If you’ve ever wondered how much money it takes to set off on a long thru-hike like the Appalachian Trail or the Pacific Crest Trail, guess no more. In this episode of the Out and Back podcast, Shanty tackles thru-hiking’s financial costs with author, gear reviewer, and dedicated long-distance hiker Liz Thomas. Known as “Snorkel” in the trail community, Thomas gives an honest and realistic picture of a thru-hiker’s budget. Learn Snorkel’s philosophy on buying gear, ways to save money in trail towns, and hear about all the hidden expenses that most hikers never even consider.
Snorkel also takes us out of the wilderness and to the city sidewalk with 14 urban trekking routes across American cities. From Los Angeles to Seattle, Snorkel created 100-mile hikes through metropolitan areas to make the joy of thru-hiking more accessible to people who enjoy the comforts of civilization. The best part of urban thru-hiking, Snorkel says, includes checking out city art exhibits, walking through neighborhoods you never knew existed, and getting to eat the most delicious trail food for every meal. One of her favorite routes samples all the breweries in Denver. While not the most economical thru-hike, these trips provide a unique way to experience the hustle and bustle of the metropolis.
Learn more about Liz Thomas and her urban thru-hikes on her blog and follow her on Instagram. Check out Snorkel’s latest adventure: Treeline Review, a comprehensive gear-review website that helps you find and buy the right equipment the first time around. Read her book Long Trails, Mastering the Art of the Thru-Hike and her recent Falcon Guide, Hiking Waterfalls Southern California: A guide to the Region’s Best Waterfall Hikes, released in November 2019.
Episode 7 Highlights: Long-Distance Hiker Liz Thomas
4:40: Snorkel explains how she got her trail name.
6:05: Snorkel talks about her 20,000 miles hiked, including the Triple Crown.
7:00: If she could only hike one trail again, it would be the CDT, and here’s why!
8:00: Snorkel held the women’s speed record on the Appalachian Trail for five years before Heather “Anish” Anderson broke it.
9:30: Snorkel completed the first traverse of the Wasatch Range.
13:40: Find out Snorkel’s motivation to keep hiking all these miles.
14:35: Outside Magazine named Snorkel the Queen of “Urban Hiking.”
15:45: Snorkel has thru-hiked 14 US cities. New York was the most intimidating.
19:10: You can get the same benefits on an urban hike that you get on a wilderness hike.
27:08: Gear is about 40 percent of your hiking budget.
28:20: All the expenses that people forget about when planning a long hike.
29:40: Snorkel tells us what type of gear to invest in for your first long hike.
30:35: Resupply in town versus mail drops. Liz says first-timers should buy in town and for good reason.
33:10: Shanty blew his budget on the Appalachian Trail.
33:50: The thru-hiking budget rule of thumb.
34:20: Shout out to Paul Magnanti “PMags” for his super cheap thru-hike budget.
36:40: How to save money when you backpack into a trail town.
43:00: Don’t try to keep up with the Joneses on your first trail hike.
49:00: Liz is an ambassador of the American Hiking Society.
53:00: Liz talks about the motto of her new gear website, Treeline Review. “Buy right the first time.”
55:16: Snorkel craves the weirdest trail food ever. There is seriously something wrong here.
Next Episode: Hiking with Will “Akuna” Robinson
Army veteran Will Robinson returned home from a combat tour in Iraq and struggled with depression and PTSD. He spent more and more time at home, withdrawing from civilian life and turning to alcohol for self medication. But one day, he flipped on the TV and saw Reese Witherspoon wrestling with an oversized backpack in the movie “Wild.” That scene brought Robinson back to his deployment overseas when he had read a book about hiking the 2,660-mile Pacific Crest Trail. He remembered how learning about the PCT inspired and intrigued him. Robinson shut off the TV. Just two weeks later, he put two feet on the trail and started walking north.
Tune in as Robinson, who earned the trail name “Akuna” on his first hike of the PCT, engages in a frank discussion about how the trail has helped him find purpose, community, and the space and time he needed to focus on himself. Akuna recounts how his PCT hike inspired him to keep walking and complete the Appalachian Trail and the Continental Divide Trail — becoming the first Black man to complete the Triple Crown of long trails in America.
Akuna talks about being the first Black man to complete America’s Triple Crown, what that achievement means to him, and how hateful comments regarding people of color on social media has mentally drained him. Laid back yet passionate about hiking, Akuna highlights the healing nature of trails everywhere, whether long, short, or in between.
Learn more about Akuna on his brand new website www.akunahikes.com and follow Akuna on Instagram to catch a glimpse of his latest adventures.
Last Episode: Adventure Alan Dixon and Discovering Intention on the Trail
On the last episode of Out and Back, listen in to a deep conversation with “Adventure Alan” Dixon. Dixon inspires all of us to simply put “two feet on the trail” and get out there.
A trailblazer of ultralight backpacking and author of one of the most popular and comprehensive backpacking websites, Dixon is widely known for his spec-heavy, detail-oriented backpacking gear reviews and expert advice on all things backcountry. But in this interview, Dixon leaves behind his engineering background and gear spreadsheets to reveal his more vulnerable side.
Dixon recounts one of the most harrowing mishaps of his outdoor career, bringing him and his climbing partner to hallucinations and the brink of death in Wyoming’s Tetons. He talks about the “controlled chaos” of his upbringing that trained him to love high adventure in the outdoors and why he prefers high routes to slaying miles on long-distance trails. Although an early adopter of the most extreme versions of ultralight backpacking, Dixon tells us that you should not wait until you have the perfect gear or are in better physical shape to get moving on the trail. His goal is to encourage everyone to start hiking today.
Tune in to episode 6 to learn more about Adventure Alan’s backpacking philosophy, including the one thing you need to leave behind to lighten your backpack. Check out his website at www.adventurealan.com and follow him on Facebook and Instagram to tap into his gear reviews, backpacking trip reports, and expert backpacking tips. Watch his informative backpacking videos on YouTube.
Also, check out Adventure Alan’s ultralight backpacking tips on the Gaia GPS blog. The article sheds light on how to reduce your pack’s weight without having to spend a dime on expensive ultralight gear.
Meet the Host: Andrew “Shanty” Baldwin
In 2019, host Andrew Baldwin completed a southbound thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail. After five months on the trail, Baldwin returned home to pursue a career in voice acting. A friend of the Gaia GPS company, Baldwin was a natural choice for hosting the Out and Back podcast.
In each Out and Back episode, Shanty strives to bring you conversations with people who spend an extraordinary amount of time outdoors. Listen in as Shanty taps into each backcountry expert’s superpower so that you can take their knowledge and experience with you on your next adventure.