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You Know You’re a Hiker When….

You know you’re a hiker when…

when you look at a bar of chocolate in the store and put it back because it doesn’t have enough calories.

when you measure everything in your life in liters and grams.

when you can accurately judge your mileage after walking all day.

when your mind arrives at the hike days before your body reaches the trailhead.

when a friend comments on the state of your feet: “is that from your boots?”

when you meet your non-hiker friends after a long hike and they tell you to shower first

when you wake up at 5:00 am on a weekend to get an early start on a hike

when you call in sick to go hiking.

when you don’t mind digging a cat hole.

when you have arguments about whether dehydrated chili mac with beef or lasagna with meat sauce is better.

when finding an old slim jim in a hiker box is AMAZING

when you use black toenail polish to hide your dead toenails.

when you give your blisters first names.

when one of your most-used possessions is a poop shovel.

when you know who among your friends snores in their sleep.

when the first website you read every day is SectionHiker.com

when your feet have blisters on blisters.

when 95% of your weekly groceries are dry ration goods. Just add water.

when you have snickers, ramen noodles, and sports tape for hotspots in every backpack you own.

when filtering water out of a stream seems normal.
when drinking water out of a stream seems normal

when you spend more money on hiking shoes than fancy pumps.

when you plan your move based on which area has the best trails.

when your old pack is made nearly waterproof from the amount of duct tape holding it together.

when you suck all the air out of your zip lock bags to save space, even for your work lunchbox.

when you have a lively 5-hour conversation about Subway Meatball Subs.

when you have a dream about how light your backpack will be with the new Tarptent you just ordered.

when you use your Jetboil at work and eat mountain house meals for lunch.

when your wife has you babysit and you cook Mac and cheese on your backpacking stove for lunch.

when you are always looking for new potential backpacking food items at the supermarket.

when you find yourself constantly staring at the horizon wondering what your day would be like if you walked over there.

when you have an excel spreadsheet of all your hiking gear and its weight.

when you are home alone and the wife and kids are away and you sleep in your hammock instead of your bed!

when every flight of stairs is a training exercise!

when you have a pack made up and ready to go for training hikes.

when you’re confused for a vagabond.

when you run into old friends on hikes
when you run into old friends on hikes

when your wife shows you some underwear she is thinking of buying and you excitedly reply, “oh, are those for summer hiking?”

when you re-read the same web reviews over and over on a new piece of gear you want to buy.

when your wife rolls her eyes at another new piece of gear shows up on your doorstep.

when almost every conversation leads to a trail analogy.

when you check Geartrade every day.

when your holiday shopping consists of zip-locks and powdered whole milk “because we can’t get that back home”.

when your first order of business in a new town is finding the nearest trail.

when you spend more time reading updates from strangers on backpacking blogs and forums than updates from friends on Facebook.

when the freezer goes out and all you are worried about is the dehydrated veggies and powdered eggs–never mind all the other food your wife had in there!

when you use your water filter to make drinking water when the town water main breaks.

when you put on microspikes to shovel snow off your sidewalk in winter.

when you’re constantly evaluating the best materials to make a campfire. Even in the office!

when the main reason you go to a post office is to resupply
when the main reason you go to a post office is to resuppluy

when you start planning your next hike while unpacking and drying out your gear from a hike that just ended.

your AT thru-hiker wife gives you a thumbs up on your hike.

when you finally become proficient with Excel just to keep track of of your gear & the weight!

when you convince 22 beginner hikers it’s fun to hike in the rain !!

when you know over 20 uses for a single roll of duct tape!

when you keep your boots and hiking sticks in your car when you go to work “just in case.”

when there are only hikes on your bucket list.

when you know how to do the butt scuff.

when you have a drawer full of bread bags.

when all of your dress chinos are convertible hiking pants.

when you dream of different hikes every night.

when you comb to Web for the perfect baby-carrying backpack years before you have a child.

when you look at your photo album and 99% of pictures show mountains, nature… and nobody outside your hiking community understands why every single one of those pictures is necessary.

when you come back from the supermarket with assorted cosmetics, toiletries, and food items for the sole purpose of reusing their tiny containers to hold your Body Glide and sunscreen.

when you save your dryer lint to make firestarter.

when you quit your day job and start a blog about hiking.

when you’ve got your next three years of hikes planned in advance.

