Thru-hiking is the term we use to describe the Herculean task of hiking a long-distance trail end-to-end within one hiking season. The most popular thru-hike trails like the Appalachian, the Pacific Crest Trail, and the Continental Divide, take an average of five months to complete – so it shouldn’t be surprising when I say that about one in five prospective thru-hikers quit within the first week.

Being a backpacker doesn’t necessarily equip you with the requisite skills to make it through the hardships of a long-term end-to-end hike. What helped me go through it successfully (though not easily) was proper planning and training. From taking the right supplies to planning the perfect pit-stops, and how to strengthen your body for the ensuing hardships, everything needs to be planned meticulously to avoid a total shambles.

Prepare your Mind

Being a backpacker and having hiked quite a few times, I had an idea of the kinds of harsh weather conditions I may encounter, but I didn’t quite take into account the fact that it would be happening again and again for months. And after being wet, cold, hungry and extremely tired, I realised that I, like most people, haven’t really gone on backpacking trips in truly bad weather. As dismal as it may seem, you really need to go on a training hike when it’s windy or raining to clearly understand what you are going to face on your thru-hike.

Your Feet are Your Vehicle

Keep in mind that you will be spending nearly five months hiking on changing terrain, and so your feet will take the maximum strain. Make sure that your feet are comfortable in your shoes. Find a bumpy, rocky trail near your home and walk it three times a week to get your feet accustomed to uneven terrain. Try out your shoes, and make sure that the shoes you're going to take on the thru-hike are definitely suitable for the sort of terrain and weather that you will be facing.

Joints are Vulnerable

With uneven terrain and harsh conditions, the chance of getting ankle sprains and knee injuries becomes higher. Add a few squats and lunges to your workout regime in order to strengthen your ankles, knees and core. This will not only reduce the chances of an accidental injury, but it will also reduce the amount of fatigue that you usually experience.

Prepare your Backpack

For a hike that is going to last more than a quarter of the year, you need to make sure that you carry no more than what is absolutely necessary. Pick the lightest and sturdiest equipment available, so that you can carry the required stuff without adding too much to the weight.

Strengthen your Shoulder

On a thru-hike, you will be carrying your backpack on your shoulders for the most part, and so you need to get accustomed to it beforehand. Although you may feel a bit silly, I advise that you start carrying your backpack wherever you go throughout your day – going shopping, on training hikes, even at the office, etc. Start with a small load and keep increasing the weight until you reach your target. It may sound like a painful experience, but ultimately if you can't manage this then you're going to struggle to complete a five-month thru-hike with your backpack weighing down on you.

Prepare for Elevation

Find a hilly trail near your home, and start using a stair trainer or a treadmill with an elevation settings. Increase the elevation setting by 500 feet every week until you hit the 4,000 feet mark. This will help to prepare you for the increased, and often jarring elevations that you will encounter on the trail.

Thru-hikes test your patience and endurance more than anything. Start preparing for the hike at least 8 weeks in advance so that your body can adjust and get accustomed to the challenges you are going to face. Also, pack light, calculate roughly when and where you are going to need to restock on general supplies, do proper research on the trail you are planning to hike, and mark places where you can refill your supplies or get them delivered to you.