I vividly recall one of their dinners: Dried ramen noodle, straight from the bag.
They slept in their bags exposed, beneath a basic light tarp.
Raman noodles or tortillas or something like that are generally used as a carrier for those foods to keep you sane, but they aren't very good from a weight to calories standpoint. M&Ms are also common, as they are easy to eat and keep well.
Some people actually just drink cooking oil, but it's rarely worth the tiny bit of extra weight efficiency.
It's a slab of peppermint-flavoured sugar, doused in glucose syrup, covered in chocolate.
It's one of those things that you cannot possibly imagine yourself eating, until you're actually out on the hills after a long day (or several days) and you're cold and you're tired and then you've never eaten anything quite so delicious.
Yes we do.
I would just call it walking, or tabbing if it's at an aggressive pace. Old people seem to call it rambling, but that makes it sound a bit lazy I think.
Tabbing tends to be a military term as far as I'm aware. I don't remember using the term hiking until recently.
The MilFit community have brought it into mainstream usage. I don't remember not using/hearing the term hiking.
OED, which I'd trust more than Wiktionary, says 'colloq. orig. dial. and U.S.' and gives US examples prior to the 20s.
Almost all American English words are originally of English origin, of course ;)
However, Google Ngrams shows that the term "hiking" was very rare prior to about 1920, and the large majority of 1920s sources are American.
Compare hiking, hill walking, tramping, and rambling: https://books.google.com/ngrams/graph?content=hiking%2Chill+...
You make a porridge with oats, add few table spoons of sugar and so much oil that it looks more like soup than porridge.
100 ml oil contains 900 kcal. You can go all day with 3-4 oatmeals
Is this really a thing? I've read quite a bit about thruhikers and have never encountered this. If you have any more details, mind sharing?
Yes, but I have always heard of sticks of butter being used for this purpose - not cooking oil.
antarctic sled teams do this sometimes, because you're burning about 7,000 calories a day just staying warm.
Fun tidbit of the day: in the Marine Corps our long full pack hikes (~90lbs) were called "humps". In the old days they were death marches.
That peanut butter has palm oil probably, but Nutella has it for sure.
Palm oil is very bad for your health, and it's very bad for the environment.
Not saying anything about its environmental impact, which I haven't researched, however.
Peanut oil is one of the worst oils (arachidonic acid).
You're correct about palm oil production hurting the environment.
As someone who is willing to tolerate utter dreck as long as it's In Spaaaaaaace, this made me smile. I think it's just the fact that the setting is so compelling and romantic for me, and I can ignore the flaws and enjoy the little redeeming value that is in there.
Most of the people I know who have problems with the movie are really in to hiking, and really liked the book. A fair number haven't watched the movie. I think if you just watch it without any expectations, it's a solid bit of entertainment about being outdoors. It's not the best movie, but it's a good movie to watch with someone.
A fun alternative is the unabridged audiobook, read by the author. Now that is great fun on a long drive!
At the end of the day I never wanted to waste time boiling water/cooking food I just wanted to eat and sleep. I found myself eating cold even with a stove so I just dropped the stove.
I don't know anyone that has done it just to be hard-core.
There is one interesting exception though: everyone I met who traveled (not hiked per se, but lived out of a backpack), had one "luxury item".
It was something that was absolutely not necessary, but they lugged it around with them anyway, because it made sense strictly for them.
One dude I met had a folding camping chair. (relatively) big, awkward, weighty.
But around the campfire, everyone was sitting on rocks like cavemen -- except he was enthroned on his camping chair.
Before you ask: my luxury item was a discman (this dates me, I suppose :-) ), plus a few CDs. Really awkward. Susceptible to impact and moisture, requires batteries, etc etc. But I just love to get lost in rhythm and let it drive my thoughts while I'm out hiking or biking.
There are situations where a tent will be more comfortable: a tent provides protection from the wind absent natural barriers, a tent provides a refuge from biting insects, etc.
