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Reading on the Trail

Last Updated on December 28, 2018 by mountainswithmegan

Still had to read my Cosmo every month.
Still had to read my Cosmo every month.

I’ve heard lots of talk in forums asking questions like, “Should I bring a Kindle on my hike?” and “Will I have time to read?” While the hikertrash lifestyle is much more laid back than the day-to-day world, you won’t exactly have hours of leisure time where you won’t know what to do with yourself.

I enjoyed reading in my tent at night occasionally. I also kept a habit of journaling, and I usually only had time for one or the other on any given day. The year that I hiked, The Hunger Games series was just hitting popularity and us nerdy hikers were passing used copies along to each other. Occasionally, I found good books in the shelters or in hiker boxes. In times since, I have also started using the Kindle app on my phone.

While trying to decide whether to pack a book or buy a Kindle, ask yourself one question: Do I make time to read in my everyday life? If you don’t make time to read at home, you probably won’t make time to read on the trail. It’s as simple as that.

I myself am a sporadic reader. I go through phases where I read a new book every week, and I go through phases where I don’t read anything new for months. My style was similar on the trail. Sometimes I would stop hiking to sit by a tree and read for an hour, and sometimes I wouldn’t look at a book other than my A.T. Guide  for a month.

Reading Tips for the Trail:

  • If you’re really not sure if you will want to read or not, I would recommend downloading the Kindle app on your phone. It’s a better option than hauling around a physical copy of a book that you don’t end up reading.
  • For sporadic readers, buying a magazine in town every now and then is also a good option.
  • If you’re going with the Kindle app method, try to preserve the battery. Set your phone to airplane mode and carry a backup charger.
  • For the avid readers, it might be a good idea to pay for a service like Kindle Unlimited or Oyster. It’s basically like Netflix for books. They each cost $10 a month. Similar to Netflix they don’t usually have the newest cool books, but rather books that were popular a few years ago.
  • For those who prefer paper books, I would recommend picking up copies that you don’t care about saving so you can pass it along to someone else or ditch it in a hiker box.
  • Readers should be sure to get a headlamp with a red light setting. The white light is harsh on your eyes while reading at night and annoys other hikers if you are sleeping in a shelter.
  • For the book worms who know that they will want to read, investing in a Kindle might be a good idea. The one that I have only weighs 7 ounces, so it’s lighter than a regular book. You can pick up wifi in towns to download books, and then have it saved for when you’re in the woods. The battery lasts for several weeks, so it’s a better option than killing your phone battery to read. It uses a universal charger, so you probably won’t have to carry an additional cord.
  • Usually, it’s poor manners to leave stuff you don’t want in shelters. Books are the exception though. I loved finding used copies of books at shelters and picking them up. Bonus points if you sign your trail name on the inside of the cover before passing it on.
  • PSA for non-readers: Please don’t rip pages out of books you find in shelters and use them to start fires. That’s a sure way to guarantee that no one will pick up the book to read it, and it will live in the shelter until a volunteer hikes it out.


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