The Do’s and Dont’s of Hiking Etiquette
Hike your own Hike—commonly referenced as HYOH—is a mantra that is impossible to avoid if you’re reading anything about a thru-hike. With a meaning quite literal to its phrase, the purpose of HYOH is to remind hikers to concern themselves with only their own hike, and to not let others’ hikes affect them.
Because this quote seems to be used nonstop during thru-hike prep (and during the actual hike itself) it can be “overplayed” and gets a bad rap. HYOH almost takes on a negative connotation, as in “Sure, do whatever… HYOH, man.”
However, HYOH really is the best mantra to keep in mind when hiking. Focus on your own path and, perhaps even more importantly, have respect for everyone else’s. This can be done just by following a few common, everyday courtesies. Below are two lists of different types of hiker etiquette: things to keep in mind while you are on the trail, and things you should steer clear of. Some of these “Do’s and Don’ts” are hard and fast rules that apply to on-trail etiquette, while others are more of a friendly hiker guideline. All of them, however, are based on respect.
The Do’s of Hiking Etiquette
Do give uphill the right of way
Always—regardless of which whether you’re a NOBO or a SOBO—give uphill hikers the right of way. If you come across another hiker and there’s not enough room for everyone on the trail, the person traveling downhill moves to the side to let the upward-climbing hiker continue hiking. The exception is if the hiker traveling uphill needs a break and motions for you to keep hiking downhill…. then feel free to keep hiking.
Do acknowledge other hikers
You don’t need to give them a hug and become their new BFF, but say hi and ask how they are, or at least give them a head nod. One time in Vermont we passed a group of seven thru-hikers and not a single one of them seemed to even notice that we were standing there. Just say hi! It’s a friendly thing to do and will only brighten someone’s day.
Do label your food in the hostel fridge
Hikers are hungry, and if it doesn’t seem like the food has an owner then I guarantee that it will quickly find one.
Do keep your dog on a leash, especially when there are people around
I’ll be the first to admit that our dog hikes off leash a majority of the time. However, we always keep the leash in hand and as soon as we see/hear other people or dogs, we immediately hook him up. Some people don’t like dogs, and some dogs don’t like dogs. Even if they do, it’s not really respectful to let your dog run up and jump on them.
Do remember that there are other hikers calling the shelter home for the night
Not everyone is pulling long days or coming into camp late at night. If you are, awesome! But have respect for hikers that are already in their tents or the shelter for the night. Don’t shine the brightest level of your headlamp all around while others are sleeping, and don’t start cooking dinner right next to someone when it’s well past dark. Gotta respect hiker midnight, ya know? If you do find yourself entering a shelter late at night, just remember to switch your headlamp to the red setting; it’s a quick solution that gives you visibility while not disturbing those around you.
And as a follow up to the shut eye, consider getting a private room when you’re in town if you know you’re a snorer (and doing so is an option for you). While snoring won’t come as a surprise in any bunkroom, your fellow hikers will appreciate it immensely if they get the chance to sleep soundly for a night. This is also a good time to remind you of one of the crucial pieces of gear hikers should always have on hand…ear plugs.
The Dont’s of Trail Etiquette
Don’t ask a person how much their pack weighs
You wouldn’t ask a girl how much she weighs in real life, right? Then don’t ask her how much her pack weighs, unless you want her to hit you with it.
Asking someone how much their pack weighs can seem like an attempt to judge others based on the decisions they made about what goes in their pack. Everyone has different wants and needs, so everyone’s pack will have different weights. While it may seem like an easy go-to topic to start a conversation over, try to refrain from asking and find out where their hometown is instead.
Don’t be a gear head
If you’re not carrying it, don’t worry about it. If you know the other person wants to talk gear, then sure! Just remember that everyone you meet on the trail is hiking for their own reason, and the technicalities of their gear might not be their main focus.
Don’t ask a fellow hiker how many miles they hiked that day
Who cares? (besides their mom who’s tracking their whereabouts in AWOL. She can ask). This is not to say you are forbidden from discussing mileage altogether, especially if another hiker is interested in the same topic. But think of other ways to initiate the conversation. Take pride in yourself and your mileage, but be careful that it doesn’t come off as bragging or judging.
Don’t spread yourself all over the place
Whether it’s in the shelter, the bunkroom, the hostel, in front of the store, etc. Try to keep your gear in as much of an organized mess as possible and don’t encroach too far on other hikers’ and public spaces.
Don’t eat other hikers’ food unless they offer it
If you do accidentally grab something out of the hostel fridge that you didn’t realize already had a hungry owner, then replace it.
Don’t set your tent up in the shelter
The only time this is okay to do is if you are the only ones camping there, or if there is plenty of room and you checked that it was okay with the one/two other hikers sleeping there. Typically, if you set up your tent then you are camping on the ground.
Don’t leave a trace
Leave everything the way that you found it – no one should be able to tell that you were there. #LNT
We’re all out hiking the same trail, right? Heck, we’re all hiking the same mountain, the same forest, and the same world. Stop hating on others who you think are moving too fast or too slow, who you think are hiking the “wrong” way, or that are maybe just not doing it the same way you are. Hike your own hike and don’t let yourself forget the true meaning of the phrase.
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