In many situations, the comfort provided by a tent is more mental than it is physical. The full enclosure of a tent provides comfort to people who worry about critters crawling over them in the night. Some people just feel more comfortable when fully enclosed.
All this said, it does take more expertise to sleep comfortably with a tarp. Site selection is more important. There are several ways to pitch a tarp and the best pitch to use depends on the situation. Tarps are more fiddly to pitch.
Insect repellent and site selection (don't sleep next to lake) handle low bug pressure situations.
I don't worry about other critters where I hike in the PNW.
I'm embarrassed to admit how many times I've eaten that on hikes. For my next long hike I'm probably going to ditch my stove completely: it's not so much the weight, but personally the last thing I want to do after a day of hiking is cook.
A poll of Facebook friends showed that EVERYONE in the northwest in my age group found it normal and common, and it was common in Hawaii and really all over the west coast -- but nationwide as well. I think the idea originated with families of Japanese origin.
I had a few packets of ramen. I'd eat two packets for breakfast, but alredy an hour or so later I'd feel painfully hungry again.
I dreamed of huge, juicy steaks like you wouldn't believe.
After I returned to the world, I treated myself to the biggest steak the supermarket sold. DELICIOUS.
"Sure, I could boil some water. Or I could just sprinkle seasoning on the top and eat it now..."
They're very popular in Australian schools - basically dried ramen noodles with a special seasoning you sprinkle on, and eat them dry.
(The product originally started in Melaka/Malacca, in Malaysia which is my father's hometown).
When there aren't any cool ranch Doritos left, what are you going to do?
I love hiking and but I also love cooking. Few years ago, while starting to shift into lighter base camp, I discovered how easy it is to make your own dehydrated meal. Nowadays when I hike, and especially on long multiple day hikes, I prepare myself a diverse food menu (i.e. Hummus, Pad Thai, vegetarian bolognese, curry, lentils with rice and the list goes on).
I find that it keeps me motivated on the trail and full of anticipation for dinner rather than just eating to fight the trail hunger.
Moreover, the entire (long) process of cooking before heading out to the trail is for me a ceremony that fills me with anticipation.
I would call my fitness before these races as "peak", but I wouldn't call myself anything but near, "onset of over training syndrome" afterwards. The only thing I experienced similar to the author's was a slight bit of fat loss. Every other part of my body was wrecked, which took months to recover from.
One thing that stuck out with me is that they only hiked for 8 hours/day. That seems like a light day! compared to these races, where 5 hours of sleep is spoiling oneself. I guess the moral of the story before doing a, "thru hike for fitness" is to not to overdo it. It also seems like the author was in pretty alright shape to start out, with a fairly low pulse and overall bodyweight.
I personally need 8 to 9, but I'm sharper if I only sleep ~ 6 hours (and eventually crash and have to recuperate).
I wish there was some perma-link from:
- HN comment threads about insomnia (lightbulb colors, screen brightness, silly apps)
- HN comment threads about light to moderate exercise
It's amazing how simple the answers to these problems are and how close at hand those answers are ...
Light issues are about melatonin, which is production-inhibited and rapidly destroyed in the presence of blue light. Increasing melatonin levels is the point of Flux and blue glasses and all the rest.
Exercise issues are about adenosine, which is produced over time and gradually with physical activity, and consumed during sleep. (It's also what caffeine inhibits.)
These aren't entirely interchangeable, so there's more to be gained from addressing whichever one is the largest personal issue. (Anecdotally, I have a suspicion that the feeling zombie-tired insomnia is about a bad mismatch from sedentary tiredness.)
I do think that people preferentially worry about light issues without trying exercise, though.
Really. Carrying a 20kg pack for eight hours over rough terrain is less strenuous than bike riding? Do this for over 500 miles? Ever done this before? Hike on foot with 20kg packs on consecutive days? Make camp, make food, rest, break camp. Everything on your back. This is a lot more strenuous than you think. Hands down racing on a bike is much easier ^physically^ than hiking on foot carrying weight over broken terrain over long distances.
