How to Turn Your Passion for Hiking into Income on the Trail

Making money while thru-hiking is possible through blogging, YouTube, selling photos, writing, sponsorships and more. Learn how to fund your passion.

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Josh Koop

I live with my wife and daughter in Katy, Texas and my local trail is the Lone Star Hiking Trail which is an amazing way to experience the Sam Houston National Park!

Beautiful mountain lake scene with calm waters
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When you want to be able to hike more often, you have to start to think about what ways you can use thru-hiking to supplement your income. Even if you are only planning to make one of the big triple crown trails, the amount it costs is pretty staggering, leaving many wondering how to make money hiking.

The answer is many things, I love to read and write, so I chose to supplement my income by building up this thru-hiking blog. It helps me to learn more about the thru-hikes I can take currently and allows me to be prepared for my run at a triple crown once my daughter graduates from high school.

This is by far the longer approach, the current way that most approach this is to create a YouTube channel and get people to pay them from Patreon, but both require video creation and editing skills that I am still trying to learn.

Let’s take some time to dig into why hikers love to be able to make money while not actively employed and many of the solid methods actually to build an income while out on the trail.

Just remember if you make money from the trail to #giveashit and donate back what you can, everyone has some form of time or money.

Fueling Your Outdoor Passion Through Income

A six-month thru-hike can cost nearly $1000 + every month after all your gear is paid for. This can be a challenge for many since the bank account never grows and only shrinks.

Even a simple single way to help move the bank account up while you are hiking is a big help and can be the difference between a hiker’s ability to finish their thru-hike or not.

Additionally, it helps with morale; when you are out on the trail for days, weeks, or even months on end, it is really easy to get into a funk. Having some sort of creative outlet you are getting paid for can help alleviate some of this stress and give you something to look forward to doing every day.

Offset Thru-Hike Costs

The biggest issue is a lack of banking before starting or having your account bleed out cash in the form of needing to replace gear, taking more time in town, and other various reasons.

This bank account drain ramps up the more you find yourself in the bubble. It can be like a vortex that just sucks all your money out and leaves you with nothing.

Having a supplemental income can help to alleviate this by giving you a bit more to spend in town, sending you more gear when needed, and generally just giving some peace of mind that you aren’t going to run out of money.

Save Up for Life After the Trail

Another key to having money coming in is that you will want to have money once you are completed with your thru-hike and need to reboot your life. Getting a place to stay requires a deposit of upwards of $1-2000 for a studio or cheap one-bedroom.

Of course, this all varies based on how much money you need to spend every month and how much debt you already have, but it is a real thing that people face when they finish their hike.

This can be easily remedied by continuing to bring in supplemental income throughout your hike, it will give you a bit more to spend in town and in the end, help with that large lump sum you need to get yourself situated for your next steps.

Unleash Your Creativity on the Trail

Many people find that when on a long-distance hike, they miss opportunities to be spontaneous and creative that they feel they have in real life. Some decide to journal every day, but for many, this doesn’t scratch that itch.

After listening and talking with other creative people, I learned how many of them used their time on trail to create content, whether it be for a blog, podcast, YouTube channel, or even just writing a book.

This was eye-opening for me as I never realized how much time I had to create things; I’m so stuck in the 9-5 mentality that I thought I needed more time to be creative.

Find something you love and find a way to adapt it on trail, and this can help you grow a passion you love and maybe help you see that you can build a life outside the box of “normal life”.

Smart Ways to Make Money While Hiking

Ok, so how does a hiker make money on the trail? Here are some of the more common methods I have heard are very successful or ones I currently use.

Creating a Blog

As you may tell, I enjoy writing about this amazing hobby and passion. If I could, I would spend every day out finding amazing views and writing to get people out to them alongside me!

For many writing seems scary, in fact, it was for me too, but that’s because school was highly focused on very dull topics and things I wasn’t truly interested in and on a timeline set by a teacher.

When I finally bit the bullet, I joined this amazing course, a place for real people and focused on writing good and solid information that is to help someone out. Not focused on only making links and selling things but on providing the best and most helpful resource on the web.

