Is YouTube Good for Long-Distance Trails?

In the world of long-distance hiking, it’s become as predictable as snow in the Sierra or the riot of wildflowers in rolling Virginia pastures in April: Each season, a new crop of aspiring thru-hikers blossoms in the fertile fields of YouTube, with dreams of documenting their hike for the world and, in more than a few cases, building their brand to “monetize” their hiking hobby.

Imagine… an attractive young woman (who knows it)…

Hey, guys, it’s SugarShorts and today I’m going to talk about my spreadsheet, which lays out exactly how many miles I’ll hike each day on my Appalachian Trail hike, where you can meet me to take me out to dinner or bunk at your house, and the amount of income I’ll be hauling in from my Patreon account by the time I reach Damascus…

Envision … a brawny thirtysomething guy with a cloud of facial hair and at least one hiking-themed tattoo above the shoulders…

I’m MountainCrusher and I’m going to show off all the AWESOME gear I bought at REI last weekend, and give you my gear recommendations, even though it’s November and I won’t take my first step on a long trail for another 16 weeks. So if any  manufacturers would like to sponsor me…

Picture… an exhausted-looking middle-aged guy, filming from a cheap hotel 34.6 miles from where he started…

Well, it’s been a great ride, my tramily, but I’m ending my thru-hike. It looked so much more fun on other hikers’ videos! Nobody’s ever out of breath, they don’t talk about sleet, chafe, boredom, or the fact that if you snore like a grizzly that’s swallowed a chain saw in a shelter somebody might pee in your boots…

dixie appalachian trail wanderlust

Screenshot from Dixie’s first day on the Appalachian Trail, 2015. Courtesy Homemade Wanderlust.

Of course, there are many actual YouTubers who have documented their journeys, really used the gear they review, hosted Q&A sessions for Patreon supporters, and inspired countless people, if not to hike 2,000 miles, then at least to get off the couch and go for a walk. A rare few—Dixie (Jessica Mills), with 209,000 subscribers, and Darwin, with 197,000, are the best known—have made money, even a living, from their beloved hobby.

“I don’t consider myself talented,” says Darwin, who doesn’t use his real name with regard to his hiking videos. “I got lucky. Dixie got lucky. We were in the right place at the right time. But my goal is to create and to inspire somebody else.”

YouTube is here to stay and it will continue to influence the trail and trail culture for the foreseeable future. But is that influence good, bad, ugly—or some of each?

Same Message, Different Media

“On the whole, we think (YouTube) is fantastic. It’s more of a good thing than a bad thing,” says Jordan Bowman, communications manager for the Appalachian Trail Conservancy. “It’s allowing more and more people to find ways to get outside and share their love of the outdoors. And a lot of people say, ‘It’s kind of my escape. I’m stuck in a cubicle all day. I’m not able to hike the trail, but (YouTube) allows me to live vicariously through people who can.’ ”

But not everybody loves the fact that so many hikes are now essentially televised.

“I think initially cell phones, social media, YouTube, they all had a good purpose,” says Glenn “Scoutmaster” Justis, who documented his 2018 Appalachian Trail thru-hike on the video channel, collecting several thousand subscribers. “But what happens is, over time, it becomes more of a detriment than anything else.”

glen justis appalachian trail

Glen Justis, aka Scoutmaster, on the Appalachian Trail in 2018. Courtesy Glen Justis.

Bowman acknowledges that the increasing popularity of social-media portrayals of the AT, whether on YouTube, Instagram, or Facebook, may be drawing more people to the trail, and that overuse and crowding is a concern.

“But we were seeing that all the time, even before YouTube,” he says. “Back when (Bill Bryson’s) A Walk in the Woods was published, a large influx of people came to the trail, even though they were reading about all the horrible things happening.”

miss janet 2017 appalachian trail

Janet Hensley, aka Miss Janet, along the Appalachian Trail in 2017. Courtesy Janet Hensley.

Janet Hensley, aka Miss Janet, one of the most recognizable trail angels on the Appalachian Trail, agrees that social media and YouTube are just new media presenting the same messages.

“It’s always been the case, even when people started doing online journals. Wingfoot (who published the first comprehensive AT guide in 1991) was one of the very first ones,” she says.

