A Day in the Life of a Long-Distance Hiker

Life on the trail is very different from the real world. It’s hard to share every day and moment, but for those of you wondering, here is a rough sketch of a typical day for me.

The Morning

2:30: I wake up needing to pee. I try my best to ignore it and go back to sleep.

6:45: My alarm goes off. I roll over in my sleeping bag and pretend it’s not time to wake up.

7:15-7:45: I’m fading in and out of sleep until I finally feel the pressure of needing to start the day, so I begin to make moves.

7:45-8:30:  Get ready for the day, including eating breakfast, putting on my smelly hiking clothes, using the privy, and packing up my bag. Recently, the cold mornings have made this part of the day extra challenging.

8:30: Hopefully I’ve started hiking by this time. In the summer, I was going by 7:30 at the latest, but now I might not start until 9.

8:45: I wonder how long it’s been, and to my dismay, I’ve only been walking for 15 minutes.

9-10: I look for a landmark or two to see how far I’ve gone. Usually, I hike anywhere from 2.5 to 3 mph, but I don’t use Guthook’s, the popular trail app that notes your GPS location, so having landmarks that I match up with AWOL’s guide helps me to know where I am.

A page from AWOL’s guidebook.

10:30: Time for my first break! Man, does it feel good to take off the pack. First, I pee because I’m not skilled enough to do that with my pack on, so I’ve been holding it and really got to go. Then, I eat a snack, like a Clif bar. Bonus if it has extra protein or caffeine (the cool mint chocolate flavor is my jam). After five to ten minutes, I put my pack back on and get moving.

Midday

11:45: Maybe I’ll put on some music or a podcast to keep up my motivation. I know I should be enjoying the beautiful nature around me, but when you’re hiking day in and day out for months on end, you get bored sometimes. Therefore, audiobooks, podcasts, and music can be helpful. I even have met a couple of people who watch movies when they hike! I’d rather not fall flat on my face, but hey, hike your own hike.

12:30-1:  I try to go at least two hours between breaks. If I can stretch that time, I will, but sometimes it ends up being less. However, in the early afternoon, I stop for lunch. When I stop also depends on my landmarks. Ideally, I’ll take my lunch break at a scenic spot or a shelter with a good place to sit. Jackpot if it’s a scenic spot with seats!

A good view in Virginia- worthy of a break!

2: By this time, something in my body is probably hurting. Most often it’s my feet or back. I do some math in my head to see how much farther I have to go and how long that will likely take me.

3-3:30: I stop for my last planned break of the day. A sugar-loaded snack is just what I need to refuel after I’ve emptied the tank, and by tank, I mean my bladder.

Late Afternoon/Evening

4:45: I pick up my pace because I’m antsy to get to camp. I know it’s about the journey and not the destination, but I can’t help wanting to get from point A to point B. This is true for not only the adventure on a larger scale, but within each individual day. I often find myself wanting to be 1,000 feet higher up a mountain or lower on a descent. And at the end of the day, I just want to be home for the night.

5:15-6: I rejoice at the sight of a shelter or campsite! My pack can come off and stay off for the day. Hopefully I will have done 17-23 miles.

6-7:15: It’s not quite time to totally relax. First, I have to do my camp chores. These include setting up my tent and sleeping equipment, fetching and filtering water, cooking dinner, getting into cozy, slightly cleaner clothes, brushing teeth, etc. If I am at a shelter, I will usually write in the logbook. It’s fun to follow those ahead of me who sign in, so maybe there are others who might follow me.

7:15-8: If others are camping, maybe I’ll socialize with them a little. Mostly, I check my watch to see if it’s not too early for bed because the sun is down, so it’s already hikers midnight, and I am tired AF.

I look forward to getting in my tent and sleeping bag at the end of the day.

8:30: I’m 100 percent in my sleeping bag by now if I wasn’t already. However, immediately before that I pee one last time.

11: I wake up wondering if it is morning. When I check my watch, I happily roll over to catch some more Zs.

Other Variations

Of course, none of my days are as simple as this. There are usually more stops, probably to pee or check out a view. I usually have lots of thoughts running through my mind and at least one song stuck in my head. Sometimes I run into hikers heading in the opposite direction, and we chat for a few minutes. Occasionally, I’ll be headed into town for the night, where I can do laundry, shower, and resupply. Typically, I aim for about 20 miles, but I might nero (near-zero) to or through town. Each day on trail is as unique as a snowflake, but maybe my outline gives you some idea of how the day generally goes.

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Comments 5

  • Sandy : Oct 23rd

    Nice post! Where are you now? I bet it is starting to get cold. Keep on hiking!

    Reply
  • Stefan : Oct 23rd

    Stay strong.

    Reply
  • Appalachian trail hike for Make A Wish : Oct 24th

    funny, nice st0ry

    Reply
  • Steve : Oct 26th

    I was reading this blog (for the first time) and then realized we met at the REI in Milford. I’m glad to read you are on the trail, having a positive attitude and still going strong. Best of luck as you continue on this amazing journey!

    Reply
    • Emma Rosenfield : Nov 15th

      That’s so funny! And thank you!

      Reply

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