Long Trail Prep with Jenn Pharr Davis

The record setting thru-hiker, businesswoman, mother, speaker and author shares five steps to a better thru-hike.
The record setting thru-hiker, businesswoman, mother, speaker and author shares five steps to a better thru-hike.

It’s that time of year, time when hikers and backpackers start weighing their gear, downloading GPX tracks and planning their itinerary for a long trail. It’s also a season when many hikers become blog enthusiasts and podcast junkies as they research all the different ways to pack and prep for the trail. There are plenty of gear reviews, mental tips, and workout routines to help get you ready. Most of these pieces are all about absorbing, learning and pouring into your own personal experience. But how can you go beyond using the trail to find ways to support the trail and community? 

Here are 5 steps for going beyond your personal adventure:

1. Support a Trail Org. 

It’s customary to dish out cash to join a gym, work with a personal trainer, or download a fitness app. Yet we are gifted the ability to hike hundreds and thousands of miles with minimal fees. Do your part to support the trail by joining, donating or supporting the respective conservation organization – such as the Appalachian Trail Conservancy, North Country Trail Association, or Friends of the Mountains to Sea Trail. And, if you don’t agree with everything they do… good. Get more involved! Chances are they need to hear from someone like you.

2. Learn Leave No Trace. (And be nice about it.) 

Learning Leave No Trace principles help us care for the trail environment. Leave No Trace is a spectrum, it has principles that are place specific – and sometimes confusing. A few ardent LNT supporters will shout, argue and shame people on the trail. Sharing Leave No Trace with others should open a door… not slam it. So always lead by example and with encouragement, don’t leave traces of shame.

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3. Test Out Trail Crew

No matter what trail you hike, you will look at the path differently after completing a day of trail maintenance. You will have a whole new appreciation for the water bars, and bridges, and steps that you cross over. Plus, you are wanting to get in shape for the trail and trail maintenance is an awesome and humbling workout – especially when you feel crushed by the 70-year-old beside you who never gets tired. (Shout-out to my local Trail Club in Asheville, Carolina Mountain Club.)

4. Share the Trail

People do not protect what they don’t value and they don’t value things that they have not experienced. Your hike is a great opportunity to connect people in your community with the outdoors. Take a friend who is unfamiliar with trails and hiking and backpacking on a (comfort-level appropriate) hike. And/or you can link up with a kids’ club, elementary school or youth group and offer to let them follow your journey with a map and updates. 

5. Leave a Lil’ Trail Magic

Who is sending you your resupply packages? Is someone collecting your mail or watching your dog or watering your plants? Is a co-worker covering for you at work or a family member stepping up big time? Usually hikers have someone, if not a full-on roster of folks, supporting their adventure at home. Leave your team some love. Take time to write some thank you notes, or leave behind small gifts or presents and send them looking for them once you leave. A little gratitude for the people back home goes a LONG way.

You can have the best gear, be super fit, and have the perfect game plan and itinerary but if you don’t care for the people and trail around you, your hike will not be all that it can – and all that it should be. So before you take a million steps, warm-up with these five.

TR1 Loop

JPD’s go-to. Our most rugged and versatile trail shoe, with extra durability and the sticky G® rubber Astral is known for.

TR1 Mesh

JPD’s (other) shoe of choice. These turbo ventilated and ultra-light hikers feature sticky G® Rubber outsoles which allow you to move quickly and confidently up and over the steepest trails.

Astral Jenn Pharr Davis
Written by
Jenn Pharr Davis

Astral Archetype, Jennifer Pharr Davis, is an internationally celebrated adventurer, author, mother and business owner who set the fastest known time on the Appalachian Trail.

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