Calvin Simmons On How Best to Prepare for a State Park Thru-Hike

Calvin Simmons On How Best to Prepare for a State Park Thru-Hike

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Pastor Calvin Simmons

Today, hiking is an activity enjoyed by roughly 50 million Americans each year. Although many Americans enjoy day-hiking with their friends and family, very few Americans participate in thru-hiking, an activity where hikers will travel great distances while camping along the trail. Although many casual hikers are intimidated by the degree of planning which goes into thru-hiking, in recent years, the number of thru-hikers has largely increased due to the recent COVID-19 pandemic.

For many years, Pastor Calvin Simmons has been an avid hiker and has taken a number of thru-hiking trips throughout the United States and its many National Parks. Within the last two years, Calvin Simmons has taken note of the number of new hikers on thru-hiking trails and is thrilled to see so many people taking an interest in the pastime. Within this article, Pastor Calvin Simmons hopes to encourage those who may be considering a thru-hiking trip and offer them advice on how best to prepare.

Prepare Adequate Water and Food 

The importance of good food and water prep on a thru-hike cannot be understated. One of the biggest problems thru-hikers face is obtaining enough water and food for extreme levels of daily exercise. Thru-hikers can cover anywhere between 11-25 miles per day, requiring them to consume much more water and calories than the average person. The major problem for thru-hikers, however, is carrying the necessary food and water supply that will get them through large stretches of trail with no access to towns or supplies.

Food: Roughly 1 to 2 weeks into a thru-hike, most backpackers will develop what is commonly called “hiker hunger.” Hiker hunger can be highly uncomfortable, especially for hikers who have not properly packed the appropriate food items. When the body requires a high amount of calories, hunger pains can become more uncomfortable as well as more common. In order to fend off hunger on the trail, most thru-hikers recommend eating at regular intervals throughout the day and eating foods high in fats. Roughly every 60-90 minutes, Calvin Simmons encourages hikers to eat small meals rich in fat, such as chocolate and nuts. Additionally, Calvin Simmons stresses that the right foods can help the body recover and prevent injury. For this reason, hikers are encouraged to eat foods high in protein before bed to help speed up muscle recovery.

Another common mistake many new hikers make is over-planning their meals. When hiking for several weeks, many new hikers will plan out every meal for their trip and order bulk items for the journey. However, after weeks of the same chocolate bars and oatmeal breakfasts, most hikers are craving new items within their diet. Instead, Pastor Calvin Simmons recommends replacing your menu every few hundred miles and mailing the new items to yourself within the next two or three stops.

Water: One of the biggest rules within the backpacking community is that to stay hydrated, hikers must consume 1 liter for every two hours of walking. However, if a thru-hiker averages eight to ten hours of hiking a day, they must carry four to five liters of water. The issue with this is that if a hiker were to carry the total amount of water they needed for a full day of hiking, they would be carrying at minimum 17 lbs of water. As most experts recommend that hiking backpacks weigh less than 10 pounds, carrying the total amount of water for a day of hiking would be a major setback. Instead, backpackers must bring water filtration systems that will allow them to clean water they find on the trail and refill their water stores.

Start Training Three Months Before Trip

Thru-hiking can be incredibly taxing on the body and will require individuals to train heavily before their first backpacking trip. To avoid injuring yourself within the first few weeks of the hike, Calvin Simmons recommends thru-hikers start training at least three months before their trip. Start out hiking within your neighborhood with an empty pack and slowly work your way up to your planned pack weight as well as daily distance. To prevent runners’ knee and shin splints, it is important that the individuals slowly increase mileage and vary pack weight to encourage more effective recovery. Finally, it is crucial that hikers wear the shoes they are planning on hiking in throughout their training so that they will be fully broken in by the start of the thru-hike.

Get the Right Gear 

Today, the hiking market is oversaturated with high-tech gear and gadgets. However, the typical hiker would agree that on the trail, less is more. While many new thru-hikers may think that they can easily add on a few pounds to the ideal 10-pound pack in the name of luxury, this is often a mistake. When traveling hundreds of miles on foot, every pound counts. However, the question remains: What are the absolute necessities all thru-hikers should carry? Calvin Simmons states that the bare minimum items a hiker should carry include:

  • Shelter – The ideal type of shelter will greatly depend on the hiker and the environment they are hiking in.
  • Pack – A thru pack should be between 40-65L, lightweight, and waterproof.
  • Sleeping Bag/Pad – Sleeping pads are vital on the trail as they will help hikers sleep throughout the night and encourage muscle recovery. Sleeping bags should be lightweight and provide the appropriate insulation for the hiking environment.
  • Water Purification/ Water Reservoir – One water reservoir (water bottle/ bladder) and two forms of water purification.
  • Navigation – Digital or physical navigation is essential during thru-hiking; however, most hikers recommend always having some form of physical navigation handy.
  • Hiking clothes — The type of clothing hikers pack will vary depending on the season and location of the hike; however, it is always a good idea to have a moisture-wicking layer, an insulation layer, and a waterproof layer while hiking.