Sayings while on the Appalachian Trail and how they can help you with a Through-Hike

Being on the trail now 4 months, April 10 through August 10, I have heard the following on trail on the regular. Knowing the contexts of these quoted and sayings can really help both through-hikers and non-through hikers understand day-to-day aspects of being on trail.

I saw the sign!

“You pack your fears for through-hiking”

This saying is 100% true in my case. For the first few days of the AT in Georgia I carried bear mace, shoe spikes for ice/snow, extra clothes, and about 6 liters of water. I was concerned for bear attacks, late spring ice & snow challenges at elevation, same with the clothes, and I didn’t trust the mountain to provide clean-enough drinking water. By day 4 at Neels’s Gap, with a bag shakedown at the outfitter there with Just Bill, my bag lost some 14 pounds of extra items, including everything here. It has been relieving both for my back and my mindset to rid myself of things I don’t use on trail after a few days. You literally shed the fear and the backpack weight along the way.

So, so many things will be sent home from my bag, from April 9.

“The Trail Provides!”

All through-hikers seem to initially come out to the AT often prepared to through hike as if we are never getting to a town or spot for resupply. Even the most prepared person will at some point find themselves needing something they did not bring. This could be a new pair of hiking shoes, a sewing kit, water at the next source, duct tape, their lost wallet, or even food. I have watched as people say aloud to themselves and others nearby, “I need XYZ.” Within a few hours or even a day, somehow, the trail provides through a hiker box, a trail angel, or a surprise find literally along the trail or at a shelter. I can’t explain this one further, the trail does indeed provide to those in need who ask for things.

Magnificent Trail Magic provided by Trail Magic Mama and her husband Granite State. THANK YOU!

“Hike your own hike”

This phrase has probably the most versatility on the trail. It can mean, “Do what you want, it’s your journey” to “leave me alone, you’re annoying me” to “I don’t understand, you do you” to “I agree, let’s go!” Context for when to use this phrase matters, it can be a throwaway line, but is often used to explain personal choices or behavior.

There is literally a train station stop called Appalachian Trail that takes you directly to New York City. Hike your own hike!

“What goes up, must come down”

I have said this to myself countless times on the trail, and can help any through-hiker steel themselves for the reality of the AT. You go up and down A LOT on this trail. You will find in particular any place on the trail a Gap is listed definitely assures you of an impending up and down scenario. Really all Road Gaps are missing some serious verbiage in what they mean – they really should include,”a Road Gap between the mountains where auto traffic can pass that you must traverse down and then back up”. Not eloquent, I know, though this happens in every state at every gap.

Please mind the Gap between the mountains!

“A mile today is worth two tomorrow”

This is particularly true for most of the trail, though the White Mountains are definitely an exception. You’re on the trail, you’ve planned X amount of miles to a shelter or camp spot for the day, things are going great. You find out either a group you want to catch, trail magic is at the next gap beyond your planned stop, or there is going to be inclement weather. Fueling yourself more and pushing yourself that extra mile or two today can make your next day easier. I said this to myself in particular if I had a reward or benefit waiting a few miles ahead of my planned stop.

“It’s okay to linger”

To balance the expression before this one, this is one I say out loud pretty often here. Fellow through-hikers sometimes become too schedule or miles-obsessed, especially in the beginning of the AT. Hiking the AT is one of the few times in your life you will not have a set schedule outside what you plan. It’s okay if your plans change midday, go with it! Some of my best days have been an extra hour or two at a roadside food spot, trail magic, or at a mountain bald. Take it all in, enjoy the journey, making it about slamming miles each day doesn’t make this journey more fun.

Lingering on a very hot day in Fall’s Village, CT.

“Near-0 versus Zero’s”

Near-zero mile days – hiking days where you hike less than 10 miles to town or a rest spot, and zero-mile days, or days where no progress hiking is made on the AT are two crucial concepts to know about hikers in their journey. A near-0 suggests a stay in town or at a hostel or hotel for just an overnight, with hiking continuing the next morning. A zero is where you don’t plan on ANY miles the next day. It’s a hiker’s prerogative on Near-0’s and Zero’s, and both have benefits. Early on in the AT I took more Near-0’s than Zeros. Zeros have their place for sure so it’s important to take them too as you journey further on the AT. So many fun and fantastic moments have occurred off trail because of the trail.

“Slack packing is a valid way to thru-hike”

It was not until the last half of Pennsylvania out of Palmerton that I officially slack packed a segment of the AT. Slack packing is where you leave your backpack with a friend or Hostel or driver who then takes your bag for the day, and then drops it off at a designated location later along the trail for you to pick up. Hiking without your backpack can be odd at first, but then becomes luxurious and liberating as you don’t have to deal with the weight or exertion of hiking with a full backpack. It’s fantastic and I strongly recommend leveraging slack packing for segments of the trail! Though it hasn’t happened to me, some people have anecdotally mentioned some judgey-sounding comments from those who don’t slack pack because it’s not an authentic way to hike. Puh-leeze. At the end of the day it’s about mileage and completing from Springer to Katahdin, slack packing is a valid option for segments of the trail.

I’m not the only one slack packing this day!

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

Comments 4

  • Bigfoot91 : Aug 13th

    Slack packing is alright for some. I don’t think it makes you any less genuinely a thru-hiker. But it makes you an individual who can’t claim to have backpacked the entire Appalachian Trail in one season. That is rather technical to some and written in stone to others. Personally, I’m happy I never did it.

    • Tree hugger : Aug 17th

      I’m happy you’re happy you never had to slack pack. But explain to me the need to point out that you didn’t do it. Peace

  • Dman : Sep 9th

    The “slack” in slack packing says it all.


What Do You Think?