Tunes for the Trail: Making the Sounds as Epic as the Sights

Does anyone else out there have a little mental soundtrack for life? I know I can’t be the only one.

I grew up singing, fancying myself somewhat of an opera singer or a Broadway-type. One morning long ago, while hitting the high note of ‘The Angel of Music’ from the Phantom of the Opera, my sister firmly asked “Can you tell the Angel of Music to SHUT UP?” My 14-year-old self complied with her request at that moment, but I never REALLY stopped singing.

Now that I am graduated from college and have myself a grown-up job, I love attending concerts. The lights, sounds, crowds, and free-flowing beer are right up my alley. In fact, I have recorded some pretty stellar videos of musician’s killer vocals with my pitchy voice in the background duets in my life. Sadly, thru-hiking season and concert/festival season coincide. This year, I will forgo big-name live concerts, but I do not intend to forgo music all together.

Regarding music, I believe that thru-hikers are divided into two schools of thought.

  1. No music needed, the sounds of nature are beautiful enough.
  2. I can only listen to the sound of bugs/cracking twigs/my own thoughts/my partner’s huffing-and-puffing for so long. Bring on the tunes.

I belong in school 2. Nature sounds are fabulous. But the sound of birds chirping is just not going to motivate my to pump out some big miles the same way that Mumford & Sons, Zac Brown Band, or Pitbull will. The problem is, I haven’t figured out how to take music with me.

Option 1: Phone

Pros –

  • I already taking my phone with me (to blog, contact family, etc.)
  • I already own a phone
  • I know how to use my phone
  • Option to download books on tape or podcasts when in town

Cons –

  • I don’t have any music on my phone currently
  • I might need a bigger SD card for enough storage
  • Don’t know if I am able to download iTunes onto an Android phone
  • Don’t want to drain my battery (any recommendations for lightweight power banks greatly appreciated!)
  • No FM radio

Option 2: iPod

Pros –

  • I already own an iPod
  • iPod is lightweight
  • Music is already on my iPod
  • FM radio

Cons –

  • iPod is extra weight
  • Need to carry an extra charger
  • iPod is realllly old and battery is questionable at best

Option 3 – Purchase a lightweight AM/FM radio

Pros –

  • Much better battery life than phone or iPod option

Cons –

  • Radio is extra weight
  • Pricey, considering I don’t already own one
  • Quality of music may be poor depending on location
  • No option to play music I already own

Option 4: No music 🙁

Pros –

  • Get in touch with nature
  • Lots of quiet time

Cons –

  • Everything 🙁

Option 5: Give me your suggestions!

Pros –

  • Hikers are smart! Help a music-loving hiker out 🙂

Cons –

  • None; new ideas are rarely a bad thing!

Bonus Question: Has anyone planned specific songs for specific parts of the trail? At this time, I am really  feeling Sweet Emotion by Aerosmith for Katahdin.

Photo courtesy: Headphones by Celine Nadeau licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0



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Comments 10

  • Chris G. : Jan 8th

    the external battery pack im gonna start out with is this one

    If it is not what you are looking or Anker has about 1000 choices. I have heard other thru hikers on this site and others say they used some form of the anker external battery packs more than any others. I am gonna use my phone for all of my music/audiobook/podcast needs.

    • Heather P : Jan 9th

      In my research, I have come across several promising options from Anker. What kind of phone do you have? How is the battery life? How do you store your music?

  • Aaron : Jan 9th

    What kind of phone do you have? I’m surprised there isn’t an fm tuner built in already. Although where you’re going, will there even be reception?

    • Heather P : Jan 9th

      I have a Samsung Galaxy S7….there is an FM tuner but from what I buy eratand, Verizon locks it so it won’t work. Reception is the biggest reason I probably won’t choose just aneed AM/FM radio. I have no clue what kind of stations I would be able to get!

  • Tom : Jan 9th

    I am going with a RavPower 9000 MH; it has an integrated AC plug and an attached cord for my iPhone (3-4 charges), and a USB port for other devices; for music/picture capacity, I got a Lexar jump drive that holds 64G and plugs into my iPhone and then a iPod shuffle with a mini cord that can be recharged with the Rav through the USB port. Weight of the Lexar, iPod shuffle and cord: 1 (one) OZ total combined.

    • Heather P : Jan 9th


      I like that the RavPower gives multiple charges and is fairly lightweight (~8.5 oz). I am discovering it is very difficult to find a power banks that doesn’t weigh a brick but still holds decent charge. My phone seems to suck through battery, which is a major downer.

  • Michael Sweet : Jan 9th

    Maybe try a Sandisk Clip. The basic model has 8GB for $30. Less than an oz.

    • Heather P : Jan 9th


      Great suggestion! Looks affordable and lightweight! I will definitely be looking into that if I can’t figure out a reasonable way to make my phone work. Thanks for the tip!

  • Leah : Jan 9th

    SPOTIFY!! If you pay for premium, its $9 a month, you can download music onto your phone and listen offline. They have news stations, podcasts, some books on tape special live session with various bands and ALL KINDS of curated playlists, including your very own individualized one called “discovery weekly”, my favorite way to find new music, plus you can make your own playlists and download those too. AND you can send songs to friends who also have it which is a fun way to stay in touch. If your phone is on airplane mode you can listen to anything you have already downloaded. I personally love Spotify, if you can’t tell (no Lemonade or Taylor Swift but everything else you want is there) I have a Samsung and this is what I use and am planning on using on the trail. Some people think its expensive, I think it is totally worth it!

    • Heather P : Jan 17th


      OMG how have I not had Spotify before now? Seriously it is going to save my bacon for music and podcasts. Thank you for the GREAT tip. Now I just need to figure out how to power my phone enough to jam out to all the music at my fingertips!


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