In the second installment of the 2020 Continental Divide Trail Hiker Survey, we’ll take a look at the hikers who were actually on the trail this year. Normally, this information is covered in the initial survey publication, but because of many hikers choosing to cancel their hikes due to COVID-19, I first published this year’s NOGO data.
The CDT Survey is now in its fourth and I would like to extend a huge THANK YOU to everyone who took the time to participate –
even if especially if you canceled your hike.
The CDT Survey is meant to be a useful resource to (actually) help those of you interested in hiking the Continental Divide Trail figure out how the hell to approach such a monstrous journey. Every year, I try to improve the data collected and fine-tune the presentation to best help hikers. I would love to hear what you think in the comments below.
NOTE: The data is not going to be 100% guaranteed accurate – especially in a year like 2020. Despite my best efforts, there’s nothing scientific about the data collection or presentation. Remember, I’m just a random guy on the internet trying to help CDT hikers; take it easy.
Congratulations on arriving at a spot in the CDT Survey that most readers have probably skipped. Here are the results of Halfway Anywhere’s 2020 Continental Divide Trail Hiker Survey!
Notes on the data
- This year we had 83 completed surveys – fewer than last year, but still only two short of our first Continental Divide Trail survey.
- Some responses have been sorted and colored to present the data in a friendlier manner (e.g. northbound vs. southbound responses).
- Not all CDT hikers meticulously document the stats of their thru-hike. The data is not going to be 100% accurate.
- I refer to survey respondents collectively as this year’s “class“. Remember, this is a sample and not a comprehensive survey of every CDT hiker who intended to hike or who did hike this year.
- If they recall only math-exam anxiety, it’s suggested you familiarize yourself with the words average, median (M), and standard deviation (σ).
- For stats requiring the length of the CDT for a calculation (e.g. average mileage per day over the course of the trail), I use 3,100 mi / 4,989 km (that said, almost nobody actually hikes this distance on the CDT).
- I will be releasing more detailed survey posts focused on CDT Gear, CDT Resupply, CDT Horror Stories, and CDT Advice in the coming weeks. If you would like to be notified of new surveys, click here.
LABELS differentiating hiker segments:
- NOGO: Hikers who intended on hiking the CDT in 2020 but who canceled their hikes
- THRU: Thru-hikers (all)
- THRU-0: Thru-hikers who did NOT complete the CDT
- THRU-1: Thru-hikers who completed the entire CDT
- NOBO: Northbound thru-hikers (all)
- NOBO-0: Northbound thru-hikers who did NOT complete the CDT
- NOBO-1: Northbound thru-hikers who completed the CDT
- SOBO: Southbound thru-hikers (all)
- SOBO-0: Southbound thru-hikers who did NOT complete the CDT
- SOBO-1: Southbound thru-hikers who completed the CDT
If NO LABEL has been appended to a data point, then I used all data collected.
According to the survey, the majority of hikers made the difficult decision to cancel or postpone their hikes due to the pandemic. Just over 50% of survey respondents canceled their hikes; just under 20% made no changes to their plans because of COVID-19.
The following is a breakdown of decisions hikers made this year in response to COVID-19.
How did COVID-19 affect your hike?
- 50.6% Canceled hike
- 20.8% Delayed starting
- 19.5% Did not change anything
- 6.5% Switched direction hiked
- 1.3% Delayed starting and also ended early
- 1.3% Ended early
Here we examine the data collected from this year’s class who actually started the trail. If you’re interested in the overall picture of the (expected) CDT Class of 2020 (including NOGO), then check out Part 1 of the survey.
Here are this year’s on-trail demographics.
CDT Hiker Gender
- 61.1% Male
- 38.9% Female
CDT Hiker Age
- 5.56% < 20
- 5.56% 20-24
- 5.56% 25-29
- 11.11% 30-34
- 19.44% 35-39
- 25% 40-49
- 11.11% 50-59
- 16.67% 60-69
- 0% >70
Average age: 42
Median age: 40
CDT Hiker Race
- 97.9% White
- 2.1% Decline to answer
CDT Hiker Education
- 50% Bachelor’s degree
- 11.1% PhD
- 11.1% High school or equivalent
- 8.3% Master’s degree
- 8.3% JD
- 5.6% MBA
- 5.6% Associate Degree
Where Hikers Are From
Every year, people come from all over the country and the world to hike the CDT. However, this year, all survey respondents were from the United States. Here’s a closer look at where in the US they hailed from.
