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  1. #1
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    Default My 2016 Thru Hike - Excessive Slack Packing

    I just finished my 2016 thru hike. It was an awesome experience. All of the people on the trail were friendly and I did not encounter or hear of any issues involving people, just animals. Every thru hiker I encounter did a great job practicing Leave No Trace, which impressed me. So I hate to bring up a negative subject but it is just killing me not to mention it...

    I was shocked by the large percentage of young thru hikers (20-26yr old’s) that were slack packing and/or skipping sections. I understand according to the ATC you can slack pack and still be considered a thru hiker… but I highly doubt the ATC ever imagined that young hikers in their prime would abuse this service. I would also ask hikers that were 30-59yrs old and the vast majority would laugh at the thought of slack packing and all noticed the same observation with the young hikers. I will say many of the hostel owners along the trail are shoving the idea of slack packing down everyone’s throat and for some reason the young hikers couldn’t resist. If there was something physically wrong with a hiker or they were 60+ yrs old I could care less if you slack pack, I give you lots of credit just for being out there. It is just SAD and PATHETIC to watch these young “thru hikers” take advantage of slack packing every opportunity they could. I just find it very odd the difference of opinion between the young and older generations on slack packing… are young hikers nowadays just lazy???

    I would also see a large percentage of young hikers that would intentionally skip sections, maybe a mile or 2 at a time when leaving town or returning from a hitch and still call themselves thru hikers by improperly using the HYOH... that’s just sad!!!

    So for all the current and previous thru hikers who carried their own gear up and down the mountains, I want you to know that a large percentage of the record number of thru hikers that complete the AT this year are cheaters and lazy young slack packers.

    I will end my rant with the most overly used saying that the young hikers improperly used to justify their excessive slack packing and section skipping, Hike Your Own Hike!

  2. #2

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    Please consider putting into practice the ethic embodied in that old Dylan lyric:

    "You go your way and I'll go mine."

    Congratulations on completing your thru-hike -- I'm considering trying it myself one day.
    Last edited by map man; 08-31-2016 at 21:30.
    Life Member: ATC, ALDHA, Superior Hiking Trail Association

  3. #3

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    I don't think slack-packing means you're not a thru-hiker. You can't judge what was going on with a particular person on a particular day...it sounds very similar to those who judge people with invisible diseases and conditions for parking in the Disabled Parking spots. I'm sure many people would take take advantage of a few days of slack-packing if they could...it makes life, and a short section, a little easier, so why not? Many of the FKT hikers slack-pack...aren't they still thru-hikers?

    I also don't see an issue with missing a mile or two, if it's not consistent and at every town stop sine the miles missed would eventually add up to a considerable amount. But also, on another note, many hikers on the PCT are re-routed by major fires with no safe route to walk around and thus skip several miles...are they still thru-hikers? I would consider them to be so. A missed mile here or there shouldn't be the be all and end all of the thru-hiker definition, and while I see your point I am not sure it is up to you to decide or judge these hikers. And I do agree with the HYOH sentiment, so feel free to rant and rage about it if it's frustrating you, but everyone hikes differently and is looking for a different experience and I would call them all thru-hikers!

  4. #4

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    Slack packing caters to all ages. Just because you didn't see it, doesn't mean it didn't happen.

  5. #5
    Registered User jjozgrunt's Avatar
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    OK seems HYOH only means if someone else approves of it, seems like a common problem with life in general these days. Starting 12 Mar 2017 and I will be hiking the way I want, regardless of what other people do or think. I plan to do it pack the whole way, pass every blaze and enjoy the walk, BUT if I decide to slack pack, aqua blaze or anything else that should only worry me. I certainly won't be worrying about what other people do or what they call themselves.
    "He was a wise man who invented beer." Plato

  6. #6
    imscotty's Avatar
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    Whitewalker, since the ATC is the closest thing we have to an authority on this subject, please allow me to quote them...

    "ATC policy is to operate on an honor system, assuming that, if you apply for 2,000-miler status, you have madean honest effort to walk the entire Trail—as a thru-hiker or in sections. In the event of an emergency, such as aflood, a forest fire, or an impending storm, blue blazed trails or officially required roadwalks are viablesubstitutes for the white-blazed route. And, while sequence, direction, length of time, or whether you carried apack are not considered, the ATC holds high expectations of 2,000-milers that include treating the naturalenvironment, A.T. communities, other hikers, and our agency partners—whose land the A.T. passes through—with kindness, respect, and cooperation. Respect for these standards by all applicants is essential to thecontinuation of ATC's practice of recognizing end-to-end hikers in any fashion. If you meet these standards,please complete the form below. "

    Carrying your own pack (or not) seems to be not part of the definition of '2000 miler' recognition. Really, it is a personal choice. Different hikers have different goals, and I think they should be able to set these goals for themselves without
    criticism. Observations about generational differences for these goals are interesting and worth discussing, but calling someone who does not share your goals 'lazy' is inflammatory and I think inaccurate. Hiking all day, even without a backpack, would not match most peoples definition of lazy. Live and let live WhiteWalker, if they are enjoying their hike and not doing you any harm, why should you care?