Actually, this is probably true. 8 hours a day, averaging 18 miles per day for 486 miles over 29 days is not that much. I don't see where they say they had 20kg packs, which is quite high weight for a thru-hiker. (EDIT: See now where he says he had 40 pound pack, which is probably at heaviest point with full load of food, still high for thru-hiking and maybe a reason they logged less miles/day.) 18 miles/day is probably right around average for thru-hikers, who are mostly out for enjoyment and sense of accomplishment, not for speed. You have to be in decent shape, but it's not a high-intensity endeavor.
There is a fairly sizeable subset of thru-hikers who do go for speed, though. Many average well over 40 miles per day for several months and over 2000 miles. (They're definitely not carrying 40 pound packs.) They accomplish this mostly by hiking for longer hours each day, not by moving faster, since going faster breaks their bodies down. E.g., see this article:
Altitude would stop a lot of people. How long to acclimatise living at sea level?
Have you done this?
It doesn't really make sense to compare that effort to a race of any kind, let alone a mountain bike race -- since the thru-hikers we're talking about were not doing it as a race. Of course their effort was done at a lower level of intensity. For some perspective, a fellow recently set the Colorado Trail record with a time of 9 days 12 hours, almost three times as fast as the thru-hikers in the article:
For anyone interested, here's a youtube video documenting the record effort. The guy is kind of a celebrity in hiking circles, in large part because of high-quality videos he makes of his adventures:
(Zahorian's effort set the "unsupported" record, which means he carried everything, including all his food, from the start, and didn't stop at any towns along the way to resupply. Most hikers carry only enough food for 3 to 5 days at a time, and resupply along the way -- understandable because it's much easier than carrying everything from the start.)
With a pack? I ask because running over this terrain is hard. Hats off hard. But with a pack, things are different. You don't move as fast. Thanks @hsitz for the video.
"Most hikers carry only enough food for 3 to 5 days at a time, and resupply along the way"
Unsupported. I did't see if the original was unsupported - can't imagine carrying 30 days food. Even the PR1M I've used is pretty heavy.  Possible but you'd strip out all but the useful food. With re-supplies, do they have access to water?
"lower level of intensity."
Totally agree with this. Still hard yards.
Yes, some people are overconfident. I would suggest that the main problem in the context of endurance activities, though, is that people tend to be underconfident. People never get started because they think they can't do it, or that it would be too hard for them. They hear about people doing something like a thru-hike and they think these people must be gifted, special, or athletic in some way that they aren't.
That thought is almost entirely misguided. Certainly everyone has different abilities. But the vast majority of people out there doing these things have fairly average physical abilities. (For perspective, 2,000+ mile thru-hikes have been completed by children under 10 and people over 80.) They do probably have more motivation and dedication than most people, which are by far bigger determinants of success in these kinds of endurance endeavors than physical ability. But part of getting this motivation and commitment hinges on believing that they have the physical ability to do it (and/or that they can build themselves into physical shape to do it). Hence my post.
BTW, this is pretty much borne out by the guy who wrote the original article we're talking about. He didn't claim to be in great physical shape or have special physical ability, saying:
"Before the hike, I was fit but not training for anything. I ran five miles a couple times a week, went mountain biking about once a week, and periodically lifted weights. Like most Americans, much of my day was spent in front of a computer. I was 35 years old, 5'9" tall, and 150 pounds, with a BMI of 22.2 and body fat composition of about 13 percent."
8 hrs & 18 miles/day is pretty slow and short day.
This is a novice thru hiker pace, but I doubt they were trying to set any records--
8 hrs is nothing, once you have trail legs many thru hikers will basically walk the entire day. 3*15 = 45 miles per day give or take. In CO it will be slower generally as CO is not the easiest hiking, but still 18 miles/day is very chill pace.
