Recovery Days: Making the Most of your Zero in Town

Weather. Holidays. Scenic towns. These are all common (and valid) reasons that a thru-hiker may choose to take an entire day off trail. But, we shouldn’t neglect another important reason for zeroing: us.

Hiking the entirety of the Appalachian Trail is a physical and mental feat accomplished by only a few brave souls, and one sure-fire way of eliminating your chances of being among that crowd is ignoring your mind and body.

After all, we are our only vehicle to reach Katahdin.

So, I’ll just state the (sometimes not so) obvious: it’s okay to take a day off just to rest up, improve your mental health or relax your sore muscles.

There doesn’t have to be a thunderstorm, injury, or pre-planned time off for you to enjoy a brief stay off-trail. In fact, taking time off every so often solely for yourself could improve your longevity on the trail.

That being said, there are several ways to make the most of a zero day for your mind, body, and soul, while avoiding the “vortex” of trail towns and maximizing your on-trail output.

Gear Organization

On a zero day, I typically begin by drying, cleaning, trashing, and organizing components of my pack to make sure it’s ready for the day ahead.

I like taking this step at the beginning of the day, so you can enjoy the rest of your zero without the looming presence of to-dos.

Tighten your trekking poles, clean the mud off your tent, do some laundry. Just taking a couple of hours to get things in order will make your life much easier when you venture back out.


A zero day can be a great time to update blogs, social media, and family members on what you’ve been up to. Even better, you’re not wasting precious battery life while doing so.

Call your parents. Write in your journal. Plan out the next few days ahead. Taking a brief time to update yourself and others on where you stand can help you feel more connected and prepared.


It can be tempting to spend the entire day exploring, grabbing drinks, or meeting with trail friends. But don’t forget, today is meant for you.

I try to complete several yoga flows and take an afternoon nap on my zero days. This is my form of rest, and it’s important to find what makes you feel most refreshed.

A zero day is the only opportunity for you to truly rest your mind and body for an extended period of time, make sure you spend it wisely.

Treat Yourself

Take time to give yourself a bath, a warm meal, or some local flavor. The trick is to balance rest with whatever form of little luxury you can muster for yourself.

A treat can be something simple, or a more grandiose gesture. But truly, it doesn’t take much to qualify as a “treat” after living in the woods.

Your zero is a thank-you note to your body. A way of expressing gratitude for the miles trekked and preparation for the miles to come. Never feel guilty for taking the time you need to heal. Hike your own hike.


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Comments 1

  • Jennifer Kimble : Apr 4th

    Nice! I agree. Enjoy your day off 🙂


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