Rose-Colored Videos

Some critics worry that popularizing long trails and thru-hiking through mass media (a single YouTube video can reach far more people than most bestselling books; Dixie’s most popular video has more than 1.2 million views) lures in people who aren’t prepared for the difficult task of hiking thousands of miles.

“The failure rate is so high that a good portion of people should have never tried it in the first place,” Justis says. “So you really don’t need to be out there saying how wonderful it is, so people watching you think, ‘I can do that!’ ”

And that’s just the audience. Many eager YouTubers themselves announce their intention to thru-hike with great fanfare and post months of preparatory videos, seeking to build an audience, only to flame out quickly once the sole hits the tread.

paul magnanti canyon de chelly photo by josh zapin

Paul Magnanti, aka Mags, in Canyon de Chelly. Photo by Josh Zapin.

YouTubers conveying an inaccurate or incomplete picture of thru-hiking is one area where both critics and promoters of the medium agree there is a problem.

Paul “Mags” Magnanti, who completed a Triple Crown in 2006 and now operates a guiding service in Moab, UT, recently co-created a cartoon panel and interview published on The Trek featuring MACHO, the “Most Accomplished Cyber Hiker of All Time,” which mocks gear reviewers who don’t actually hike.

“I won’t mention any names, but what got me was a top-ten list of best packs of the year. I thought, ‘How can a person really test ten packs, even by June or September?’” he says. “It’s essentially marketing copy, it’s clickbait. So people review gear, then people start sharing it, and the next thing you know they are ‘experts.’ Then they get free gear.”

Distortions of Reality

darwin on the trail photo by preston bailey

Darwin on the trail. Photo by Preston Bailey.

Just as Facebook often serves as what Dixie calls “a highlight reel” for people’s lives, many YouTube hikers seem inclined to show only the fun and interesting side of long-distance hiking.

“No one,” Bowman observes, “focuses on the day they almost quit because the chafing was so bad.”

“Some people overromanticize the idea of a thru-hike,” says Darwin, who is now working on a documentary about the Arizona Trail. “People want it to look like a reality show, but some days are just boring. It’s not always amazing; most of the time it’s the opposite. I spend a lot of days just looking at my feet.”

Dixie, who completed her Triple Crown in 2018 and will soon embark on a walk of Spain’s Camino de Santiago with a younger sister, wholeheartedly agrees.

“I really try to include the good and the bad,” she says. “I don’t want people to think it’s just a walk in the park, then get out there and be extremely disappointed that it’s not all sunshine and roses.”

And even well-intentioned hikers are prone to a certain amount of exaggeration or, more charitably, selective memory, Hensley notes.

“When you ask hikers how many miles they are doing, they’ll say 20 or 25 a day, but they don’t talk about the 10s, 12s, 14s. It’s a little thing, but it’s misleading,” she says. “Then people watch five videos and they all say they are doing 20-miles-plus a day, they think that’s normal. I meet people who are quitting the first week because they can’t handle the 20-mile days and I say, ‘What are you thinking?’ ”

Yes, the Most Popular “YouTube Hikers” Are Unrepresentative

Hensley, who meets hundreds of AT hikers every year, labels YouTube hikers “2 percenters.” “The other 98 percent aren’t represented very well… Not many people want to watch a fat old guy who only does 12 miles a day, or a mom with a surly teen instead of a cute kid.”

dixie continental divide trail

Dixie at the Southern Terminal of the Continental Divide Trail, 2018. Courtesy Homemade Wanderlust.

And just as in the movies, appearances can matter a great deal on YouTube. Many aspiring YouTube thru-hikers who gain an audience before they’ve ever taken a step on trail just happen to be young women who match certain conventional societal ideas about attractiveness.

“People who get offended by that, or try to pretend they are not aware of that, are playing dumb,” says Dixie, whose audience skews toward middle-aged men. A video accompanied by a thumbnail of her face always get more views than one featuring a nature scene, she says. “But I don’t put a thumbnail of me in a bikini, because I don’t want that audience. Do I think it helps? Sure. But I don’t think it’s a prerequisite. Darwin is an attractive fellow, he’s not a girl, yet he’s still managed to be successful.”

Constantly filming, curating, and editing a hike for YouTube or Instagram also can have the effect of distracting hikers from their own, actual experience; according to one recent survey, nearly 40 percent of millennials say they hike only to get an “Instagram payoff.”

