19 Disgusting, Degrading, and/or Hilarious Real-Life Hiker Trash Stories
The astounding number of responses to our hiker trash request fell entirely into two categories: Sleeping somewhere inappropriate, or eating something revolting. We’ll look into the scientific reasoning behind this, but we’re pretty sure it has something to do with the fact that thru-hikers are technically homeless and they are always hungry. Enjoy these tales of the lowest—but also proudest—trail moments.
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“I completed a SOBO thru-hike in 2014. My first moment where I actually felt like a through hiker was at Bemis Mountain Lean To in Maine. I arrived about the same time as Owl and K-9, who noticed a nearly full bottle on pancake syrup sitting on the shelf. Immediately, he starts talking about “Americans, with their horrible food. There isn’t even any real ingredients in this, it’s completely artificial.” Owl and I stared at the bottle longingly, trying to think what we had to eat it with. I grab my peanut butter, and fill the mostly empty container with it, eating it with my spoon. Owl grabs the bottle and starts chugging. K-9 watches in horror as we finish off most of the bottle. The next day we went into Andover and got pancakes.” -Athena
“Here’s me sleeping under an I-20 underpass during my 2015 thru-hike. Bad day. Cold and rain.” –Chet
“I decided to take a zero in Burlington while I waited for a package, so I reserved a spot at a campsite on the edge of town and made plans to get a ride in with my hiking buddy. We had both badly been craving burrito bowls, so we stopped at Moe’s on the way into town before his sister dropped my dog and I off at the campground. I found my tent site (nestled between RVs and car campers) but it had just started raining and I was too hungry to set up my tent, so I sat down to eat outside the bathroom, which was the only covered area nearby. As I opened up my food I realized I had forgotten to grab a fork (and I had conveniently lost my spoon on the trail the day before). Obviously such a minor obstacle didn’t stand a chance against my hiker hunger, so I dug in with my hands. Or, as I like to call them, nature’s food shovels. Only when I finished and looked up from my bowl did I realize the stares I was getting from all the Canadian tourists while I was sitting with my dog on the dirty floor next to a trash can outside a campground bathroom, devouring ground beef and beans with my hands. The best part was how little I cared, and how proud I was at that moment.”
-Furball: Long Trail 2014, AT 2015
“My boyfriend, Lost Boy, and I were in Virginia at a state park by a lake, and a bunch of people left McDonalds trash everywhere. I caught him going through their trash to find leftover condiments. Another time, we were doing laundry in Waynesboro, VA, and decided to eat breakfast at a diner across the street while we waited. We were counting our coins to figure out how many we needed for the laundromat. At the end of the meal, a very nice man came up to us and asked if he could pay for our meal because he saw us counting coins. We assured him we could afford breakfast and were just doing laundry, but he insisted on giving us $10 anyway, plus another $10 for our thru-hiker friends who had already left.” – Messy, AT 2014
“Came out of woods to NOC and found a forgotten to-go box of food on a bench by the bridge. We dug in.” – Leprechaun, GA→VA 2013
“The day I knew I was hiker trash, it hit me as an epiphany in the bathroom of a Subway restaurant in Greenwood Lake, NY. I laboriously pulled off my shorts and undies, tossed them in a heap in the corner, and fished out my battle-worn Ziploc baggie full of ointments. I gingerly applied the magical unguent to my nether regions, nearly in tears from the fiery, chafing mess between my legs. I turned around and caught sight of my visage in the mirror: haunted, resigned, at a sort of point of no return, almost defeated, but still miraculously hanging on.
I limped back to the trail, only to find a greasy paper bag of half-eaten, discarded Chinese food on the side of the road. Assured that I could not possibly sink any lower, I ate it with gusto, and it was one of the best meals of my life.” – Wiseguy, AT 2014
“A routine trip to the post office to send home a couple items quickly turned weird when I realized I had forgotten to include one thing: the stinky-ass shirt on my back. Because the PO was closing in 10 minutes, I didn’t have time to run back to the hostel and grab a clean shirt. I can only assume the nice post office employee put in her two weeks immediately after helping me.” – Badger, Colorado Trail 2015
“In Manchester Center we slept behind a grocery store on a hill. In Gorham we slept on the back porch of a deserted bank. In another town, we slept behind a gas station next to a skunk den.” – Sammy
After climbing Wolf Mountain in torrential downpour and getting soaked to the bone, we are were daydreaming about dry clothes and a nice place to sleep. It was the middle of the night, still raining, and we were standing on the side of the road. We thought it was pretty useless trying to get a hitch back into Lincoln but we tried anyways. The first car to come by stopped and picked us up! It was an older fellow who was happy to drive us to the closest 24-hour laundry mat. So of course we got some McDonalds and settled in for the long haul.” – Sammy… again
“My husband and I thru-hiked the AT this year, and Gadget snapped this picture of us doing our laundry in the sink at the Braemar Castle in Hampton, TN, where there are no Laundromats.” –Chuckles & Little Red, AT 2015
“I picked up skittles dropped from someone’s backpack for miles and miles in NC. Ate them greedily.” – Anonymous
“This is me eating breakfast under a pit toilet awning on the Manistee River Trail in Michigan.”
