Tramily or Triends?

As we approach the three week mark on trail, I’m happy to announce, against all odds, we’ve made friends!! We went into our hike hoping for some friends to make it a lot more fun while hiking, and to reduce the chances of Britta bludgeoning me with my backpack by the time we hit Virginia.

Just the two of us, we can make it if we try

The initial stages of making friends on the trail are tentative a best; maybe you see the same person multiple times in a day? Maybe you give the awkward nod when you walk past them to the water source? Maybe after some lighthearted chat over dinner you sleep 1 foot away from them in the shelter? Regular occurrences such as these should bring you to some odd level of acquaintance. But the next step? Oh boy, that’s a doozy. How do you know when you’ve hit full tramily (trail family) status? I’m not big on trying to Define The Relationship in real life, but hiking has made it a little easier.

A trail family is a shifting shadow of definitions. Some people will hike all day with their tramily- walking from shelter to shelter within earshot of each other, non stop chitter chatter. Some tramilies enjoy a more distant ‘see you at the shelter’ approach, and just decide to camp at the same spot as one another each night. However, there are key indicators that define and separate friends from families. I’m going to try and break it down.


Distant learning from a TrAquaintance

A trail acquaintance is not a bad thing. It’s the first stage of making a friend on the trail. It may be your first night at a campsite with them, and you’ve camped so close to them that you can hear them roll in their sleeping bag. It might be too awkward to comment on how they sleep like a rotisserie chicken just yet- give it a couple more nights. They may impart knowledge on you, which is super great in the early days of the trail when you have no clue what you’re doing. But you may also not be ready to ask them their back story. Here’s some key markers of  a TrAcquaintance- 

  • First couple nights of knowing someone
  • Not 100% if you’ve heard their trail name correctly
  • Only really talk during dinner
  • Discuss how awful the day was, never flex it was ‘an easy day’


Making some Triends!

You’ve moved past the first stage. You’ve seen this person a couple times and maybe even asked their REAL name. Things are starting to get serious. A Triendship could even evolve from accidentally having the same hiking pace- because let’s face it, you could meet the nicest person, but if they’re hiking 20 miles and you’re doing 10, then it’s bye bye!

So what separates the first two stages? Really all stages are split by comfort level. Are you choosing to sleep next to this person in a shelter? Or have you drawn the short straw? Would you ask this person for a taste of their Wisconsin cheddar mash potato packet?  Would you ask this person for extra toilet paper? Of course you wouldn’t, you carry a bidet you genius. They haven’t quite evolved into a full tramily member, you do have boundaries after all. Very small, flexible boundaries. For instance, if they ask you to check their armpits for ticks and bites? Your initial reaction is queasiness. Here are some key markers of Triends

  • You talk about topics outside of thru hiking
  • You set up tents near each other
  • Sharing recipe ideas- mmm pulled pork and spaghetti
  • You’ve heard them sing pitbull with their earbuds in


A Tramily is a constantly changing definition. But it’s one of the strongest connection you can make on trail. Some tramilies are set, solid and closed off; some take in every lost little lamb that comes by and grow by the day. My idea of a tramily may not look like yours. That being said- it’s a scraggly bunch of misdirected weirdos that have decided to become intertwined with each other for as long as they can. Most likely they’ve driven off everyone else around them with inane jokes, putrid smells and sleep schedules that could wake a hibernating bear.

Again, as you head into a tramily, your level of comfort gets more lax. Ever wondered about your fellow tramily members bowel habits? You can just ask em! Got so much dandruff you could build a snowman? Sweep it onto them! Worried that you sleep like an roided up MMA fighter? Sleep 6 inches from them! (That’s aimed at you Britta). When you live in the woods with the same group for multiple weeks, there’s no level of grossness that’s out of bounds. 

Of course, on a serious note, the tramily is a wonderful support system. Especially in these early days as the learning curve is so steep, and the weather is so variable, it’s nice to have a group to joke about things with. Single digit temperatures aren’t so bad when you have a group to laugh about it with. Of course all things can come to an end- people get off trail due to injuries or problems back home. Though, it’s nice to know that even if the group could change, these life changing moments bind you all closer together. Here are some key markers of a tramily-

  • Washed your underwear in the sink together
  • A team effort to ensure there are no leftovers
  • A 2 person tent is just a suggestion
  • Making plans that inconvenience you just to stay together


A bonus section for you all! Trolls are the people who hang out at shelters for the primary aim of comparing themselves to you. Before you’ve even asked them their name they’ve asked how heavy your pack is. With the only interest of telling you how light theirs is. Even when you’ve made it clear you have no interest in knowing how much elevation there is tomorrow- they will yell that there is ‘3,245 feet climb exactly’. Which of course is very easy for them.
They are part and parcel of the trail, and by no means bad people. But, please, don’t ask me how heavy my shoes are. I’m just so tired. 

Slinky Section

Slinky out and about

‘I’m a Trouse! Your trail spouse!’

’I’m so cold I might throw up’

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Comments 5

  • David Groce : Mar 27th

    Great post! Thanks for taking the time to compose it. I’ll be following you along the way. Good luck.

    • Elliot Rollason : Apr 3rd

      Thanks so much for reading! Appreciate it

  • Siesta : Mar 29th

    Great read, Great Pix & even better hangin out with ya’ll in the Smokies!!
    Keep on Keepin On!!

    • Elliot Rollason : Apr 3rd

      Thanks siesta! Great meeting you


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