The CT is also only 450 miles, so when they finished, they were just starting to get in shape really. On a longer trail is it generally considered that around 500 miles is where people start to observe really obvious improvements.
Yes on the many "hike all day" thing, but regarding mileage this is starting to shade off into hyperbole. E.g., when Scott Jurek set the (then) AT speed record in 2015, he averaged 49.2 miles/day, and that was with support (van carrying food, gear, and meeting him for sleeping spot each night, people helping with massage, etc.). And Jurek is (or once was) a world-class athlete.
Heather Anderson set the "unsupported" (she had nobody helping her carry anything and no help with camping or resupplies) AT record, also in 2015, and she averaged just 42 miles/day.
The speed records on PCT are a little faster in terms of miles/day, but not much. So I would not say that "many" thru-hikers are averaging "45 miles/day give or take", although I agree that 18 miles/day is pretty average. A lot of people may hit a 45 mile day somewhere along their hike, but it's exaggerating to suggest that more than a handful average anywhere near that over the entire hike.
We averaged 3.5. Carrying heavy packs, every day for a week. All it takes is practice, motivation and youth.
On the MTB I got more fatigued each day due to the pace we were riding at. This meant we were burning glycogen most of the time. When you run out of glycogen you really struggle to keep pace.
On the hike the pace is usually at a level that allows effecient fat burning. Finding palatable food that has a high enough energy density and protein content to weight is a challenge.
If we rode slower then I would have been less fatigued each day.
Both types of activity are tiring but in different ways. The biggest difference though will come from the pace you set.
Your body will definitely be stressed differently if it's spending a lot of time near (above/below) lactate threshold as might be the case in a long bike race.
In the cycling world that might be called power zone 4(ish).
You'll probably also have to throw in a number of VO2max efforts for small hills; zone 5.
In the case of hiking with a 20Kg pack, in a non-race situation, for 8 hours a day I would guess you'll mostly spend your time at a lower heart rate doing tempo work, which would mostly be zone 2.
This is somewhat similar to the long, slow, steady training winter bike training that was popular before current practices of interval based training became popular. It is designed to improve muscular mitochondrial density.
Another way to put it, if the through-hike had been a race against the clock the hiker might have been much more degraded by the end of the race because he wouldn't be able to pace himself the same way.
I'm not a qualified sports scientist so would very much appreciate someone with more knowledge than me clarifying or correcting anything I've written.
I've actually considered trying to hike the Colorado Trail unsupported - carrying everything I'll need from the start (except water) with NO resupplies until the end. My target time would be around 9 days. If you're trying to gauge how strenuous the types of effort I put forth when I go and do the things I do.
Anyways, 8 hours seems like an easy day on the trail for sure. 8 hours hike + 8 hours sleep leaves you 8 hours for $Other_Things. Might as well hike some more!
These are good points. The distance this bloke covered was 800km. Every day another 30km. That is hard.
So, a 9Day pace would be a new record if you went for it.
No. I think the OP was referring to road racing. One question, "do you carry the bikes uphill?"
It's asinine to get into this dick measuring contest, you shouldn't claim your sport is more hard-core than a sport you don't know. This mentality is why Lance Armstrong got his ass handed to him the first time he tried mountain bike racing because he thought it would be easy. And yes, there are race format where you carry bikes uphill: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cyclo-cross.
I've done 100- and 200-mile bike rides in one day, and foot races up to half marathon, and I'd absolutely consider those to be harder.
For one, the backpacking I could get up and do TOMORROW. The racing, not so much.
And the racing I could not do 2 days in a row. The backpacking I could do, again, tomorrow, for 2 weeks, without a doubt.
There's a great documentary about Transcontinental race from 2015 at https://vimeo.com/ondemand/transcontinental which is well worth watching. Seems to be behind a (cheap) paywall now but it's well worth it as an intro to how it's done.
