Posted May 5, 2020 –
We have seen articles directed at support people suggesting “How to Support Your Thru-Hiker.” Instead, we think you thru-hikers ought to teach your support person. Engage your household support person before your journey, a lot. Describe your planned trip and share your needs.
Get them one or more trail guides so they’ll have the right tool(s) for their assignment. Together, go through the guide in enough detail so they learn how to use the guide themselves. They will need it. Discuss your planned resupply locations at road crossings and trailheads. Determine what each road is like, whether it is paved, gravel or 4wheel drive. The CT Guidebook Edition 9 is particularly good for this as it describes the roads and details the driving instructions to each major access point. Make sure your support person is on the same page with your plan.
Tell them that, even though you have a plan, thru-hike plans often change, and that your scheduling and needs may change as the trip unfolds. For example, your daily miles might vary from what you’d planned and that might ripple to you needing different rendezvous points and/or different dates and times. Talk with each other (at least a little) about alternative meeting locations. Make sure your support person can use the guide and any other resources they need to accomplish their support mission under changing circumstances.
Communicate in advance about the mental aspects of your trip as these often prove to be significant. For instance, let them know the CT 485 miles is hard and that you might be exhausted when you connect with them. If you think you might need some positive feedback along the way, tell them.
If you have any gear that you know is iffy, let them know in advance that they might need to buy something for you. Offer them any guidance as to where they might find different gear.
Likely you will take a smart phone. Share with them that it will have only spotty connectivity. Discuss any other communications you’ll be carrying and, together, test those electronic devices whether Spot, InReach, Guthook or other. You need to know the device and software and your support person needs to understand their end of it.
If you plan a supported thru-hike, work with your support person as if they were traveling with you to increase the odds of trip success. Even if a supported hike is not your plan, likely you still have someone at home who might be following along as your trip progresses. Either way, get a guide for your support person and share a lot with them before you leave. Some advance planning like this can go a long way to you becoming a Colorado Trail Completer.