How To Get The Best Trail Name Ever

When I started my Pacific Crest Trail southbound thru-hike, I didn’t have a trail name yet. Though prior to my hike, I had given it some thought. What I definitely didn’t want, was some obnoxious d-bag giving me a name like Titty Twister, Horny Housewife or Suzy Squarepants, something you are just too embarrassed about when people ask for your name. No, my name was going to be bold and darn tough. So I decided to give myself one. But I couldn’t come up with anything better than ‘Windmill’.

Due to excessive snowfall in the North, I couldn’t start my thru at the Canadian border. So I decided to start at the Bridge of the Gods, at the Oregon/Washington border. After a mere 50 miles of hiking, I met up with a trail maintenance group at Crest Horse Camp, who invited me over for dinner. “So you haven’t been given a trail name yet?” one of the group members stated over beers and a comforting camp fire. Collectively, they came up with the brilliant name ‘BOG babe’, not for an actual bog, but instead for Bridge of the Gods, where I started my hike. As for the babe part, well, who was I to complain about that? As I hiked on to make a few more miles before sunset, my belly full of brownies and other homemade goodies, I wasn’t totally feeling my new name just yet.

It was only after hiking through 10 ft of snow for days on end (which was so onerous that I wanted nothing more than to quit many, many times) that another hiker gave me the name I was going to use from now on: Arctic Fox. My heart answered with a proud and big yes when I heard it. A bold and darn tough name, just like I always dreamt about.  

So, I’d like to share with you my top takeaways for scoring the perfect trail name.

Trail names: 5 tips and tricks

1. If you’re ready to give your fellow hiker(s) a trail name, make sure it’s a creative one. There are enough Smiles, HappyFeets, and Foxes around the block. See if you can come up with something that really describes the person, in one or two words. For instance, my friend Mr. President totally lived up to his name. This guy has great leadership qualities and he would always look out for us. He wore his American flag bandana with pride, that pleaded his case, too.

2. If someone gives you a name you don’t dig, drop it. You are definitely entitled to choose your own. You have to keep it for the duration of the whole trail. Most people keep the name to be part of them for the rest of their lives. You better make sure it is one you’re proud of.

3. Choose your name wisely. On the Pacific Crest Trail, the intriguing name “Gear Slut” kept coming back in the registers, but I never got the chance to meet her, because she was always hiking a few days ahead of me. I pictured a slutty and sexy chick on trail, hiking in nothing more wearing a sport bra and hot pants. Nothing could be farther from the truth when I met him, an Asian guy in his 40’s, with the most humble personality, and a love for collecting gear. Hence the trail name. When we zero’d at Big Lake Youth Camp, a Seventh Day Adventist camp for kids, we were given name tags to wear on our shirts. Gear Slut humbly wrote “Gear”on his tag.

4. Take your time to accustom to your new name. You just started a new life(style), which you have to accustom to as well. After my trail name was given to me, I kept writing my real name in the trail registers. Also to give the hikers behind me the opportunity to learn about my transformation into another hiker-entity. Shortly after, I became Arctic Fox but with my real name still mentioned. It took 200 miles before I could totally embrace my trail name and my new identity.

5. Some people join the (French) Foreign Legion, where they have the opportunity to exchange their identities and start a new life. You don’t have to do any of that. Simply hike a long distance trail, and you will be given a new identity, just like that. So bye bye to John or Jane Doe. You have taken on the challenge to be the guy or gal you’ve always dreamt of being. So get out there. Hike hard. Go live your dream.

And go get that bold trail name.

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Comments 4

  • Shawn Carlson : Mar 9th

    Only in Hiawassee on an AT NOBO hike and already love this advice. I’m attracting FiveFingers as a trail name since those are my trail shoes, and I’m still weird about it but adjusting… and of course we’re all trying to get names that fit in many ways.. great article!

    Reply
  • Chelsea Alves : Apr 1st

    LOVE the tidbit on Gear Slut that you met on your hike of the PCT. Hilarious! A great example of an impressionable and memorable name, though I’m not sure I’d be bold or brave enough to go that far.

    Reply
  • [email protected] : Jun 25th

    Arctic Fox, great choice! We recently met Paul Bunyan and are still on the lookout for our perfect trail names. I’m holding out to see what other people come up with for us.

    Reply
  • Derek Cullen : Aug 6th

    It does seem as though most of the names on the Pacific Crest Trail are quite generic lol 🙂

    Reply

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