Bookie’s Dirty Dozen on Trail Etiquette!

On the trail there is an unwritten set of “rules” or etiquette as it’s known in the real world.

No Shame is willing to spread the word!

No Shame is willing to spread the word!

These are randomly listed, there is no rhyme or reason for the number or order – other than to help me count properly.

1)  Search and rescue?  If you see a pack trail side, don’t look for its owner.  People often leave their pack along side the trail so they don’t have to haul it through the underbrush while scoping out a spot to squat.  Let them do their deed without you playing “Where’s Waldo”!

Don't go looking...

Don’t go looking…

2) Properly hang your bear bag.  There are wonderful little contraptions which grace the shelter rafters known as mouse hangers, as the name implies these are not designed as a means to keep your food out of reach of bears.  These are to hang your pack off of to reduce the chance of mouse damage.  If you hang food bags you have now created a bear piñata.  Please think beyond yourself as you are most likely sharing a shelter with multiple people.  If someone hangs a bear bag follow suit and respect their wish not to be bear bait.  Personally I will make a show of  bear bagging, talk about why I do it, and hope I don’t have to be the ass who outright tells you to get your food out of my sleeping space — this becomes highly embarrassing when I’m the ONLY person who doesn’t want to sleep with the enemy.

Proper bear bagging!

Proper bear bagging!

Bears may not frequent a shelter when there are many people there BUT if they start associating the shelters with food the one person who settles in for a night and bear bags is now at risk because of the association the bear has made between the shelter and the food!
Think about more than just yourself!!!

These little critters will chew through anything.

These little critters will chew through anything.

3) Share the trail. If you’re hiking down hill and there is a person coming uphill,  move over,  they are working harder than you to maintain momentum.  I know there is some equation which puts all of this in some scientific notation and proves this to be true but I don’t have that knowledge backwoods.

Rock scramble up and over the mountain.

Rock scramble up and over the mountain.

4) Use earbuds, the woods are full of many wonderful sounds and ceatures which many of us are hoping to experience.  If you want to use speakers be kind enough to turn them down or off when you meet other hikers.  It’s really challenging to get drawn into someone elses audio book only to have them walk off leaving me wondering what happens next with no idea of the book title.

5) Don’t be hiker trash,  pack out what you brought in.  I know you believe some other hiker may have use for your 3/4 eaten jar of peanut butter you left behind who knows when, or the plastic poncho which is shredded beyond repair, or maybe even the wrapper from the baloney you ate for lunch.  Hiker boxes are not a method of disposal for you, put items in them which may help others, not hinder.

Hiker Magic turned to Hiker Trash

Hiker Magic turned to Hiker Trash

6)  Canine courtesy.  If you have your dog on trail please have them “under control”.  A term which again lacks definition so let’s give it one.  You are responsible for your dog’s actions! Your dog should return to you when called the first time, not on the 6th or 7th time.  Don’t assume that it’s ok for your dog to greet other dogs just because yours is friendly, not all other dogs are (even if they are off leash).  A dog racing up and down a busy trail puts other hikers at risk and puts your dog at risk.  I will use my trekking poles if need be to keep myself and my dog safe, sorry if this sounds harsh but in the backwoods our safety comes first.

Keeping them.on lead may be the best choice sometimes.

Keeping them on lead may be the best choice sometimes.

7) White Blazing Vs. white blazing:  To follow white blazes painted on trees, rocks, and posts between Georgia and Maine, not the “white blazing” of toilet paper dropped along the trail.  There has become a serious tissue issue where folks seem to believe it’s important to make sure the trail is well marked.  When the AT passes through areas where other trails meet up with it, creating higher traffic, the number of blazes increases drastically.  If you need to wipe, pack it out with you or bury it.  We didn’t come out to nature to see toilet paper, tissues and wet wipes littering the trail.

This is not "white blazing" as we know it!

This is not “white blazing” as we know it!

The "Real" White Blaze!

The “Real” White Blaze!

8) Speak up before its too late.  If you’re in a shelter or enclosed space with others be honest.  If you snore, sleep walk, scream, or have some other fascinating night time habits share this with others so they have the choice to stick around or not.

Rumor has it, on cold nights I snore quietly.

9) When in a shelter silence electronics and let folks know if you have an alarm set.  There is nothing more frustrating than being half asleep and listening to text messages come through or being woken by someone else’s alarm hours before your wakeup time.

10) “Hiker midnight” is the hour of respect.  If the sun has gone down and you’re coming into camp, be quiet, keep your headlamp directed away from people sleeping, and settle in respectfully.  20150822_193508

11) Be aware of others on the trail.  I know you are the fastest hiker out there, just as I know I am! But if we are both the fastest it’s likely at some point we’ll have to let the other pass.  If you are coming up behind me and want to pass PLEASE announce yourself before you’re three feet away! If you are that close you may not like the results when you scare the shit out of me!

