How much does it cost to hike the Appalachian Trail?
The direct short answer is about $3000.
If you can put that together, I can go over how you can get from Springer to Katahdin. Want to have more of a glamping experience? Then save up $5000.
Only got $1000? It is possible. I personally saw someone do it with much less… Although you must love peanut butter and ramen and have a high level of self-control seldom seen by thru-hikers in towns.
Tighten you bootlaces and grab your pack as we dive in on how much it costs to hike the Appalachian Trail.
First up, let’s get right to your gear list and ideas about what that will cost.
Listed from cheap to high end.
|Affiliate links are part of this post, as a quick way to show you prices and items. If you happen to purchase from these links I do get a small commission at no extra cost to you. It helps support these articles and hosting.||Cheap price||Medium price||High-End price|
|Backpack||What you have already or outdoor products $30||Osprey 38l exos to 58l exos $130- $150||Cuban fiber or ula pack$210-$400|
|Shelter||What you already have or Bug netting or Ozark trail $30||Brand name MSR or Sixmoons $130-$300||Cuban or custom $600|
|Stove||None or can stove,pot diy and alcohol $10||Hornet and pot $40||Jetboil or MSR $80-$140|
|Fuel||None or Methyl Alcohol/heet $2
1 bottle every 10 days
|Isobutane propane $4-$8
5 canisters entire trip
|Isobutane propane $4-$8
5 canisters entire trip
|Water purify/filter||Bleach drops DIY $5||Sawyer squeeze $30-$50||Msr or Katadyn pump $55-$90|
|Sleeping bag||Coleman-$50||Big Agnes Patagonia or Marmot Lots of options. $120-$350||Ultralight handmade $360-$600|
|Mattress pad||Sleeping pad $12||Thermarest or Klymit $20-$50||Neo Air $80-$200|
|Hiking poles||None or Walmart $15-$20||Rei black diamond leki $60-$200||Carbon fiber $100-$220|
|Headlamp||Generic $8-$12||Petzl $20–$60||High end with Bluetooth $110|
|Maps or App||Guthook $60 (requires smartphone)||Printed on waterproof tearproof $104- $150||Garmin etrex or Magellan and gpx files $100-$325|
|Clothes pant shirt t-shirt underwarex2 socksx4 rainjacket shorts hat gloves bandana||Your own stuff you already own (quickdry)
no cotton. Plus whatever you dont $50
|Polyester and wool $50-$100||Marino or smartwool $100-$200|
|Boots Estimate 3 pairs||Asics or pacific trail $30-$40ea||Merrell or Salomon$60 $80ea||Brooks or high end boot $130.00ea|
|Water bottle/bladder||Poweraid or gatorade bottle $.70 – $1||Nalgene $10-$20||Platypus or camelbak $30- $50|
|Toothbrush toothpaste soap handsanitizer aleve or ibuprofen toilet paper superglue needle and thread first aid stuffsacks||$25.00||$60.00||$70.00|
As long as it is comfortable enough, you could really hike with anything.
I hiked with my LLBean luggage almost the entire AT and half the PCT because it was incredibly comfortable and I wouldn’t change until I found something more comfortable. Ultralight hiker people only carry about 8lbs of gear. Really 20 – 30lbs is a nice number to shoot for. A rare few carry 50lbs or more.
This is just your gear, and also don’t forget you will need to purchase or find fuel/batteries/supplies like toilet paper and hand sanitizer along the way.
The big thing to know here is that before you go out and buy the most expensive pack and sleeping bag, (which is what I did), it’s probably not what you want. I had no clue about gear. It was total amateur night. I had no clue what I was doing. All of the gear I thought I wanted to carry was completely swapped out by the end, except my jet boil, my hat, and my mp3player. Unless you have tested and are sure you are comfortable with it, once you start hiking, you might find you prefer something else.
Next up is food.
If you want to travel faster and spend three months hiking you’ll need less food. Take 5 months and you’ll spend more. The record is under 50 days. A rough idea for food is $15 a day. If you can survive on peanut butter, tortillas, raisins, oatmeal and ramen, then your costs can go down. If you eat meals in town every chance you get, then $25 a day is more like it, or more if you have a restrictive diet. I had an incredibly strict diet when I started the AT, which was incredibly hard to source and expensive. By the end I had no issues with eating anything in sight. Also buying with other hikers to share the cost on bulk items is always nice. Same if you can share a motel with 3 other hikers. There are ways to make your cost significantly lower.
|Days spent hiking||90 25miles a day||120 18 miles a day||150 15 miles a day|
Plan on taking a few zero days.
If you’re doing it on the cheap, then zero in your tent or sleep just outside of town. Hike in in the morning, and get back on the trail before it gets too late. (called a nero) If you’re zeroing in town then share a room or find a cheap motel. If you have no problem splurging then finding motels and BnB’s will not be a problem. The average hiker stays in hostels when possible. Let’s break that down.
There are about 70 stops you can make in trail towns along the way.
If you plan on not staying in any towns (i’ve only met a few hikers who do this) then obviously your cost is $0 for lodging.
Stay in all of them and it adds up fast. A rough breakdown of lodging is as follows. Just as a thought, there are not always luxury hotels in these towns. And certainly, there is no reason to stop at all of them, unless you are me, just to see what each town is like. I really enjoyed doing work-for-stay where I could. It was fun, I got to help someone, and usually, it included meals and a roof at night.
|$0 per town||$20 average hostel/shared hotel||$60 hotel/motel solo|
|70 town stops||$0.00||$1,400.00||$4,200.00|
I would recommend not staying in all of the towns. Just one about every week.
Other costs that can be added here that you need to think about. Transportation to Katahdin or springer. Phone plan and extra battery charger. Batteries for headlamp and money for laundry and detergent. If you plan on doing mail drops (which I hardly do anymore) then factor in money for postage too. Insurance and any unforeseen medical expenses. Also, I’d plan an extra $500 in emergency reserve just in case you have something pop up. (or pop out) It’s sad, but the cost of insurance is expensive, but so is paying hospital expenses if you don’t have it. I went without and I ended up in the hospital a few times while on trail just paying out of pocket. It was still cheaper then if I paid for insurance for the whole time I was hiking. I bet if I broke something or needed surgery I would’ve wished I had it.
Also, no matter who you are budget some money for ice cream and freeze pops.
Related: How to save a ton of money while hiking the Appalachian trail.
Related: Complete gear list and breakdown for hiking the Appalachian Trail.