Gone Outdoors

How to Physically Prepare for Hiking the Appalachian Trail

by Contributor

The Appalachian Trail runs from Georgia to Maine, through some of the most beautiful areas of the U.S. It's also more than 2,000 miles of rugged hiking. The physical demands of hiking the Appalachian Trail can be tremendous, including carrying 25 to 50 pounds of supplies on your back, all day, every day. If you're not a seasoned hiker, prepare physically to make sure you can handle the hike.

1. Begin training early. Depending on your current physical condition, you may need to devote as much time to training as you plan on spending on the trail. If you're planning a thru-hike -- going from one end to the other at one time -- start your physical preparation at least five months before your planned start date. Work up a schedule of training so you can track your progress.

2. Start with daily walks and hikes to build your endurance. Increase the length and difficulty gradually as you become more fit. Work up to being able to carry a fully loaded pack on some of your walks. During the final part of your training, do hikes over challenging terrain, including hills and rocks.

3. Increase your core strength. Hit the gym and work out your abs, back, hips and shoulders, because these body parts will carry most of the weight of your backpack.

4. Pay special attention to preparing your feet for the hike. Purchase your hiking boots from an outfitter who can advise you on fit. Buy your hiking socks at the same time. Break in your boots with short walks totaling about 50 miles.

5. Buy several different brands and types of socks and wear them in different combinations to see what feels the best with your boots and feet. Experiment on your endurance hikes, so you don't need to experiment on the trail. Buy liner socks, which can be made of silk, merino wool or polypropylene, that wick perspiration away from the feet. Buy outer socks, which are usually a combination of wool and polyester, to keep your feet warm. Avoid cotton socks.

Items you will need
  • Hiking boots
  • Hiking socks
  • Workout schedule
  • Backpack

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