when you're willing to sleep in a shelter with stangers but you are offended when asked to share a hotel with a colleague from work
when you’re willing to sleep in a shelter with strangers but you are offended when asked to share a hotel room with a colleague from work

when you play hooky from a golf tournament to go Hike!

when you dream about your new compass or a new pair of boots.

when you decide that you want to be buried with your hiking boots on!

when checking each other for ticks isn’t just a cute country song!

when your deodorant becomes fire smoke and bug spray.

when you’d rather sleep in a tent than in a hotel room.

when your sleeping pad doubles as a flotation device.

when you track pavement miles and trail miles on your boots.

when you buy your kids their first backpacks before they can walk!

when the real reason you joined a gym is to practice hiking on inclines when you can’t make it outside.

when you read all these things to your wife and she gives you that “How do all these people you’ve never met know you so well?” look.

when you read the rings on the wood coffee table as contour lines.

when you camp out in your backyard in the winter to test how your new tarp and bivy setup will perform in cold weather.

when you carefully consider the weight and packability of all the gear you’re packing for a weekend trip in the car to stay at your in-law’s house.

when you get excited over a package of ExOfficio underwear and wool socks.

when you start carrying your Victorinox classic, Fenix, Mini Bic, and key chain compass/thermometer — every day, all the time.

when you’re drawing Social Security and still sleeping in a tent!

when you start to drool over the package of backpacking meals that just arrived in the mail.

when it seems normal to modify a backpack hip belt with plumbing insulation
when it seems normal to modify a backpack hip belt with plumbing insulation

when your food scale isn’t used for food but to weigh all your gear.

when you spend hours online finding new trails…while at work.

when every season is your favorite season to be outside!

when you throw out the cat food and keep the can.

when “hotspots” make you think of blisters and not wifi.

when you do more research on trips during work hours than actual work.

when you decide to sleep on the back porch in -10F (instead of in bed with your spouse) just to test how warm your new sleeping bag is.

when you are ok with not showering for a couple of weeks.

when you spend more time researching your next tent than your next car.

when you can withstand dunking your head in frigid mountain rivers and lakes for a quick rinse (and you even relish the thrilling chill).

when your wife wants to divorce you because you’re always in the mountains and not home.

when you refer to your tent as your summer home.

when you just find a tree if there is a line for the bathroom.

when you string up your new hammock in your back yard, in the dark, and test out your new sleeping system, while the rest of the family laughs at you from the house.

when you can eat peanut butter tortillas in the mountains for 21 straight days without going insane.

when you refer to your wife as a co-leader.

when you practice pitching your tarp in the front yard
when you practice pitching your tarp in the front yard

when you get excited about it being a new sock day!

when your clothesline hangs tents as often as it hangs laundry.

when walking 10 miles is considered a ‘breeze’.

when can justify spending $30 on a pair of socks.

when you practice the french technique on your college campus hills.

when your kids start thinking hiking is actually your job.

when Mountain House, Backpacker’s Pantry and other freeze-dried foods are on your grocery list.

when you’ve weighed your fuel for your stove and know the exact burn time because you’ve timed it in your kitchen.

when you go bed every night reading the AT Guide.

when you start putting every random condiment on tuna fish.

when you buy a front-loading washer to wash your sleeping bags and quilts.

when you can easily kill an hour in the grocery store inventing “add boiling water ” concoctions that you swear would win on top chef!

when you can eat peanut butter and honey sandwiches for days at a time (and love every one)
when you can eat peanut butter and honey sandwiches for days at a time (and love every one)

when you save every plastic container that comes through your kitchen, organized first by volume and then by recycling symbol.

when you start to enjoy the taste of a ProBar, and they no longer taste similar to some type of herbivore scat.

when you live and work in Seattle and every clear day in the spring you look at Mt Ranier on your drive home and note how much the snow line has receded.

when you have no stamps, but own a postal scale.

when you meet strangers and start telling them about the local trails.

when your Nalgene Bottle never leaves your side, and a Cliff bar becomes a nutritious meal.

when you bring your digital scale on shopping trips.

when you think that any time, any weather and any day is a good day to hike.

when you’ve weighed your…underwear.

when you know from practice that a Leatherman Micra and a toothbrush are the only grooming/hygiene tools you need.

when you can’t wait for the ski season to finish so you can get back onto the trails

when you look at food in terms of most calories per oz.

when dieting is about adding pounds not losing them.

when you crack an eyelid in the morning and know the time by how light it is.

