Hello and welcome to the results of the 2018 Continental Divide Trail Thru-hiker Survey!
This is now my second year doing this project and would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to participate. You’re amazing people. Also, thank you to everyone who was patient in waiting for the release of this year’s survey. I do everything on Halfway Anywhere by myself and these surveys take a LOT of time to put together.
I began this survey following my Continental Divide Trail thru-hike with the aim of turning it into a resource available to anyone hoping to hike the Continental Divide Trail. I am still looking to improve upon the data and its presentation and I would love to hear what you think via comment or email.
If this is your first visit to the CDT Thru-hiker Survey, be forewarned that the data should be looked at skeptically; there’s nothing scientific about this data or the way I gather it. Every year I get an email from someone criticizing my methods; I’m just some random guy on the internet trying to help future hikers – so take it easy, people. I do my best to distribute the survey as widely as possible and to accurately present the data collected from the year’s Continental Divide Trail class.
So now that you’ve read until a spot in the survey that most people have probably skipped, here are the results of Halfway Anywhere’s 2018 Continental Divide Trail Thru-hiker Survey:
NOTES ON THE DATA
Labels differentiating hiker segments:
If NO LABEL has been appended to a data point, then I used all data collected (this includes section hiker data).
SOUTHBOUND DATA: I received responses from TWELVE southbound thru-hikers (this includes two SOBO section hikers). Section hiker responses are not included in the SOBO-0 and SOBO-1 groups.
IF YOU ARE HIKING THE CDT IN 2019 AND WOULD LIKE TO PARTICIPATE IN NEXT YEAR’S SURVEY, PLEASE ENTER YOUR EMAIL BELOW.
Our first section won’t help you prepare for a CDT thru-hike, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t interesting. Here are the HIKER DEMOGRAPHICS.
- CDT thru-hiker SEX
- 68% Male
- 32% Female
- CDT thru-hiker AGE
- 0% <20
- 8.8% 20-24
- 27.5% 25-29
- 19.6% 30-34
- 13.7% 35-39
- 9.8% 40-49
- 13.7% 50-59
- 6.9% 60-69
- 0% >70
- AVERAGE AGE | 37 (σ = 12)
- CDT thru-hiker RACE
- 71.8% Caucasian
- 1.9% 2+ Races
- 1% Asian
- 1% Hispanic
- 24.3% Declined to answer
- CDT thru-hiker EDUCATION level
- 2.9% <12th grade
- 10.7% High School Diploma
- 7.8% Some College
- 6.8% Associate Degree
- 43.7% Bachelor’s Degree
- 28.2% Graduate Degree
- TOP COUNTRIES
- USA 73.7%
- Australia 10.2%
- France 3%
- Germany 3%
- Switzerland 3%
- United Kingdom 3%
- Poland 2%
- TOP STATES
- Colorado 10.8%
- California 6.8%
- Pennsylvania 6.8%
- Virginia 6.8%
- Arizona 5.4%
- Massachusetts 5.4%
- Washington 5.4%
Here we’ll take a look at DATES for thru-hikes, whether hikers were on their FIRST THRU-HIKE, what trails people ALREADY HIKED, whether hikers BEGAN ALONE, and what everyone thought about TRAIL EVENTS.
Of the thru-hikers this year, just 20% were on their first long-distance trail and 80% had already done a long-distance hike.
The trails most commonly hiked by those with experience were:
- 52% Pacific Crest Trail
- 47% Appalachian Trail
- 10% Colorado Trail
- 9% Te Araroa Trail
- 7% Camino de Santiago
- 6% Arizona Trail
- 6% Long Trail
- 5% John Muir Trail
- 3% Florida Trail
- 3% Tahoe Rim Trail
- 2% Continental Divide Trail
- 17% Other Long-distance Trail
The AVERAGE START DATE of NOBO THRU-HIKERS who said that they would have preferred to START EARLIER was May 4.
The AVERAGE START DATE of NOBO THRU-HIKERS who said that they would have preferred to START LATER was April 6.
- TRAIL DAYS ATTENDANCE
- 70.3% Did not attend
- 6.6% Would NOT attend again
- 23.1% Would attend again
Now let’s look at whether hikers TRAINED for the CDT. I had everyone RATE THEIR FITNESS on a scale of 0 (Overweight, lazy waste of life) to 10 (Godlike superhuman) with “Average Joe” in the middle at 5.
NOTE: These are PRE-TRAIL fitness levels.
How much time did this year’s CDT class spend actually hiking?