“I see more and more people nowadays making a movie, but losing a sense of the trail. The social media, the phones, it takes over and your focus changes. It’s no longer about the trail, but about what makes a good vlog (video blog) or the number of subscribers,” Justis says.

The Lure of Fame

A growing phenomenon, in the era of Dixie and Darwin, is the potential lure of not just “fame” (“As if I’m so famous,” Dixie says with a laugh), but also money. Many YouTubers encourage fans to support them through Patreon, while others actively seek sponsors, and creators can seek to have their videos “monetized” by the platform, hosting ads.

But the reality is, making money—any money—on YouTube hiking videos is an extreme rarity.

“If you think you’re going to hike the trail to make money, you are not really going to enjoy the hike,” Dixie says. “You have to like it, even the misery of it. You cannot suffer for six months doing something like that for backpacker culture “fame.”

“Something that bothers me is people going in with the wrong intention, the intention that ‘I’m going to create this thing, make money, and be famous,’ ” Darwin says. “That’s just a goofy pipe dream.”

The ATC doesn’t have an official position on hikers who make money documenting their AT hikes. The trail is subject to National Park Service rules, which don’t specifically ban such fundraising. However, according to the NPS, any “activities” that “take place at least in part on lands managed” by the NPS, “use park resources,” and “result in compensation, monetary gain, benefit, or profit” are prohibited unless the person has been granted a Commercial Use Authorization.

Amanda Bess raised more than $14,500 for charity during her 2018 AT hike. Photo from Amanda Bess’ YouTube channel.

Occasionally, a successful YouTube hiker uses her (relative) celebrity to support a charity, as when Amanda “PeeWee” Bess raised more than $14,500 during her 2018 AT hike for two charities in her home state, A Kid Again and the Kentucky Association of Children’s Advocacy Centers. Despite building a base of more than 8,000 subscribers, Bess also bucked current trends and conventional wisdom by not attempting to monetize or perpetuate her channel. She hasn’t posted anything since a final video of her summiting Katahdin on Sept. 6, 2018.

A Cautionary Tale

Many aspiring YouTube thru-hikers who imagine the potential for riches and fame may never consider the downside of putting oneself so squarely in the public eye.

In the months leading up to the 2019 hiking season, a hiker named Michele Rosa, aka Artemis, began posting written pieces on various platforms, including and The Trek, plus videos on YouTube, emphasizing a positive, if occasionally pugnacious and brash, message of empowerment, particularly for older women hikers.

“The nerves are real because even though I have a tremendous amount of people rooting for me,” the US Army veteran wrote in a blog post (since removed) on the Trek Feb. 9, the night before her departure, “I have a collection of haters willing me to fail because I am overweight and do not carry an ultralight pack. The unnatural hatred is my rocket fuel for my inevitable success.”

Not long into her hike, her upbeat, down-to-earth demeanor had drawn thousands of subscribers and she began taking donations through Patreon.

“I watched her first couple of videos and thought, ‘She’s got a hell of a story,’ ” says Justis.

A blog post on The Trek by Michele Rosa, aka Artemis.

But soon hikers began claiming that Artemis was “yellow blazing”—accepting rides to skip parts of the trail—and accusing her of raising money on false pretenses. (Full disclosure: The author of this piece donated a small amount of money to her Patreon account.) Justis began to comment on Artemis’ videos, asking her to come clean. She blocked him, initiating a brief, private flame war. Justis and his wife then posted a video (since taken down) detailing their concerns. Rosa posted a response (without naming her critics), but shortly thereafter left the trail and removed all traces of herself from YouTube, WhiteBlaze, and elsewhere.

“She was taking money from people and lying about what she was doing,” says Justis, a former criminal prosecutor who did not try to monetize his AT videos. “I think she thought, ‘I’ll be the Dixie for overweight ladies, I’m going to do it.’ That’s great, but if you’re taking money from people, you’ve got to actually do it. I think she realized she didn’t much like hiking, but she was out there with all this social media, and didn’t know what to do.”

Rosa did not respond to requests to be interviewed for this story. But in one recent Instagram post she vowed to return and finish her hike.

“I don’t regret leaving the trail,” she wrote. “My hike to reach home stays the purpose, not prove someone wrong who wanted to hijack my hike.”

Hensley found the criticism and piling on of Artemis unfair.