when you hang on to your old hiking boots even after they've worn out because you can't stand the thought of parting with them
when you hang on to your old hiking boots even after they’ve worn out because you can’t stand the thought of parting with them

when finding spam in those single-serving envelopes excites you.

when you park your car far from the location you wish to go just to savor the walk.

when people ask you to make them a koozie out of reflectix.

when you would rather walk thru an outdoor sporting store than a hardware store.

when you use your headlamp around the house at night instead of turning on a light.

when you buy fresh food in order to dehydrate it and eat it weeks later.

when you can recite the nutritional facts of cliff bars, power bars, etc.

when you get excited because Knorr Rice Sides are on sale at the grocery store.

when you can find any one of 50 different items within 2 seconds in your pack because you have memorized the packing order, but as to the location of the car keys at home… you have no idea you last put them.

when you happily drive for eight hours to the mountains for a six-hour hike.

when most of your books come with maps.

when you start doing the same trails over again in different seasons.

when you keep partically filled gas canisters (for years) hoping to still use them up some day
when you keep your partially filled gas canisters (for years) hoping to still use them up someday

when you spend your free time at work making and testing soda can stoves.

when your entire shoe collection consists of six pairs of hiking boots.

when you fantasize about the multiple backcountry uses for Saran wrap!!

when the weather, terrain, and distance dictate what shoes you wear.

when you have a separate storage Cabinet/Closet/Room dedicated to just Backpacking equipment, food, books, and maps.

when your mom hiked the Himalayas before you were born.

when you find yourself washing your underwear in a ziplock bag and drying it on the back of your pack.

when you sneak kit past the wife without her knowledge or agreement for you to buy it.

when you are making your ultralight stove in the middle of the night and you have to work the next morning.

when alone on a trail miles from home you share a conversation with a total stranger as if they were your best friend.

when out for a day hike you wish you’d brought your shelter for an overnighter.

when your wardrobe is determined by weight and layering, not fashion or occasion.

when you can’t wait to convert the kid’s bedroom into a gear room.

when your sweetie goes to an important family event and your mother-in-law asks “Where’s your husband? Hiking again?!”

when you start thinking of ways to spend your REI rebate in January.

when your feet are blistered, your calves are screaming, your shoulders are sore as hell, and you’re having the time of your life!

when instant coffee is an acceptable evil.

when you go a little crazy when you walk into a food store to resupply
when you go a little crazy when you walk into a food store to resupply

when you buy Heet, but don’t own a car.

when you keep a separate drawer of clothes that are saturated with “hiker stink” and unfit for use in public.

when your basket at the grocery store looks like you are preparing for the end of the world.

when your co-workers give you weird looks for clomping around the office in those new boots you’re breaking in.

when you have socks you only use for hiking.

when you have fewer “good” toenails than “bad” ones.

when you buy a drill press solely to make holes in camping gear to lighten it up.

when you have a “Ten Essentials” kit in every pack you own.

when the weather never seems to affect your adventure for the day!

when you prefer a sleeping bag to a bed!

when you practice your “leave-no-trace” protocol at home before a river canyon trip.

when the three-bedroom house you recently moved into is now considered a two-bedroom house with an awesome gear room.

when you end the hike, dirty, tired, hungry but saying “I want to go again!”

When you literally put on every piece of clothing you're carrying to stay warm on a cold day
When you literally put on every piece of clothing you’re carrying to stay warm on a cold day

when you have a tan line on your calves from your long merino socks.

when you have a collection of backpack pals from several flatlander states that will travel hours just to hit the trail together for a weekend.

when you are buying a dress suit and you ask the salesperson if the fabric is wicking.

when you’re halfway through one hike, and already planning your next one!

when your ideal first date is not in a restaurant but on a trail.

How about you?

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59 comments

  1. Not only a good list but funny as well. Good job

  2. When day walkers smell really good.

  3. When you’re told to research Microscopes at work and you type in microspikes!

  4. I think you’ve been working on this list for a while, Philip! Great hiking touchstones.

  5. My wife laughed at all the items that applied to me, and I laughed at those which described her. Great list.

  6. When you plan driving trips by the outfitters to stop at along the way.

    When your hiking underwear and socks have become your work underwear and socks.

    When your hiking shoes outnumber your dress shoes 4 to 1.

