thru-hikes was 14 miles per day (median 15 miles), with two thirds of starting from ten to 18 miles per day.

Sections of the Appalachian Trail

We requested hikers to price sections of the AT for each how a lot they favored them and the way troublesome they have been. Hikers might price multiple part as “favorite,” “least favorite,” “most difficult,” and “easiest.” The percentages proven under exclude hikers who stated they didn’t hike that part.

Favourite and Least Favourite Sections

The part mostly picked as a favourite was Baxter State Park, residence of the AT’s Northern Terminus, Mount Katahdin. The White Mountain Nationwide Forest was an in depth second. Southern Virginia was once more the third hottest area, house to the Roan Highlands, the place hikers can work together with wild ponies. Northern Maine (which incorporates the 100-Mile Wilderness) and Southern Maine ranked fourth and fifth once more. Keep in mind the pattern was primarily northbounders, who principally handled winter circumstances on the southern finish of the AT and had milder climate for the northern finish. I’ll look into southbound-only rankings in a later publish.

Northern Pennsylvania, recognized within the hiker group as Rocksylvania for its rocky terrain, was by far the least-liked part. The New York/Connecticut part was the second mostly ranked as a least favourite part. Once I thru-hiked in 2014, this part, notably close to New York Metropolis, was by far probably the most crowded space on the path. There have been additionally many trails intersecting the AT and I received extra misplaced in that part than anyplace else (disclaimer: I’m good at getting misplaced).

Best and Most Troublesome Sections

Appalachian Trail survey

Northern Pennsylvania was not solely the least favourite part of the AT, nevertheless it was additionally typically rated as probably the most troublesome part. Nevertheless, the opposite most troublesome sections of the Appalachian Trail have been additionally among the many favorites: the White Mountain Nationwide Forest, Southern Maine, and Baxter State Park/Mount Katahdin.

Three sections have been equally rated the simplest, by 85-87 % of hikers within the survey: the Harpers Ferry space, Shenandoah Nationwide Park, and Maryland.

As a result of Harpers Ferry and Maryland are towards the center of the path, each northbound and southbound hikers will often hit these areas throughout hotter, delicate seasons, which could make them appear even simpler. As with favourite sections, I’m fascinated with wanting into this for simply southbounders in a later submit.

CompanionsAppalachian Trail survey

The majority of thru-hikers who took the survey set out alone, however most ended up mountaineering nearly all of their trek with associates made on the path. Three individuals hiked the start and the top with a canine, three canine began and didn’t end, and two canine joined after the individual had begun climbing.

Littering Practices

About 95 % of hikers reported they sometimes packed out all of their very own trash. Virtually half of those hikers typically packed out different litter on the path. Seven % of hikers within the survey packed out all of the litter they encountered!

A Tangent on Littering

A number of hikers (2.three%) both packed out or burned their trash. Burning trash is a controversial apply that I’ve typically seen really helpful by path golf equipment and park upkeep, however it’s sometimes not thought-about greatest follow for outside ethics. About the identical % of hikers (2.6%) admitted to leaving trash behind deliberately; 5 did so to shed weight, two did in order path magic, and one stated he littered for different causes.

Two and a half % might look like a small variety of hikers, however our pattern represents solely ten % of the entire quantity of people that registered to start out a thru-hike with the ATC final yr. If our pattern is consultant, this implies probably 80 individuals have been littering up and down the Appalachian Trail hall, a few of them for over 2,000 miles, for over six months. The potential destructive impression on the wildlife of this area is large.

In case you are one of many well-meaning hikers who leaves path magic unattended, particularly when you hike on with out returning to wash up the mess, please know that this isn’t a superb deed. Throughout my thru-hike, another hikers left packing containers of doughnuts at a trailhead, with good intentions. By the point I acquired there, animals had eaten a lot of the doughnuts they usually had chewed containers to items in order that they have been too scattered for me to wash up. I feel I can converse for the 95 % of thru-hikers who have been litter-conscious once I say we’d slightly go with out the doughnuts.

Price range

We requested hikers within the survey how a lot they spent on gear for his or her hike, then how a lot they spent complete (gear and bills alongside the best way). Appalachian Trail survey

Final yr, 40 % of thru-hikers had a complete finances (all bills, together with gear) of $6,000 or extra. This yr, virtually half (47%) had a complete price range over $6,000. I ought to have elevated the classes for his or her responses after final yr and I’ll undoubtedly do this subsequent time round. These numbers nonetheless shock me as a result of they’re a lot greater than what I keep in mind for my price range and my buddies’ budgets.

I analyzed whether or not older hikers tended to spend extra, since that’s the sample I discovered final yr. This yr there wasn’t a big affiliation between age and finances (r = .07, N = 297, p = .198), which might very properly be as a result of I didn’t prolong the survey response choices to a excessive sufficient greenback quantity.

