February 07, 2019
Some couples go out to the movies, some couples stay in and watch Netflix. Other couples, like Kaleigh and Tuananh Cauble, spend Valentine's Day preparing for the launch of their true shared passion: thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail. The 2,190 mile stretch has long attracted this adventure-driven pair, and in March they will head forth together for this ultimate test of determination and companionship.
Of course, this 6 month journey takes quite some preparing, and we caught up with our high-spirited ambassadors to hear all about their experience transitioning from "normal" life to a life on the trail. Read on to learn their packing tips, the logistics of planning for a thru-hike, and how they stay motivated together.
Flowfold: So, what made you guys want to do a thru-hike? The ultimate thru-hike, some might say.
Kaleigh: For me, I credit the idea to our very first hike together up Blood Mountain, which is the highest point on the AT in Georgia. We both fell in love with the beauty that these mountains had to offer, but for Tuan Anh it also began this crazy dream! And as a husband and wife, one of the things we promised is to not only encourage each other to go after our dreams, but also help each other along the way. So when he said, “I want to hike the AT," I said “Ok, I’ll go get the packs.”
Tuananh: I’ve always had this fascination with experiencing what natural living was
like. And by that I mean, living without all of the unnecessary distractions that we live with today. I just want to get back to “simpler” times and prioritize what really matters everyday, even if it’s only for 6 months.
Flowfold: What has been your favorite part about packing for this journey together?
Kaleigh: Wow, there are so many things! I think our favorite part of preparation has actually been talking about it. Whether it's talking to other hikers where we “Talk Trail,” or just telling anyone who will listen how excited we are to go - I mean they don’t call me Shiitake for nothing (my trail name is Shiitake because “she-talkie a lot.”
Tuananh: She's right, we love meeting other hikers and discussing gear, trails and more. One of the biggest things that helped us was connecting with past thru-hikers on instagram, simply by searching the hashtag #atthruhike2018. We found people who finished the trail and asked them questions and any tips that they may have. It’s a great way to grow your tool-belt as a hiker and see things from the perspective of others who have already done it.
Flowfold: Aside from seeking help from this great community, how are you approaching choosing your packs and gear?
Tuananh: We're only taking with us the necessities dubbed as “the big three” (pack, shelter and sleep), as well as water filtration, food, and clothing. We're also taking a few luxury items each. We'll be doing a whole post on “what’s in our pack” with exact info on what we're brining, so stay tuned for that.
Kaleigh: Tuananh and I have spent hours watching Youtube videos of hikers' gear lists, looking up different pack material options, and learning the best ways to pack our packs. For everything else, we went to our local REI! We actually met someone who had hiked the AT and was able to tell us about her experience. She helped us pick the best sleeping bag based on her experience with the weather and climate at night. At REI, they'll also weigh your pack, help you find the best backpack for you and even show you how to organize it.
Flowfold: So once you've got your pack and you know how to get it all set, how do you actually train for a thru-hike?
Kaleigh: You hike! We've found the best way for us to train is just by hiking (plus it's more fun). We’ve been working on building our muscle memory by packing our packs up to full weight and taking them with us on as many hikes as we can, this way we can get a feel for what it’s like to go up and down mountains with our full weight on.
Tuananh: If you don't have the luxury of living near the mountains, there are some people who swear by going to the gym and hitting the stairmaster for hours, all with their full weight pack on!
Flowfold: For anyone considering a thru-hike, what are some of the first questions they should ask themselves when approaching preparation?
Tuananh:Which hike are you planning to do? Which way are you hiking? North Bound (NOBO) where you start in Georgia? South Bound (SOBO), where you start in Maine? Are you going to resupply in towns or send mail drops? How many miles do you want to average per day (this will play a role in how much food you decide to carry with you)? I'd definitely start with important logistical questions like that.
Flowfold: What about logistics that don't come with you? Things like your job or bills that may still impact you when you're out on the trail?
Kaleigh: Those things are different for everybody. We decided that before we even starting saving for our thru-hike, we had to get rid of all of our debt (our car, credit cards, etc). Of course, that’s not to say that if you have debt, you shouldn't go on a thru-hike. You’ll just have to make sure you set aside enough in your bank account to cover the bills.
Flowfold: How much should someone save for a thru-hike? How did you two manage to save, and do you have financial suggestions for anyone getting ready for their own trek?
Kaleigh: We feel like you can never really save too much. So for us, we have just been saving as much money as possible. Some people say to save $1,000 per month on the trail, but it depends of whether you have bills or payments that continue while you are thru-hiking.
Tuananh: We started with that goal, but recently we decided to make sure we have at least $1 for every mile, in hopes of having some amount of savings when we return from the hike. For us, the biggest step was getting rid of our debt. Once we did this, we set up a budget plan. Basically, we created an envelope system for ourselves. We set aside the exact amount of money we would need for our remaining bills, and necessities such as food and gas. We also set aside some money for “fun” things as well, like going out with friends or dining out occasionally. Then 100% of the money that was left over per month went to our AT budget.
Kaleigh: Saving for the trek was not super easy for us. We started saving in February of 2018. I was in college for half of last year and didn't work, so we were living off one income. All of this to say that you don’t have to save for 10 years or have a six figure income to save for a thru-hike. You just need to prioritize it if it's something that you truly want to do. We've been dreaming of this adventure together for a long time now, so it was easy to stay motivated remember why we were saving and preparing so much.
Flowfold: It seems like you two are not only extremely stoked, but also very prepared and ready to start your journey in March. Thanks so much for sharing your experience with us!
Kaleigh: Thank you! We are so excited for our thru-hike, and can’t wait to take on this adventure together!
If you want to follow along on their journey, you can follow the Caubles on their instagram: @thecaublelife. This is the page we will be updating the most while we are out on the trail! Keep an eye out for our next post about them, featuring theirs Trail Gear List and more tips for anyone interested in thru-hiking.
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