Seven Unexpected Trail Obstacles

I have now been on trail for 1,700 miles. Along the way I’ve encountered many of the more common trail challenges (rain, mud, bad days, rain and mud on bad days). But there have also been a lot of unexpected obstacles on trails—things I never would have thought to be an issue before starting this hike. Whether it’s for my own laziness, timing, or some other reason, here are seven trail obstacles I didn’t expect.

Staying hydrated in town

There is soda! Beer! Juice! Real coffee! It’s easy to forget to drink water while in town for rest and resupply. Don’t forget to hydrate because no one wants to hike hungover.

Having a “true” zero

Many hikers talk about the town trap and staying in town longer than planned. This is a true dilemma. I would also add that it’s important to truly rest while in town. Don’t just resupply and do laundry. Sit with friends. Take a nap. Watch five hours of Battle Bots. Go bowling. Your body and mind need the break.

When food gets in the way

Multiple articles could and have been written about food and the trail. The obstacle I’m thinking of is how to prioritize your food priorities. Do you pack out calorie-dense food or healthy food? Food that weighs more or less? Eating that grease bomb meal instead of that salad sounds far more appealing. Fresh food or packaged? It can be a headache to walk the line of food priorities and balance your body’s wants and needs.

Collecting articles of clothing

Gotta have that awesome Hawaiian shirt from the hiker box. An extra pair of socks is nice. A town outfit. Before you know it your clothing bag weighs as much as your food bag.

Tactfully ending conversations

I enjoy meeting and talking with new people. But it can get tiresome repeatedly answering the same questions. It’s easy to forget that thru-hiking is unusual to most people. I’ve found that having an elevator-pitch-style response crafted for commonly asked questions is a tactful way to keep conversations concise so you can keep hiking.

Writing postcards and calling home

Finding time is difficult. Finding energy can be difficult. Finding a good phone signal or postage stamp is not always possible. To my friends and family, I swear that I like keeping in touch with you even if I don’t always sound like it. Seriously, it’s not you, it’s me (and my body and the trail) that makes me yawn on the phone.

Updating social media/journaling/blogging/however you like to document your hike

Hiking all day is exhausting and making camp is tiring. Admittedly, my motivation is lacking at the end of the day to think of a quippy line for an Instagram post or taking the time to record what I’ve done and thought of that day. Crafting a piece of writing to share with others can sometimes feel like its own mountain. It’s far more enjoyable to spend time with tramily and listen to The Hobbit being read aloud (with voices) before bed. And isn’t that really what the trail is about?

What unexpected obstacles have you encountered?

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 2

  • Josh Johnson : Sep 7th

    I definitely relate with the last one, but it’s actually half challenge and half relaxing for me. I tend to journal and make sequential notes on my day and then when I feel a burst of energy, I go back over it and make a nice sounding blog about that day(s).

  • Scott C : Jan 9th

    What happened? You were getting close and the posts stopped. Did you make it? Thanks for sharing!


What Do You Think?