In 2016, Adventure Possible had a record number of applicants for it’s annual Appalachian Trail thru-hiker sponsorship.
We’re happy to announce that Dawn Webster has received our financial support for her 2016 attempt at a northbound (NOBO) thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail.
While reading through the 197 applications that we received, it occurred to us that we had some really interesting data that we could share to help shed some light on the question of who hikes the Appalachian Trail?
Who are these people that are willing to quit their jobs, load their life on their back, and suffer the dirty, difficult trials over 2,000 miles and 5 months on the Appalachian Trail?
We’re still sorting through the data, compiling some quantitative insights from qualitative responses, and here are a few of the initial gleanings from our 197 applications for the AT thru-hiker sponsorship.
The Gender Mix
The majority of people that applied for thru-hiker sponsorship are men, though there were a higher number of female applicants than in the 2015 application pool. There are also a few couples that applied for sponsorship to hike the trail together.
Which direction are people planning to hike on the Appalachian Trail?
The most common direction of a thru-hike is Northbound (NOBO), starting at Springer Mountain, Georgia and finishing at Mt. Katahdin, Maine. The results of this year’s applicant pool show that 76% of thru-hikers plan a northbound thru-hike.
8% of hikers expect to flip flop, meaning they start in one direction, and then bounce up or down the trail to hike in another direction back to the point that they left the trail. For example, a person might hike north from Springer Mountain to Harper’s Ferry, WV, and then catch a bus to Mt. Katahdin and hike south back to Harper’s Ferry. Hikers do this for a variety of reasons, but the most common relates to seasonal constraints, such as avoiding -10F temps in Maine in winter.
Is the Appalachian Trail a hiker’s first attempt at a long distance hike?
While some of the applicants applying for sponsorship have completed long distance hikes or even completed one or more Appalachian Trail thru-hikes, most people applying for sponsorship to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail are not seasoned long distance hikers.
Most applicants have experience with weekend and weeklong overnight backpacking trips.
A couple have absolutely zero backpacking experience, having never spent a single night in the woods.
I’ll be adding more findings about age, situation, and reasons for hiking in the near future once I’ve had a chance to finish compiling the data.
If you have a question about AT thru-hikers that you think the data might be able to answer, let me know in the comments section below.