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10 Life Hacks For Hikers and Backpackers

If you’ve been smitten by hiking and all you can think about is your next trip, it’s time to rearrange your life to maximize your hiking time. Here are a few hiking and backpacking hacks to help you on your way.

1. Replace your entire wardrobe with hiking clothes.

Hiking Clothes

If putting on your hiking clothes helps get you in the mood for hiking, go ahead and put them on all the time. No one will know that you’re wearing your hiking outfit at work, unless you’ve camped overnight in the woods behind your office park!

2. Dehydrate all leftovers so you always have backpacking meals ready.

Dehydrating Backpacking Food

If you have leftovers at dinner or from a takeout, don’t put them into the refrigerator. Pop them into your dehydrator and bag them up for your next backpacking or camping trip. Have it your way!

3. Plan trips well in advance so you can go when conditions are right.

Desolation Loop
Desolation Loop

Bored at work? Plan a day hike or a backpacking trip. There are lots of free online mapping tools like that you can use over the internet. Collaborative editing, free online storage and sharing are also provided, so you can plan a half-dozen trips or more in advance.

4. Keep your backpack packed so you can leave at a moment’s notice.

Gossamer Gear Mariposa circa 2009
Gossamer Gear Mariposa circa 2009

Can’t go for a weekend trip because you don’t have enough time to get ready? Keep a backpack packed at all times for a one night overnight trip so you’ll never miss an opportunity for a quick trip. Just add more ramen and cliff bars if you want to stay out longer.

5. Get a seasonal job. Become a ski patroller like Justin Lichter.

Ski Patrol

Work for six months and hike for six months. Construction, tax preparation, teaching, and snow plowing are all seasonal jobs you can do in the off-season, so you can backpack when the hiking is good.

6. Schedule business meetings at mountain huts.

Lakes of the Clouds

Take your clients or business partners hiking in the mountains. They’ll be amazed by the view and you’ll still reap the rewards. Plus you can deduct the expenses and driving mileage on your taxes.

7. Take the commuter train to work

Appalachian Trail Railroad Stop

City living is for the birds. Move closer to the trail so you can hike whenever you want, but still commute into town when you have to make an appearance at work. Many commuter lines also have wireless, so you can start your work day early and maximize your time on the train, instead of sitting in traffic.

8. Fill your winter hiking hot water bottles at a gas station on the way to the trail.

Fill your hot water bottles for winter hiking at the gas station.

There’s no need to get up an hour early before a winter hike to boil hot water for your water bottles. Just pull in at a convenience store or gas station that sells coffee and fill up your water bottles with 200 degree water, straight from the coffee machine.  They don’t mind.

 9. Accumulate frequent flier miles with small airlines

Katadin Air Service
Katahdin Air Service

The big airlines don’t fly directly to the places you want to go. Make friends with bush and float plane pilots and start racking up those frequent flier miles.

10. Spend some time on a trail crew. Become a trail steward.

Jolly Rovers Trail Crew

Spend some time giving back to the trail by helping perserve it for other hikers to enjoy. You’d be surprsied at how fulfilling trail work can be and how much it will increase your appreciation of the time you spend hiking.

What life hacks can you pass on to other hikers?


  1. Join a trail club…or two. You won’t regret hanging with a bunch of other low-lifers!

  2. #8 is simply genius! How have I not thought of this?
    #10 is my 2015 New Year’s resolution. It’s time to contribute with all the people who have made hiking so easy for me!

  3. I like it..but I caution you about joining Trail crews through Clubs…Join the Applachian Trail Conference and the Pacfic Crest Trail Association directly and not those other “afflilated Clubs” who primarily are interested in Dues and selling trips etc. etc. Out on the West Coast Mr. Fish was the Trail Boss for southern Cal.. a Great man…I hear he is retired but still active…

  4. The emergency shelter below Lakes of the Clouds is a great option to hold a meeting in winter.

    • Chris – if you want to get your software development teams attention and do a little teambuilding, make them climb the Ammo trail and take them up to Monroe on a sunny day. It will do wonders for their productivity. And you can expense it.

    • Most of my coworkers would whine and cry about the walk from the parking lot to Joe Dodge Lodge. They think I’m some sort of extreme sports guy when I take my son backpacking.

  5. Phil,

    Been to the AT train station many times and the Katahdin Air Service plug is great. Jimmy Strang is an excellent pilot and a truly funny man.

  6. #1 reminds me of something that went around the net a very long time ago: “Real Programmers don’t play tennis, or any other sport which requires you to change clothes. Mountain climbing is OK, and Real Programmers wear their climbing boots to work in case a mountain should suddenly spring up in the middle of the computer room.”

  7. I have 17 separate pieces of RailRiders clothing (shirts, pants, shorts) so I’m well on my way to achieving #1.

  8. This is terrific! I run a backpacking camp for girls and I this list is pretty much my litmus test for potential staff :)

  9. In Colorado, we have “Volunteers for Outdoor Colorado.” Every summer, they do about 20 projects around the state, rebuilding existing trails or creating new ones. One September, however, our Sunday work day had to be cancelled because there were 3 inches of snow on the mountainside (and on our tents)!

  10. An inspired list, I enjoyed it, but offer one caution – keeping the backpack packed and ready to go would mean keeping your sleeping bag stored compressed – which is not good – it should be stored fluffed so that the fibers don’t become kinked and fail expand to keep you warm.

    • What I do is keep a large tupperware with my go-to gear in it and my pack laid on top. Enough room for puffy things to loft and everything is still ready to stuff in the pack and go.

  11. Thanks for the good laugh today :) This made me smile.

  12. Nice pic of the jolly rovers. Good bunch of folks that do amazing stone work. I basically did the trail job this season. I worked with the Americorps crew at bear mtn in NY this summer and I have now built a future that keeps me working in the woods or outside. Best decision I ever made.

  13. Definitely have used the little hot water at gas stations trick when I was up in New Hampshire during the winter… It’s COOOOLD up there.

  14. As Kevin O said above, I can’t believe that I never thought of doing #8. What a great idea as long as the clerk behind the counter doesn’t think that you’re just taking hot water to make your own hot drink without paying. Probably best to ask before doing this.

  15. Not sure about # 8, Why hot water in your water bottles?

  16. “4. Keep your backpack packed so you can leave at a moment’s notice.” Err No. That is a great way to damage your sleeping bag and sleeping mat which always be stored unstuffed.

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