CDT Hiker US States & Territories
- AZ, CA, CO, KS, MO, MT, NC, NH, NJ, NM, NY, OR, SC, TX, UT, VA, WA, WY (18 TOTAL)
Hiker Jobs & Working Conditions
How are you able to take so much time off to hike for five months across the United States? Probably a question that anyone planning a Continental Divide Trail hike has been asked at some point or another.
This year, hikers reported 21 different professions. The most common of which were:
- 8.8% Registered Nurse
- 5.9% Teacher
- 5.9% Self employed
- 5.9% Scientist
- 5.9% Attorney
- 2.9% Retail
That said, 20.6% (larger than any single profession) reported being retired. More on this in the next section.
Hiker Working Conditions
So how was this year’s class able to (or how would they have been able to) take all that time off and hike the CDT?
- 17.1% Between jobs
- 17.1% Retired
- 17.1% Flexible work conditions
- 17.1% Sabbatical
- 11.4% Unemployed
- 8.6% Unpaid time off
- 5.7% Seasonal Worker
- 5.7% Gap year
I’ve realized that there exists some ambiguity regarding the choices of “between jobs” and “unemployed” as they are essentially the same thing. Next year, I may qualify “between jobs” to mean that you have a job already lined up for when you complete the CDT.
I will also try to make sure that the “quit job” option is properly added to each of these options.
Many of the survey respondents this year didn’t hike the CDT, but that doesn’t mean they weren’t planning their hikes for some time before COVID-19 shut the world down.
First long-distance hike?
Instead of asking respondents whether this would be/was their first long-distance hike, I asked the distance of their longest hike to date (pre-CDT) – more on the specifics of this below. I decided to use 100 mi / 160 km as the cutoff for being considered to have completed a long-distance hike (sorry, Wonderland Trail hikers). If you want to yell at me for the arbitrary number I chose here (or suggest a better one), feel free to yell at me in the comments below.
First Time Hikers
- 16.7% Yes
- 83.3% No
Average longest trail hiked: 1,719 mi (2,766 km)
Median: 2,325 mi (3,742 km)
Hiker Experience Level
In addition to asking the longest trail completed by hikers pre-CDT, I ask respondents to evaluate their level of backpacking experience on a scale of 1 to 10.
- Average experience: 8.6
- Median experience: 9
- σ: 1.8
THRU-1: 8.6 (σ = 2.2)
THRU-0: 8.6 (σ = 1.3)
Previous Trails Hiked
The trails most commonly hiked by those with experience were:
The most common trail this year’s Continental Divide Trail Class had experience with was the Pacific Crest Trail.
What did you do to train?
- 47.37% Day Hikes
- 21.05% Multi-day hikes
- 18.42% Running
- 15.79% Weight Training
- 7.89% Step Machine
- 7.89% Other
“Other” mostly consisted of “skiing” and/or some sort of HIIT.
Pre-trail Fitness Level
I asked hikers to rate their level of fitness (on a scale of 0 to 10) before beginning the trail.
Average fitness: 6.5
Median fitness: 7
THRU-1: 6.5 (σ = 2.1)
THRU-0: 6.5 (σ = 1.3)
Money Spent on Hike
The question of how much money is required for a thru-hike is one that gets asked by a lot of would-be CDT thru-hikers each year.
The average amount spent on the entirety of a thru-hike
M = $5,200 | σ = $2,326
The average amount spent per day on a thru-hike
M = $46.85 | σ = $15.97
The average amount spent on gear before starting
M = $1,000 | σ = $943
Average spend: $1.173
Median spend: $1,000
Average spend: $5,676
Median spend: $2,326
Hiking Partners & Alone Time
Beginning a thru-hike on your own can sound scary and intimidating, but it turns out the majority of thru-hikers (and hikers in general) began their hikes alone. Here, we’ll look at who hikers began with, how much time they spent hiking and camping alone, whether they stayed with their hiking partner(s), hiker relationships,
Did you begin your hike alone?
- 42.1% Yes
- 31.6% Began with a partner or spouse
- 18.4% Began with a friend
- 7.9% Arranged to start with other hikers (whom they had not met before beginning the CDT)
Of this year’s first-time thru-hikers, 36.7% began their hikes alone.
What percentage of the time did you spend HIKING alone?
- 26.32% – 0% of the time
- 7.89% – 0-10% of the time
- 5.26% – 10-25% of the time
- 7.89% – 25-50% of the time
- 5.26% – 50-75% of the time
- 16.22% – 75-90% of the time
- 33.33% – > 90% of the time
48% – Average amount of time thru-hikers, spent hiking alone (σ = 42)
Hiking alone here measures the amount of time that hikers weren’t physically walking with someone down the trail – not necessarily that they weren’t hiking with others over the course of the day.
