Yellow Is the New White: Yellow Emergency Hiking Brick Becomes AT Icon

The most famous Appalachian Trail thru-hiker of 2024 is an unflappable yellow brick. If you’re on social media or deeply embedded in the hiking community, you may have already heard of it. It is known, very reasonably, as the Yellow Emergency Hiking Brick, or YEHB for short.

The name says it all, really. It is a canary-yellow brick with a caution-tape pattern of black bars around the edges. Red marker scrawled across one of its six faces proudly proclaims its purpose: “EMERGENCY HIKING BRICK: FOR ALL YOUR EMERGENCY BRICK HIKING NEEDS.” But of course.

This is no stationary masonry either. The YEHB is a brick on the move. Thru-hikers, bless them, keep picking the brick up, putting it in their backpacks, and carrying it relay-style up the AT. Passed like a baton from one hiker to the next, it has traveled over 500 miles to Marion, VA since appearing on trail at Neel Gap last month.

News of this inexplicable phenomenon has spread, gaining the brick a substantial following in the AT community. It now has its own Facebook page and a soon-to-be-viral (I assume) hashtag: #gettheyellowbricktokatahdin.

Where Did the AT’s Yellow Emergency Hiking Brick Come From?

Gadget signs the YEHB. MEL🦋 (Gadget)

It was a blustery March day when a thru-hiker known as Gadget and her companions first discovered the as-yet anonymous block perched alongside the AT at Neel Gap.

According to Gadget, the YEHB had been created by a thru-hiker named Rifle, whom they had met days before. Assuming Rifle had walked the brick there from Springer, the group cheerfully decided to keep the magic going. They all signed it, some adding personal touches (“Bring me to Katahdin!” wrote one. “Zpacks makes a version that’s 2.5 oz lighter,” scrawled another), and then a hiker named Cheeseblock tossed it in his pack and off they went.

(He) carried it 20 miles to Blue Mountain Shelter and left it there,” Gadget explains in a helpful YouTube video on the YEHB’s origins. “We’re pretty sure it weighs about four pounds.” (I just googled and can confirm that the average brick weighs a bit more than four pounds, according to the Belden Brick Company.)

According to the video, the group later learned that Rifle had painted the brick in town and dropped it off at Neel Gap when he got a ride back to the trail — but by then there was no stopping the YEHB’s momentum. A series of hikers have transported the brick through nearly 25 percent of the AT’s miles with no sign that its northward progress will slow anytime soon.

The brick has been through a lot in its short existence. Recently, it cracked in half after suffering a bad fall and was subsequently glued back together — but like any determined thru-hiker, a little hardship isn’t getting in its way.

Since it started at Neel Gap, should the brick be considered a flip-flopper? In order for it to complete all 2,197 miles of the Appalachian Trail, some dedicated trail angel or hiker will have to help it flip south to complete the 30-odd miles between Springer and Mountain Crossings at some point.

No doubt plenty of YEHB enthusiasts will be eager to volunteer. The brick might be the closest thing to a viral internet sensation the AT has ever seen.

A Phenomenon On and Off the Trail


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A post shared by Boots Off Hostel & Campground (@bootsoffhampton)

“Of the 100 or so guests so far, most have heard of the brick,” says Hoody, the owner of Zero Day Stay. The hiker hostel, which is located near the Maryland-Pennsylvania border, is offering a free one-night stay to whichever hiker walks the brick to the hostel. “Somebody posted a picture of it on a Facebook group, with a little backstory, and I thought it was hilarious,” Hoody tells me via email.

He’s not the only one who’s been charmed by the gold-hued rectangular prism. Hostels, shuttles, and other businesses catering to hikers have posted gleeful offers for free rides, stays, etc. for brick bearers. 

Numerous hikers have shared their own experiences carrying the brick on social media, and the intrepid bit of masonry has acquired so many signatures that it now comes with its own hiker log so all can record their brick encounters without marring its glorious yellow visage.

Several brick carriers did not respond to a request for comment for this article. Presumably because they’re busy being thru-hikers and, possibly, transporting small quantities of building materials to Maine.

Meanwhile, Follow the Yellow Brick Trail, a YEHB tracking Facebook page, is fast becoming the source for YEHB-related news.

The group has gained hundreds of members in its 12-day existence, with new posts coming out every day ranging from YEHB last-known-location updates, calls for news (“Any new sightings???”) and brick-related photography and videos. Many posters are there simply to express the hope that they’ll someday see the brick in the flesh … I mean … clay?

Lee Lovelace says he created the group after seeing YEHB posts on another page. “I just wanted to make a place where we could all collaborate to track its progress,” he says. “Thought it would be fun … Funny how something as basic as a brick can bring people together and get them excited.”

But Why Though?

