To Buzz or Not to Buzz: Benefits to Cutting It All Off (Female Edition)

For almost as long as I knew I wanted to thru-hike the AT I also knew I wanted to buzz my head for the hike. It’s something I had always wanted to do because I like to experiment with my hair. Add in the fact that I would be in the woods for four months and out of sight of conventional societal expectations, I figured there was no better time to do it. I could essentially hide out on the trail while I went through the various stages of awkward hair growth. But I had more reasons to cut it all off than just wanting to experiment. There are a few advantages to being hairless on trail, which include:

Hygiene

The what-did-I-get-myself-into look.

Life on trail is life without daily showers. Depending on your hiking speed you could go a week or more without stopping in town to clean up. Now, I don’t shower daily in my so-called normal life so it wasn’t going to be that much of a shocker, but I was concerned with how tangly and messy my hair would get while sweating and being exposed to all the elements. I knew that my long hair would become unmanageable and perhaps even become dreadlocked. It just didn’t make sense for me to take a brush or comb on trail because my hair would become gross regardless. Therefore, cutting it all off would make my life so much easier. While on trail I could clean up easily and more often by splashing myself with some water at creek crossings, whereby if I had long hair I wouldn’t necessarily want it to be wet all day long, especially when it is cold out. Then in town, my showering time is reduced from not having a large mane to lather up and condition. I saw it as a win-win.

Ticks

When I wasn’t wearing a hat I wore bandanas to cover that awkward hair phase while on trail.

The trail is notorious for ticks, and I was definitely concerned about the very real threat of contracting Lyme disease from a tick bite. I was especially aware because I had lived with a woman with the disease and saw firsthand her struggle with her self-proclaimed decreased quality of life. I wondered how I would be able to find a tick if it found its way onto my scalp under a mass of hair. So in order to mitigate that risk, I wanted to get rid of my hair in order to make it easier to check my scalp for ticks.

Temperature Control

So fresh and so clean clean.

I don’t need to tell you that summer on the AT is hot. I can’t stand it when I’m super hot and uncomfortable in my skin to then have hair (or anything) touching me, especially on the back of my neck. Gives me shudders just thinking about it. Being sweaty with my hair matted to my nape was not something I wanted to experience every day for four months. Therefore, the solution of buzzing my head would absolutely keep me cooler and lighten my load.

So a few weeks before my start date I convinced a friend to join me and we buzzed our heads together. Looking back, it was one of the best decisions I made for my thru-hike. And not only for the reasons listed above, but to also challenge what I view our societal gender norms to be. It allowed me to question what makes me womanly and offered a dramatic path for growth, for I had to come to terms with how I view myself and my confidence. And I’m not gonna lie, I definitely felt boyish with my short hair, and once I lost weight in my chest, hips, and butt, I looked like a lanky prepubescent boy. But being on trail without having access to mirrors helped. Since I wasn’t checking myself out in a mirror I simply didn’t think about how I looked. I was too focused on what I was going to eat next or how many more miles I had to hike that day.

Buzzing your head can be like being reborn, starting over from scratch. And for attempting thru-hikers, it’s another way to shave some weight off.

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Comments 1

  • Rebecca Richardson : Mar 20th

    I am not a thru hiker…i’m a retired senior but love the outdoors. My husband and I hike daily in WA state….and love sections of the PCT. Cutting off your hair is an excellent idea for all the reasons you stated. I cut my hair short [not shaved] years ago …mostly for convenience…….enjoy your AT hike.

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