    Now as to the skipped miles... going back to the ATC, I think they give some pretty clear guidance there. And as the skipped miles start adding up I think at some point it should become clear to the hiker that their hike really can't be called a tru-hike. Now we can all have fun arguing where that line should lie, but at the extreme there are clearly some people out there fraudulently declaring themselves thru-hikers. I think that says something negative about them, but my feelings on this tend more towards pity than anger.

    Congratulations on your achievement. You set a tough goal for yourself and achieved it. You should be proud. But I hope you can look back on this hike and recognize that other people may have had other goals, and hopefully you can support them in hiking the hike they set out to hike. An experience like this that puts people back in touch with nature and themselves is a good thing for us all I think and should be encouraged, whatever the flavor of the hike.


  7. #7
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    Who are you "competing" against? If you are not "competing", then you would not be complaining about how others hike the AT and whether or not they call themselves "thru hikers". There's no medal, no award, no plaque for completing the AT. The accomplishment is inside of you for getting it done. Its your goal that you set and you accomplished. Why give a darn about how anyone else got it done? Otherwise, you should be rallying against AT record setters who don't really carry a pack and are assisted by support teams and support vehicles, rather than regular hikers who choose to lessen their burden/suffering in order to accomplish THEIR goal. Don't judge others through your life's lenses. Everyone wears different glasses....

  8. #8

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    I enjoyed at least 6 or 8 full days of slack packing on my hike. And I hiked with only 20 pounds in my pack for the entire first week. It has never occurred to me that I didn't hike the trail. I WISH i had southbound slack packed Moosalauke. That was a beast NOBO and fully loaded. I almost turned around and hiked the other way when I saw that rock wall with the little wooden foot thingies in it. I know someone though who skipped 4 states and still registered as a thru-hiker. I don't want it to bug me because it is her hike- but it does a little. And it makes me a hypocrite. I judge her, and someone else will judge me and call me a section hiker because I skipped 7 miles in the Shenandoahs when I was sick and 7 miles from Madison Hut when we were re-routed down a long trail at night. Truth. I journaled these things and never hid them. I still consider myself a thru hiker. I did not intend to skip- circumstances got in the way. Gotta roll with life on and off the trail. I loved slack packing and would have done it more often except I did not like how it dictated how much I could hike. If I felt like going further I couldn't because I didn't have my pack and if I felt like going shorter I couldn't because I didn't have my pack.

  9. #9

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    thru-hiking is a personal accomplishment, not a guinness world record or something like that
    I personally wouldn't favor a lot of slackpacking, but if someone is 20 and wants to get out there and enjoy, then who am I to say how to do it. It's just good to see people enjoying outdoors instead of playing world of warcraft or something in their basement.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by TheWhiteWalker View Post
    .... are young hikers nowadays just lazy???
    That, sir, is an understatement. Add ignorant and entitled and you have a more accurate representation.

    OkeefenokeeJoe

  11. #11

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    Actually it's an oxymoron!

  12. #12

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    Aren't we all slack packing compared to how people thru hiked the trail 50 years ago? Technology is lightening our loads. Some people hike without carrying a shelter or cook set. Is that "sorta slack packing"? More frequent road crossings allow us to carry less food and resupply more often, or eat in town more often.

    Everyone leverages the available technology and always has. It is technology that is frustrating you.

  13. #13
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    The AT is changing and evolving, more towards El Camino experience (which I just completed this summer), and away from what I hear the PCT is still like (never did the PCT).

    People slackpack because it's there now - and didn't in the past because it was not so available. It has and is becoming part of the journey experience. On my 2013 AT thru I slacked where I got a opportunity, only paid for it maybe 3 times (various practical reasons like needed a easy recovery from illness day but still wanted to hike), all else was AT yoging, but carried my pack through most of it. As such opportunistic slackpacking was part of the wonder and joy.