What percentage of the time did you CAMP alone?
- 36.36% – 0% of the time
- 4.55% – 1-10% of the time
- 9.09% – 10-25% of the time
- 13.64% – 25-50% of the time
- 4.55% – 50-75% of the time
- 13.64% – 75-90% of the time
- 18.18% – > 90% of the time
41% – Average percentage of nights finishing thru-hikers, spent camping alone (σ = 35). When we look at thru-hikers who finished, this translates to an average of 54 nights spent camping alone.
Sticking With Hiking Partner(s)
Beginning a hike with someone else is one thing, but finishing a hike with someone else is entirely different. Here’s how things worked out for everyone who began their hikes with another person.
If you began your hike with someone else, did you remain with them for the entirety of the trail?
- 62.5% Yes
- 12.5% No, hiking partner did not finish
- 8.3% Yes, for the most part
- 8.3% No, we decided it wasn’t for the best
- 4.2% No, this was never the plan
- 4.2% No, we were a couple and we’ve now broken up
Size of Hiking Group
This year, I asked hikers what the largest group was that they found themselves hiking with on a consistent basis. Some hikers refer to this as a “tramily“. This word makes me cringe. I’ll leave it at that.
Average group size: 1.9
Median size: 2
When you began the trail, were you in a relationship?
- 70.3% Yes, and I am still with the same person
- 27% No, and I am still single
- 2.7% No, but now I am in a relationship with someone I met on the CDT
Starting Dates & Locations
Unlike the Pacific Crest Trail, the Continental Divide Trail has multiple locations that could/are considered the northern and southern terminuses. Crazy Cook is considered the official southern terminus with Waterton Lake being the official northern terminus.
That said, not all hikers will begin/end their hikes at these locations. This could be due to personal preference, logistical issues, or other factors including fires and trail closures.
Hiker Start Locations
Since reaching Crazy Cook isn’t easy, the Continental Divide Trail Coalition generally operates a shuttle to the southern terminus. However, this shuttle was suspended during the 2020 hiking season and will be suspended in 2021 as well.
NOBO Start Location
- 75% Crazy Cook
- 25% Lordsburg
Waterton Lake was off-limits to CDT hikers as a starting location this year. Here’s where they began their hikes instead.
SOBO Start Location
- 38.5% North Fork
- 38.5% Marias Pass
- 23.1% West Glacier
Normally, I would include a section here that covers the starting dates for CDT thru-hikers. However, due to the limited number of thru-hiker responses this year, I don’t feel that sharing the individual start dates of this year’s class will be of any use. That said, here are the average start dates for NOBO and SOBO hikers.
Average start date
M = May 1 | σ = 8.4
Average start date
M = June 26 | σ = 5.6
Hiking Stats & Dates
The Continental Divide Trail is generally considered to have four sections: New Mexico, Colorado, Wyoming, and Idaho/Montana. That said, sometimes Idaho/Montana is broken up into Idaho/Southern Montana and Northern Montana. Do what makes you happy.
Length of Each Section
- 34 (NOBO-1) – Average days to complete New Mexico
- 39 (NOBO-1) – Average days to complete Colorado
- 34 (NOBO-1) – Average days to complete Wyoming
- 51 (NOBO-1) – Average days to complete Idaho/Montana
- 143 (NOBO-1) – Average days to complete the CDT
Unfortunately, I did not receive enough responses from southbound hikers to provide similar data for SOBO hikes.
Length of Thru-hikes
The average number of days of an entire thru-hike
(M = 134 | σ = 15.9)
The average number of days hiking (total minus zero days)
(M = 115 | σ = 11.1)
The average finish date (15/10 for the rest of the world)
(M = 10/16 | σ = 26)
The average daily mileage (39.3 km)
(σ = 3.2 mi / 5.2 km)
The average daily mileage after removing zero days (44.1 km)
(σ = 2.7 mi / 4.4 km)
The average longest day of hiking (63.7 km)
(M = 38.5 | σ = 9.6 mi / 15.5 km)
Zero and Nearo Days (i.e. days off)
The average number of zero days (days off from hiking)
(M = 13 | σ = 9.6)
The average number of nearo days (low mileage days)
(M = 10 | σ = 5.9)
The average longest consecutive number of zero days
(M = 3| σ = 2.8)
Flip-flopping, Completion Rates, & Footpaths
If you’re new to thru-hiking, here’s a quick explanation of what flip-flopping means in the context of a thru-hike. Flip-flopping, or flipping, is when a hiker skips a section of trail with the intention of coming back to hike it later in the hike (the flop). This usually takes one of two forms.
