Last week, I thru-hiked all 170 miles of the Tahoe Rim Trail. I was on the trail for a total of 124 hours (6 days, 5 nights). My average distance hiked per day was over 30 miles! This was the longest distance, by far, that I’ve traveled in self-supported backpacking.
Some parts of the journey were relatively easy. The weather, for example, was more or less ideal. I slept in a bug/wind bivy every night, without need to ever unwrap and pitch my tarp. One night was extremely cold and windy, but I was able to make camp in a wind-sheltered spot adjacent to a huge boulder and large tree. Not a drop of rain fell for all 6 days that I was on trail.
The hardest challenges I faced were related to blisters on my feet and sore spots on my body from my weighted pack. The pack soreness started to go away on day 3. The blisters I tried to mitigate by washing my feet daily in streams or lakes that I passed, but this wasn’t always possible. All of the water sources were near-freezing, so I wasn’t about to get myself wet in the early morning or late evening. I brought one change of socks, but no other changes of my daily clothing. I rotated the sock pairs when I washed my feet.
Covering 30+ miles per day meant that I had to be moving almost constantly. My fastest hiking pace is about 3.3 miles per hour. While traveling uphill on technical terrain, that pace can dip below 2 miles per hour. I spent the fast majority of each day on my feet, moving forward. I was exhausted each night, but my body definitely adapted to the demands.
Sample Daily Routine:
- 5:30am: Wake up, pack
- 6:00am: Start hiking (using headlamp for light)
- 10:00am: Non-cooking break (20-30 minutes)
- 1:00pm: Cook & eat dinner (45 minutes)
- 4:00pm: Non-cooking break (20-30 minutes)
- 6:30pm: Cook & eat dinner (45 minutes)
- 9:00pm: Pick a campsite & set up sleep system
- 9:30pm: Start dreaming
Prior to this trip, all of my backpacking experience had been more relaxed in pace. The longest distance I had covered in a day on a backpacking tripi was less than 20 miles. Stepping it up to 30+ miles each day wasn’t an easy process. Notably, the biggest changes I made for this trip were:
- I simplified pre-bed and early-morning tasks to the bare minimum, so that I could spend more time on trail
- I cooked during rest stops long after starting my mornings, and long before reaching my sleep location
- I often rested while preparing food, then I would eat the food while hiking
Though my style on the Tahoe Rim Trail was certainly a ‘fast-and-light’ approach, I feel like there are still improvements to be made! I do really enjoy pushing the limits of comfort for the sake of carrying a lighter pack and moving more quickly through the mountains.
Thanks for reading!