14 Things I’ll NEVER Do on My 2024 AT Thru-Hike

Are you familiar with the drinking game I’ve Never? If not, let me explain. People will take turns making “I’ve never…” statements. For example, “I’ve never been to a hockey game.” If a person HAS done that thing, they take a drink. Not a particularly smart or competitive game, but it is a chance to learn more about your fellow game players, as the questions often become more intrusive as the game (and the imbibing) goes along.

As I’ve been preparing for my upcoming thru-hike, I’ve been focusing a lot on the things I should do and want to do on trail. This is a great strategy, but I can’t help but think about the things I don’t want to do or have happen on the trail. Thus, instead of I HAVE Never, I’ve been mentally playing a game of I WILL Never with myself and thought it would be fun to share here. So without further ado, I present to you my list!

I will never…

…start too fast

When facing the start of an almost 2,200-mile journey, I can totally understand the urge to just GET GOING ALREADY, but I also recognize the wisdom of learning from others who have gone before you and/or have more experience with AT thru-hiking. And those who are ‘in the know’ encourage new thru-hikers to keep their daily mileage total to no more than 8-10 miles a day for the first few weeks. Even though I like to do more miles per day on average during a section hike, I’m going to embrace the advice and, probably maddeningly, be finished with my daily miles much earlier in the day than I prefer. It’s a marathon, not a sprint!

…wear shorty shorts

When I’m out on section hikes of the AT, I can always tell when a thru-hiker is headed my way based on what they’re wearing on the bottom half of their body. No matter what the weather or temperature, thru-hikers are almost always wearing some form of gauzy, super tiny dolphin shorts. Now, I’m not yucking anyone’s yum, if the majority of them are doing it, it must be a good decision. It’s just that I never wear shorts in ‘real life’ or when I’m hiking, even in summer I wear cropped pants, it’s just what I’m personally more comfortable with. I’m fascinated by the shorty short phenomena. It’s clearly something that affects you when you’re on the trail for a certain period of time. I can’t wait to see if the need overtakes me.

…get blisters

Whoa! That’s a bold statement! Yes, yes, it is. But in the interest of naming it and claiming it, I thought I’d put it out here. Unfortunately, I think that some people’s skin is just more susceptible to getting blisters, just like some are more likely to get sunburned or have acne. Overall, I’m not prone to blisters, I can’t even remember the last time I’ve had one (it was likely as a child wearing some form of horrible, discount store, plastic flats for a dress up occasion). Of course, sometimes backpackers make choices that can exacerbate the likelihood of blisters, so these pitfalls should be avoided. My plan for my thru-hike is the same as every other backpacking trip I’ve ever taken: Ensuring my feet are in good shape going into a hike, wearing Darn Tough socks with Injinji liners (the double layer and separation of the toes help prevent rubbing), having my Merrell Antora trail runners (fast drying) a size bigger than I normally wear (gives your feet room to swell without abrading), wearing gaiters to keep debris out of my shoes, and keeping my feet clean on trail and airing them out every evening in camp (the camp shoes are worth the weight!).

…get lost

The AT is a well-marked and well used trail, but it’s still possible to lose your way. Of course, one can get turned around when leaving the trail to relieve oneself or to stealth camp, but even when on the trail, it’s possible to either get off on a side trail (or previous routing of the AT if one didn’t notice the usual logs and sticks placed to discourage hikers from going that way) or to accidentally go the wrong way while on the trail itself (meaning going south on the trail when you mean to head north or vice versa). Reading thru-hiker memoirs from years past, this was a fairly common issue, but thanks to an app called FarOut, which works with GPS even when one doesn’t have cellular service, this may be less of an issue now than ever before. FarOut not only shows me where I am in relation to the trail, but also helps me make sure I am heading in the right direction when I rejoin the trail from a shelter or potty break. When planning to hike almost 2,200 miles (not including side trails and town walking), I don’t want to go even a quarter of a mile out of my way inadvertently. While I trust FarOut completely, it does require a phone to use it and phones can get lost, broken, or fail in other ways, so please make sure you always have other navigational/location aids when going into the backcountry. In addition to FarOut, I have a guidebook, a compass, and a satellite messenger for emergencies.

…hike naked

This should go without saying, since I don’t usually do any outdoor activity naked, but the AT has a tradition on the summer solstice that people hike naked. If, as mentioned above, I’m not even comfortable hiking in shorty shorts, I can’t imagine being comfortable enough to go full monty. Again, let’s see what weird spell the AT will have on me by then.

…violate Leave No Trace guidelines

Yeah, I’m all for HYOH (Hike your own hike, a common saying on the trail meaning ‘you do you’) but LNT is a non-negotiable for everyone. It’s actually not that hard to stick to LNT guidelines, all you have to do is plan and prepare (uh, check), travel and camp on durable surfaces (the AT makes that convenient), leave what you find (um, that’s literally easier than messing with stuff), minimize campfire impacts (I like to hike all day and go to bed, no time for campfires), respect wildlife (I respect the heck out of wildlife), be considerate of other visitors (I care about others more than myself, it’s one of my toxic traits), and dispose of waste properly. That last one is usually the toughest for most people but really, once you accept it’s what you have to do, you just do it. Whatever you bring with you, comes out with you. That means no burning trash in the campfire ring (seriously, you thought a foil tuna packet was just going to disappear?) and making sure you use the potty correctly when you gotta go in the middle of nowhere (that could be its own post, so I won’t go into details). I can’t imagine dropping the ball on any of these principles.