One is a hiker skipping ahead, continuing to hike the same direction, and then returning to the point they originally departed the trail to hike the skipped section later (e.g. northbound jumps from NM/CO border to CO/WY border, then hikes north to Canada before returning to NM/CO border to hike north to CO/WY border).
It can also be when a hiker skips ahead and then hikes the skipped section in the opposite direction of their original hike before jumping back up to the point where they originally skipped to and continuing their hike in the original direction (e.g. northbound hiker jumps from NM/CO border to CO/WY border and then hikes south to NM/CO border before returning to CO/WY border to continue hiking north).
Some hikers get wild with their flip-flopping but I recommend avoiding it if possible. Here is what flip-flopping on the CDT looked like in 2020.
Did you flip-flop?
THRU 18% Yes
THRU 82% No
NOBO 47% Yes
NOBO 53% No
SOBO 0% Yes
SOBO 100% No
Why did hikers flip-flop?
- 50% COVID-19
- 25% Snow
- 12.5% To meet/stay with a hiking partner
- 12.5% Personal/Logistical
Where did hikers flip from/to?
Most people who begin thru-hikes of the Continental Divide Trail do so with the intention of completing the entirety of the hike. Unfortunately, not everyone who sets out on this most epic adventure of border-to-border glory will complete the trail. In fact, I guarantee you that a large percentage of people expecting to hike the CDT next year (and every year), will fail to do so.
We’re going to look at completion rates, but we are doing so with a caveat. Since I distribute this survey myself, and because it is not required of CDT hikers, survey respondents are a self-selecting group who (likely) skew toward having completed the trail (with the exception of this year’s NOGO hikers). A hiker who quit during their first week of hiking back in March or April is probably paying much less attention and caring far less about a Continental Divide Trail survey released in the fall.
The percentage of thru-hikers who completed the CDT.
The percentage of northbound thru-hikers who completed the CDT.
The percentage of southbound thru-hikers who completed the CDT.
It may sound straightforward enough, “Did you complete the CDT? Yes or no?” – but what constitutes a completed thru-hike isn’t necessarily the same for everyone.
Some people insist you need to have unbroken steps between Mexico and Canada along the official Continental Divide Trail to constitute a thru-hike while others may forgive skipping a road walk, hitchhiking around a fire closure, or taking some alternates (or shortcuts).
To get a better idea of how much of the trail this year’s finishers hiked, I asked about their footsteps between the terminuses.
Did you hike a continuous and unbroken footpath between Mexico and Canada?
- 59.1% – Yes, and I road walked around any fire closures
- 18.2% No, I skipped or hitched past small sections of trail
- 13.6% Yes, but I skipped the fire closures
- 9.1% Mostly, but I may have missed a few miles
Contrary to popular belief, a lot (if not most) of the Continental Divide Trail is a well-defined trail. That said, there are a number of alternate trails (sometimes also known as “shortcuts”) hikers can take either in lieu of or in addition to the official CDT. I asked about these alternates to get an idea of what the most common CDT thru-hikes looked like. Alternates are listed in geographical order from south to north.
The following colors indicate the popularity of each alternate (the percentage of hikers who reported taking each): OVER 75%, 50-75%, 25-50%, LESS THAN 25%.
NEW MEXICO ALTERNATES
- Columbus Alternate: 0%
- Gila River Alternate: 96%
- Gila River High Route Alternate: 69%
- Pie Town Alternate via Mangas Mountain: 73%
- Cebolla Wilderness Alternate: 58%
- Bonita-Zuni Alternate: 12%
- Mount Taylor Alternate: 46%
- Ghost Ranch Alternate: 50%
- Great Divide Alternate: 0%
- Elwood Pass 8%
- Creede Cutoff: 32%
- Mirror Lake Alternate: 24%
- Collegiate East: 8%
- Twin Lakes Cutoff: 40%
- Mount Elbert: 16%
- Silverthorne Alternate: 24%
- Montezuma Alternate: 4%
- Argentine Spine: 8%
- Rocky Mountain National Park Shortcut: 56%
- Ley Alternate south of Rawlins: 52%
- Big Sky Cutoff: 24%
- Wind River High Route: 0%
- Cirque of the Towers: 84%
- Knapsack Col: 64%
- Leeds Creek: 28%
- Teton Alternate: 4%
- Mack’s Inn Alternate: 53%
- Super Butte Cutoff: 18%
- Anaconda Cutoff: 59%
- Butte Connector: 6%
- Spotted Bear Pass: 82%
- Chief Mountain: 0%
“Ley Alternate” refers to an alternate route on the Ley Maps – maps produced by CDT hiker Jonathan Ley. More on the Ley Maps here.