“She had a great following and a great attitude, doing more to encourage women to hike the AT than anyone I know,” she says. “Then she was crucified for taking money. But that’s none of anybody else’s business, unless you claim you’re trying to break a record or saying ‘Pay me a dollar a mile.’ She didn’t make those promises.”

Beware the Money

But when there’s money involved, even a faint whiff of impropriety can bring down a savage rebuke online. Artemis’ story echoed the 2016-17 controversy surrounding paraplegic hiker Stacey “Ironwill” Kozel, who, with the help of high-tech leg prostheses, claimed to have hiked the Appalachian and Pacific Crest trails. Prominent on social media, she received considerable attention from the media and garnered paid speaking gigs and a rumored book offer. But upon closer scrutiny by the hiking community, it became clear that Kozel had not hiked either trail.

Stacey “Ironwill” Kozel in Harpers Ferry, 2016.

“I doubt that Stacey has reaped much financial gain from her false claims,” former AT FKT-holder Jennifer Pharr Davis wrote later on The Trek. But, Pharr noted, “The payments she has received are most likely negated by her tarnished social image.”

Dixie and Darwin have each endured criticism for “making money on the trail,” but both stumbled into their careers as YouTube hiker personalities. Dixie started filming her first hike, the AT in 2015, on the advice of a friend who wanted to get more experience editing, and didn’t start making money until more than two years later. Darwin started his channel to stave off post-trail depression after his truncated 2015 AT thru-hike and wasn’t aware that he could make money from his channel until he’d been creating videos for a year.

The top dogs of the YouTube thru-hiking world both say authenticity is the key to their success, and warn hikers against putting desires for money or fame before the trail experience.

“The trail provides and it will do amazing things if you listen to it and follow its advice,” Darwin says. “But if you are inauthentic, it can also punish you in unexpected ways.”

The Act of Publicizing Thru-Hikes Is Here to Stay

dixie jessica mills appalachian trail homemade wanderlust

Dixie in Virginia during her 2015 AT thru-hike. Courtesy Homemade Wanderlust.

YouTube, firmly ensconced in the thru-hiking world, isn’t going away. Its influence has been positive in many ways, educating and exciting people about long trails, providing vicarious experiences for those who can’t hike themselves, and inspiring thousands to get outside.

“When I started, I hoped that maybe I would help somebody else get out there. Seeing a scared, scrawny little girl getting out and doing it, maybe they would realize they could do it, too,” Dixie says.  “I didn’t say, ‘I’m an expert,’ and I still don’t. I said, ‘I’m about to screw up a lot of stuff and y’all are free to watch me!’ ”

But as with any media, YouTube videos should not be taken as an accurate representation of the real world or a complete guide for how to hike a long trail.

“I would never propose you use one guidebook or one medium to prepare for hikes,” says the ATC’s Bowman. “YouTube is one piece. But also look at AWOL’s Guide, the Thru-Hiker’s Companion, look at our website… Look at all different aspects, but just make sure you prepare yourself. It’s not going to be all butterflies and rainbows.”

And in the end, just as when nobody vlogged or even blogged their hike, the only way to truly know what thru-hiking is like is to step out on the trail.

“We have people who have done seemingly all of their research and prep through YouTube videos,” Jack Haskel, trail information manager at the Pacific Crest Trail Association, recently told a Sierra Club writer. “Watching a video is not the same as building a personal experience,”


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Comments 30

  • Scott Brotherton : Aug 19th

    I am in full agreement and what a well written piece. Unfortunately the ‘Social media’ society in which we currently reside seemingly encourages lots of people to do things they are totally ill-prepared for. As another example, I fully place the responsibility of the issues (& deaths) on Everest this year w/a few factors, social media, ill-prepared climbers and teams and $$$ (as collected by the Nepalese Gov’t and the guide companies lacking the expertise necessary to guide people (safely) up Everest). Funny how $$$ seems to be a common thread. I very much appreciate both Darwin and Dixie’s Vids as they are both straight forward and honest – and obviously some people need that to avoid putting themselves in a difficult situation unnecessarily for an Instagram photo or North Face sponsorship. Keep up the great work !

  • Dahn : Aug 19th

    I propose a poptart scale for YouTube vloggers… Great write up Clay, was looking forward to reading it after hearing you talk about it on the Backpacker’s Radio Podcast.

