It’s been a while… I know… I feel it… I’m getting all agitated and fuzzy. I haven’t seen a trail for too long… I mean like a decent trail… In one year I’ll be all excited and preparing like nuts for the PCT… Right now I feel winter is getting to me, even though we haven’t got real winter this year (not just yet but who knows what is coming tomorrow). Once again I find myself asking questions like “Is this how life should be?” and “What the heck am I waiting for?” I guess it’s the time of the year. Till February I seem to be able to keep the winter darkness outside of my soul. But then all of a sudden it hits me and my heart feels the aching and longing for springtime, for new life, for bird songs, for wearing T’s, for getting out into the woods barefooted… And meanwhile while I get up when it’s still fucking dark (which should just be prohibited!) and I drag myself to work, I’m trying to figure out, how to change my life so that I’m not ending up in that rat race.

Na a don’t worry! This ain’t gonna be a “drag you down” post… Cuz underneath my fuzzy mind there’s a heart jumping up and down, looking forward to the adventures that lay ahead. Oh and there is my soul… my brave little soul that has the need to fulfill dreams!

Allright now my question for this post is: HOW DO I RECOGNIZE HIKER TRASH IN THE “NORMAL WORLD”? There could be some debating done on what the “normal world” is but heck we’ll have that discussion some other time, over some beer, na over some wiskey. Cuz I kinda got tired of those “we live in a bad society-“discussions. So you might wanna bring something to drink if you wanna have a conversation like that with me. Anyway back to hiker trash. For those people not familiar with the thru hiking slang, let me explain what hiker trash is supposed to be:

Hiker Trash? Is that the trash hikers leave behind?
Not exactly. In fact not at all..  Cuz most thruhikers care about the evironment…a lot!
Hiker trash do is dirty, smelly, mostly has a bit of a filthy mouth (“a bit” is an understatement for me but hey we’re not just talking about me here and I don’t wanna insult anyone), wears worn out trail runners, believes in magic (trail magic that is!), doesn’t care about “having” (except for “having food”), can eat enormous amounts of food in one time, is only truely happy when being on a trail, and so on and so on! Yep you read it right: HIKER TRASH IS HUMAN! Haven’t met any?  Well that’s a shame! You’re most likely to meet this species on a long distance trail somewhere in ‘merica… In Europe people seem to be a little more decent (na that’s not a compliment sorry)… In Europe you’ll meet “the pilgrim” which is a total different kind of species. Hard to compare with hiker trash (wait a sec… that actually might be a funny comparance… might do that one in a next post haha)…
O what I forgot to say: Underneath that layer of dirt and filth mostly hides a big heart, an open soul and a good sense of humor (though once again… mostly dirty humor)!

Now let’s get to the main question:
How do I recognize Hiker Trash in the “normal world”?
That indeed is a good question to ask. Not only for non hiker trash who finally wants to find out all about it, but for hiker trash as well… Cuz how do I recognize my species when going to work, walking through town, eating in a restaurant?
Now I can only speak for myself here. Let me explain how I look and behave and how you can identify me as hiker trash. In the “normal world” I dress kinda normal…. jeans, hoody like everyone else. The difference lays in the detail! Let me give a sum-up:

  • Nails: No manicure, no nice color… well except for the color of dirt underneath! On or off trail I can’t keep my nails clean. I make a joke out of it telling people how I do my manicure… I stick my fingers in the soil and give them a decent rub inthere…done… it definitely takes less time than french style (or what it is called? I don’t even know!)!!!
I don’t have a picture of my nails off-trail. But if you imagine these hands turning over and picture the nails going with them… you nailed it!
  • Shoes: Mostly I wear some kind of leather boots but once in a while I have the urgent need to put on my totally worn out trail runners. Almost ripped apart, dirty as hell… I don’t care! I’ll wear them to work and think all day “I looooove these shoes! They were made just for me!!! I can conquer the world in these!!!!!!”
  • Humor: That’s a bit of a delicate thing. Once you turned in being Hiker trash you can’t go back and it is a struggle to keep that filthy mouth shut in the normal world. Well at least it is for me. You’ll find me making a dirty joke inbetween and then putting my hand in front of my mouth, looking all guilty and my eyes asking “Did I just say that out loud?” Meanwhile people are staring at me and giving me eyes like “What is going on with you?” It’s hard! It really is hard to keep myself together and frankly to be honest: I hate it. I shouldn’t give a fuck but people in the “normal world” really think it’s akward. I can’t get it. Cuz I’m pretty sure underneath of all of us there’s a dirty little monster waiting to be set free…. So if you meet me and you recognize me by the way I put my hand over my mouth after I said something dirty… Please do identify yourself as hiker trash too… In that way I can speak freely! That’d be awesome!!!
  • Food: Again a delicate topic. Food is the hiker trash’s treasure! (Jep you can picture me as Gollum guarding my foodbag!) Never ever touch the food of hiker trash. It belongs to him/her and to him/her alone! If you meet hiker trash willing to share food with you… beware! She or he may have a crush on you or just pities you like hell… These are the only two reasons I can think of why to share food… and I’m not even sure of the first one haha! If I see someone starving (I mean on trail), ok, maybe my good heart might prevail and might start sharing… But I can’t promise. In the (extreeeeemely) rare case of hiker trash carrying too much food, you might be lucky and get something…but don’t expect a snickers or a clif bar! You might get a farty freeze dried dinner, if you’re lucky! Ow shit I forgot that this should be about how to recognize hiker trash in the normal world! Eh yeah well… You might recognize Hiker trash when the person you’re having dinner with doesn’t allow you to try his/her food. I hate it when people take food from MY plate!!!  On the other hand I will ALWAYS try to get some food of someone elses plate… My motto is: Never give food! Always take food! Jee that makes me one egoistic bitch. Whoops! Also you might recognize hiker trash by not obeying to the “3-second-rule”. Not sure if there’s a “rule” like that in America but here in Europe we say: If you drop food to the floor, and it lays there for less than 3 seconds you can pick it up and eat it. Hiker trash doesn’t care about a 3-second-rule. Hiker trash doesn’t care at all. Food is food. You eat it! Period. O and if you work in some kind of office in the “normal world” you might identify a hiker trash’s lunch box by being tucked away in an ursack, tied to the fridge. Don’t you even try to untie it!
On the other hand you might find me “finding” (I won’t call it another word cuz then I’d be considered being criminal) some extra food for my fellow hikers if it just lies around somewhere. No ofcourse I don’t take it from other hikers. I talk about buffets. They have so much to offer and if I were a big man I’d eat all that. I have no problem sharing food if it wasn’t intentionally meant to be mine (if you know what I mean ;c)
  • Body odor: Seems like we’re only having delicate topics here. When living in the “normal world” I try to take a shower at least every second day. But from time to time I get lazy and live like I live on the trail. I sometimes ask myself whether other people are just to embarrassed to tell me “Woman, you stink!” Hahaha! I probably do once in a while. But you know what? I hate that totally over the top exaggerated concern with cleanliness! Fuck it! Most people don’t even know what people smell like without being all covered in deo, perfume and artificial smells! I do like a bit of perfume sometimes, but I can go without, that’s for sure!
  • Toilet stories: If you kept reading till this point, you might identify yourself not being hiker trash if you feel your cheeks turning more red by every line you continue reading. Point is: You can identify hiker trash by the way they are not shy at all to talk about pee or poo! If I start talking about having a poo in the “normal world” I notice people getting all uncomfortable and I find myself saying: “Hey we all have to go! Even the queen has to wipe her butt!” What is it that people get shy about the most normal thing in the world? I for my part love to poo in the woods and I love that nature provides me with toilets with a view!!!
  • Work: I’m not sure if this applies to all hiker trash but for me it definitely is true: I can’t keep a job for longer than 1 year. Well in fact it’s not that I can’t, it’s that I don’t want to. I get bored, I feel trapped and after a few months I just need to get out! I hope my employer hasn’t find out about this blog I write. If so: I’m sorry employer, I’ll probably quit in a few months. You might wanna start searching for someone else to do my job… Whoops. In the beginning (which lays a few years back now) I got worried and asked myself: “What is it with me that I can’t be like anyone else? Doing a job for 10 years and appearing to be happy with it?” Now I got used to it and accepted that that is just the way I roll. I’m fine with not making a big career, not earning tons of money… It’s ok. Once in a while I get nervous like “Fuck, I haven’t achieved anything yet!” but then I realise, that ain’t what life is about… It’s about living my dream, about doing what I love and about being me!

Now this definitely isn’t a complete sum-up. I’m sure lots of aspects are missing and you hiker trash species out there are very welcome, in fact I explicitly ask you, to complete the list!!!

The real challenge though living as hiker trash in the “normal world”  is finding a balance between it all. Try not to fart too loud in public, swallow down that 20th dirty joke, hell even let someone taste a bit of your food (you won’t starve, I promise)… The most important thing is  to keep your heart open (oh am I getting a bit emotional here?) and your dreams big!!!! O what the heck, go on talking about poo, quitting your jobs, rubbing your nails in the dirt, spreading the smell… In fact: Dear hiker trash friends… Let’s conquer the world!!!

Allrightyyyy! So I posted the question “How do you recognize hiker trash?” in the Facebook Hiker Trash group. Following answers were given:

  • The pack… packed like no other (after a few miles and all the things you don’t really need are sent home) Not a gypsy ruck, things hanging all over it. Looking more like it is a part of the body… IMO.
  • When i see someone exercising and smoking a cigarette. Personally happy to have quit again.
  • The thought and/or look of: “what do I do/where do I go next?”
  • by smell?
  • Showering in the sink of a public restroom always gives them away
  • Always has a backpack even in town.  Sometimes cooks lunch at work on a pocket rocket.
    Always looking for a place to hang my hammock
  • Wears 10 year old Gortex Jacket with Thermarest patches…
  • Cooks home made Ethiopian food in a jet boil on the table outside of Starbucks while waiting for band mate using their wifi for a business meeting on the road to a gig.

9 thoughts on “How to recognize HIKER TRASH in the "normal world"!

  1. Well said Helen! I'd like to see how trashy you are. We were too clean when we met. There's some Grade A hiker trash on the Appalachian Trail. Might be worth checking out after the PCT.


  2. “3 Second Rule?” Huh? I thought it was 3 hours, or was that 3 days? There's a rule? I thought it was, “Finders, Keepers.” So how do you spot hiker trash in everyday life? Easy, especially after a few beers. You know those passing zones on the highway, where they have the broken white line? If you see someone walking along following them, they're confused and think they're White Blazes.


  3. I once found an M&M in one of the heat vents of my parents' house. It was surrounded by dust and dog hair and God only knows how long it had been there. I ate it. My mother was appalled. 🙂


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