  7. Oh gosh…how so true Thank you for putting this together: It is amazing when one thinks about it and often very very very true Here a couple from my life:….#1 When you invite guests over to your house for Dinner and they question why they have a Nalgene bottle, Canteen cup and a Swiss Army knife, and a Bandana laid out for place settings…… #2. Dinner consists of an individual serving of Mountain House Beef Stew and you serve up Snickers Bars in a Baseball hat for Dessert…….#2. Your former significant other feels you need to change your sleeping habits and come in off the Back Porch and into bed to sleep……. #3.You take out your GPS, Compass, Trail Map and a Satelite Photo to plot a trail to your the Grocery Store two miles down the road from your house……. #4. You have to explain in Detail to your neighbors, and sometimes the Police, the reason for you being in their Backyards while going to the Convienance Store what “Cross Country Hiking” is!

  8. When you see a quarter roll of toilet paper in the bathroom at home and you think “Backpacking supplies”.

  9. When you have more photos of trail junction sign posts than you do of your nieces and nephews.

  10. Somewhere around 80% of these apply to me. Guess I’m a hiker. Made me smile. Made my wife roll her eyes in recognition. Great list.

  11. Gulp! Hello, my name is John and I’m a hikeoholic.

  12. When you give “bushwhacking” as the answer to questions about the cause of multiple scabs on your hands, arms, legs and face! ;)

  13. I thought ProBars were supposed to be the GOOD ones? Abela at least raves about them.

  14. When you visit a friend who offers you a bedroom and a made bed, and you put your sleeping bag on it (you brought it with you) and crawl in because that’s the only way that you’ll have a good night’s sleep.

  15. When, in polite company, you horrify someone by thoughtlessly blowing your nose by skillfully touching a nostril and blowing out the other instead of using a handkerchief.

  16. When your dream car would be small, cheap, not sexy, not particularly fast, but would have high clearance, 4×4 low range, storage on the roof – and no car company makes it.

  17. When your non-hiking friends consider you a guru for all the magic associated with handheld GPS.

  18. When you’re guilty of just about everything on this list!

  19. When you consider a noisy fart to be a natural and expected consequence of altitude, and not rude.

  20. When you think that snow means you don’t have to carry TP.

  21. Great post! One sign I didn’t see was:

    When you’d rather use a snowball, rather than toilet paper.

  22. The first thing you do with a brand-new pair of waterproof hiking boots is Nik-Wax them. Then you attach rings to the bottom laces so your winter gaiter hooks don’t fray the laces.

    You have four different kinds of Nik-Wax.

    Your dog has her own backpack, loaded with food and gear she needs for hiking and camping.

    When you buy several pairs of the same hiking pants, thinking, “These would look good at work, too.”

  23. You have several rolls of clear shelf paper from the Dollar Store for laminating maps and trail directions. At least one roll is always on your desk.

    It’s hard to find a place to sit, or even move easily through the house, because of all the gear spread around drying and airing out.

  24. I’ve had some strange looks from shop assistants when I’ve whipped out the digital scales.

  25. The original version of this was such a classic! I’m glad the subject’s been brought up again to add to the collective wisdom… experience… quirks… or whatever it is!

  26. You get irked in REI because they don’t have scales available.

  27. I recognize a lot of myself in that list…especially talking to strangers part. it’s funny how its like an instant friendship and then you won’t see them again, but thinking about the meeting will make you smile.

  28. Amusing, but the car purchase needs serious research so that you know it will get you to the trail in any weather, will hold the “just in case” gear in its trunk and have room for more stuff in the trunk, and will be reasonably economical.

    When you wear hiking pants as your work pants, but have to remember to remove the clif bars,spare socks, headlamp, and compass out of the lower cargo pocket so you don’t look a complete dork indoors at work.

    Yonah, I too wonder why REI doesn’t have a public scale for the customers who are comparison shopping item X vs item Y.

  29. Great list- here’s another: When you know that you prefer paper towels squared and a single wet nap to toilet paper when it’s raining or damp.

  30. …when you open a bottle of pills, take out the packing fiber, and immediately think, “is that cotton? Save it to mix with Vaseline for fire starter!”

  31. “when you can’t wait to convert the kid’s bedroom into a gear room”
    Guilty as charged (don’t tell my wife)

  32. When you use your backpack as carry on luggage. When you buy three pairs of the same hiking pants but consider them too nice for the trail and wear them for work. When you always keep a supply of chocolate, nuts and other snacks with you “in case you should get lost in the woods”. When you open all the windows in your bedroom on a winter night and sleep in your bag. When you constantly look for stealth campsites on day hikes.