Why Hikers Didn’t Finish
In case you were left wondering what happened to the hikers who didn’t complete the CDT this year when we covered completion rates above, fear now. Here we’ll look at the specifics as to why hikers didn’t complete the CDT this year.
Why hikers didn’t complete the CDT this year
- 30% COVID-19
- 30% Personal
- 20% Injury
- 20% Family
The number of miles completed by hikers who didn’t finish the CDT
- 40% – < 500 mi / 805 km
- 20% – 500 to 1,000 mi / 805 to 1,609 km
- 10% – 1000 to 1,500 mi / 1,609 to 2,414 km
- 20% – 1500 to 2,000 mi / 2,414 to 4,023 km
- 10% – > 2,000 mi / 4,023 km
Average: 977 mi / 1,572 km
σ = 753 mi / 1,212 km
The word “resupply” can be anxiety-inducing if you’re new to the idea of a thru-hike. What is resupply? Where does it come from? How much of it is there? How do you get it? Does it hurt?
Basically, resupply is getting yourself more food to power more hiking. Nothing that needs to be too scary or intimidating. Resupply on a Continental Divide Trail has become less scary over the years, but when and where hikers resupply is still a question that many find overwhelming.
Here we have this year’s resupply stats, resupply strategy/boxes, resupply box suggestions, hitchhiking difficulties, where hikers resupplied, favorite and least favorite resupply stops, favorite meals and snacks, and resupply advice.
CDT Resupply Stats
The average number of resupplies over the entire trail
(M = 24 | σ = 3.7)
The average number of days between resupplies
(M = 5.3 | σ = 1.2)
The average number or pre-trail resupply boxes prepared
(M = 4 | σ = 5.4)
Thru-hiker Resupply Strategy
- 0% Mailed ALL resupplies
- 16.7% Mailed MOST resupplies (> 50%)
- 56.7% Mailed SOME resupplies (10-50%)
- 20% Mailed A FEW resupplies (1-10%)
- 6.7% Mailed NO resupplies
Average boxes sent: 9
Median boxes sent: 8
Most hikers worry a lot about resupply, but you have to remember that you can mail yourself boxes from on the trail and you do not have to have ALL your resupply boxes prepared ahead of time. Many towns have large supermarkets (and post offices).
That said, it can be helpful (and oftentimes time-saving) to mail resupply boxes to stops on the trail. Hikers can choose this option because of a limited food selection, dietary restrictions, high prices, or the owners of the local resupply establishment being assholes.
Something else to take into account when thinking about resupply is the fact that many of the trail towns along the CDT are only accessible via car (or ludicrously long, dangerous, and ill-advised road walks). How do you get to these towns? You hitchhike, of course.
Definitely suggest mailing a box
- Pie Town (New Mexico) 73%
- Leadore/Bannock Pass (Idaho) 50%
- Lima (Idaho) 41%
- Atlantic City (Wyoming) 27.3%
Brooks Lake Lodge (Wyoming) 27.3%(Brooks Lake Lodge does not accept resupply packages)
- Doc Campbell’s (New Mexico) 27.3%
- Encampment (Battle Pass) 27.3%
- Twin Lakes (Colorado) 27.3%
- Benchmark Wilderness Ranch (Montana) 23%
- Monarch Mountain Lodge/Monarch Pass (Colorado) 18.2%
- Encampment via Battle Pass (Wyoming) – 13.6%
- Steamboat Springs via Rabbit Ears Pass – 13.6%
- Augusta (Montana) – 9.1%
- Lander (Wyoming) – 9.1%
- Monarch Mountain Lodge via Monarch Pass (Colorado) – 9.1%
- Old Faithful Village in Yellowstone (Wyoming) – 9.1%
Where Hikers Resupplied
I asked hikers to report on where they resupplied – not where they stopped/passed through, but where they actually purchased, picked up, were given, or otherwise came into a new stock of food. For example, the trail passes through the middle of Lordsburg; theoretically, all thru-hikers who completed the trail will have been there, but not all thru-hikers resupplied there. Make sense? I hope so because if you’re struggling with this, you’re going to have issues on the trail.
