Back 2 Back with Cesar: Thoughts on Section Hiking vs Thru Hiking

P1050797For the last few years now Cesar, from Cesar and the Woods, and I have been talking back and forth via email mostly, but also through comments on each of our blogs, or on our YouTube channels. Cesar is an ultra lightweight backpacker located in Sweden, so between our passion for the same activity (UL backpacking), yet the totally different locations, we have a lot to talk about and share. Some time ago, Cesar began doing some “Back 2 Back” YouTube videos in which he picked a topic to discuss, made a video with his thoughts, then asked another blogger/YouTuber to follow-up… He asked me about doing a series with him some time back, and we have finally gotten around to it!

He has been thinking about section hiking vs thru hiking, and the differences in the communities of each “group.” He doesn’t get to meet a lot of thru hikers in his area, however, being that I enjoy hiking along the AT, it is a very common thing to meet them… in fact, right now, the uncommon thing would be NOT to meet any!

Now, keep in mind, neither of us are thru hikers, so these thoughts are brought to you from a section hikers POV. I believe that he has done a bit longer sections than I have on his hikes, as well, he is also more of a solo hiker than I am, but we both have a fair amount of backpacking experience under our belt. (So for the thru hikers reading this, or watching the videos, please feel free to respond – even with your own video if so desired!)

So, to keep from jabbering on and on here in the text, let me just get to it… Here is Cesar’s initial video to get the series going:

(Also, check out his short blog post on his blog HERE. And it looks like he is going to do another response video…)

And here is my response:

Like I said, for anyone watching, or reading, please feel free to post your own thoughts to these questions below:

  1. What qualifies as a section hike/thru hike?
  2. Do you find that there is a divide/differentiation between the 2 groups/communities?
  3. What are some things that hold you back from doing a thru hike?
  4. If your stars aligned, which long trail would you thru hike (first)?
  5. What is your Big 3 that you would carry on that hike?

And again, be sure to check out both, Cesar’s blog and his YouTube channel for more great content on gear, as well as guides to some of the European trails!

Thanks for stopping by!


About Stick

My blog is essentially a record of my hiking career. Through it, I, and others, can see how I have evolved from a heavy weight backpacker, to a smarter, more efficient, lightweight backpacker. Through the use of video, still photos, and of course writing, one can see my progression, as well as check out some of the places I hike, and not to mention some cool, lightweight gear options. For me, my blog is a journal, but for others, I hope that it is an interactive learning tool to aid them in their own progression towards lightweight backpacking.
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10 Responses to Back 2 Back with Cesar: Thoughts on Section Hiking vs Thru Hiking

  1. OneGun says:

    I set out to thru hike the pct. I hurt my knee and only did 210 miles. Two years later I trained perfectly for it. Started great and hiked 745 miles. I knew all I had to do was keep walking. I had succeeded except for the walk.
    Then an odd thing happened. We had just crossed 10,500 feet when someone in my party yelled, “I love me life”. I went up to see the view that had prompted him to yell out. It was indeed beautiful. Oddly enough after succeeding at all the hard stuff I decided right then to go home. The reason, the view at my home at 8,000 in the White Mountains of Arizona was much more beautiful. I got off at Lone Pine with absolutely no regrets.
    I will finish section hiking the trail over the next few years. I will do it in three and four week time frames. I became a section hiker as part of, hike your own hike. If I had been a single person I would be a thru. Sitting on the porch with my wife is better than any thru hike ever planned. Six weeks was too long to be away from her. For me it is good to be a section hiker.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. jessesleeper says:

    I can’t bring myself to answer the first two questions as I feel they are self-evident.
    I am a section hiker and have spent most of my time in NH hiking the Whites with boy scouts. A very (how shall we say?) attached wife, four children and a great job make it very challenging to take four to six months off without pay. As a single or married without children, there are a lot less people to consider being impacted by such an adventure.
    First trail would be the AT naturally, since I live here and have seen so much of it. 2nd would definitely be the PCT. Which, if ALL the stars aligned, I would do it with my eldest son (who would love to do it).
    Big 3: Custom Zpacks Zero (L); Hexamid Solo (Beak & Screen); Hammock Gear Burrow-40 (2 oz, of overstuff)


  3. Dan says:

    It’s my dedication to family and work that hold me back. I’m just happy to get out and enjoy long weekends. But whether it’s thru or section, we’re all outside for mostly the same reasons. Living in the south, it’s easy to pick the AT, but the JMT would be my first choice. My big 3 are Zpacks arc blast 45L, a Darien Dream Hammock with a Hammock Gear four season cuben tarp and JRB under and over down quilt.


  4. Melissa says:

    1. I think a thru-hike means hiking the whole trail while a section hike is just a portion of the trail.
    2.I do believe at times there is a divide between section and thru-hikers. (at least on the AT). I have been on the receiving end of some snobbery from thru-hikers who tend to look down on me as a section hiker. But over all I feel hikers are accpeting of eachother.
    3. The main thing that holds me back from a thru-hike is my own mind. Of course job obligations are a major factor.
    4. John Muir Trail


  5. MarkPacking says:

    I guess for me, it fits in my schedule better to do section hikes on longer trails, but with 4 days working and 3 days off we’re able to get out and do longer trips, or drive further to explore different areas.

    I think to me, there’s a decent difference between thru hikers and section hikers themselves. Thru hikers I believe see more change, they see and experience more of an inner change while on the trail. Being disconnected from their lives and from general society for so long I think it’s easier to forget about things and take on a different perspective and point of view, or get more “centered” as some would say. I also believe most section hikers would love to turn in to full time thru hikers however due to commitments, be it family and job, it’s just not possible. (I know my wife and I would leave our job and house here in TX in a heart beat once the kids are grown and on their own to do nothing but thru hike).


  6. jtisch36 says:

    Your job allows you to take off Fridays fairly often so that you can leave on Thursday?


    • Stick says:

      I wouldn’t say I can take Friday’s off fairly often by any means… I have to put in for it, usually several months in advance. I am planning a hike in July that I requested time off for last November or so… I already have time in for July of next year as well. I also have to use time in my PTO bank when I do get my time off approved. It’s kinda complicated actually…



  7. Connie says:

    I think a thru-hike is something you do, unsupported by others. It is an expedition, if it is supported.
    I might section hike the Pacific Northwest Trail because the trail is not complete and I have no interest in road-walking.
    However, I might bicycle the road walk for a hike-n-bike. I could send my bike ahead.
    I would carry my Timbuktu Tres Especial backpack, because the backpack will have to stand up to bushwacking and rain downpours.
    Even so, I like the Lightheart Gear Rain Hoodie to cover my neck and shoulders, so I will have no rain running down my back. Otherwise, I like all breatheable gear. I will have my windshirt.
    My sleeping system includes a Hammock Gear Burrow 20, NeoAir XTherm, and, Titanium Goat bug bivy.
    I like a tarp, rather than a tent. I have decided to take my Hammock Gear cuben fiber tarp. I don’t need more cover for my bivy.
    I hear about concern for mosquitos, however at altitude mosquitos are not a problem. My concern is black flys.
    I have a lightweight Bug Baffler bug net headnet. I wear a longsleeves vented fisherman’s shirt. I wear bicycle riding long pants and stretch shortie gaiters.


    • Stick says:


      Thanks for your feedback! And the PNT would be a good option… I keep up with Fronkey, whom has hiked it as well. So many good options… 🙂

      Thanks for sharing.



  8. John Higgins says:

    It all comes down to the logistics, the idea, and the reality of where backpacking fits into your life. i really enjoy reading your blog when cyber hiking,very educational. keep it up.
    S/H: NY Breakfast


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