So you are getting ready to attempt a thru-hike; you have all your gear and vacation time off has been approved. Now all you need to do is get on that trail right? Wrong! I am a checklist kind of gal and made a pre thru-hike checklist of items that I typically want done before I head out.
Of course, items on the list will vary depending on the length of the thru-hike.
I started making this list on a sheet of paper as I prepare for my own AT thru-hike attempt and realized other’s may be wondering what should be done before as well. So here is my pre thru-hike checklist (that I am sure I will update over the next year as I continue to prepare).
Disclaimer: This post contains sponsored links.
Pre Thru-Hike Checklist
I hope to get an actual checklist made for download soon, so make sure to check back, or join my Facebook hiking group as I will post it there as well!
Pick your date: Obviously, you need to know when you plan on leaving and when you plan on returning. For longer thru-hikes, your end date may be unknown as there are so many variables that could cause it to be pushed back (or you might surprise yourself and finish a lot sooner than you expected). But, you should at least have an estimate.
Notify the family: After choosing your date, go ahead and notify your family (or skip this step if you just don’t care lol).
Notify the Boss: If you are currently working, notify your employer of your plans, especially if you are wanting to return to the same place of employment after you get back from the trail!
Make plans for pets: If you have pets and will not be taking them with you on the trail, make arrangements for them to be taken care of when you are gone. Now is when you need to start looking at options.
Find a House Sitter (or arrange to put items in storage): If you will be gone for an extended period of time and are renting, considering saving money by putting items in storage. If that is not feasible or if you own your home, now would be the time to start looking for a house sitter.
Start Saving: For longer thru-hikes, you will need to start saving money as soon as possible, unless of course, you are wealthy, but for the most of us saving money is something we will need to do as soon as possible. Find ways to cut your costs, make a budget and stick to it and even look into cashing out life insurance policies.
Start Gathering Gear: If you are new to thru-hiking or backpacking you probably do not have the gear needed and to ease the burden on your pockets it is best to purchase the gear over time, so start figuring out what gear you will need now, so you can start purchasing it.
As Soon As Your Have Your Gear
Do a gear shakedown: As soon as you have gathered your gear, start doing gear shakedowns. A gear shakedown is when you take your gear out and test it out usually on a multi-day overnight backpacking trip. You may find out that you a piece of gear is not working for you and you need to change it out.
Three Months Before
Set bills on Autopay: Set up bills for autopay so you don’t have to worry about finding a place to pay them while on the trail. Aim for doing this 3 months before you leave to allow autopay to take effect so you can make sure there are no glitches.
Two Months Before
Check Expiration Date on Bank Card / Credit Card – If you are taking a bank card or credit card with you, make sure the card will not expire while you are on trail. If it has an expiration date for while you are on trail, go ahead and call the bank and request a new one with a later expiration date.
Send Clothes to InsectShield – If you won’t be Permethrin your clothes yourself (which you will have to reply every month while on the trail) send your outerwear (not undergarments or sleeping clothes) to InsectShield to have them treated (which will last 70 washes, basically the entire thru-hike). The company currently states it will be a 2-week turnaround. I suggest sending them off 1-2 months before just in case.
A Month Before
Make sure life insurance is up to date: Tragedies happen, even to the young. Look into purchasing a term life insurance policy before heading out and make sure your beneficiary information is up to date (and give the beneficiary the info).
Fine tune your plans: How long will you be gone? What trail are you doing? How will you be getting there? For longer trails it will be important to update your emergency contact regularly with your plans, so make plans ahead and let them know how often you will be contacting them.
Give a 2-week notice: Give your employer a 2-week notice (in this case a 3-week notice). Keep in mind that you will probably want a week before you leave to catch up on last-minute items, so if you plan to hit the trail on January 15th, it is probably best to say your last day at work is January 5th, not January 14th.
Schedule Utilities Cut Off : If you are putting your stuff in storage, call all utilities to notify them of they day that they need to be cut off.
Notify Landlord: Most places require a 30-day notice. (I personally would do this 6 weeks out just to cover my butt).
Finalize Travel: Finalize your travel arrangements to get
Two Week’s Before
Go to the Dentist: Get a cleaning and have one last checkup before hitting the trail.
Go to the Doctor: Schedule a doctor’s visit and get one last check-up. Talk to them about any concerns you may have and see what to do if you suspect that you contracted Lyme while on trail (most will give you antibiotics to take with you so you can take them immediately while you are waiting to get to a doctor).
One Week Before
Remove Unused Apps From Phone: Okay this may seem silly, but if you are taking your phone, you are probably using it for video, music, and photos all of which can take up space. Plus apps will tend to use battery even when not in use. So go through all those apps and delete the ones you will not need while on the trail.
Transfer over video and pictures: Go ahead and transfer over all pictures and videos that are on your phone to an external hard drive. Trust me, you will thank me when you get back from your trip!
Backup all Pictures, Videos & Important Documents: While we are on the subject of pictures and videos, back them all up (along with important documents) and store them in a fireproof safe (or on the cloud, or both).
Refill Prescriptions: If you need to take prescription meds, go ahead and get any refills that are needed.
Give Itinerary to Emergency Contact: Give your itinerary for your thru-hike to your emergency contact. It should include the date you are leaving, the trail you will be on, estimated date of return, how frequently you will contact them with updates, how you will be getting to and from the trail, and personal information such as blood type, who to call if something happens, where important documents are located, your age, weight, hair color, eye color, what you will be primarily wearing (a picture would be great), and any other important information they may need to know in case something happens to you or you go missing. Also (and this is important, thank you Lara for this suggestion) make sure your emergency contact knows your capabilities as a hiker. In other words, let them know when they should start getting worried and when they should not be worried. You don’t want them calling search and rescue because you haven’t answered a call or text within the last 30 minutes with the reason being either you didn’t have service or maybe you just needed a little extra bathroom time or maybe you stopped for a nap.
Go through your gear: Now would be a good time to go through your gear and make any changes and verify everything is there.
Purchase your Trail Food: Go ahead and purchase the food you will eat while on the trail. For longer thru-hikes, box up any resupply boxes now.
Download / Print Maps: Download and/or print trail maps and make sure your phone app (if using one) is up to date and trail maps have been successfully downloaded.
2 Days Before
Mail out resupply boxes: Mail out the first set of resupply boxes and give the others to the person that will be mailing out the rest.
Pack up your gear: Go ahead and get your gear packed up. Don’t leave this to do the day before as you will already be stressed with last minute items that pop up!
Notify your bank that you will be traveling: Now would be a good time to let your bank know that you will be traveling and for how long so your card is not “blocked” due to suspicious activity (i.e. making purchases in a state that you don’t live in).
Move Stuff To Storage: If you are putting stuff in storage, go ahead and start moving it all to storage.
Drop off Pets: If you have someone watching your pets while you are away, now would be when you would drop them off at the
Leave for your hiking adventure!
Do you have any suggestions or tips for a