Awful Hiker Advice – Lessons Learned

You can learn a lot from your fellow hikers just ask them!  Actually you don’t have to ask them because as soon as you mention that you are going on a long distance hike around “seasoned” hikers you will get all the advice you can handle and then some. I grew up in the mountains of Pennsylvania and have been hiking all my life. My family is full of hunters, outdoorsmen, survivalists, and homesteaders. I am the lone computer nerd in a family of technophobes and though I have not embraced the wilderness lifestyle like my kin, my head is full of tips and tricks passed down from generation to generation. This sage advice has proven invaluable to me if only to prove that 75% of all outdoor advice is complete and utter bullshit..

I have tried each and every one of these tips and can attest that I have found them worthless and sometimes disgusting.


1. Pine Needles and Branches Can Replace Your Toothbrush

My grandfather told me once that he had never bought a toothbrush or toothpaste, that the only thing he needed was some pine needles and a green pine branch to chew on in the morning.  And I have seen this same advice passed from hiker to hiker.  If you want to smell like gin and enjoy bleeding from the gums for days, by all means stick that branch in your mouth. Supposedly green pine needles when chewed solves every problem you could think of – Colds, anemia, headaches, scurvy..  some people brew it into tea and drink it every day.  It tastes exactly like pine-sol smells, bitter and antiseptic. The worst part is the taste stays with you for the entire day.  When I tried this I spent the better part of a day trying to rinse the hate from my mouth.  It’s possible pine needles can cure anything but it tastes so bad I would rather die.

I later learned my Grandfather wore dentures..


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2. “I have a natural bug repellent”

Tea Oil, Witch Hazel, hanging your clothes by a smoky campfire, lavender, carrying a sprig of mint in your pocket, rubbing yourself with lemon juice, the list goes on and on and on.. Mosquitos and ticks thank you for adding a bit of seasoning to their meal.  Douse yourself in lemon juice all you want by the end of the second day in a Pennsylvania summer you will be begging for the agony to stop.  Those little bloodsuckers are relentless and dangerous, and perhaps the biggest threat while hiking.

Do yourself a favor, there is one and only one solution to bugs and that is Permethrin.




3. Dr. Bronners as Toothpaste

Another toothpaste replacement post??  Yes I didn’t learn my lesson after the pine debacle…  Dr. Bronners soap is great to have on the trail, it makes for an awesome way to wash up or wash clothes in a environmentally respectful way. However I see tons of advice telling people to use this as a toothpaste replacement, JUST DON’T..  The minty smell makes you think this might be okay, and hey that dude at the last shelter suggested it and he seemed cool.

But I am telling you now as a fellow who has had his mouth washed out with soap many many times in his youth Don’t do it..  At first it is fine and then the aftertaste hits you, and no amount of rinsing, spitting or scouring the inside of your mouth with a snickers bar will save you.. It makes everything for the next two days taste like a bears ass.  Just carry some Crest please.



4. “You will get used to shitting in the woods”

No.. no you won’t..  Take the worst public restroom you have ever seen, now take away all of the privacy and hygiene now multiply that image in your head by 20 and you have the average A.T. shelter privy.  Bodily functions are a way of life and our diet on the trail does not make for a pleasant rose garden when it comes time to disembowel. Dropping trou in 30 degree weather while squatting over a hole in the ground leaning against a tree and hoping against hope your pants are out of the way is no way for a civilized society to poo. Trust me that while you have to do it there is no way to make it better, you will dream of a golden porcelain throne every day.  And to those folks who tell you a rock makes perfectly fine toilet paper, I say shards of glass might make a fine breakfast cereal but you won’t find me trying it.

5. “It’s just a quick side hike to a great view”

It’s just a quick 1.5 mile hike to a spectacular view..   After a winding uphill rocky, rooty path you come to a clearing and you are expecting this:


What you get is this:


Consider yourself warned..

What are some of your favorite hiking myths you have come across?



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Comments 7

  • zrdavis : Feb 13th


  • Wormer : Feb 14th

    White pine needles make a good tea

  • Ellen Baldwin : Feb 17th

    Baahaha!! This is great.

  • Jessica : Feb 18th

    This is so awesome, LOL! Especially the bug one. I ate cloves of garlic and smelled for weeks and I swear the bugs liked it more…

  • Trillium : Feb 19th

    The last one… the “view” totally cracked me up. YUP!!! Practically every one on the AT is the same (except in Maine, where a few lakes were thrown in).

    • Angie LOL Holbrook : Feb 28th

      charlie’s bunion is totally worth it.

  • Cr : Feb 20th



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