Becoming You: Do Thru-Hikers Choose Their Own Trail Name?

Hiking and backpacking are two of the most popular outdoor activities enjoyed by people all over the world. For those…

Hiking and backpacking are two of the most popular outdoor activities enjoyed by people all over the world.

For those who take on the challenge of a long-distance hike, such as the Pacific Crest Trail or the Appalachian Trail, the journey can be a life-changing experience.

One aspect of thru-hiking that has become a tradition is adopting a trail name. These trail names are unique monikers that hikers use to identify themselves on the trail and in the hiking community.

But the question remains, do thru-hikers choose their own trail name, or is it assigned to them? In this blog post, we’ll explore the history and significance of trail names and delve into how thru-hikers come to be known by their trail names.

What is a trail name, we discuss how they come about and ways to get a perfect one

What is a Trail Name?

A trail name is a nickname given to hikers, usually by other hikers on the trail. It’s a way of connecting and is frequently based on a person’s quirk, characteristic, or trait.

It could be physical, such as their clothing, or a personality trait, like being the “life of the party.”

Most people are given their trail names while actively hiking on the trail, but others decide to choose their name.

Regardless of how someone gets their specific trail name, it usually becomes an integral part of their identity, and they soon introduce themselves to townspeople by this new name.

Trail names are non-binding and you may have a few trials before choosing your name, but once you have yours it will stick with you for the duration.

While Some Do, Should You Actually Pick Your Trail Name?

It is entirely up to each individual if they would like to name themselves, be given a name, or not have a trail name at all.

Trail names can be fun, silly, or serious and can be self-selected but many on trail find it weird to pick their own trail name as others view you differently.

So if you choose to name yourself it’s important to take some time and think about what you want your trail name to say about you.

It is important to remember that it is not mandatory to have a trail name, but if you are seeking a connection with other hikers, having a trail name can be a great way to start up conversations and make new friends.

What Does Your Trail Name Say About You?

A trail name is a fairly unique identifier for a hiker, and it can reveal something about the person’s character or experiences.

For example, a hiker who is an avid bird watcher may choose a name like “Feathered Friend,” or someone who loves to explore the night sky might pick “Starry Wanderer.”

Trail names can also be more light-hearted, such as “One-Step-at-a-Time” or “Slow and Steady.” Whatever the case, your trail name can tell others a little about you, so when given one make sure that it best reflects who you are.

How Can You Pick Your Trail Name?

For those who decide to pick their own trail name, creativity is vital to a well-remembered trail name and identity.

Each person hopes to create a meaningful name that reflects the individual. It could be a combination of words, a play on words, or even a joke.

It’s essential to think about what your trail name says about you and how it will reflect on you throughout your hike.

Once you have a name that feels right, embrace it and make it your own as you traverse the trails.

Why Do People Give Each Other Trail Names?

But why do people give each other trail names in the first place? Well, it’s a way to create a sense of community and recognize an individual’s accomplishments or traits.

It’s also an opportunity for hikers to express themselves uniquely and creatively. Trail names are often used to honor a person’s journey, achievements, and experiences on the trail.

They can bring out the humor in a situation and even commemorate special moments and milestones.

So, if you’re wondering why people give each other trail names, it’s a great way to foster camaraderie, recognize accomplishments, and express oneself!

How to Respectfully Reject a Trail Name

Of course, not everyone wants to have a trail name. For instance, legendary hiker and author Johnny Molloy does not wish to have a trail name and has been known to refuse them when offered.

If you don’t want a trail name given to you, the best way to respectfully reject it is to explain why you don’t like it politely.

You can say that you prefer to come up with your name or thank the person for offering, but explain that you would rather not have a trail name.

Are Trail Names Permanent?

Receiving your trail name can be a fun and empowering experience, but what if you want to use a different name at some point in your journey?

The answer is both yes and no. The great thing about trail names is that they are flexible – you can use them as you wish and even change them whenever you wish.

However, if you change your trail name mid-journey, you may confuse people who knew you earlier under another name, which could confuse others.

It’s best to think carefully before deciding on your trail name and stick with it for at least the duration of your trek.

When is the Best Time to Pick a Trail Name?

When picking a trail name, there is no definitive answer, as everyone’s situation is unique; it all depends on the individual’s preference and experience.

The best time to choose your trail name is whenever you feel comfortable and confident, this could be on your first day of hiking, after a few weeks on the trail, or even later.

It’s important to note that you don’t have to keep the same name throughout your entire hike if it doesn’t feel right to you- you are allowed to choose a new one at any time!

How Can You Use Your Trail Name to Connect with Others?

Your trail name can be an excellent way to connect with other hikers on the trail. It is a unique identifier that can create a bond between hikers, even if they have just met.

It is easy to start a conversation, as you can introduce yourself with your trail name and share stories with each other about how it was picked.

You can also use trail names to show respect to other hikers, as acknowledging people by their trail names is a sign of appreciation and can make any hiker feel valued.

What is the Best Way to Explain Your Trail Name?

Explaining your trail name is a great way to connect with others and help them understand the story behind it.

You can share the meaning behind your trail name or why you chose it, and it can be an exciting conversation starter.

It could even be a way to honor someone who gave you the name or share a meaningful experience while on the trail.

Trail names can be a great way to express yourself, so have fun with them and share your stories!

Josh Koop

I turned 40 and realized I needed to change my life from being a desk-bound IT worker slowly dying in a cubicle. I have been working on ways to build my knowledge and skills, along with gear. I have plans to do a thru-hike on the Lone Star Hiking Trail, Ouachita Trail, and Pinhoti Trail in the next year.

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