“I strolled into town on an awful hot and humid day in New York. Drained of any energy, I had planned on camping just on the other side of town, only another few miles. Unfortunately, when I reached the zoo, it was already getting dark. I’m not entirely fond of night hiking, so I decided to stay in town. By “stay in town,” I mean sleep in a pavilion next to the zoo. It smelled awful, mainly due to the nearby lake and ample bird excrement throughout my sleeping quarters. Thankfully, there was also an ice cream vending machine near enough to provide snacks and an annoying hum all night. Also troublesome was the security patrolling the park. I got up multiple times in the night to make sure I wouldn’t be in the patrol car’s line of sight. After an awful night of sleep, I packed up around 4:30am to dodge any potential security problems, and hiked out of town. The smell of bird shit lingered around my pack for days after. Whatever being “hiker trash” is supposed to feel like, I think I got pretty close that night.” – Silent Bob, AT 2015
“Well I went into town to charge my phone, and washed my hair in the McDonalds sink while I waited.” – Anonymous
“We stayed in the pavilion at the public park in Unionville, New York. It started raining so we set up our tent inside the pavilion. A few minutes later, a high school kid came into the pavilion and hung out with us while he was waiting for his mom to pick him up. He told us about his girl problems, and we did our best to give him advice, while he apologized profusely for invading our home.” –Hare, AT 2015
“Sitting outside the Dollar General in Hot Springs, mixing a huge batch of trail mix in a sandcastle bucket. Then carrying that sandcastle bucket with me for the rest of my hike instead of buying a folding bucket.” -Loosie
And last but not least:
“I dropped my pack off at the Dartmouth Outing Club in Hanover my stench struggling to return to the force it was right before the previous days shower. My hiking group had continued on south but slightly tipsy from an impromptu wedding party I found myself in, I began to walk towards the university’s fraternity houses.
Dressed in nothing but my thongs (flip-flops for you Americans), ripped shorts, stained grey synthetic top and my Aussie bandanna I appeared completely out of place as skin-clad girls rushed into one of the houses in a fit of revelry.
I gathered up my courage, my curls acting in reckless abandon giving me the glorious hiker aesthetic, minus the epic beard and walked towards the porch.
“G’day lads!” I stared at them looking eloquently homeless, fresh out of the Whites the memories of Moosilauke so close I could grab them. “The names’ Strider, how ya doing?”
One of the stood up and brought over a chair in an act of bewilderment or fear. It was hard to tell.
They looked suave in their boat shoes and chinos yet could not have been more genuine. A half our later I was in their basement jumping on top of their ping pong tables rocking out to some seriously old tunes.
I was now in the lion’s den, the crowd was a tough one split roughly in to two groups:
1. Those that introduced themselves and ran off to grab a couple of beers as if I had just arrived in Damascus.
2. Those who gave looks of pseudo-wonderment and disgust, just like when trying to get a hitch in Pennsylvania.
But it mattered little as beer after beer went down. The lights were off but that didn’t stop people from trying to grab my headband, seeing the Union Jack and assuming I was British. Or even worse asking what I studied, as if my dishevelled look was merely bad fashion sense.
I struck up a conversation with a girl named Sam and it went something like this (the music was loud, so yes we were shouting):
“Sam, where are you from?”
“Nue Joiiseeeeeeeeeeeeee” I almost fell off the table someone jumped on my shoulders shouting the lyrics to some Blink song. “You doing the trail?”
‘Nah this is just my Halloween costume”
“Huh?…” She didn’t seem to get the joke.
Some time around 2am she says:
“Lets get out of here”
“Uhh yeah sure” I reply a little startled.
“Back to yours?” Whatever alcohol I had in my mouth suddenly went down the wrong hole as I lapse into a coughing fit.
“Umm, like to my tent?” She gave me the strangest look probably thinking where on campus this mysterious tent was. Of course it was in my pack, and barely big enough for the one.
One of the blokes from out front then yanks my hand and I stumble off the table, she’s suddenly gone, lost in a sea of heads.
Sometime around 3am I stutter out of the party, finishing off the final can, grab my pack and search for the white blaze. 10 minutes later I am at the New Hampshire/Vermont state line.
My headlamp chooses this night of all nights to run out of batteries which mattered little as I stagger along the side of a highway. It did matter when the path led down dimly lit street. My only hope:
The house with a garage light on.
“You guys know where the trailhead is?” I blurted out to four guys furiously playing table tennis in the early hours. They’re predictably spooked.
“You alright bro?” One of them asked.
“You look a little lost”
“Nah just looking for the AT” I stand there looking at them hoping that I was on the right track whilst they debate whether to call the local mental institution to find out if someone had escaped.
“At this time of night?”
“Ha!” I look down trying to gather some form of solid consciousness, “Yeah its a long story”
A half hour later I laid my sleeping mate down on the trail got out my sleeping bag and quickly passed out.
At 6am I was woken by two trail runners and I was on my way again.
24 miles awaited me.” – James Gault
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My gf seems to think I might already be hiker trash without having even started a thru-hike. While checking the oil in her car in a Kmart parking lot, I looked around for a napkin. Found one laying on the ground. After finishing and using it to also wipe my hands, I noticed my napkin came pre-stained with a bloody boogie. Eh, it isn’t likely to kill me all the way dead.
James Fucking Gault. Legend.
I sat here and read this with my wife and daughters! I am preparing for a 2017 thru hike and the family looks at me and say why would you want to go out there with those strange people! And all I could come up with was “I can’t wait to get there!”
After several days on the trail my husband and I came off trail near a visitor’s center in NH. I was in dire need of a shower and made my way to the public bathroom. There was a sink with a broken soap dispenser. I opened the top of the soap dispenser, stuck my bandana in there and proceeded to wash anything I could reach. As I was standing there in my shorts and sports bra, a woman opened the door to the bathroom, took one look at me and promptly turned and left. All I could do was laugh.