Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
Money on the trail
When I hiked the Appalachian Trail in 1999, I used a combination of ATM, credit card, travelers checks, and cash. Since then, I haven't bothered with travelers checks and have just used ATM, credit card, and cash.
On my A.T. thruhike, the travelers checks were practical because I was getting frequent maildrops and that reduced the ATM fees I had to pay. Since then, I've gone without travelers checks and in addition to carrying my credit card, just use my debit card for cash. To save on expenses, I maintain a bank account with a bank that reimburses me for ATM fees.
There may be a few places where ATMs are hard to find, but that never seemed to be an issue for anyone. When someone was low on cash in town, we would usually help each other out by letting the low-on-cash person pay for something on their credit card and pay them cash. This was something we all did for each other.
As for the AMC hut and campsite system, unless things have changed, they do take credit cards. Even at the fee shelters and campsites, they'll hand write your credit card information and process it next time they return to town.
I'm not sure if the GMC has similar capabilities in VT.
Having cash on hand for the mid-Atlantic states can be important. If you intend to take advantage of the deli-to-deli hiking available there, not every Mom and Pop general store or diner takes credit or even travelers checks.
Most of the typical resupply towns will have an ATM available. If not, the Post Office will often offer cash back if you buy something there.
One thing to remember, you do NOT want to carry change out of town. Try to spend all your change at every opportunity. The stores along the AT are the only places I've seen where the take a penny, leave a penny dishes routinely had "silver" coinage in them. The one exception to not carrying change along the Appalachian Trail would be in the stretch north of Harpers Ferry. There are soda machines near the War Correspondent's Memorial but no place to make change.
While there's generally no need to keep your cash handy on trail days, on those days when you plan to go to town, keep your wallet with you. If you end up hitching into town, you don't want your wallet in your pack when it goes in the back of a truck and you go up front. On the unlikely chance the truck drives off before you can retrieve your pack, you'll still have your wallet.
Last updated, July 17, 2010.
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