7 Appalachian Trail Facts You Probably Don’t Know (But Should)

Appalachian Trail Facts

The title for today’s post is derived from the things that I’ve learned during my preparation (H) for the Appalachian Trail.  It’s very possible you already knew all seven of these facts.  I just didn’t think, “7 things you already knew” was as grabby.

I know present to you:

7 Appalachian Trail Facts You Probably Don’t Know (but should)


1)  How Does One Poop on The Appalachian Trail?

Other than soiling themselves, a good plan B is to carry a trowel to dig a small hole in the dirt so other animals don’t accidentally step in it whenthey are pooping.  Just so you know, animals don’t dig holes.  A double standard if you ask me.  They also don’t wipe.  Triple standard?

2)  How Does One Shower on the Appalachian Trail?

The same way that hippies do.  You don’t.  “But you’re spending all day walking up and down mountains, while carrying 30 lbs. on your back, through the heart of the summer!  Surely you’ll excrete several oceans of sweat everyday.”  Yup.  That’s part of the trail, is being a grummy bastard.  Currently I average approximately 1.8 showers a day (I like to sing).  You do, however, get to shower when you get into towns while staying at hotels, hostels, motels, friends’ places, etc.  In other words, if you’re reading this, and live anywhere remotely close to the trail, and would like to let two scummy dudes de-stank in your abode, we will shower you with love (and stank).

3)  How Does One eat on the Appalachian Trail?

On average, you’re only 4-5 days away from a trail town, which means, on average, you will be carrying 4-5 days worth of food on your back.  As for pure logistics, there are a combination of approaches thru-hikers take to feed themselves.  One– buy supplies when in town.  Two– mail yourself goods ahead of time or have loved ones do this for you.  Three– cannibalism.  I’m sure after a few days of granola and peanut butter and John will start to look like a double decker taco supreme.  I feel comfortable saying this only because I know he will feel the same way.  I am delicious.

4)  How Does One Drink on the Appalachian Trail?

Obviously, much like food, you will re-stock when you can in town.  Water, however, is much more important than food.  The human body can go days without food (I’ve already run this self experiment a few times). It can go only a few minutes without water (don’t fact check that please).  Because of this, an active hiker should be consuming approximately 3 liters of water everyday.  One liter of water weighs about 2.2 lbs. x 3 liters per day x 5 days = 33 extra lbs.  Not happening.  So – instead hikers opt to either treat reservoir water chemically, or run it through a filtration system.  John and I are opting for the former as the potential health risks of chemicals pails in comparison to extra work and increased risk of human error associated with using a device we don’t understand.  It was only yesterday that I learned, in fact, gnats are not indicators of clean drinking water.  Baby steps. Beer is still consumed the same way you normally would – with a smile.

5)  How Does One Protect Themselves From Bears on the Appalachian Trail?

Kung Fu.  For those who aren’t Chuck Norris, it turns out, that bears really aren’t that big of a problem.  Relative to Grizzlies, Black Bears are passivists.  As long as campers are careful to not put food in their tent at night, bears are much more interested in going about their daily business of being adorable and losing NFC Championship games.

6)  How Does One Protect Themselves From Lyme Disease on the Appalachian Trail?

I hate this question almost as much as I hate reality TV (nothing will ever top reality TV hate).  Deer Ticks are common carriers of Lyme Disease.  Because Deer Ticks are so small, about the size of a “fleck of black pepper“, constant self-inspection is necessary to make sure one of these micro-bastards isn’t in the process of transmitting murder sauce into your bloodstream.  And because of this, instead of the magnificent red beard I have promised so many, I will have no choice but to shave whenever possible to make this self-inspection process easier and more thorough.  I will also be buzzing my head as often as possible, but it’s less red, so the associated sadness is lessened.  I can’t wait to punch a Deer Tick right in the face.


7)  How Does One Dry Out Wet Clothing While on the Appalachian Trail?

Obviously during the day, you can pin your wet clothes to your bag and let the Sun do its thing (that’s the Sun’s primary thing).  At night, the moon tends to be far less helpful in this regard.  Putting on wet clothing in the morning is enough to turn a nun into a serial killer.  Luckily, AT hikers are a crafty group.  They discovered that by stuffing your wet clothes in your sleeping bag with you at night, because a sleeping human body is essentially a mini-furnace, your clothes will be dry come dawn.  That also means your nastiness is what’s doing the drying, thus compounding the stank factor mentioned above.

Get even more Appalachian Trail Facts here.


Appalachian Trail book


  • Jack

    “If you see a bear in the wild and you’re not sure what kind it is, quickly climb a tree. If it climbs up and kills you, it’s a black bear. If it waits days for you to come down and then kills you, it’s a grizzly.” – Old Hunting Proverb

    So, I hate to burst your bubble, but your facts surrounding bears are incorrect (I know, I sound like Dwight Shrute). Black bears are as dangerous to humans, if not more so, than grizzlies. If you see a grizzly in the wild, it is most likely because they are protecting their cubs and want you to know you’re not wanted here. If you see a black bear close-up it’s probably because it’s stalking you. Black bear will kill large mammals b/c their smaller size means they can chase prey (expending significantly less calories than grizzlies) and still have a large net gain in caloric intake and energy after they catch it.

    I’ve ran into both black bears (while preparing fish to eat for lunch on a remote island in Canada) and grizzlies (while fly fishing in Montana) and can say neither is a fun experience. My advice, keep your food sealed tight and dig a deep hole for your poop. But don’t worry, you’ll be fine.

