The 5 Habits of Highly Successful Thru-Hikers

Out of every 100 people who attempt to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, 73 will give up. Beat the odds—and save your budget—by following these rules from a gear shop owner who sees thousands of hikers every season.

Georganna Seamon knows a thing or two about thru-hikers. Every AT northbounder passes through her gear shop—Mountain Crossings in Blairsville, Georgia—after 31 miles of trial and error. The ones whose errors include starting with the wrong shoes get new ones at Seamon’s store and leave the old ones in the oak nearby. Here’s her advice for avoiding that fate. 

1. Break in your shoes.

Forget day-one blisters; the last thing you want is to realize your boots don’t actually fit three days in and have to buy a new pair to continue.

2. Pack light.

If you don’t, Mountain Crossings’s staff will give your pack a “shakedown” you won’t forget.

3. Not too light.

Warm sleeping bags are one of Mountain Crossings’s top-selling items in northbounder season. “There’s a misconception that Georgia is hot,” Seamon says. “Not in early spring.”

4. Leave your pet.

On day three, many hikers are still thinking their pet can handle a Georgia-to-Maine journey. Chances are it can’t. “It can’t tell you ‘I don’t want to go any farther today,’” Seamon says. (She tried the AT with her dog but had to send him home.) Don’t even get her started on hostel stays and vet trips.

5. Don’t get discouraged.

The first 31 miles are rough. Seamon spends a lot of time encouraging demoralized hikers, but some still insist on calling it quits. “When you’re feeling beat down, give yourself three days,” Seamon says. “You’ll find a beautiful sunset, a field of flowers, trail magic, or a new friend. Those things will turn it around.”