Every year, swarms of brave souls set out to hike the 2,190 miles of the Appalachian Trail, the “green tunnel” that stretches 14 states from Georgia to Maine through the Appalachian Mountains.

Doing it in one go is a life-changing endeavor, says Greenbelly Meals founder and How to Hike the Appalachian Trail author Chris Cage. “Few people can say they’ve endured a challenge as long and arduous. Afterward, I felt more confident than ever, and more excited about pursuing new challenges in life.”

But hiking the AT is no joke—90% who start the 5-million-step journey quit mid-trek. So, ask yourself:

Do you have what it takes?

  1. Do you have six months and at least $5,000 to spend?
  2. Can you unplug—no smartphone, no iPad—for days at a time?
  3. Can you go a week without a shower?
  4. Can you embrace the unknown, like varied terrain, erratic weather, and a rotating cast of companions?
  5. Can you handle suffering? You’ll likely be hungrier, hotter, colder, and more tired than ever before.

If you said yes to all, you may have what it takes to hike the AT. For you, then, Cage’s trail-tested tips.