Locations are listed in geographical order from Mexico to Canada (that’s south to north in case you’re unsure) and, again, I used the following colors to indicate each resupply stop’s popularity: OVER 75%, 50-75%, 25-50%, LESS THAN 25%.
NEW MEXICO RESUPPLY
- Lordsburg (92.3%)
- Columbus (0%)
- Deming (0%)
- Silver City (100%)
- Doc Campbell’s (92.3%)*
- Truth or Consequences (0%)
- Reserve (7.7%)
- Davila Ranch (7.7%)
- Pie Town (92.3%)*
- Quemado (0%)
- Grants (92.3%)
- Albuquerque (0%)
- Cuba (92.3%)
- Santa Fe (11.5%)
- Ghost Ranch (4%)
- Taos (0%)
- Chama via Cumbres Pass (100%)
- Pagosa Springs via Wolf Creek Pass (52%)
- South Fork via Wolf Creek Pass (4%)
- Platoro (4%)
- Del Norte (8%)
- Creede (40%)
- Silverton via Stony Pass (4%)
- Durango (0%)
- Lake City via Spring Creek Pass (36%)
- Monarch Mountain Lodge via Monarch Pass (68%)
- Salida via Monarch Pass (68%)
- Buena Vista (16%)
- Twin Lakes (60%)*
- Leadville (40%)
- Copper Mountain (12%)
- Breckenridge (16%)
- Frisco (36%)
- Silverthorne (16%)
- Dillon (16%)
- Idaho Springs (0%)
- Winter Park (16%)
- Fraser (0%)
- Denver (12%)
- Grand Lake (88%)
- Steamboat Springs via Rabbit Ears Pass (84%)
- Encampment via Battle Pass (44%)*
- Riverside via Battle Pass (4%)
- Rawlins (100%)
- South Pass City (36%)
- Atlantic City (28%)*
- Lander (48%)
- Pinedale (64%)
- Lava Mountain Lodge via Togwotee Pass (0%)
- Dubois via Togwotee Pass (56%)
- Jackson via Togwotee Pass (16%)
- Brooks Lake Lodge (24%)*
- Cody (8%)
- Grant Village in Yellowstone (24%)
- Old Faithful Village in Yellowstone (64%)
- Mammoth Village in Yellowstone (12%)
- West Yellowstone (22.7%)
- Island Park / Mack’s Inn (50%)
- Big Sky (18.2%)
- Ennis (4.5%)
- Lima (68.2%)*
- Leadore via Bannock Pass (68.2%)*
- Tendoy (9.1%)
- Salmon (9.1%)
- Jackson (9.1%)
- Darby via Lost Trail Pass (41%)
- Hamilton via Lost Trail Pass (9.1%)
- Wisdom (9.1%)
- Anaconda (58.8%)
- Butte (29.4%)
- Bozeman (11.6%)
- Helena (64.7%)
- Elliston (17.7%)
- Lincoln (41.2%)
- Benchmark Wilderness Ranch (35.3%)*
- Augusta (35.3%)
- East Glacier Village (17.6%)
- Two Medicine (0%)
- St Mary (5%)
- Many Glacier (0%)
- West Glacier (17.6%)
*Based on the information we have from hikers, nine is the maximum number of resupply boxes. The stops denoted above are the nine this year’s class has indicated they would have sent resupply boxes to.
Favorite & Least Favorite Resupply Stops
Now we know the most popular stops for resupplying and for sending boxes, but what about hikers’ favorite and least favorite resupply stops?
NOTE: When asking this question I specify “‘Favorite/Least Favorite’ means where you most/least enjoyed, not where had the best/worst resupply options (although these could be the same).”
FAVORITE RESUPPLY STOP
LEAST FAVORITE RESUPPLY STOP
FAVORITE RESUPPLY STOPS
- New Mexico: Doc Campbell’s (31.8%)
- Colorado: Salida (27.3%)
- Wyoming: Dubois (36.4%)
- Idaho/Montana: Helena (18.2%)
LEAST FAVORITE RESUPPLY STOPS
- New Mexico: Lordsburg (31.8%)
- Colorado: Creede (9.1%)
- Wyoming: Encampment (18.2%)
- Idaho/Montana: Leadore (13.7%)
Favorite Meals & Snacks
As part of my quest for better backpacking meals, I asked CDT hikers to share their favorite sources of calories whilst on the trail. More on this to come in the CDT Resupply Guide.