  33. When you visit Austin and try to stop by Gossamer Gear’s head quarters. (Did that a couple weeks ago.)

  34. As a desert hiker, you’ve perfected the hip hole. Ultralight backpacking makes little sense when carrying three gallons of water in order to get to the next cache and three more gallons of water. You’ve one of them. When you find the best hiking boot, and you own three unopened boxes to prove it.

  35. When your child goes on a school camp and has the lightest and greatest gear on the whole camp

  36. I even Googled it, without success…. how DOES one do a “butt scuff”? I’m not sure I even really want to know.

    • O.k., jafrommeyer, we’re expecting you to turn in your hiker’s membership card immediately, thank you :-)

      Ummm, I think it’s when you shimmy your butt on the ground to wipe yourself, although I’d have to be pretty desperate to try it. There are only so many things I’m willing to give up in order to lighten my load (backpack, that is), and personally, I’m a huge fan of toilet paper — I don’t mind the extra weight.

      And I’m sorry Philip, I fail the strict orthodox LNT manifesto as well on this one: I don’t pack it out, but I DO bury it REALLY WELL, and cover it with dirt, leaves, rocks, and sticks. It’s never going to resurface, or be detected. In fact, no one would ever know that I was even there. That’s my level of LNT.

      I’m not sure how you’d cover your “tracks” with the butt scruff, but if I was ever that desperate I’d figure it out.

  37. Our Christmas tree this year came with a big plastic disposal bag, my first thoughts are how could I make a shelter out of this… Or maybe a poncho

  38. My comment is similars to Jay. I just had a large plastic bag that a long coat came in. I slit it open to see if it would be big enough for a ground cloth.

  39. Every store is scanned for hiking gear. I have shared a tent with a coworker more comfortably than a hotel room. I am happy to belong in this subset of crazy.

  40. -Finding out that people cook in the backcountry. I am the freezer bag queen.
    -Search for dehydrated versions of your favorite things. Tea bags…too much weight to pack out.
    -Your attitude is dependent on what side of the Hooksett tolls (or Sturbridge tolls) you are on. I kid you not. The F-Bombs come flying as soon as I get that blue flash going south.
    -You get upset that they call a campground a place with campers and RVs, not tents and they have WiFi, etc.
    -You know what drip dry means (women will get it).
    -Think about hiking a mountain but decide not to because you have it for that month.
    -Put up your tent up in the living room and sleep in it.
    -Buy a dehydrator because you can’t find powdered unsweetened almond milk.
    -Refer to your car camping tent as the Taj Mahal. Just a few.

  41. When the book at the top of your bathroom reading pile is the White Mountain Guide.

  42. When you laugh and nod your way through this list. And then spend the rest of your day thinking of more “when you”s!

  43. I read many of your articles and enjoy them all but this by far is my favorite! I laughed hard over and over again reading through these.

  44. Dang!
    Are you spying on me?

  45. When you start loitering around the freeze-dried section of the supermarket
    When your wife wakes up and finds you’re on top of the blanket in a sleeping bag/quilt
    When you go to the hiking shop to look for a new pair of work shoes.
    When you drive half way to work and walk the other half to stay fit
    When you take the dog for a walk the dog turns back first
    When your bedside table is overflowing with maps and other hiking paraphernalia
    When no one else is allowed to use your Bonners toothpaste

  46. When you..uhm …”organize” more toilet paper from a zero day restaurant bathroom.

  47. — When any physical activity — like mowing the lawn — is “cross-training” for hiking.
    — When you suffer withdrawal headaches and nausea if you spend more than two days without getting outside for at least a few hours.
    — When you experiment with just-add-hot-water recipes at home because you consider Mountain House etc. to be “cheating.”
    — When your main criterion for a new car is how comfortably you can sleep in it the night before or after a hike.
    — When you know which kinds of ticks in your part of the country carry which diseases.
    — When you know the hunting regulations in your part of the country even though you’re not a hunter.
    — When most of the REI employees know you by name (plus trail name.)
    — When you think trail maintenance crews are super heroes.
    — When it takes all your willpower to get out of your own bed to go to work in the morning when your alarm rings, but you awake with the singing birds at dawn raring to get moving when you sleep in a tent.

  48. When you test cooking a four course dinner on your 3 oz wood burning stove, in the driveway , just to be prepared for power outages at the house.

    I can’t stop laughing in recognition!

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