If you've never heard the term, "Hiker Trash" it might first be offensive to you. On my latest hike with Stephen Level, we felt insulted when a car drove by our camp and the driver shouted the phrase at us as we cooked our dinner. However upon further inquiry, I found it not to be a harsh term at all. In fact throughout the hiking community it might even be considered a compliment and a flattery. It recognizes a person who hikes as a genuine, lover of nature. It acknowledges the passion and devotion of a hiker in one simple term and classifies him/her into the ever growing group of avid trail junkies.
I posed a question to a group of hikers recently regarding what it meant to be "hiker trash". Over 50 different hikers helped me define the term and believe their responses, while not what I was expecting, paint a vivid and accurate picture of what "hiker trash" looks like in the real world of hiking.
Here are their words:
Have you ever eaten a skittle you found on the trail? Have you ever washed your silverware by licking it clean? Have you ever taken toilet paper from a public restroom to supplement your own supply? Have you ever slept in a closet because there are nine other people in the hotel room? Have you ever turned your underwear inside out to get another wear before you have to wash? Have you ever finger cleaned your pot with water and drink it all up when you are done? Have you ever used dirt as a pot scrubber? Have you ever had people flee from your vicinity on a shuttle bus because of the stench? Have you ever taken a "bath" in the sink of a public restroom? Have you ever argued with a restaurant that you're not leaving your life in a backpack sitting outside? Have you ever sorted groceries on a resupply run and people offer you money because they think you are homeless? Have you ever gone dumpster diving for food and things to sell? Have you ever found that body odor smells more nostalgic than off-putting? Have you ever eaten a gas station sandwich from the back of their dumpster? Have you ever had New England tourists look at you like you are a wildlife siting? Have you ever found a public restroom to be cleaner than what you've been sleeping in? Have you ever started cutting off pieces of clothing to wipe after pooping? Have you ever forgone washing your dirty everything, and instead, opt to just sit outside of the grocery store, shoving boxed donuts and downing bottles of root beer until you're in a food coma? Have you ever camped on the side of a parking lot off a highway and have to move your tent because it gets flooded out? Have you ever been offered a ride but they cover their cloth car seats with sheets, towels or tarps before they invite you in? Have you ever liked trees much better than most people? Have you ever slept in a public restroom at a remote campground because all your gear was drenched? That's hiker trash! Walking in to a diner, smelling like something that just died, debris proudly displayed in your face forest and then sitting next to all those nice clean patrons just because there's an outlet to charge your phone/camera...that is hiker trash. Own it.
Hearing these responses allowed me to classify myself as "hiker trash", and proudly at that. I've certainly neglected a bit of hygiene on hikes before and I've eaten (shamelessly, I might add) some pretty questionable things and all of this simply because, walking where man is a stranger, and trees and mountains claim dwelling, is worth it all.
A rough and often smelly group, to be sure. But, the hiker trash community knows what they're about. In their world, hiking and the enjoyment of it comes first and foremost. Before hygiene, healthy eating habits, comfortable sleep or even proper toilets, hiking takes a priority in their lives. For one reason or another, the love of the hike is the driving force for it all. So if ever you find yourself accused of being hiker trash, thank them, and wear it with the pride that many smelly, dirty and hungry hikers do.
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