It's absolutely mesmerizing to watch for regular crazy people (as opposed to the crazy crazy people who partake) and there is some great behind the scenes footage on youtube. These races are great to watch in real time because you can follow every GPS tracker and since each rider chooses their own directions it can get really exciting.
On the other hand, there are limits. Some of the scenarios discussed int this thread (distance races for time, SF training, etc.) are causing damage to your body that will require recovery time - and the longer you go for the more recovery you will need. Other levels of exertion seem extreme to us from the point of view of a mostly sedentary life, but if you manage the sleep and diet stuff (a bit better than a typical thru hiker does), you can handle medium-high level physical exertion (e.g. 8 hours hiking) basically indefinitely.
I've done multiple 1000km bicycle rides (with full gear) at a similar pace that, once you are settled in, feels a bit just like routine. On the other hand I've ridden distances on a single day or weekend that knocked me out for a week afterwards. It's all in the balance.
Agreed with other comments on here, the thru-hike is a totally different situation, and 8 hours a day hiking is half the time I was on a bike probably.
I'd love to do it again!
He's the strava activity https://www.strava.com/activities/341380125
I am mind blown. He is a completely different person in appearance! (2600 miles btw)
I did 50mi backpacking over 7k feet with a 40lb pack in 5 days, and lost 10lbs. Which is impressive considering even at my hardest training I have a hard time losing more than 1lb/week normally.
For a while last year I toyed with the idea of hiking the Appalachian Trail. I even did a few practice hikes of a week or two, but ultimately realized that even if I completed the trail I'd gain all the weight I loss right back, the same way I did after the LT (by continuing a high-carb diet).
Now I'm on keto and cutting carbs was by far the best health choice I've made in my life. It's still a dream of mine to hike the AT though (probably not for a long time though, as my startup wouldn't survive absence).
When I was still studying, I climbed indoor twice a week, which made me extremely fit. But after a couple of years I got bored.
I am on a regular Dutch/Germany diet.
I already walk to work every day.
I went back to my pre-hike weight and then some within a few years afterward.
I do think if you've got the time and inclination, a thru-hike is a lovely way to lose weight temporarily!
When you start to get into around the 10th week and beyond, there's a wall you can hit if you aren't eating well enough. This is not really an issue on American or European long-distance trails where any sort of nutrition one desires can be arranged in your resupplies (and you can eat ravenously on town days) but if you do multi-month trips in the 3rd world, you'll find trail legs don't last forever when all you're eating is rice and some kind of legume for every meal. At a certain point the lack of high-quality nutrition starts to make you progressively weaker.
That was 5 years ago and I managed to mantain that weight by taking care of what I eat. I think that trip changed something in my metabolism and helped to know myself better.
A good saddle helps with that. :) My preference is the Brooks B-17.
Additional tests would have been nice.
IMO strength training will boost my test far more than cardio but I have never carried a 20lbs pack for 500 miles.
My first major hike (9 days at Torres del Paine, solo, I was 19) was hell, shitty gear, overweight backpack and so on, but was amazing and I learned a lot.
It is far easier to hike in groups, there are major gains in weight (stuff for 4 people weigh far less that 4X stuff for 1 person).
I must admit I was pretty stupid to do Torres del Paine alone with little experience and bad equipment, but hey, I was 19.
I've done it two more times since then, both alone. But one detail worth mentioning is that for famous hikes like TdP, you're rarely alone, there are usually dozens of people doing the same hike, and you end up teaming up with them and hiking together. I'm still good friends with most of the people I met on the trail, especially remote trails.
Is this the type of thing you mean? REI is a brand I've seen so I wasn't aware they did things like that.
I'll be traveling a lot but I'll be hiking/camping alone since I don't have a spouse, so groups would be a great way to make friends and not have as much risk.
That's a good place to start.
Step 1.) Pack what this dude tells you to and follow his advice for food -- http://www.adventurealan.com/best-backpacking-food/
Step 2.) Go when temperates are cool at night, but not cold (high 40F as a minimum). This allows you to buy cheap gear to learn with.