You've been warned!

You’ve been warned!

12) Don’t piss or shit next to a water supply!  It’s common sense that you don’t “shit where you eat”!  I don’t know what else to say regarding this, it seems pretty self explanatory.  This is being brought up because I hiked past a tent set up, middle of a busy trail, with a fresh pile of poop not four feet away from it and less than a foot from a stream.

Water supplies are to be treated with love, respect, or a filter... not your shit.

Water supplies are to be treated with love, respect, a filter… not your shit.

13) Community space.  If you’ve settled into a spot and overtaken most of the area be understanding when someone else shows up and move your stuff for them.  I like to create “yard sales” daily and often infringe on others space unwittingly.  In the same light if you’ve finished in an area move along if someone else needs it, ie table space, cooking area and so forth.  Hikers opt not to touch other hikers belongings, one of the other unwritten rules.

Yup... my very own yardsale!

Yup… my very own yardsale!


** I must apologize for any errors or posts which seem haphazard.  I have discovered that my posts do not always present the way they are on my phone – I’ve had earlier drafts become my final post.  The battle of technology on the trail**


Keep on Trekking!

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Comments 11

  • Jarod Fleming : Aug 25th

    Disagree on #2, if a hanger is available (& there is no animal reports in the journal) I’ll use the hangers. 99% of shelters don’t have a bear problem and those that do are fairly well known.

  • Nova : Aug 26th

    I also disagree with number two. I frankly get annoyed when people put
    their packs on the mouse hangers because that’s where I put my food! I
    rarely hang my pack and the mice never go in it; a pack with no food
    odors doesn’t seem to tempt them.
    I think a better rule would be to not eat or cook in sleeping areas–because, no matter how careful you are, crumbs and spills happen.

    • Gator Tater : Oct 9th

      I understand some of these are personal opinions (of more than one person). We seem to forget that we are making an impact on the natural environment and the less of an impact we can have the better. When we get lazy and opt not to properly store food, bear bagging, we are creating the possibility of future problems. I realize there are very few issues with bears at shelters and those which do have issues are often posted. But why create the chance for issues at more shelters. I’ve had situations with bears in camp, and I hike with a dog, and if my food bag hadn’t been hung I’m scared to think what the outcome may have been.

      • June : Dec 29th

        Why don’t people want to hang there food? Lazy or just willing to risk it.

        • Erin M Tuveson : Dec 29th

          I think you’ll hear a mix of reasons. From what I experienced those were the primary 2 reasons. There was also lack knowledge about bear bagging vs mouse hangers.
          And some folks believe with out a doubt that there is NO risk of bears coming into shelter areas.

  • Sue : Aug 31st

    I’m with Bookie on bears. All I can say to those who don’t and won’t hang food appropriately is that it is extremely disrespectful both of your fellow hikers and dangerous for the bears. You may have been lucky thus far, but the hikers preceeding you may not have been and your next stop may be your undoing. Please be aware that bears that become problems because of the lessons taught at shelters, on the trail and in our back yards are “destroyed”. Hang your food because it is the intelligent thing to do for the sake of the hikers following you and best for our bears.

    • Nova : Sep 14th

      Bears do not become a problem because of food hung neatly from mouse hangers while hikers snore below them. Bears become a problem at shelters because some people leave food waste nearby, usually in the fire pit, which the bear can then check out when no one is around. Likewise some people abandon food in shelters and sometimes even spill food in shelters. Or they’ll leave food-encrusted pots outside the shelter all night. I don’t think food wrapped up tight on mouse hangers–with hikers present–is a problem anyone need seriously worry about 99+% of the time.
      So unless a problem bear has been reported in the area and/or a bear has been sighted near the shelter, (or if it’s a local regulation) I can’t see how it is at all disrespectful to hang food from mouse hangers.
      I know you think it’s “extremely disrespectful” and that your opinion on the matter is “the intelligent thing to do”, but I really don’t see how the facts bear that out.
      See what I did there 🙂

      • Silvia : Aug 30th

        because of the possibility (especially this year with less rain in New England and less berries and food sources) of a bear coming to the shelter and your food is hung there. Once they get it, they’ll keep coming back. Why be lazy (unless there are zero trees to hang from) when there is still a chance of habituating wildlife other than the rodents? It maybe a .05% chance, but it’s still a chance.

  • Gary : Dec 29th

    I tend to agree with the author. If you practice good safe habits with food in bear country, it helps prevent incidents. As far as mouse hanging my pack in shelters! I will!

    • Erin M Tuveson : Dec 29th

      Use those mouse hangers for that pack! Respect the wildlife and they’ll respect you!


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