  • Thanks for the kind words of wisdom sir Jack. I know first hand your wilderness experience is second to none (amongst those I know). However for the sake of proving my facts more factual- the following links confirm what I’ve read in regards to the threat of Black Bears on the AT. Perhaps the bears along the AT are more accustomed to human presence and therefore less aggressive? Perhaps they would be more aggressive if they have a better left tackle.


  • I just came across your blog and I’m looking forward to following your adventures across The Appalachian Trail. You’re a brave man. I spent 4 days hiking to Machu Picchu last April and I thought I was going to DIE! Good luck! (I originally hail from San Diego. Damn I miss the weather.)

  • Thanks for checking out the site Shelby – happy to have you on board.

    Machu Picchu must’ve been an amazing experience. I try to keep my (near) death experiences domestic. International S&H of dead bodies is outside of my price range.

  • Sadie

    Haha bless your heart, whoever you are. My husband and I stumbled across your blog while we were doing our own AT research, and I thought I’d thank you for the laugh. Good luck on your travels!

  • Pingback: The War of Nutrition: Dehydration on the Appalachian Trail | The Good Badger()

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  • Kiss1004314

    bad! I need is not about this kind of facts!!! Can you do more for me? plzzzzzzzz!!!1

  • ArmySurvivalist

    Great article Zack. I’ve been doing some survival stints recently and thought about doing something a little more tame like AT. Found this page through google.

    I’ll say for the bears portion that’s good theory. Dunno what human presence has done to influence on AT bears. For my 2 cents, I will back up Jack’s words. In the special forces we’re taught that Black Bears do the most human hunting and unfortunately, I did come in contact with a Black Bear that was hunting me… it was not pleasant. The hardest thing is you’re supposed to the opposite thing when you see a black bear vs grizzly. Submit to grizzly and walk back slowly. I’ll reiterate that they’re usually protecting cubs or territory to Jack’s point.Black bears you need to not look directly in the eye as you back down slowly. If they start coming towards you, both you and whomever you are with need to make a bunch of noise and jump up and down and seem intimidating to hopefully deter him. At that point, he IS hunting you.I’d say you offer some good information, but would never trust the bear is behaving by “AT rules” if that truly does exist. Thanks for the article, good stuff!

  • matthew dwod

    thanx for tht lafe but the hippie one is pretty gross

  • Shannon

    I am from Bakersfield Calif. I have this nagging desire to take a day hike along the trail…..is this possible and if so…
    Where is a good town /state as well, to stay in when I do this.
    My husband can’t hike and so I would have to go alone while he stays in the town. I have no idea where to begin. We will fly to the city and spend a few days sightseeing as well… So something historical would be right up his ally while I’m hiking.
    I’m just now googling this and am just taking stabs at it for now. So any advise would be appreciated so so so much!!

  • iris

    should you bury toilet paper in your poop hole….or carry out?

  • joshua

    I’d bury it. Don’t carry poop paper for spiritual reasons and for cleanliness. And from what I remember paper composes naturally in the environment so you’re not necessarily hurting the environment especially if you’re burying it. Usually people would call you stupid but I don’t it’s a good question. Honestly I’d have to think more about it and do more research cause that’s another thing I could not be properly informed on. And carry out I perceive as you taking it with you maybe I’m wrong there. Either way I answered the question you can interpret this how you like?

  • joshua

    Either way you can interpret this how you like.

  • jason bladzinski

    Dude, every black bear I run into is a pussy. They run away from me, and I’m not even 5’7″ . My cat chases them away, no shitting you.

  • jason bladzinski

    Seriously!? What does your brain tell you?

  • Bryan gregory

    Thank you for the Post ~ Wow no real info on the Bear situation other than bears are used to AT hikers otherwise its a gamble.
    I never hear of hikers getting hurt by bears so that seems like factual material.
    And no Grizzlys in AT so lets go Hiking! Whos with me? Any one that is going solo if you want a partner that has all his gear and has taken month long hikes before hit me up =) 1outdoorsguy@mail.com

  • Shenandoah

    They burnt their poop in the Nam…..you sir….are a funny guy…..

  • dan

    yup black bears are more dangerous than grizzlies
    people just don’t get it Jack

  • Michael Russing

    We shower every day on the trail after our day of hiking. Sea to Summit bag is great. I guess the author of this piece really stinks…..for no reason.

  • punisher

    Listen folks, Im a black bear, you got nothing to worry about, just leave your ATM card out, and youll be fine.

  • Mikey Likey

    Stuff newspaper in your shoes and socks at night to dry them faster. Don’t use the shiney or color inserts. When the paper dries it can be reused, a few times. Or, use it to start your next fire.

    Biggest fear, ticks, bears and lightning. That’s ordered by what can hurt me in the here and now.

    Guns for bears? Why does every problem have to be solved with a gun? Watch Leo Dicapriano in the “Revenent”. On second thought, a big gun with lots of bullets might not be a bad idea.

    And, a pint’s a pound, the world round. 8 pounds per gallon.

  • Stephen Cox

    Realize this post is 4 years old, hope your still alive (if you went hiking alone, especially being a woman) to read this… hiking is like diving, its a partner sport, never do alone! Especially since being a female, not to be condescending, but just as in diving, sharks can smell one drop of blood for miles, bears as well as predatory cats can too…… in case you have had your menstrual cycle within 7-10 days….. Plus not to forget falling, and other types of injuries as well getting lost!

  • Stephen R. Marsh

    The tips and humor was more miss than hit but your book was really good, so I forgive you —everyone else —buy the book.