Step 3.) Pack the gear this guy tells you to -- https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-ultimate-hikers-gear-gu...
Step 4.) Buy the cheapest lowest quality gear you can for cool weather hiking. Let it be heavy/used/whatever. Cheap shelter. Cheap sleeping bag. Cheap pack. Except -- https://www.traildesigns.com/stoves/caldera-keg-f-stove-syst... learn about alcohol cook systems. They are super light and there is no sense in buying a heavy cook system you will just re-purchase. For a pad, just get a foam ridge rest, see if you can live with it. Most thru hikers end up with a very minimal padding. Something like a thermarest prolite is an okay compromise if you can't stand a ridge rest foam pad thing. There are some ultralight air mattress options that aren't too heavy, but foam pad is easiest.
Step 5.) Plan very low risk "backpacking" at state park camp grounds where there are RVs and lots of people. Trial your gear. If you fail you are right next to lots of people and shelter. Go to places with lots of day hikes. Hike all day. Camp at the camp ground at night.
Step 6.) You should know what kind of sleeper you are. Now you have to decide... are you a camper or a hiker? If you are a hiker, be a gram weenie and buy the nicest ultra-light gear you can afford. If you are a camper, stick with comforts, plan to hike less. Check out cottage gear makers like enlightened equipment and z-packs. Their gear is great. Pay attention to skurka on water treatment: platypus plastic bladders are fine. Aqua mira (a chlorine water treatment system) is super easy.
Step 7.) Do the things. After 3 or 4 weekend trips you will start to know what is up.
Step 8.) Keep reading the blogs and gear things of crazy ultralight hikers. Expand your horizons. If you hike more, learn more about ultralight gear (http://www.adventurealan.com/2-4-pound-extreme-ultralight-ba...)
Step 9.) Learn about orienteering and navigating with map and compass. On major trails you can get away with guide books, but a little knowledge can help you out here.
Step 10.) If you are athletic stick with "trail shoes" and not hiking boots. Hiking boots are crazy. I have hiked hundreds of miles on the AT in plain old running shoes. buy nice wool socks. Accept your feet will be wet and that it is part of the experience if you are a distance hiker. Wool socks will keep your feet warm, even if they are wet :)
You will make mistakes. Surprisingly a lot of the rules of how and where you can hike are very sparsely documented outside of the main trails like the AT.
That is it. Start safe to permit mistakes. After a week of nights outdoors you will have the hang of it. You can start planning weekend backpacking trips then probably.
These are all just guidelines. I am not sold on any brand or whatever, I just use these things and know they work for me. You can spend endless hours researching gear. You just have to commit, be safe, and learn what works for you and what you like and enjoy about the outdoors and backpacking experience. Some people love camping and food and hike as a means to see beautiful places. I am a restless soul and want to tire myself out covering ground when I hike. I am there to be in motion in nature. You just gotta think it thru and figure what you like, and if you like it.
Good luck! Happy trails.
edit: I have met thru hikers that literally had /zero/ experience when they started an AT thru hike. By the time they made it about 50 miles on the trail they are throwing out hatchets, heavy foods, and heavy gear. If these folks can do it, you can to, and you can cut out the days of misery as you learn your gear is too heavy, etc.
Use what works for you, but I completely disagree with this. I thru-hiked the AT in 2014 in full hiking boots, and didn't have any of the feet problems like friends in normal trail shoes did afterwards; I would have rolled my ancle several times if it weren't for the support, and it only took two pairs (friends with trail shoes went through a lot more when the bottoms got too worn out and got slippery on wet rocks or started to peel off).
Caveat: I run ultramarathons and have thousands of trail miles on my feet. Never rolled an ankle. Never worn boots for 99%. Sample size of 1, etc, but I have met many others in this camp. Shoes can get "religious".