Here we take a look at the HIKING STATS, including DAILY MILEAGE, number of ZEROES/NEAR-OS taken, and whether hikers FLIP-FLOPPED, hiked the ENTIRE CDT, or would hike the CDT AGAIN. This section also includes data on which ALTERNATES CDT hikers took. There are countless alternates along the CDT, but there are a few notable official and defacto official alternates for hikers to choose from.
*these values assume a 3,100 mi /4,989 km hike (I know, very few people actually hike this many miles – this should give you an upper boundary for your estimations)
As much as we all like to think that we’re going to succeed, I guarantee you that not every aspiring thru-hiker beginning the CDT will make it to the end. Here’s what’s probably going to happen to you (if this year’s class is any indication).
- WHY DID YOU NOT FINISH?
- 23.5% Snow
- 17.6% Injury
- 17.6% Personal
- 11.8% Financial
- 11.8% Fires
- 11.8% Illness
- 5.9% Family
Now for the ALTERNATES! Many CDT hikers use an app appropriately titled “CDT” (aka “Guthook” aka “Atlas Guides”). This app shows the trail as well as many of the alternates, which are colored within the app to distinguish them from the official CDT. I’ve included the colors of each alternate below since many hikers simply use these colors to refer to/identify these other trails (e.g. “The brown alternate south of Grants”). If you’re interested in the app (and if you’re hiking the CDT, you should be), you can find it here: iOS/Android.
The colors used to identify the popularity of each alternate are as follows: OVER 66%, 33-66%, LESS THAN 33%
“Ley Alternate” refers to an alternate route on the Ley Maps – maps produced by CDT hiker Jonathan Ley. More on the Ley Maps here.
For those of you thinking about setting off on a Continental Divide Trail adventure, you’re probably wondering about resupply (aka how and where do you get your hiker fuel aka food).
Here’s this year’s RESUPPLY STRATEGY, including the number of BOXES sent, and where hikers SUGGEST MAILING a box.
- RESUPPLY STRATEGY
- 5.9% mailed ALL boxes
- 81.2% mailed SOME boxes
- 12.9% mailed NO boxes
REMEMBER that you can mail yourself boxes from ON THE TRAIL and don’t have to have ALL your resupply boxes prepared ahead of time. Many towns have large supermarkets. This year’s class sent themselves an average of 3 resupply boxes from on the trail (they prepared an average of 4.9 pre-trail but ended up sending themselves 7.9 total, on average).
What locations would hikers DEFINITELY MAIL a resupply box?
Where would hikers have preferred to MAIL A BOX instead of purchasing locally?
CHANGES to your resupply strategy?
The average number of boxes sent by hikers who said they would liked to have sent FEWER boxes? 8.2. The average number of boxes sent by hikers who said they would liked to have sent MORE boxes? 6.2. The average number of resupply boxes sent? 7.9.
So if you’re taking this advice and looking to send SEVEN resupply boxes (which also fits with the strategy of only sending yourself SOME boxes), the places you should send them – according to this survey – are (from Mexico to Canada):
- Doc Campbell’s (New Mexico)
- Pie Town (New Mexico)
- Ghost Ranch (New Mexico)
- Twin Lakes (Colorado)
- Grand Lake (Colorado)
- Leadore/Bannock Pass (Idaho)
- Benchmark Wilderness Ranch (Montana)
I also asked hikers where they resupplied. I use the following colors to indicate the percentage of hikers who said they resupplied at each stop: OVER 66%, 33-66%, LESS THAN 33%.