  • Mark Stanavage : Aug 19th

    I can’t talk truth to the explosion of bloggers. This is one simple hiker’s opinion. Only blog I religiously followed was Wanderingdad in 2018 . Met him hiking, I was sectioning. My phone died and he’d text my wife for me each night for a couple days so my wife knew I was ok. He showed good, bad, ugly. Almost always positive, nary a mean comment. He did it as a journal for himself, family and friends. He let me vicariously hike with him, while I still daydream about my turn in 2023. I pray I can do it with even a fraction of his grace.

    • Yap : Sep 8th

      I miss the days when people paid for their own hikes. It wouldn’t occur to me to ask someone to pay for my thru hikes what a weird thing to ask . Oh the good old days ..when the trails we uncluttered and hikers just walked for the love heart and challenge of it .

  • Pete Yamagata : Aug 20th

    Be it that over my 67 years, I have probably done more miles than a Triple Crown for just my peak bagging. With my walking about town, everyday for shopping and dining when I lived in Sacramento, CA, and plain hikes, I’d roughly estimate doing a total of 30-40,000 miles. I seek help to compile my list of hikes and climbs by doing a spreadsheet, and for even $35/hour, there is no one. I kept records, but I am refused. With maybe 250,000 photos, some 65,000 Kodachrome slides, I get accused even to be doing fakes. Documenting my activities since about 1977, when I got my first Nikon, I put many so thousands of photos and hundreds of videos, on my website. There is no help for this, even at $100/hr. This does all serve to define me as a non-commercial entity. It does look like You Tubers post their hikes, and then try to make money off their videos and hikes. I’m advised that this would probably require a special permit from the USFS, for one. I’m disallowed from such things by the USFS. While various others violate the wilderness policies, with help from the USFS, even, my summit registers are banned. I now request a video selfie on top, where it can be seen where one is. No support. While vlogs can easily be deceptive, and even a total departure from the truth, I am well aware of the local hiking clubs. By honor system they are validated on what claims, some so outlandish and falsified, knowing them, so the hiking clubs go. The thru-hiker vlogs may be put together by REI funded assist as far as the thru-hiking. Where vloggers get their money by what claims, I do my climbs and hikes, for real. Never a penny for this, I offer people to hike and climb, out of my own pocket, but there has been no one. Great that hikers can get some money out of this, but I’m familiar with hike-haters and polluters, who excuse their pollution by saying its for the Sierra Club, who hates the internet and all, to take charge of chapters and get rid of it all. No chance for any thru-hiking, by them, forever. I post various videos on the local hiking, but so rarely any visits. There looks to be some difference in thru hiking videos, with some going viral, and some to get no views at all, like for me. Great for some that their work is supported, but for me, my thru hike on the JMT back when gets nothing. My website looks to be scorned, even unto death. I’d be teaching safety, but that they’d all rather die, even, than to ever read what I have to say. No use. You put out video directions, but it is refused. Peak bagging videos look to be ignored. I’d record the way up, with advice on routes, and climbing, but it appears that this is beyond most or all. I post numerous view photos from the summits, but few if any visits. So it all goes.

  • Sam : Aug 20th

    I wish I was an opportunist too.

  • Will : Aug 20th

    Ironic part about this post is I consider the Treks vloggers (or at least the ones I met) some of the worst for on trail for sense of entitlement and seekers of ‘fame’ and ‘visability’. Also, I agree that the act of publicizing thru hikes is here to stay so I think that we have a responsibility to encourage TRUE representation and increase diversification. I know you’re a bit limited by who applies Trek but would also be great to have some broader representation beyond white, 20 something, females going forward….

    • Scott A Brotherton : Aug 20th

      Will – If one looks at the ‘list’ of 2019 Trek bloggers there is a mixed bag. Whether or not, or how much they happen to participate is up to them. Eg. I followed JC’s entire hike, he’s not any of the items you noted.. I can’t speak to the ‘seekers’ comment, I am not on trail. I think your commentary, while you are entitled to your opinion, has little to do w/the Trek. It is a voluntary thing that I, personally, would probably never participate in (as an older white guy who for the most part loathes social media). So, I think it a bit unfair (and a tad dangerous) to generalize just because Chaunce, Kristin, and Julia post religiously. Personally, I don’t even notice who the poster is, just whether or not it is interesting, to me… Also, Cari and Ruth (not in your demographic) until and even after they got off trail continued to post. Personally, as people finish I am hopeful others will fill in the void, regardless of their demographic. Hike your own hike…&, btw, why can’t we just all be hikers ?