YEHB on Albert Mountain. Joe Beggs

The Yellow Emergency Hiking Brick isn’t the first unconventional thru-hiking mascot to make its way to Katahdin — nor even the heaviest. Hikers have carried everything from leaf blowers to a giant WWE-style wrestling belt from Georgia to Maine.

In 2016, a group of hikers walked a pair of size 13 men’s hiking boots up the trail, passing them from hiker to hiker in the same manner as the brick, as famously documented in the film Paul’s Boots. They had a good reason to do so: the boots had belonged to a man who passed away before he could realize his lifelong dream of thru-hiking the AT.

In contrast, the YEHB seems to just … exist. Because why not?

Indeed, the brick’s wholesome simplicity appears to be the basis of its appeal. “I just love this,” said Hoody of the brick. “It’s like shoe trees, bubblegum walls — just silly American nonsense just for fun.” The brick is a distillation of AT culture itself: strange, funny, uncomplicated, and oddly pure.

In an increasingly disconnected world, it’s a great example of social media uniting people rather than distancing them. Whether you’re a thru-hiker in Virginia, a hostel owner in Maryland, or an AT enthusiast on the other side of the planet, the YEHB invites everyone to join the fun.

Perhaps it’s a testament to just how deep our need for connection and community runs, that hikers are willing to haul the equivalent of an extra two days’ food, or an extra tent (or two) over the AT’s challenging terrain, just to be part of the yellow brick magic.

Move over, white blaze. There’s a new rectangle in town, and it’s vying for “Most Iconic Quadrilateral on the AT” status.

A Short List of Potential Uses for the Yellow Emergency Hiking Brick

How can something so small and yellow be so thoroughly shrouded in mystery? We know, of course, that it is an emergency hiking brick, for all our emergency brick hiking needs.

But what might those needs be? And how might the brick meet them? It doesn’t come with a user manual, so we’ve brainstormed some helpful possible applications for the brick:

  • Anchor your tent: Use the YEHB as a spare tent stake.
  • Leave No Trace: Keep empty snack wrappers from blowing away in the wind.
  • Prevent fires: The brick can serve as a level surface on which to cook dinner.
  • Warm up your sleeping bag: Warm the brick in the fire and then slip it into your sleeping bag. (Please do not light the brick on fire unless it is an ACTUAL EMERGENCY. It has been through enough in its short life).
  • Build real character: Carrying this brick will put a few metaphorical hairs on your chest, which seems important, probably.
  • Stepping stone: Keep your feet dry by placing the brick in the middle of the stream crossing as a stepping stone. Disclaimer: only works if the stream is already so narrow/shallow you could have just stepped over it.
  • Furniture for a small animal: Only suppose you’re hiking along, minding your own business, when you happen upon a small, adorable creature in need of some temporary chipmunk-sized furniture, because reasons. The brick could serve very nicely as a miniature bed, table, chair, one side of a tiny lean-to, etc. We’re not 100 percent sure what type of problem this would solve, but you’ll know it when you see it.

How would YOU use the Yellow Emergency Hiking Brick for All Your Emergency Brick Hiking Needs? Let us know in the comments below.

Featured image: Follow the Yellow Brick Trail

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Comments 9

  • Lee "Hooker Tush" Lovelace : Apr 29th

    Loved the article! The possible uses is hilarious! Thank you so much for bringing more attention to our beloved YEHB.

  • Jimmy : Apr 29th

    The Yellow Emergency Hiking Brick (YEHB) finally supplants the Portal Weighted Companion Cube (PWCC).


    I suppose it was destined to happen eventually.

  • Chris : Apr 29th

    Ahhh,.. reminds me of the Magic 8 ball from last year,..

  • Jeff : Apr 29th

    This completely hit the mark. Just the right amount of actual reporting, sarcasm, and genuine recognition that this thing really has added a lot of happiness to a lot of people.

  • Spuke : Apr 29th

    Been following brick news ever since Gadget and tramily found it. I nearly did when Rifle told them that he’d dropped it off at Neels Gap. I do love that people are continuing to push it up the trail.

  • Bob : Apr 30th

    I hope to see a polaroid of the brick at the Harpers Ferry AT Visitor Center.

  • Pixie : Apr 30th

    I love your article!
    I carried this brick for 16 miles in the Smokies and we were wondering if it was still going. Thanks for the update !

  • Kim : Apr 30th

    This is great! I left some blue plastic bears (and a ton of food) at Bears den hostel in Virginia hoping some hikers will help my brother, who passed away in August 2023, complete the Appalachian Trail. His trail name was Blue Bear. Certainly much smaller and lighter than a brick 🙂.

  • Lily : May 3rd

    Love this! Curious if anyone knows of something similar happening on the PCT?


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