The Shakedown Hike

One of the most important things you can do before any significant hike is to do a Shakedown Hike. People like to throw around the term loosely but a proper Shakedown Hike should put both you and your gear to its limits.

The goal is to find any hidden issues with your set up and yourself. Stressing your gear and yourself should quickly show you what is or isn’t working and needs to be changed. Plan a challenging route and give your set up hell.

The object is to find all issues during your Shakedown Hike and hopefully not any during your actual hike. The possibility of fixing issues during your actual hike go way down, especially when limited resources are available. An easier solution is to do a shorter Shakedown Hike closer to home, where you can more easily fix any issues that arise.

The Shakedown Hike is about more than finding out what issues you and your set up might have, but also about gaining experience and building your Trail Confidence too.

Reasons to do a Shakedown Hike:

  • Test gear
  • Figure out what works and doesn’t
  • Determine best load distribution
  • See what you need and don’t
  • Build Trail Confidence
  • Gain experience
  • Boost your fitness
  • Learn how your body handles a load
  • Test your body and mind
  • Practice navigation
  • Learn what you can and can’t handle

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As the list above shows there are plenty of reasons to do a Shakedown Hike. To stress the point I made in the first section, a Shakedown Hike is more than just about gear. It’s about learning about yourself and gaining confidence.

Reading online forums and what others do is good for two things: either confirming or conflicting what you hopefully already figured out for yourself. If that process helps you confirm what you learned and gives you confidence, then by all means do it. Whatever you do, don’t simple read what others think is best, learn it for yourself.

Skipping the experience part and going straight to actual hiking would be great, but it unfortunately doesn’t work that way. Trying to do so leads one to being unprepared, dangerous situations, and quite possibly quitting your hike early. Don’t make this mistake and waste all the time, effort, and money you invested into your adventure to throw it all away because you skipped a Shakedown Hike.

I’ve accumulated well over 15,000 miles of hiking and bikepacking experience and I still do Shakedown hikes/rides today. Learning should never stop, and hiking is no different.

Things to Look for on Your Shakedown Hike

  • Feet
    • Did you get hot spots or blisters?
    • Aches or pain at the end of the day?
    • Was there sufficient ankle support?
    • Did you feet swell, resulting in your shoes being too small?
  • Pack
    • Was your pack weight distributed well?
    • Is it too top heavy or lopsided?
    • Could you use a smaller or bigger pack?
    • Did it fit well?
    • Hot spots or chaffing?
  • Power Supply/Lighting
    • Was it enough for your needs?
    • Was your head lamp bright enough?
  • Gear
    • Did you use all the gear you brought with you?
    • Were there items you could have left at home?
    • Forget anything?
    • Did you feel safe/comfortable with your gear?
    • Were you cold, did you need warmer clothing choices?
  • Food / Water
    • Did you pack too much or too little?
    • Was your water capacity enough?
    • Did your food agree with you and give you enough calories?
Marvin C - Hayduke Trail - 2019 - Shakedown hike

Summary

At the end of the day everyone from a first timer to the veteran thru-hiker should consider doing a Shakedown Hike before a trip. Do you really need an excuse to spend more time in the woods. There are most likely other reasons to do a Shakedown Hike or things to look for but hopefully this article put you on the right path.

Get outside, test your gear, mind, and body. Don’t let your hike no matter its size become a failure because you didn’t do a Shakedown Hike.

MORE RESOURCES

Read these next or checkout the main resource page.

Gear lists from the AT, PCT and CDT; Pros & Cons; Things I’d do different; and Tips.

Scott Richardson - Baker Pass - Shakedown Hike
most-common-mistakes-thru-hikers-make
Ultralite hiking - Wind River Range - Wyoming
PCT vs. CDT trail comparison -
Craig Fowler packs of the triple crown - Cutting Pack Weight
Dirty-feet- How to Prevent and Treat Blisters.

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