Thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail is a journey of 2100+ miles between Springer Mountain, Georgia and Mount Katahdin, Maine. To finish such an adventure, one needs to be prepared for both the physical and emotional demands. But one also needs cash; approximately $750 – $1000 per month. For a six-month hike, the average, that works out to $4500 – $6000 for the whole trip, or $2.14 – $2.86 per mile. Everyone’s trip will be a little different.
Gear Not Included
If I were starting out without any gear, this would add up fast, and thus the budget above doesn’t reflect pre-trail gear. My three-season EMS down-fill sleeping bag cost me about $250, as did my Osprey Atmos AG 65. That’s $500 already. The tent I really want, the Big Agnes Scout UL, runs about $250 as well. Now we’re at $750. My Vasque Men’s Breeze 2.0 GTX Hiking Boots cost about $175 and I’ll need at least two pair; add $350. We’re already at $1100 and I haven’t included my sleeping pad, Platypus 3 litre water bladder, SmartWool/DarnTough socks, and other various and sundry items. All told, I budgeted $2000 for gear based on the experience of other hikers. Again, that’s in addition to on-trail cost mentioned above. Call it $3.09 – $3.81 per mile all told.
Appalachian Trail and Beyond
Here’s the thing, though: I’m not hiking just the Appalachian Trail. I’m hiking the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail from Key West to the mainland. Then I’m hiking the Florida Trail to the Alabama Trail. From there to the Pinhoti Trail and Benton MacKaye trail. Then, finally the AT. But wait, there’s more! I also intend to hike the 140 miles of the International AT from Katahdin to the Canadian border, completing the entire US section of the Eastern Continental Trail. That’s 4200 miles. Based on the same calculations, minus gear I already have, that comes out to about $9000 – $12,000 for the whole thing.
Did I mention I’m writing a book about my sojourn? I’m planning to journal every day, blog twice a week, and take lots of pictures for a photo book. All of this costs money. How? Well, publishing a book can be tedious. It starts with actually writing it and my trail journals will be just the beginning. I’ll need time to flesh out my notes, edit, and organize my book for publication.
Many publishing houses offer an average of $10,000 for a book advance. This often helps writers focus on finishing their book rather than having to also work a full-time job on the side. When I finish the trail, I will have very little income aside from my speaking engagements, which don’t bring in the big bucks just yet.
Enter Kickstarter. Kickstarter is an amazing crowdfunding platform that helps connect people with great ideas with people who want to help fund great ideas. Once you set a goal, say $18,000, you have 30-60 days (your choice) to raise enough to meet it. If you don’t, then no one is charged and you don’t get anything. It’s all or nothing. That protects investors from losing money on a project that isn’t properly funded.
What do investors get out of it? Usually really cool swag. Take mine for instance. I’m hoping to offer advanced previews of my book, postcards from the trail, photobooks exclusive to Kickstarter investors, speaking engagements, and backpacking 101 sessions for folks interested in hitting the trails. LightSail, a spacecraft I helped Bill Nye and the Planetary Society fund on Kickstarter, is sending me a really cool mission patch for my swag.
Sometime within the next week, I will post more details about my Kickstarter campaign. Since I am buying my gear from money I have already saved, my funding goal is $18,000. Half of that is to fund the trail itself, the other half is my book advance and funding for swag. It will help buy the photo books, other rewards, and it will help me focus on finishing the book itself over following winter.
Please consider how you might be able to help me fund this grand adventure of ten million steps. Your support and encouragement mean the universe to me. Happy trails!