To me, blogs are an amazing way to get continually paid for the high level of effort up front. Unlike a traditional job where you are paid per hour, a blog pays literally nothing unless you can make amazingly helpful content.

Then you can add ways to monetize, with display advertising being the best for truly “passive” income.

To me, this is a lifestyle benefit. I get to read and research, take trips, and then relay everything I find here to you to give a heads-up.

Blogging is a slow burn, though with most people needing at least 24 months to build a more reliable income from it, it isn’t some get-rich-quick scheme in the least!

Building a YouTube Channel

A huge thing in the last five or so years has been the trend of people vlogging from the trail and showing their journey to the world. I mean how could it not be as people are absolutely fascinated with the outdoors!

This is a great way to build an audience and have them follow you as you go; I think this is a great idea for those who really want to share their experience but don’t want to write.

It isn’t all fun and games though, as you really need to be outgoing, have a great personality, and be able to provide entertainment value while still being helpful.

This isn’t an easy task by any means, but it can be done with some effort. If you are just starting, I would highly recommend using a friend or family member to help you get those first few videos out.

Using Patreon To Accept Support Through Donations

Many YouTubers will choose to use Patreon and other social media channels as it can provide a more consistent income stream, typically by giving out specific benefits to people who donate to you.

This is a great way to get started as it doesn’t require any massive product or anything like that; you simply need to provide value in some other way like entertainment, knowledge, or even just general company.

I’ve seen people do very well with this by providing daily videos or stories from the trail. Others might do a weekly podcast or photo diary. It depends on you and what you feel most comfortable doing.

I think this is a great way to get started as it can help ease your mind about making money while still enjoying the outdoors and not feeling like you’re in it just for the money.

Acquire a Sponsorship for Your Thru-Hike

This is hugely common on sites like TheTrek. They sponsor and pay for a portion or maybe even the whole trip for someone and what they provide in return is content for their site or social media channels.

I’ve even seen people get sponsored by companies like Patagonia or Zpacks, where they provide gear in return for content. This is a great way to get started as it can help offset some of the costs associated with a thru-hike.

The key here is to be active on social media, have a strong following, and be able to produce great content. Acquiring a sponsorship shouldn’t be too difficult if you can do those things.

Sell Photography Online

If you love to take images and have an eye for detail, then this might be the perfect way to make money while thru-hiking, several sites allow you to sell your images, and they will even give you a percentage of each sale.

This is a great way to make money as it doesn’t require much effort. Simply take some amazing pictures and upload them to whichever site is selling the photos. Some stock companies pay well for images.

The key here is to take high-quality images that people will want to buy, avoiding blurry pictures or low-resolution images. If you can do that, then you should be able to make some decent money.

Become a Freelance Writer in the Outdoor Niche

Writing for blogs or news sites helps you get your name out there and also allows you to build a portfolio of your work; this is great for those who want to write books or even get sponsored by companies.

The key here is to produce high-quality content that people will want to read, which means avoiding mistakes like grammar mistakes or typos. If you can do that, then you should be able to make some decent money.

Find Day Work On Trail

The last but frequently used method on trail is to trade time for money like a normal job, but daily, this lets you work as long as needed but the freedom to leave as soon as you want.

This is a great way to make money as it doesn’t require much effort. Simply find someone or someplace who needs help and is willing to pay for it. This could be anything from cooking meals to putting up tents.

The key here is to find work that pays well and leaves you time to enjoy the hike, which means avoiding things like working long hours or doing jobs that are too physically demanding.

Final Thoughts on How to Make Money Hiking

We covered a lot here, and I would say that the best way to make money while thru-hiking is a combination of a few different methods.

I would start by creating content and see how that goes. If you can build up a following, you can start looking at other ways to monetize that, like sponsorships or selling products.

The key is to enjoy the hike first and foremost and not get too wrapped up in making money. If you can do that, then the money will come.

Do you have any tips on how to make money hiking? Let us know in the comments below!

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