If you are on super rough terrain or mountaineering you also want specific boots.
Number of those people who went home with injured ankles: 2. Anecdotal, of course, but I certainly felt vindicated (and, of course, sad for those folks).
If you're in a super duper hurry, having your boots slow you down is maybe a slight drag. If you value foot health over speed, I, too, am a huge fan of heavy hiking boots.
I decided to do a little research to see if I could find any actual studies. Didn't find anything. Some interesting data about military using combat boots vs. running shoes in PT, but that is pretty different from rooty/rocky/slipper trails like the AT. I am gonna have to say anyone that feels too strongly about one or the other should proceed with caution because there is no real evidence one way or another, just religious camps. :)
Know your own capabilities is a good approach, in most activities.
With a bit of experience, you can start to pick up on basic navigational skills, etc., and be able to judge what equipment works and what you're lacking.
You don't need much to start out. Some good sneakers/tennis shoes/running shoes are fine for most on-trail hiking, and then just a liter or two of water (more in hot/dry climates) and some food/snacks for an average dayhike with a group where others are navigating.
On your own, you'd want some sort of map/compass, GPS or phone with GPS capability and relevant hiking maps of your area.
See http://www.wta.org/hiking-info/basics for introductory information about hiking and backpacking.
The Palisades Interstate Park is just across the GW Bridge in New Jersey. It has hiking trails all throughout the park but I would recommend the northern section and the "giant steps" trail leading to the "peanut cascade".
New York's Hudson Highlands is just across the Hudson River from Bear Mountain. There's a nice scramble trail at Breakneck Ridge.
I roped a buddy into doing the Old Croton Trail this spring as well.
By the way, I've met a lot of folks who started with the Camino as their first thru-hike and went on to do AT and Continental Divide. I highly recommend it as a trial thru hike. It's not very difficult, but not easy either. But it'll definitely whip your legs into shape and get your prepared for something bigger and better.
Are results like that typical?
From memory, we had oatmeal and coffee for breakfast, a bunch of salami throughout the day, and freeze-dried camp meals for dinner. Couldn't have been more than 2k calories/day. I'm not saying this is sustainable for more than a week, but I don't remember feeling particularly hungry. It's really hard to carry enough food to eat a huge amount of calories.
And can you reliably predict it beforehand?
Having suffered from burnout/CFS, I would be very careful about doing something like this, and I'd be on the lookout for early warning signs such as elevated heart-rate, anxiety/depression, excessive fatigue/pain, oversleeping/insomnia, etc.
As far as I know, hikes like the one described here (8 hour days at a mild/moderate pace) can be kept up almost indefinitely if you have a good diet and don't run into acute injuries. Lots of overtraining injuries like shin splints are much less likely than in other sports.
That said, you can get badly burned by fairly tame risks just because you're doing something so repetitive. Even simple dietary stuff can blow up - if you're eating the same handful of meals every day you can run into uncommon issues like micronutrient deficiencies.
The risks you mentioned are definitely real, but most of the stories are hear suggest that there are solid warning signs (even just "I feel shitty now"). Most of the people who burn out seem to be ignoring those signs or pushing through them for some goal.
The conventional wisdom among thru-hikers is that the only way to get in shape for a hike is to start hiking and get in shape as you do it. This seems to be largely true. In 2010 on the AT, down south, a number of people who started out in good shape from e.g. running, pushed too hard early on, had various health problems and dropped off. People also take far, far more Ibuprofen (I.B. Broken) than they ought to so they can continue pushing out long days.
For something like a thru-hike, you adjust your level of exertion to what you can sustain for the time you expect to take, which for practical purposes is "indefinitely" when you're talking about a 5 month walk.
The above applies to a "normal", unsupported thru-hike. People shooting for the speed record are a whole different case.
I do know of one person for whom sleep deprivation seemed to be a contributing factor, along with other stresses associated with military service.
In general burnout seems to be caused by chronic physical/mental stress.