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I am considering a thru-hike next summer of the Continental Divide Trail.

What is a reasonable budget for covering the time from starting to finishing the hike?

This question has an answer for the AT, but I assume CDT is different due to less infrastructure on the trail to spend money on.

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    Sorry, VTC as too broad. Even one trail is too broad. Do you have support? Do you want to stay in hotels when available? How far can you hike in a day? There are lot of resources on the Internet with ranges. Even people that have done it show big ranges. – paparazzo Oct 19 '18 at 18:18
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    I edited to make only about CDT – birch Oct 19 '18 at 19:43
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    I made it similiar to the other question, that makes it broad enough to be useful and similiar enough to the other that it will be easier to argue for keeping it open – Reinstate Monica Oct 19 '18 at 19:47
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    @birch - FYI if your question does get closed, wait a day or two and see if it gets re-opened, don't take it personally, We have history of closing and re-opening questions.... Community has a segment that likes to vote close on everything, they are almost always overturned. – James Jenkins Oct 19 '18 at 20:54
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    I don't think this is too broad. A person who knows the trail should be able to calculate a range of cost, going from Spartan to economical with a few indulgences. (If the OP wanted a luxury trip, he would not be asking here.) A good answer will give a range, and that answer will be useful to a range of people. And, this is not a duplicate of the AT question, because the trails are so different. – ab2 ReinstateMonicaNow Oct 19 '18 at 21:39
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I did the CDT this year (5 months, 2700mi, NoBo). In this answer, I will focus on budget while on trail (not budget to buy gear or transport to get on trail).

General advices (some answering to paparazzo advices):

Food on trail

  • I counted 10-12$/day for food. I was cold soaking and eating often the same meals (ramen, dried refried beans, tuna, nutella, skittles and other sweets). Lots of hikers (including me) eat mostly junk food, because it's the most convenient way to have your daily calories (easy to get, easy to prepare, cheap).
  • Fire stove are a no go: it's very often forbidden due to forest fires (in my case, I would say it was forbidden 70% of the trail, and really frown upon for 15 other percents).
  • If you want to eat healthy or varied, that will be way more expensive as you will have to prepare in advance and do mail drops. Mail drops might be required for some resupplies, but I would advise to wait to be on trail to send them, so that you can put what you really need in it. Here are the one you might want to consider as those 'towns' are not good to resupply (no store or store way too small):
    • Doc Campbell's, NM
    • Pie town, NM
    • Ghost Ranch, NM
    • Twin Lakes, CO (there is a general store good enough if you stay on junk food)
    • South Pass city, WY

Towns and lodging

  • I slept in town at almost every resupply: shower, laundry, resupply, eating, good bed. Some people were only passing by.
  • If you hike with other people (I started alone but met people on trail and was never alone in town), a night in town will be between 15-20$ and 40$ (depending on the size of your group and the location - Colorado is more expensive than Idaho). I shared room with between 2 to 5 other persons while on trail; the most I had to pay was 40$.
  • Towns are great, but there are many ways to spend money there, like restaurant. Count between 10 et 15-20$ a meal, depending on what and where you eat. McDonald's are often cheap, and for 7$ you can leave with a full stomach and plenty to drink.
  • You will want/have to take zeros days. I took 16, some took only 5, others took 25.
  • You can share laundry with others hikers.

Gear and gear replacement

  • I used 4 pairs of shoes, 2 underpants. The new shoes were sent to me to Post Offices along the way.
  • You can buy Darn Tough Socks: those are really good, and there is a life warranty. It's quite easy to find a store while on trail and replace them for free when they have holes. I replaced them 5 times (one time I had burnt one of them in a campfire, and it was still ok to replace it!).
  • You might have to buy additional gear alog the way: better fleece if you're too cold, bear spray (not mandatory but really, really advised) while in grizzly country. I had to buy a new mattress as my air mattress was too worn out to wistand all the trip.

Orientation and planification

  • Guthook CDT is the reference for orientation and planning. 40$ the package for all 5 sections.
  • There are plenty of alternates, some officials, other only on Ley's map or invented while on the field. The official length is 3014 miles as of 2018; the actual average length is about 2700mi. It can go as low as 2500mi if you take all the shortcuts.
  • Don't plan to much in advance: plan for the first month, no more. After that your body and your needs will change greatly, so you will have to plan accordingly.

Budget per month

I would say, for one month:

  • 350$ of trail food
  • 200$ to sleep in town if you sleep there every time you resupply (5 nights at 30$ + 1 or 2 rest days)
  • 250$ of town food (restaurants, beers)
  • 60$ of miscellanous (mostly laundry, mailing boxes)
  • 150$ of gear replacement (mostly shoes, but also other stuff broken or lost)

So about 1000$/month on average. You can go with way less (like 5 or 600$) if you do it without any comfort (no overnight in town, no fancy food, etc.).

That's the average amount advised for a thru-hike. It's the same than for the AT or the PCT, because even if the trail is different our needs will stay the same. It might be easier to reduce the costs on the CDT because less towns means less temptations.

Reducing the costs

I spent about 1000$/month (5000$ total) without concerning me about how much I was spending (I new I have enough), so my guess would be that's a good "comfort" budget. If I had had to reduced that amount, I would have spent less time in town (less overnights, less restaurants, and less beers). Don't try to go with cheap gear that you don't know, it could backfire. Nevertheless, some items can be cheap and still good and lightweight:

  • my fleece was 10$.
  • my rainjacket was 5$ (yes). Dri Ducks from Frogg Toggs is 20$ and very good for that price.

Don't rush yourself to buy the best items in every category: go out, experiment, try some DIY if you can. That's the best way to cut the budget for the gear before the trail, and while on trail.

  • I edited quite heavily to add some details and reorganize my answer. – Shan-x Oct 23 '18 at 14:26
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General guidelines are going to be all over the place.

We don't know how far you are going to hike a day or how many down days you are going to take. The US length is 3,100 miles.

What is your food tolerance? Are you willing to eat the same meal up to several servings in a row (single serving is significantly more expensive)?

Are you willing to eat spam on the day you do a re-supply? Can you make some of your own trail food?

Are you going to do a stay over at the re-supply where you can gorge or do you want to take a day off on a peak for the scenery?

Are you going to pre-mail to pick ups or buy as you go?

You cannot mail fuel so for that you need a store.

Even cooking your own food cost could easily swing from $10 to $20 a day.

How many restaurant meals do you budget? How many hotel?

If you plan for 12 mile days but end up with 14 mile days you will have about the same calories. Question is did you budget properly for 12 mile days. If you have too much food you can leave it in a free box. If not enough then supplement in a store.

Plan your route for the first month and price it out. Plan your stops. Call into some of the stores and get some prices. Price camping fees.

Does part of the route allow wood fires that you don't need fuel?

You are not going to easily get the detail on the Internet but get some maps and plan out the first month. You could use that as a monthly budget. But you do need to account for the higher you get your resupply stops will be more scarce and more expensive.

The more you plan the better you can control cost.

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    Flag as not an answer, This is a bunch of questions. – James Jenkins Oct 22 '18 at 12:16
  • @JamesJenkins Swing from $10 to $20 a day. – paparazzo Oct 22 '18 at 12:46
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    That was a needless flag, honestly. – Gabriel C. Oct 22 '18 at 13:25
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    I upvoted because these questions are a good list of planning questions. Possible to migrate this answer to a new question? Something like, what questions are important for beginning to plan a thru-hike? – birch Oct 22 '18 at 21:59

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