    On El Camino slackpacking is basically how it is done now. I didn't find out till about 1/2 way and did it to get a break for my feet to recover. It's about 5 euros per day with multiple services providing it.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by BonBon View Post
    I enjoyed at least 6 or 8 full days of slack packing on my hike. And I hiked with only 20 pounds in my pack for the entire first week. It has never occurred to me that I didn't hike the trail. I WISH i had southbound slack packed Moosalauke. That was a beast NOBO and fully loaded. I almost turned around and hiked the other way when I saw that rock wall with the little wooden foot thingies in it. I know someone though who skipped 4 states and still registered as a thru-hiker. I don't want it to bug me because it is her hike- but it does a little. And it makes me a hypocrite. I judge her, and someone else will judge me and call me a section hiker because I skipped 7 miles in the Shenandoahs when I was sick and 7 miles from Madison Hut when we were re-routed down a long trail at night. Truth. I journaled these things and never hid them. I still consider myself a thru hiker. I did not intend to skip- circumstances got in the way. Gotta roll with life on and off the trail. I loved slack packing and would have done it more often except I did not like how it dictated how much I could hike. If I felt like going further I couldn't because I didn't have my pack and if I felt like going shorter I couldn't because I didn't have my pack.
    Four states?

  15. #15

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    Quote Originally Posted by BonBon View Post
    I enjoyed at least 6 or 8 full days of slack packing on my hike. And I hiked with only 20 pounds in my pack for the entire first week. It has never occurred to me that I didn't hike the trail. I WISH i had southbound slack packed Moosalauke. That was a beast NOBO and fully loaded. I almost turned around and hiked the other way when I saw that rock wall with the little wooden foot thingies in it. I know someone though who skipped 4 states and still registered as a thru-hiker. I don't want it to bug me because it is her hike- but it does a little. And it makes me a hypocrite. I judge her, and someone else will judge me and call me a section hiker because I skipped 7 miles in the Shenandoahs when I was sick and 7 miles from Madison Hut when we were re-routed down a long trail at night. Truth. I journaled these things and never hid them. I still consider myself a thru hiker. I did not intend to skip- circumstances got in the way. Gotta roll with life on and off the trail. I loved slack packing and would have done it more often except I did not like how it dictated how much I could hike. If I felt like going further I couldn't because I didn't have my pack and if I felt like going shorter I couldn't because I didn't have my pack.
    I'd say skipping four states is not exactly the same as skipping a mile or two here and there...that's a pretty huge section! I'd be judging her too...mostly for her dishonesty and lack of integrity.

  16. #16
    Hiker bigcranky's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by OkeefenokeeJoe View Post
    That, sir, is an understatement. Add ignorant and entitled and you have a more accurate representation.
    Yeah, kids these days, amirite? Of course nobody complained at all about the fine young men and women back in the 60s who all worked hard and lived clean lives, no hippies or drugs or music back then, no sir. It's the kids nowadays who are the problem.



    Actually, the young people I work with are uniformly bright, engaged, and work their butts off.

    As for slackpacking, more power to them.
    Ken B
    'Big Cranky'
    Our Long Trail journal

  17. #17

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    I pretty much hold that little completion badge as meaningless... to anyone but yourself.

    I don't think there's anything wrong with slackpacking the entire route, that's still a through hike. Your gear isn't through hiking, you are.

    When they skip miles, it's not a through hike. When they walk an equal number of miles and elevation through more scenic blue blazes, good enough for me.

    When they slackpack a 20 mile section in reverse soley to avoid 3,000 feet of elevation, that's kind of fuzzy, I think it becomes more of a section hike at that point.

    Still, what I think isn't important to you. No one should care how I judge their hike, and I don't care if your hike is particularly pure. I hope everyone had an enjoyable hike and didn't ruin the enjoyment of anyone else, no matter the length of their hike.

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by BonBon View Post
    I loved slack packing and would have done it more often except I did not like how it dictated how much I could hike. If I felt like going further I couldn't because I didn't have my pack and if I felt like going shorter I couldn't because I didn't have my pack.
    This is what I ran into last year trying to slackpack a little. I had a slight injury and had to get off the trail before reaching my destination for the day. No shelter, bag, extra food, etc. Had a very hard time finding a way out and then a ride. If I'd had my pack, I could have rested and healed for a day before proceeding, Probly won't try that again.

  19. #19
    Springer to Elk Park, NC/Andover to Katahdin
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    It is called hiking the AT... not backpacking the AT for goodness sakes.
    I am not young enough to know everything.

  20. #20
    MuddyWaters's Avatar
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    "My hike is BETTER than someone else's because__________."

    No, it's really not. Yours cheated in many ways too, you just choose to ignore.
    "Inevitably, a long distance hiker must choose between travelling light, and not travelling at all." - Earl V. Shaffer

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