- Lordsburg (99%)
- Columbus (1%)
- Deming (3%)
- Silver City (97%)
- Doc Campbell’s (97%)
- Reserve (14%)
- Pie Town (100%)
- Quemado (1%)
- Grants (99%)
- Cuba (96%)
- Santa Fe (6%)
- Ghost Ranch (85%)
- Taos (4%)
- Chama (Cumbres Pass) (97%)
- Pagosa Springs (Wolf Creek Pass) (85%)
- South Fork (Wolf Creek Pass) (14%)
- Platoro (1%)
- Del Norte (1%)
- Creede (28%)
- Silverton (Stony Pass) (21%)
- Durango (5%)
- Lake City (Spring Creek Pass) (72%)
- Monarch Mountain Lodge (Monarch Pass) (27%)
- Salida (Monarch Pass) (83%)
- Buena Vista (4%)
- Twin Lakes (81%)
- Leadville (53%)
- Copper Mountain (22%)
- Breckenridge (50%)
- Frisco (4%)
- Silverthorne (29%)
- Dillon (8%)
- Idaho Springs (3%)
- Winter Park (19%)
- Fraser (19%)
- Denver (18%)
- Grand Lake (97%)
- Steamboat Springs (Rabbit Ears Pass) (95%)
- Encampment (Battle Pass) (59%)
- Riverside (Battle Pass) (24%)
- Rawlins (100%)
- South Pass City (54%)
- Atlantic City (23%)
- Lander (56%)
- Pinedale (53%)
- Lava Mountain Lodge (Togwotee Pass) (4%)
- Dubois (Togwotee Pass) (76%)
- Jackson (Togwotee Pass) (15%)
- Brooks Lake Lodge (18%)
- Grant Village (Yellowstone) (38%)
- Old Faithful Village (Yellowstone) (88%)
- West Yellowstone (27%)
- Island Park (Mack’s Inn) (53%)
- Lima (81%)
- Leadore (Bannock Pass) (77%)
- Tendoy (3%)
- Salmon (26%)
- Jackson (6%)
- Darby (Lost Trail Pass) (53%)
- Hamilton (Lost Trail Pass) (4%)
- Wisdom (6%)
- Wise River (8%)
- Anaconda (62%)
- Butte (44%)
- Helena (81%)
- Elliston (6%)
- Lincoln (86%)
- Benchmark Wilderness Ranch (28%)
- Augusta (49%)
- East Glacier Village (100%)
- Two Medicine (55%)
- St Mary (5%)
- Many Glacier (65%)
But what about actually getting to town? Sometimes the trail crossed a road quite far from a resupply point and instead of walking into town, hikers typically elect to hitchhike. So what about hitchhiking? Here are the resupply stops hikers had difficulty making it to from the trail (i.e. they had to wait a long time to get a ride). The top responses were:
But let’s forget about hitchhiking because that’s a completely subjective thing that could easily swing in your favor if you happen to rock up to the road at the right time. What you really need help figuring out is where the cool places to head to on trail are. Here are hikers’ FAVORITE and LEAST FAVORITE resupply points.
FAVORITE RESUPPLY POINTS
LEAST FAVORITE RESUPPLY POINTS
If there’s anything that can compete with resupply for “most time spent thinking about before a thru-hike”, it’s gear. Getting gear together for a thru-hike can be a challenge, especially if you’re in the majority of hikers who haven’t attempted a long-distance trail before.
Now we investigate the CDT Class of 2018’s gear.
Here are the FAVORITE “Big 4” items: PACKS, SHELTERS, SLEEPING BAGS, and SLEEPING PADS (I know it’s the “Big 3”, but I include sleeping pads). This year, I’ve changed the SATISFACTION RATING for each piece of gear from a “LIKE/DISLIKE” answer to a numerical rating.
NOTE: If two items were tied for a rating, the tie goes to the piece of gear that more people were using.
- ULA Catalyst (Hiker Rating: 4.8/5)
- ULA OHM 2.0 (4.8/5)
- Hyperlite Mountain Gear Southwest / Windrider (4.38/5)
- ULA Circuit (4.2/5)
- Osprey Exos (4.17/5)
- Tarptent Notch (Hiker Rating: 5/5)
- Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL1 (4.8/5)
- Zpacks Hexamid (4.72/5)
- Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 (4.33/5)
- Zpacks Duplex (4.29/5)
- Western Mountaineering Versalite (Hiker Rating: 5/5)
- Western Mountaineering UltraLite (5/5)
- Feathered Friends Lark UL (5/5)
- REI Igneo (4.41/5)
- Enlightened Equipment Enigma (4.4/5)
- Sea to Summit UltraLight Insulated (Hiker Rating: 5/5)
- Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XTherm (4.88/5)
- Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol (Short) (4.6/5)
- Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite (4.56/5)
- Therm-a-Rest NeoAir XLite (Short) (4.43/5)
In addition to the pieces of gear designed to break the bank and keep you alive, thru-hikers need to consider what they’re bringing in the STOVE, WATER TREATMENT, and SHOE departments. Here’s the MOST COMMON gear:
- MSR PocketRocket 2 (Hiker Rating: 4.75/5)
- Snow Peak LiteMax (4.4/5)
- Jetboil MiniMo*
- JetBoil Zip*
- Sawyer Squeeze (Hiker Rating: 4.02/5)
- Bleach (4.54/5)
- Aquamira (4.55/5)
- Sawyer MINI (3.67/5)
- Altra (Hiker Rating: 4.34/5)
- Salomon (4.78/5)
- La Sportiva (4.83/5)
- Brooks (4.5/5)
- Merrell (4.3/5)
- Altra Lone Peak 3.5* (Hiker Rating: 4.21/5)
- Salomon XA Pro 3D (4.83/5)
- Altra Lone Peak 3.0* (4.4/5)
- Brooks Cascadia 12** (4.4/5)
- Altra Timp (4.33/5)
*The Altra Lone Peak 3.0 and 3.5 have been discontinued and have been replaced by the Altra Lone Peak 4.0.