…drink untreated water

My nerdiness extends deep into biosecurity and as a person who already has gut issues, I do NOT want any additional problems introduced into my GI tract. I have a water filter that I trust completely, so I don’t fear the general bacteria, protozoa, and cysts that may be present in backcountry water. The issue with this popular filter type is that it can’t remove viruses, due to their small size. Overall, that’s not usually a huge threat, but, on the AT, Norovirus often runs rampant, just due to the amount of people who traverse the trail each year (and due to their less than stellar handwashing habits). Right now, I plan to add an additional chemical treatment to my water after filtering, but let’s see how long I put in that extra step.

…poo in my pants

Well, since I just mentioned water borne illness and LNT, I guess I should add this, too. I mean, I have a lifelong goal to never crap my pants, but I’ve read enough about thru-hikes to know that sometimes it gets you. Whether it’s from illness or just trying to delay an inconvenient urge to defecate in an effort to make it to the next privy, shit sometimes happens.

…sleep with my food

Any past thru-hiker reading this post will probably laugh out loud at this declaration. It’s well known that many hikers brag about how ‘brave’ they are by sleeping with their food or that at the end of the day many don’t want the hassle of throwing a bear bag hang, so they take the easy route. For me, it’s not about what is best for me, it’s about what’s best for others and best for the trail. The more that bears associate food with people, the more likely that future incidents happen. These incidents don’t always involve a human victim (maybe just a tent was damaged) but the bears always end up as a victim, either being relocated far from their familiar surroundings or being killed. I get not wanting to go through the hassle of hanging a bear bag at the end of the long day, but the answer isn’t bringing your food into your tent or a shelter.

…check for ticks every night

Even I gasped a little when I typed this. What? Not check for ticks? Don’t you KNOW how many hikers have to get off trail each year because of tick borne disease? Yes, I know. And, honestly, the idea of suffering from Lyme disease or never being able to eat mammal meat again (Alpha-Gal) terrifies me. But I just don’t see how checking every inch of my moley body, including my nether regions and all my nooks and crannies each and every day is feasible. I’ll keep an eye out, but otherwise I’m just going to trust in the permethrin I treat my clothes with and try to stay out of high grasses and leafy areas.

…be surprised by Pennsylvania’s rocks

Again, just going by what I’ve seen and heard from others’ thru-hikes, it seems they always have heard how annoyingly difficult the rocks are on the Pennsylvania section of the AT, but they fail to believe it. Their disbelief ceases quickly once encountering the ‘shark fin’ style rocks that make every step a potential ankle sprain. Thanks to their stories and things like the annual thru-hiker surveys here at The Trek (in which poor northern Pennsylvania is always the least favorite section), I 100% believe that ‘Rocksylvania’ is gonna challenge the integrity of my leg joints and whatever is left of the shoes I’m wearing.

…think I’ll keep the same pace in New Hampshire and Maine

Along with Pennsylvania’s famous rocks, this is the other ‘I’ll believe it when I see it’ situation on the AT. Common wisdom is that whatever pace you have enjoyed going into the penultimate state on the AT, plan on cutting that to a third. Not BY a third, TO a third. So if one is pulling 18-mile days on the regular, be prepared to often only go six in these wild but beautiful states. I vow I won’t be so cocky as to be surprised by my reduction in daily miles.

…stop posting

Have you ever been following a hiker on their thru-hike and all of a sudden, it’s like they disappeared? I can only imagine how difficult it must be to post from the trail and I actually can’t imagine how difficult it is to make the decision to get off the trail, but I plan on posting no matter what. Sure, frequency may change, but I don’t ever want to ghost anyone cheering me on during my journey. I don’t want to actually disappear either, but hopefully my aforementioned precautions against getting lost will take care of that!


I’ve addressed this in previous posts (which you can always go back to read and subscribe here), but I’m doing everything I can to ensure the success of this hike and I’m removing any easy outs. If for some reason my hike has to end, it will be for circumstances beyond my control. That’s my plan!

Time will either promote you or expose you

I’ve experienced enough life to know that making sweeping declarations about something you have not done yet isn’t always a good look. I know I probably won’t get a perfect score when I revisit this list after I finish the trail, and I can’t wait for future me to dress down present me and humble her for all her hubris.

Any suggestions for things I might have left off this list?


Purple Lotus is a NOBO hiker in the AT class of 2024. Read her first post, an introduction of herself, here.

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Comments 6

  • Chip Dennison : Mar 1st

    As a former thru hiker, I can tell you that a few of these things will not be true… you will sleep with your food at somepoint, you will drink untreated water at some point. you will get lost at some point, although probably just for half hour or so.. still good. luck and have fun

    • Traci 'Purple Lotus' Withani : Mar 2nd

      I fully expect to report back on which ones I let go of!

  • d20 Marsh : Mar 3rd

    The Whites were slow but not a 67% reduction.

    I usually wore convertible pants as did many.

    But wish you well on your hike.

    • Traci 'Purple Lotus' Withani : Mar 3rd

      Oooh, well maybe not cutting down to a third will be a pleasant surprise for my ‘I Will Never’ list!

      Thank you!

  • Driftwood : Mar 3rd

    You’re gonna poop your pants, you may as well just rip that bandaid off right now.

    It may not be a full on waterfall of brown coating those shorts but it’ll be at least a spot.

    And the short shorts thing, well that’s for ventilation it’s awful moist on trail and you want the wind blowing down there as much as possible.

    • Traci 'Purple Lotus' Withani : Mar 3rd

      Out of all the 14 I Will Nevers, the poo one is definitely not one I’m looking forward to breaking!

      Yeah, I thought about the ventilation thing but then I feel like it would be cancelled out by thigh chub rub 🤔


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