  • Chris : Aug 20th

    I don’t understand why we’re putting these people on blast — the overall tone of this article seems to trend negative. I think Twitter said it best when they shared that all social media is a mirror to our society, albeit magnified because it gives each of us the potential to reach a massive amount of people. As a society, we keep asking how to “fix” social media… in reality, we need to fix our reality. The problems discussed in this article (humans being especially drawn to attractive humans, deceit to gain fame, etc.) all existed in our society before social media, but when social media came into the picture, these ills were magnified. Let’s figure out how to fix social media, but let’s also be aware that it’s a tool that’s magnifying the ills we’ve always had as a society. How can we fix those at the source?

    • Scott A Brotherton : Aug 20th

      Chris – I don’t get a negative vibe (at all). I get reality, accountability in regards to people purposefully planning and working very diligently to present themselves and their accomplishments in a way in which to benefit themselves, oftentimes at the expense of others. I’m not OK w/that…nor letting them ‘slide’. The problem is society in and of itself – if you are good w/yourself, you should have no reason to seek the fame, fortune, $$$ or whatever the motivation is… to seek ‘attention’ from others.

      • ABW : Sep 11th

        Amen to everything you said. Attention seeking I feel, seems to be the main motivator for most. If it wasn’t, why make their channel public?

  • EarthTone : Aug 21st

    I have followed many different hikers over the years and have even played with the idea of doing some shooting myself when hiking, but lately, I have eventually grown bored with watching even the most skillfully edited vlogs from the trail. Especially the daily posters. After experiencing all the things a long distance hike throws at you, I know what it is like to be out there. It is still fun to see a hiker go thorough an area that I have strong memories of from time to time tho.

    As for the Artemis business. I completely agree with Ms Janet that she was treated unfairly. I think that Scoutmaster had no business inserting himself and his opinions into her hike. I’m sure no money came from his pocket to her hike and that’s fine. When a person gives money to a hiker for their hike (completely voluntary by the way), they most likely aren’t expecting some sort of product out of the deal. It is mainly done to help support the hiker in whatever way they need to be supported. There should never be any promise, either implied or expected that a hiker will be required to achieve some sort of lofty goal, like a complete, purist Thru Hike. With the statistics leaning towards a person not completing, it’s unfair to expect that from someone who has asked (not demanded) for some support.

    I personally would never ask for any monetary support on my hikes and I very rarely give someone money to help them hike their vacation, but I will offer a ride, maybe some food or unsolicited advice when I see other hikers out there.

    • Jhon : Aug 13th

      The “Artemis business” She was LYING

  • Janie : Aug 21st

    Can’t say I support this…part of the adventure is to find your way, not follow someone else’s footprints. Hiking a long distance trail is a means to escape the electronics…phones etc. It’s about challenging yourself, in solitude, you, yourself and Mother Nature. imo

  • Porkchop : Aug 23rd

    I just finished my thru hike class of 2019. I vlogged everyday and had or still have about 2000 viewers. It was fun. I practiced before I left. I used my phone. I was recognized on trail from Georgia to Maine. It was a hoot. The artimus thing with scoutmaster hey he did a thru hike and vlogged and put his due in and can talk all he wants. She tried and vlogged as long as she was on trail and stopped when she got offtrail. I met a number of vloggers on trail. I met and hike through 5 states with Chauncey and easy she was very antisocial on trail but at the same time put out a great vlog, boomer put out a good vlog and has like 100 viewers my audience was 45 and up

  • Cosmo : Aug 23rd

    The good vlogs are great, the bad ones soon lose their appeal. As entertainment they are fun. It’s sad that they have become an “essential” tool for prospective hikers.

    As a trail volunteer I suspect they contribute to the increasing prevalence of unprepared and entitled hikers we seem to be bumping into more and more. As a hiker, they have blown away pretty much the last bit of mystery and adventure to be found on the AT, and unreasonably increased expectations for trail visitors. Long distance hiking does not require “lessons”; it requires a bit of planning and research–but mostly hard work, perseverance, grit and an astounding ability to live with discomfort for long periods of time.