**The Brooks Cascadia 12 have been discontinued and replaced with the Brooks Cascadia 13.
These items are the MOST COMMON items, I will be publishing a detailed breakdown of the CDT Class of 2018’s gear including what hikers liked, what they didn’t like, what made them successful, and how they would change/adapt their gear for a future hike. If you want to be notified when this post is live, enter your email below.
And if you can’t wait for more comments on gear, here is some wisdom from the CDT Class of 2018:
And while we’re talking about the things CDT hikers are carrying, let’s look at what hikers were using in as far as MAPS and APPS. This year, I also asked hikers the TYPE OF PHONE they used on the trail (although I don’t see exactly how this would be useful). The responses were:
- WHAT PHYSICAL MAPS (IF ANY) DID YOU CARRY?
- 41.2% Ley Maps
- 12.7% Bear Creek Survey Maps
- 1% “I don’t have a phone”
- WHAT APP(S) DID YOU USE
- 91.2% Atlas Guides aka Guthook (Android/iOS)
- 17% Gaia (Android/iOS)
- 16% Avenza Maps (iOS/Android)
- 7% Hikerbot (Android)
- 7% Backcountry Navigator (Android)
- WHAT PHONE DID YOU USE?
- 45.5% iOS (iPhone)
- 53.5% Android
- 1% “I don’t have a phone”
The question of water treatment and hygiene is a big consideration for hikers (however, it’s typically something you worry less about as the trail goes on).
Here are the stats on hiker HEALTH and WATER TREATMENT.
Now we can get to the fun part and take a detailed look at who made wise choices with their water sources on CDT. Obviously, everyone wants to look cool in front of their friends by not filtering water, but there are risks to the badass thru-hiker lifestyle.
How often did you treat water sources and did you get sick (3+ days of digestive issues, or a diagnosed giardia)?
In total, a reported 12.8% of hikers came down with something akin to giardia, and just 1% never filtered (those who don’t filter are typically quite staunch in their commitment to their strategy; read: don’t readily admit to becoming sick from not filtering).
THE LIKES AND DISLIKES
You may not be aware, but the Continental Divide Trail is a long hike with a lot to see (mostly bears). Here’s a look at the sections of trail that CDT thru-hikers LIKED and DISLIKED.
- Wind River Range (Wyoming)
- Glacier National Park (Montana)
- San Juan Mountains (Colorado)
- Gila National Forest (New Mexico)
- Idaho/Montana Border
- Pie Town to Grants (New Mexico)
- Southern New Mexico
- Great Divide Basin (Wyoming)
- Halfway Anywhere* 🙂
- Hiker Blogs
- Friends/Former thru-hikers
- CDT Facebook Pages/Groups
- CDTC Website
- Yogi’s CDT Guide
*It’s awesome that after the first year of this survey it’s already helping out CDT hikers. THANK YOU, everyone who supports the site and encourages me to keep doing what I’m doing!
THE FEAR, REGRETS, AND ADVICE
When asked if hikers ever felt LEGITIMATELY AFRAID on the trail, this is what they had to report (more of this will be included in a future post, but for now, here are some that stood out):
Now for CDT Class of 2018 wisdom: what would you have DONE DIFFERENTLY if you were to do it all over again?
I also asked this class what ADVICE FOR FUTURE CDT HIKERS they had. Here are some of my favorites:
There is a lot of information in these responses, so I will be making a separate post with ALL (some) of the responses. After all, one of the top resources reported by this year’s class was “former thru-hikers” and now that’s exactly what they all are.
THE CHANGES FROM LAST YEAR
THE CHANGES FOR NEXT YEAR
Here are the changes that I’ve decided on for next year’s survey. If you have any suggestions, I would love to hear them – leave a comment below to let me know.
THE PREVIOUS YEARS’ SURVEYS
I spent a lot of hours putting this together and would love your feedback. Please COMMENT BELOW or get in touch to tell what you think!
HIKING THE CDT IN 2019? ENTER YOUR EMAIL BELOW TO TAKE THE CDT CLASS OF 2019 SURVEY!
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