Backpacker Etiquette

hiking and backpacking etiquette

We don’t hear much about backpacker etiquette. We should.

Without public support there wouldn’t be many official trails. Agreements have to be reached with private landowners if trails run on their property. Arrangements must be made with local, state, and federal governments if trails cross those lands. Think of what happens if we are careless and sloppy; property owners and the public will become disgusted with our behavior.

The Appalachian Long Distance Hikers Association (ALDHA) has a good slogan: Hike in Harmony. They’ve also printed a poster to get the message out, and the header says it all: Just because you live in the woods doesn’t mean you can act like an ANIMAL.

This means we hikers store trash in our packs and pack it out. It means we don’t leave litter in shelters but make the effort to tidy them up for the next person. In every shelter I saw on the Appalachian Trail, there was a broom somewhere. Use it. Leave no trace. And if we find occasional litter on the trail, let’s do what’s right; pick up the trash and pack it out.

Hostels. The golden rule applies: Treat others the way you’d want them to treat you. Unfortunately, it’s that small percentage of hikers who ruin it for others by their behavior. I know of one case where all the donations to the hostel manager were swiped by a hiker. Terrible, and the hostel has shut down.

A few other points on backpacker etiquette. Just because one is a thru-hiker, that doesn’t mean he or she is entitled to the last spot in a shelter in place of a weekend backpacker. Or anyone else. Shelters are for all hikers.

If you are a loud snorer, sure to keep others in the shelter awake, then tent. And when others call it a night, it’s time for you to journal or read. You get the idea. Treat others the way you’d want them to treat you.

Happy trails!

hiking the continental divide trail
Colorado–view from the Continental Divide Trail

Published by Ray Anderson

Hiker and writer. Have hiked the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, The Long Trail (Vermont), and some of the Continental Divide Trail. My trail name is "HAMLET." Have written three hiking novels (thrillers). The first one, "THE TRAIL," was traditionally published in 2015. My second hiking thriller, "SIERRA," released Oct 2016. Book three in my AWOL hiking-thriller series, "THE DIVIDE" releases from Turner Publishing 8/18/2020.

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