Can’t We All Just Get Along

So far the biggest surprise I’ve encountered out here isn’t bears or weather, it’s the division within this community of crazy hikers.

It started several weeks ago when a kid and his ultralight ZPacks gear sped past me on an uphill. He stopped briefly only to comment on the chacos I had hanging from my pack saying, “you shouldn’t carry those shoes, they’re too heavy.” He then sped past me and kept going before I could even shake the confused look from my face and react. “Thank you random person I don’t know on the advice I didn’t ask for,” I thought. If I want to carry a full size camp chair strapped to my pack, I will! (Which I have seen done before, and props to that guy).

The judgement, oh the judgement!

It’s only continued from there. Is lighter better? Or is it about comfort? Is it ok to take a blue blaze around a summit? Is slack-packing cheating? Is it more about the miles or the experience? Luckily, you don’t have to hike long before people will start answering those questions for you – and it’s usually in some speech against your will.

Don’t get me wrong here, I’d love to debate all things hiking if you’re willing to meet me and sit down to chat about it. I find hiking culture fascinating and truly enjoy talking about it for hours. On the other hand, it’s the drive-by Chaco comments, whispers under people’s breath, and the general “what you’re doing is wrong, and therefore everything I’m doing is right” attitude that’s really caught me off guard out here. That’s not the kind of community I was expecting to walk into.

So, is it about the miles or more about the experience of the journey?

Why can’t it be both?

The ATC defines a thru-hike as “a hike of the entire A.T. in 12 months or less.” That’s it! Any other rules you impose on yourself are part of your hike.

Do you want to wake up at 5am and hike 30 miles a day? Go for it!

Huge fan of slack packing and meeting as many people as possible? More power to you!

Are you the last one out of camp and love a 15 mile day? Do it!
(This one is me by the way)

We don’t have to sit around a fire holding hands and singing songs, although that would be a ton of fun, but we’re all out here doing the same thing: hiking the AT.

I think the lighter gear gets and the more options there are for every single aspect of hiking, the more combinations exist to customize this journey. That’s what makes it so cool! What works for you may not work for someone else, but we don’t need to be constantly telling other hikers they’re wrong.

I’m no angel, I was guilty of this at the beginning of my journey. I was so surprised by what another hiker was carrying or how they were doing something that I couldn’t help but comment. Unless someone is really endangering themselves or asking for help, let them hike their hike.

So high fives all around – whether you’re ultralight, a 70lb packer, a slacker, a 5-month(er), a 10 mile-a-day(er), or believe the last one to Katahdin wins.

– Bottles

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 15

  • Brian Bowden : Aug 4th

    A-MEN to this story.

    • Mary : Aug 5th

      That was an excellent post! You learned some great lessons of life by coming to your conclusion. I find the problem to be pretty much the same in the whole spectrum of life. There is way too much do it my way and you’re right, do it different and your wrong. It’s a horrible pattern in human behavior. Hence the creation of hike your own hike, and live your own life. Take this glorious attitude you have found with you in life and you will live in Freedom. Just the thoughts of an old Grandma.

  • Bob : Aug 5th

    Great post KT.

  • Bonsai : Aug 5th

    Yes! Love this, thanks for the post. I’m thru hiking the PCT right now and the judgement stretches out to this side of the country as well. It always amazes me that people can judge another person’s efforts to completing a long trail on their terms. Best of luck with the rest of your trek!

  • Kelly Anderson (Sleeping Beauty) : Aug 6th

    This is a great post (even though it stirred up annoying memories of similar encounters)! My favorite were the judgmental looks by 5am-ers rolling into the shelters at 10am to find me still there packing up or drinking coffee!

  • Mark Stanavage : Aug 6th

    Spot on! If someone complains about sleeping on hard surfaces I will venture an opinion on hanging because I’d like to help if I can. But taking a whiz on somebody else’s corn flakes is just wrong. Most uncomfortable time on the trail for me was when two hiking partners asked me which was right (hike every moment of daylight vs take it easy, frequent breaks, at 4:00, stop and hole up for the night) . If your curious, I just pointed out the positives of both and busted out hoping they didn’t catch up. Never heard HYOH spat out like a curse before or since.

  • Ray Coffield / Beep : Aug 6th

    Great read, hike your own hike.
    I agree 100% with you.
    I love my greagrey pack and can not count how many times someone said you need to get a lighter pack
    “It’s my pack don’t worry about it”

  • richard morriss : Aug 6th

    Right on target. It seems people need to try to convince you that you are wrong in order to justify that what they are doing is right. Applies to all life not just hiking.
    Remember to plot your own path, pick your own pace and pack your own pack. Go solo if you must….. but HYOH.

  • Liz : Aug 7th

    Wow, I thought I was going crazy and was the only one who felt this way. This is my biggest surprise as well!

  • Ruth morley : Aug 7th

    I’m only in week two of my flip flop on the AT (doing the south late summer/fall, the north next spring/summer). I have been corrected that this isn’t really a thru hike. Get out of my face. 12 months is 12 months. And if it turns out to be 12 months and a week, it’s still my own thru hike.

    Amazing how arrogant insecure people can be. I appreciated your post.

  • lorrie hess : Aug 11th

    Glad to have the heads-up before I hike NOBO next spring. It will help me let the unsolicited comments roll off and drop to the trail behind me…. I hope 🙂

    • deegee : Aug 14th

      planning a nobo next April-newbie so i’ m sure i’ll do most things wrong. i’ll be prepared to consider helpful suggestions and unhear superior commentary

  • Jeff A : Aug 11th

    So true. Unsolicited advice is never well received and although we all know that, we seem to forget; a lot. All in our lives seems to be a competition. Not sure if this is more collateral damage from social media, or has been part of humanity from the beginning. We seem to need to be righter than everyone else and if we can convince someone else, then that must validate that we were right all along. Right?

  • MGD : Aug 11th

    Funny I never heard of this before we started our adventure. Remember the 26 miler guy whining about shin splints near Grayson? You asked if he was going to zero and he said ‘I’m here to hike, not take zeros.’ Or the people that go stoveless but want you to heat water for them when it’s cold. I think we both took something from all of those judgie moments and it made us better people. You are one of the sweetest, most chill people I’ve ever met. I know you won’t let it get to ya. Love ya Bottles. Rock it sis

  • FM : Aug 12th

    You appear to be the victim of a narcissist drive by shooting.

    Here’s a happy thought:

    Aren’t you glad he’s light as a feather and moving so fast that you’ll never have to see him again?


What Do You Think?