    • Porkchop : Aug 23rd

      I agree

    • Scott A Brotherton : Aug 25th

      Well stated Cosmo

  • tripledip : Aug 24th

    Hike your own hike people. I personally have not done any video of my thru hikes, however I subscribe to many who do. When I’m not hiking I like to watch others that are. Nothing will make me unsubscribe faster than someone who is always bragging about what their subscribers and patreons give them though.

  • Tony : Aug 25th

    I’ve only done a few small sections of the AT so far and haven’t run into any Vloggers but I have met many thru & section hikers. I enjoyed both Dixie’s & Darwin’s vlogs – I thru watched Dixie’s first 2 and only part of Darwin’s PCT but have found some of his other videos entertaining and helpful. I have also enjoyed many others including Chaunce, but I found Amanda Bess to be rather annoying and countless others look like they have put 5 minutes of thought into what they are doing – they turn on the iPhone and just talk into it without showing any of the trial. I think as long as they aren’t ruining others’ enjoyment of the trail – they are free to post what ever they want. I have run into far too many inconsiderate hikers that walk all over fragile areas, bring their bluetooth speakers into the backwoods, litter, etc. I think there are bigger problems then vloggers at the moment.

  • Crocamole : Aug 26th

    Exclaiming that x change is ruining thru-hiking is a practice as old as thru-hiking itself. Throwing negativity at You-tuber thru-hikers seems to me as effective and relevant as when Earl Schaffer used to rail against putting wooden floors in shelters because it would attract tourists and vagrants. You end up sounding like an old crank who refuses to accept that the trail experience has changed since you first set foot on it. I have watched many You-Tube hike vids and my IG feed is full of #hikers. It can be a great way to get info about hiking and stay connected to the culture. I saw very few people on the PCT this year carrying heavy, ill-suited gear-notable less than I saw on the AT in ’16- and I suspect all the info available on socials is a big part of that. You-Tube will bring some people on trail for the wrong reasons or with incorrect expectations, but the trail has long drawn its share of ill-informed schemers with notions of one form of grandeur or another. I would be careful about saying things like You-Tube is responsible for a rise in failed thru-hikers without some hard evidence to support it.

    • Turtle Man : May 14th

      On his YouTube channel, flatbrokoutside had posted some figures a while back that indicated that although more people were attempting thru hikes of the AT in recent years, a steadily lower percentage were completing them. How much of this is attributable to incompletely prepared would-be hikers motivated by social media is not clear, but there is that data.

  • Sweeps (SectionHiking the AT) : Sep 20th

    “Many aspiring YouTube thru-hikers who gain an audience before they’ve ever taken a step on trail just happen to be young women who match certain conventional societal ideas about attractiveness.”

    …and when they don’t, their channels stay small and unheard of.

  • CrowLeg : Nov 4th

    I liked the article. What I’ve found on my current thru-hike across America is that vlogging helps those people who will never do any hiking or visit wilderness areas to at least live vicariously through the vloggers video screen.

    The polished vloggers who have editors and Patreon accounts (Dixie, Darwin, Second Chance, etc.), I think attract maybe a much wider and more diverse audience than someone like me ( who vlogs and edits from the trail without being able to really piece together a more professional storyline.

    Finally, I guess what I’d also say is that those who are actually out there vlogging because they genuinely want to show friends and family (and then maybe whatever other people that stumble upon their videos) what their hike is all about, then the more the merrier, so to speak.

  • Franko Palazzo : Dec 6th

    What an interesting blog! Thanks. All these recommendations will definitely be useful for all who want to upload videos on youtube. I just want to add my two cents. If you upload your first video don’t expect it to be popular. That’s just how it works. ut you can purchase views and make it more attractive to viewers. Good luck with your vids!

  • Animal : Dec 22nd

    Interesting article. I think it has always been true that successful creators of entertainment are smart, funny, good looking, and all of those things that cranky, self righteous, middle-aged white guys generally are not. {DISCLAIMER – I’m one of the latter}. Where social media has advanced entertainment is by allowing a ‘Trollmaster on the Couch” the ability to instantly co-opt an audience that would otherwise ignore him. It’s a lurid yet fascinating contribution and each of us has to decide – are we not entertained?

    The Youtube star of today is akin to a stand-up comic – there will always be the fool up in the balcony who thinks he’s smarter, funnier, better looking. I was really sad when Artemis was heckled off of the trail, but the reality is – that’s show business.