The common quantity spent on gear alone was between $1,000 and $2,000, however something from $500 to $three,000 was pretty widespread. Have in mind some hikers in all probability had good gear for some time earlier than getting ready for his or her thru-hike so they could not have factored this into their estimates. Contemplating that the typical gear price range remained about the identical as final yr, I might advocate that between $1,000 and $2,000 is adequate for many hikers to buy the gear they want for a thru-hike, though a considerable portion will want $2,000 to $three,000.


We requested hikers which assets they discovered useful or inspiring and which of them weren’t. We additionally requested them what different assets they used that we hadn’t talked about.

The two hottest assets by far have been The A.T. Information by David “AWOL” Miller and the cellular app GutHook by Atlas Guides. Anecdotally, the AWOL guidebook has been the preferred useful resource for AT long-distance hikers for a few years, and it ranked most useful or inspiring in our earlier surveys. This yr, the GutHooks app outranked the AWOL guidebook by lower than a proportion level. It ought to be famous that the ATC publishes an analogous guidebook that 20 % of hikers discovered useful (six % didn’t prefer it).

Listed here are hyperlinks to assets (the place potential), so as of their reputation:

  1. The A.T. Information by David “AWOL” Miller
  2. The GutHook app (additionally take a look at this Backpacker Radio interview with Ryan Linn, the app creator)
  3. The Trek
  4. The Appalachian Trail Conservancy (ATC) web site
  5. Appalachian Trials – the guide
  6. A Stroll within the Woods – the guide
  7. WhiteBlaze.internet
  8. The Appalachian Trail Thru-Hiker’s Companion (The ATC’s guidebook)
  9. TrailJournals.com

Books: Different books talked about within the open-ended feedback have been Turning into Odyssa by Jennifer Pharr Davis (three hikers talked about), The place’s the Subsequent Shelter by Gary Sizer (two), Wild by Cheryl Strayed (two), Tracks by Robyn Davidson (one), Tips on how to Hike the A.T.: The Nitty-Gritty Particulars of a Lengthy-Distance Trek by Michelle Ray, and Appalachian Fail: What I Discovered from My Failed Through-Hike by John Desilets (one).

Fb: There are Fb teams by class of thru-hikers (e.g., “Class of 2017”), a separate one for ladies, and one for the Appalachian Lengthy Distance Mountaineering Affiliation. These could be situated with a easy search.

Instagram: Six hikers talked about Instagram. It isn’t clear which pages they comply with however in case you’re fascinated about following hikers on Instagram, listed here are a couple of from 2018 to take a look at.

Reddit: 5 hikers talked about reddit within the open-ended responses. There are subreddits for the AT and for ultralight climbing, amongst others that is perhaps useful.

The solely assets extra typically disliked than favored have been A Stroll within the Woods (the film) and workshops for getting ready for a thru-hike. The knowledge for that is small since not many individuals stated they tried these two assets, however they have been equally unpopular with final yr’s class of hikers.

Festivals and Examine-Ins

Over a 3rd of hikers in our survey attended Trail Days in Damascus, VA, however only a few attended the kick-offs at Harpers Ferry or Springer Mountain. Most didn’t attend any of those festivals.

Relating to thru-hikers solely, about 13 in 20 checked in at Springer Mountain, 14 in 20 checked in at Harpers Ferry, and about 16 in 20 checked in at Mount Katahdin. This was solely barely larger than in years previous. Checking in with the ATC helps them analysis surges in numbers of hikers and to organize for future upkeep of the path.

There are two methods to entry Springer Mountain: the Strategy Trail and a forest service street that intersects the AT about one mile north of Springer Mountain. Hikers who skip the Southern Terminus Strategy Trail and park on the forest service street a mile from Springer Mountain gained’t cross the Amicalola Falls State Park amenities and can be unable to examine in. This can be one cause fewer hikers are checking in at Springer Mountain. One more reason is that the majority hikers are strolling northbound, so they could be unaware of the check-in system once they set out, however they could know to examine in by the point they attain Harpers Ferry and Mount Katahdin. Once more, once I get the time and if I’ve sufficient knowledge, I’ll see if southbounders have a tendency to point out the other development.

Extra from the 2018 Hiker Survey

That is the primary publish on our survey of the hikers of 2018. Coming posts will cowl our survey knowledge on backpacks, footwear, shelter methods, sleeping luggage, stoves, meals, water, and sleeping pads.

Muchas Gracias

Congratulations and lots of because of all of the hikers who took the survey! Better of luck to those that are nonetheless on the AT. Thanks additionally to Zach Davis and Maggie Slepian for coordinating and for spreading the phrase concerning the survey.

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