Hindsight is 20/20 (unless you’re looking back through the darkness for that mountain lion you think might be following you). Here is what hikers said they would change about their resupply strategies if they had the chance to do it all over again. These don’t change much from year to year, so I would highly encourage you to heed this advice when considering your resupply options.
- Send more variety in boxes (18.8%)
- Send fewer resupply boxes* (13.6%)
- Send less food in boxes (13.6%)
- Resupply more frequently (9.1%)
- Send more food in boxes (9.1%)
*The average number of boxes sent by hikers who said they would have liked to have sent fewer boxes was 13.7. The average was 9
The number of thru-hikers who went stoveless for the entirety of their hikes.
I’ll be following up this post with a more detailed breakdown of this year’s resupply. If you would like to be notified of new posts, click here.
Find all CDT Resupply posts here.
Maybe the thing Continental Divide Trail hikers spend the most time obsessing over before (and on…and after) the trail is their gear. Gear choices play an essential role in a thru-hike, but there is no magical gear combination that will guarantee you a successful thru-hike (if you know otherwise, please let me know). That said, there is certainly gear that can help (and hurt) thru-hikers.
Each year I do a deep dive into the gear used by CDT hikers in my CDT Gear Guide, but I like to offer a preview of what’s to come in this CDT Survey post.
Let’s take a look at what this year’s CDT Class had with them out on the trail.
Average pre-hike base weight (7.031 kg)
(M = 14 lbs / 6.35 kg | σ = 5.3 lbs / 2.40 kg)
Average post-hike base weight (6.441 kg)
(M = 13 lbs / 5.90 kg | σ = 5.8 lbs / 2.63 kg)
Average total change in base weight (590 g)
(M = 1 lbs / 454 g)
Average backpack size
(M = 55)
Average sleeping bag rating (-8.5°C)
(M = 20°F / -6.67°C)
Average total number of shoes used
(M = 4)
There are more detailed and more interesting breakdowns of this information on the way in this year’s CDT Gear Guide. For now, let’s take a peek at some of the gear thru-hikers were using on the trail this year. Here are the most common “Big 4” items: packs, shelters, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads (I know it’s the “Big 3”, but I include sleeping pads, get over it) along with the most common insulated jackets and shells.
Again, there will be extensive breakdowns in the CDT Gear Guide.
Most Common CDT Backpacks
Most Common CDT Sleeping Bags
Most Common CDT Insulated Jackets
This is just the tip of the proverbial thru-hiking iceberg in the gear department. As mentioned above, I will soon be publishing a detailed breakdown of this year’s CDT gear. This will include snow gear, luxury items, what gear decisions (might have) helped hikers to a successful thru-hike, how hikers would change/adapt their gear for a future hike, and more.
Technology on Trail
Long gone are the days of CDT old when it was a trail sought out by only the most experienced backcountry orienteers; thanks to the magic of technology a phone is all you need to greatly increase your chances of not killing yourself on the trail.
Phones are a fact of life on the trail, and if the sight of them in the wilderness distresses you, then you had best prepare yourself. Phones are hikers’ cameras, GPS devices, televisions, music players, town-researching devices, and (sometimes) SOS devices. There are a number of apps commonly used by Continental Divide Trail hikers – and even one designed specifically for the CDT (that you should most certainly invest in).
Here are the apps and phones hikers were using out on the trail this year.
Which type of phone did you carry?
- 61.1% iPhone
- 38.9% Android
Which apps did you use?
Hiker Health & Filtering
Water treatment and hygiene is a big consideration for hikers (at least it should be). That said, it’s typically something thru-hikers worry less about as the trail goes on (for extreme athletes, thru-hikers can be incredibly lazy). If you want a look at what water sources on the CDT can look like, I encourage you to check out this post.
Some hikers religiously filter all water that passes through their face hole – it doesn’t matter if it comes out of a hotel sink or a puddle with a cow pooping in it. Other hikers will “not filter above 10,000 ft / 3,048 m”, or “not filter running water” (this last one is not a good idea – running water can still get you sick).
Everyone wants to look cool in front of their friends by not filtering water (remind me why people think this is cool again?), but there are risks to the badass thru-hiker lifestyle (and to drinking dirty, giardia-infested water).
To find out how good a job everyone is doing filtering their water and sanitizing their hands after pooping (another way to get yourself sick), I ask hikers how often they treated water sources and whether they got get sick (defined as three or more days of digestive issues or diagnosed giardia).
