Day Hiker / Section Hiker / Thru Hiker: Can You Tell the Difference?

An older hiker whose name I sadly can’t remember (I have the memory of a 90 year old), once told me a joke that goes a little like this:

“There was a jelly bean laying on the trail. A day hiker walked right passed it not even acknowledging it was there. Then a section hiker walked by, stopped and debated whether or not he was going to eat it. Before the section hiker could decide, a thru hiker came up behind him, grabbed the jelly bean and ate it without hesitation.”

Although we all are nature lovers getting outside to enjoy the fresh air and scenery (we should all be proud, since so many people don’t even bother getting off the couch), there are very discernable differences between day hikers, section hikers, and thru hikers. This is meant to be for fun so don’t get your panties in a wad over it. Let the hate mail begin!


Day Hiker: Smells like heaven (to a thru hiker). The pleasant aroma of shampoo, soap, and body mist are ever flowing from their skin and hair. A day without a shower would be unimaginable to a day hiker. Always uses deodorant.

Section Hiker: Hair disheveled, sweaty and slightly stinky. They appear to be a day hiker who has been lost in the woods for a couple days. They’re not exactly swampy, but look like they may have taken a slight tumble in the dirt. Sometimes uses deodorant.

Thru Hiker: Smells like they found a pond full of sweat with dead animals and rotting produce floating around in it. You can actually see the odor evacuating their pores. They don’t seem to care; in fact, they seem quite proud of it. What’s deodorant?


Day Hiker: They carry anything from a fanny pack to an oversized backpack and it always remains attached to them at all times. They have brought enough water with them to keep them alive for 2 weeks. Everything they carry is squeaky clean.

Section Hiker: Carries more than enough gear than necessary. They are prepared for every emergency with their first aid kit to their bear mace.

Thru Hiker: Carries the bare minimum. Why carry any more when you’re hiking 2,000+ miles?


Day Hiker: Selfies galore! “Look world! I do get out and do fun things!” May have brought a wardrobe change with them.

Section Hiker: Stops at every view unless they’re hating life at that very moment. Will go the extra distance for an overlook. They’re fearful someone out in the woods might steal their pack if they leave it along the trail so they’ll lug it with them even if the view is 0.4 miles or more off trail going uphill.

Thru Hiker: Won’t likely go the extra distance for a view unless it’s really close, there’s graffiti on the sign saying it’s worth it, or if it’s rumored along the trail to be super rad. Ditches their pack along the trail to go see a view because they’re aware that if their pack were to be stolen, thru hikers can spread the word faster than a virus. When they do get to a rad view it shall be enjoyed over Slim Jims and trail mix.


Day Hiker: Snail speed with a lot of socializing. What’s the rush?

Section Hiker: Speed o’ Deer. They got their stride down by now and can easily prance past a day hiker, especially if they’re a week into their section.

 Thru Hiker: “The f*ck just flew past me?” They’re on a mission to dominate one mountain at a time.


Day Hiker: Getting dirty, losing phone signal, bugs, needing to poop outside, rodents, bears, snakes, getting lost, running out of water, running out of food, thru hikers, “Deliverance” hillbillies…

Section Hiker: Bears, snakes, getting lost, running out of water, running out of food, thru hikers, “Deliverance” hillbillies… Aren’t the last two about the same thing?

Thru Hiker: Running out of money and injuries; the only two things that could lead to failure.


Day Hiker: Might be out hiking in high heels (hey, I’ve seen it!), flats, or other inconvenient clothing. Dressed up for the runway or a photo shoot in case they run into anyone they recognize.

Section Hiker: Properly dressed for the outdoors, but maybe a little too dressed up. Looks like they jumped out of an REI catalog.

Thru Hiker: Dressed in clothes that should probably be burned, like, seriously. Gross.


Day Hiker: Brought a full blow picnic to be enjoyed on the summit. Sandwiches, guacamole dip, fresh cut fruit, potato salad, and shrimp cocktail.

Section Hiker: Mountain House.

Thru Hiker: Eat the worst diet imaginable. Is that a tortilla with peanut butter, M&M’s, Fritos, raisins, pepperoni, mayonnaise, and Starburst? Looks delicious.


Day Hiker: Trots along the trail like they own the damn place. Entitled bastards.

Section Hiker: Trots along the trail like they own the damn place. Entitled bastards.

Thru Hiker: Trots along the trail like they own the damn place. Entitled bastards.

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Comments 14

  • Laura : Nov 8th

    Dang I seemy self in this article . . . . Section hiker

  • gigglefritz : Nov 8th

    thru hikers can totally eat like day hikers.. Sitting under a tree by the first water source in a while drinking wine and eating guacamole… I’ve done it…. 🙂

  • Notebook : Nov 8th

    Fun article! Thanks, Stubbs! I was thinking of doing one like “Ten Ways I Know You’re Not a Thru-Hiker” but it felt too exclusive and tribalist. You found a way to poke fun at all of us–equal opportunity, much better!


    • Stubbs : Nov 8th

      Hey, thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  • Brother Blood : Nov 8th

    I like it !!

    • Stubbs : Nov 8th

      Thanks Brother Blood! 🙂

  • Frank Katzer : Nov 9th

    Good one!

    • Stubbs : Nov 10th

      Thank you! 🙂

  • Briana "Bean" Searfoss : Nov 9th

    Omg! I couldn’t stop laughing when I read the “pace” section! I needed a good laugh, so I thank you for this masterpiece!!!

    • Stubbs : Nov 10th

      You’re very welcome, and thanks for reading! 🙂

  • "Slug" : Nov 11th

    Spot on! This had me laughing and nearly crying at once. So good! — 2016 NOBO Thru, finished 8/21/16

    • Stubbs : Nov 11th

      Hey thanks! Glad you enjoyed it! 🙂

  • Craig : Nov 14th

    Absolutely lost it at deliverance hillbillies. Met a few who were at the highest level. Government secrets, special ops, ufo’s, trained killers, haunted barns.

    Marshall law’s coming y’all.

  • Gunslinger : Jan 4th

    Spot on!!


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