  • MP3 : Dec 23rd

    All I can say is that if it weren’t for vloggers like flatbrokeoutside, Darwin, Dixie and the Crawford Family, I would never even have started backpacking at age 66 last year. Their sharing adventures and advice made all the difference in my gaining confidence that I could actually go backpacking myself. Now I’ve done a modest 150 miles or so of the AT in New England, including all 90 in my home state of Massachusetts, including a 60-mile, 6-night section in May in which I had the pleasure of meeting vloggers Frozen and Baskets & Julie on trail. This fall, I met Hawk on trail in Connecticut on the sobo portion of his yoyo and that was another highlight. I follow many other hikers and gear reviewers and advice givers and it’s huge for me. As with anything else, you have to use your judgment on what you’re seeing and hearing and take what’s useful for yourself, but overall, YouTube hiker channels have been a huge, huge plus for me. Happy Holidays and Happy Hiking, everyone!

  • ABW : Sep 11th

    I can see both sides of this topic, but I think it comes down to the whole, “to each their own” aspect. You pretty much have a spectrum of reasons why people choose to vlog hundreds of hours of hiking/backpacking content for social media. Ultimately though, the viewers are the ones who have to decide what’s valuable/entertaining or not, to them.

    I personally appreciated the few vloggers I followed during the 2018 AT season. I started out following about four and by the end was following just one. I found what worked for me and what seemed to eventually become played out. Some of the vloggers had daily videos that were considerably longer than I like to spend on social media each day. But, according to others who loved their content, the lengthy videos weren’t an issue. Again, to each their own.

    Anyhow, I think watching their experiences helped me in a way that I may not have otherwise found, with respect to getting my own backpacking gear together, and (somewhat) knowing what to expect when hiking that particular trail.

    But, just like any popular television show vs. the ones that only make it one or two seasons, I feel hiking vlogs are the same. There’s a few who have garnered the market so-to-speak, and will always be around for good reason, and then there’s
    the ones who are good while they last, but nothing to be sad about once they end.

    As for the monetary part of hiking, and getting your viewers to pay for your hike…I’m not for that at all. (There may be an exception in the case of Dixie. She has become a name brand, and has proven to have something to offer the hiking community. Her hiking has become a career. She has earned it, imo) But, I might be biased. There’s very little charity I feel compelled to give to other than my time, in the form of volunteering.

    Even in the aspect of Amanda Bess who was fundraising for two charities, the jury is still out on that one. She promised to put up one last video detailing her charitable contributions, but that last video never came. She instead ghosted her channel that she invested so much time in, and her pretty lucrative (Go Fund Me contributors) followers.

    Thanks to Google though, it’s public knowledge that she did at least follow through on the Childrens’ Advocacy donation, but nothing has been published regarding her second promised charity, ‘A Kid Again.’

    Unfortunately, some of her viewers saw that coming, mostly because long distance hiking isn’t cheap, and quitting your job for six months surely won’t put money in your pocket to sustain your hike or to transition you back into society once finished (even without previous debt, which doubtedly that was her case pre-hike).

    She mentioned many times that her hike was paid for, but also seemed bitter at the aspect of her previous career choices and having any job in general. Money has to come from somewhere. She also mentioned pretty early on in her videos that she planned on monetizing her channel, but maybe the Go Fund Me campaign sufficed at the time.

    I do know that as soon as she finished the trail, she had some pretty big things going on; changes requiring funding that otherwise would not have been there had it not been for the fundraiser. (ie a wedding, moving to another state, and paying for a schooling program which required full payment up front, all occurring less than a year post-hike).

    Obviously not knowing her personally, I could be greatly mistaken, but I have a hunch that at least $7,250 of the $14,500, paid for her own personal expenses related to not having had a job for over 6 months. A wedding, moving, and school, would all cost much, much more than that. That said, she had such a loyal following that maybe, if true, it wouldn’t really matter to them either way, whether their donations were actually donated or used personally. Good for her!

    Point being, in that long-tailed speech is, even the hikers who seemingly have good intentions in vlogging their whole journey, with thousands of loyal followers; take their vlogs with a grain of salt. If someone is doing it for money and you’re okay with that, then donate. If they’re doing it purely for their own joy or to offer something to the hiking community (free of charge other than their time) good for that too. Take it for what you want and leave the rest.

    *It may be worth noting that subsequent to this article being published, Amanda Bess’s channel has since been monetized, albeit with no new content for 2+ years.

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