- 5.4% Always treated, got sick
- 54.1% Always treated, never got sick
- 2.7% Usually treated, got sick
- 16.2% Usually treated, never got sick
- 2.7% Sometimes treated, got sick
- 18.9% Sometimes treated, never got sick
- 0% Never treated, got sick
- 0% Never treated, never got sick
Looking at this another way, we can see:
- 59.5% of hikers always treated their water and 9% of these hikers got sick
- 18.9% of hikers usually treated their water and 14.3% of these hikers got sick
- 21.6% of hikers sometimes treated their water and 12.5% of these hikers got sick
- 0% of hikers never treated their water
In total, a reported 10.8% of hikers came down with something akin to giardia, and 0% never filtered.
Favorite/Least Favorite Sections
Favorite CDT Section
- Northern Montana
- New Mexico
- Idaho/Southern Montana
Favorite CDT Section (Specific)
- 84.2% – Wind River Range (Wyoming)
- 50% – San Juan Mountains (Colorado)
- 26.3% – Gila River Alternate (New Mexico)
- 33.8% – Anaconda Pintler Wilderness (Montana)
- 21.1% – Yellowstone (Wyoming)
Least Favorite CDT Section
- New Mexico
- Idaho/Southern Montana
- Northern Montana
Least Favorite CDT Section (Specific)
- 36.8% – Great Divide Basin (Wyoming)
- 34.2% – New Mexico Bootheel
- 34.2% – Pie Town to Grants (New Mexico)
- 10.5% – Gila River Alternate (New Mexico)
- 10.5% – Yellowstone (Wyoming)
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):
- Really hot and windy conditions in the Great Divide Basin. The wind broke my tent poles and I was constantly worried about water.
- During a lightning storm where a bolt of lightning struck the trail 200 yards (183 m) behind us while we were cowered under clumps of sagebrush.
- I definitely had some bearanoia in grizzly bear territory.
- Snow-covered ledges in 60 mph (97 km/h) wind in Colorado
Now for CDT thru-hiker wisdom. I asked hikers what they would have done differently before their hikes if they were to do it all over again.
- 29% – Trained more/gotten in better shape
- 23.7% – Started earlier
- 18.4% – Gotten base weight down/bought lighter gear
- 7.9% – Done more practice hikes
The average pre-trail fitness level of hikers who said they would have liked to have trained more/gotten in better shape
In addition to asking hikers what they would have done differently before their thru-hikes, I asked them what they wish they had done differently during their hikes. Here are the top responses (regrets):
- 44.7% – Taken more photos of people
- 15.8% – Less time in town
- 15.8% – Fewer zero days
- 10.5% – Slowed down
- 10.5% – Sped up
The average number of zero days taken by hikers who said they wish they had taken fewer over the course of the trail
I also ask hikers what advice for future CDT hikers they have. This will be thoroughly documented in the upcoming post CDT: Advice For The Future, but for now, here is a sampling.
- If you think something is injured get it checked out before pushing on.
- Rodent hang your food when not in grizzly country.
- Don’t just take the shortest route. It’s not worth skipping beautiful sections for roadwalks or shortcuts.
- Don’t tempt the lightning.
- Don’t pack for your fears.
- While I started in good physical shape, I wish I had trained to be more superhuman.
Lastly, we have some data that I don’t really feel fits anywhere else and so I’ve just decided to tack it on at the end. What kind of wildlife did CDT hikers see on the trail?
The most common animals? Deer and elk. Deer – the worst. Elk – awesome. The rarest of the animal kingdom? Tortoise and mountain lions.
Animals Hikers Spotted
- 94.7% Deer
- 94.7% Elk
- 65.8% Black bear
- 65.8% Mountain goat
- 63.2% Fox
- 47.4% Owl
- 42.1% Grizzly bear
- 39.5% Rattlesnake
- 15.8% Bobcat
- 7.9% Mountain lion
- 7.9% Tortoise
Support the CDT Survey
I get a lot of people asking every year how to support the surveys and beyond sharing them with your close-knit bubble of weird hiker friends, the best way to support the Continental Divide Trail is to donate on Patreon. You’ll get access to exclusive posts, discount codes, live streams, and super extra cool stickers so that everyone will know how cool you are.
This is not expected. The data collected in the CDT Survey will always be free and accessible to everyone who wants/needs it. That said, your support is very much appreciated and helps to pay the website (and survey) bills.
Finally, another HUGE THANK YOU to all the hikers who completed this year’s survey. If you have any feedback, comments, suggestions to improve the survey, or data you would like to see in future posts or surveys, leave a comment below and let me know!
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