One of the most often discussed aspects of thru hiking the Appalachian Trail is the issue of trail names.
A ‘trail name’ for those not ‘in the know’ is a handle that hikers will go by while hiking long distances so they can be known by something other than their real name when meeting complete strangers. I mean, who wants to tell their real name to grubby passersby over and over for 2,000+ miles, am I right?
What is the etiquette involved with choosing a trail name? Should I choose one myself or let a fellow hiker choose one for me?
This should be a non-issue but it’s one that many people are curious about, so I’m gonna put in my 2 cents worth…
First off, there is no Appalachian Trail name generator that I can find and even if there was why would anybody want to use it? This process should be as organic as possible and using a trail name generator that spits out random trail names would take us as far away from organic as we could possibly get.
There was a time when I scoffed at the idea of ‘naming’ myself because I was led to believe that everybody was christened by another hiker nearly immediately upon embarking on a thru hike and that everybody would have this sorted out within the first 25 miles or so…
The more YT vids I watch of thru hikers the more I realize that many go up to 500 miles without ever coming up with a name, and many who let other hikers name them end up with trail names like ‘ding dong’ or ‘Twinkie’ or ‘spoon’ or even something totally inane like… ‘black beard.’
A good trail name should be personal without encroaching too much on our lives as civilians off the trail. Hiking the trail is an escape for many, so choosing a name that reminds us of ourselves in the ‘real world’ defeats the purpose of re-branding ourselves for a thru hike.
I’ve started compiling a list of trail names that I’d be interested in using and I’m constantly culling that list as I add to it. Names that sounded just dandy one day will often sound ludicrous the next, so jotting them down has really helped me understand the process a little better.
In the ‘real world’ giving yourself a nickname is nearly the lamest thing a person can do, but in the thru hiking world it shouldn’t be looked down upon all that much, at least in this humble hiker’s opinion.
If you feel embarrassed by having named yourself then you can always answer an origin question about your trail name as such, “I don’t remember exactly how I got it, it’s been so long…”
I won’t jot down any of my choices from the list I’ve been building but only because they could change by the time I publish this post. Eventually I will take my list, pare it down to my absolute favorites, and then run them thru a random name generator to see which one wins.
The name generator is like a lottery ball spinner for the internet. Check it out, it’s a fun little gadget to play around with. I will tell you that the first time I used it the tool spit out my favorite trail name possibility to date: General Ciao
We’ll see if that name sticks or if I’ll change it up before my 2017 Appalachian Trail thru hike.
Leave some comments, I’d love to hear your take on the naming process and about using a hiking trail name generator…
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