November 20, 2015 8:16 PM MST - Subscription purchasing, account maintenance, forum profile maintenance, new account registration, and forum posting have been disabled
as we prepare our databases for the final migration to our new server next week. Stay tuned here for more details.
Subscribe Contribute Advertise Facebook Twitter Instagram Forums Newsletter
'Trail names'
Display Avatars Sort By:
Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
'Trail names' on 07/21/2013 00:29:30 MDT Print View

What do y'all think of trail names. I've never done a walk long enough to need one. I understand sometimes a name is given to a person, but do most people choose their own? Is there a naming ceremony? I'd probably go by 'pitsy', but that's just a nickname I've had for a while; not hiking-related at all.

For entertainment, what's the best and worst trail name you've seen?

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: 'Trail names' on 07/21/2013 02:05:16 MDT Print View

From the "About" page on my website...

"My trail name is… wait a second. I don’t have a trail name.

Well it seems that a lot of backpackers have a trail name, especially those who do long hikes and interact with a lot of people on the trail. I don’t do that. I mean, I don’t interact with a lot of people on the trail, and actually I try to hike where there are no other people. But I have done many long hikes. Besides trail names like Monkeybutt and Half-a-brain don’t appeal to me.

My name is Nick Gatel. That is it. No middle name and Nick is the official name on my birth certificate. Nine letters total. I like that. Sort of like ultralight backpacking, shed anything you don’t need."


names on 07/21/2013 07:32:31 MDT Print View

Trail names are mainly a thru hiker thing. They are used because there might be 10 Mikes on the trail, or 5 Lisas, so they can be differentiated with nicknames. The right way to get one is to have it given to you by someone else based on something they notice about you, or something stupid you did, or something interesting that happens to you, but you probably wont be fond of it, so many choose their own names to prevent getting a bad name given that sticks.

No one wants to be known a "piss-on-shoes" or something worse for the duration of thier thru hike, so they name themself "star child" instead. Which is really better? One has meaning to people that knew them, one has no meaning at all except to the person that thought it up for themself.

Ive always thought it to be a bit silly when a hiker out for a couple days has a self-given trail name. Its kind of like they want to be part of the club of long distance hikers or something.

Andrew Skurka doesnt have a trail name. Oh wait, yes he does. People that know him call him Andy.

Edited by livingontheroad on 07/21/2013 07:46:21 MDT.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Re: 'Trail names' on 07/21/2013 08:14:16 MDT Print View

I don't get them. They seem very important to thruhikers, but I'm not sure how they differ from regular nicknames except they are bestowed by other hikers and have an unfortunate tendency to be corny. I guess if you picked one for yourself and had a backstory people might use it. I'm boring; I think the best nicknames are short and reference something obvious and not derogatory about the hiker. Erin "Wired" got her nickname from her daily blogging on the PCT (and now CDT this year). I remember some of folks she hiked with having really weird trail names though. Like Balls. I'm sorry, I'm sure he is a great guy, but that's a terrible nickname.

I had a friend who hiked the AT the summer after college and it sounded interesting to me. I forget what her trail name was, but I do remember how social she made it sound. Wired's blog gives the same impression. Pretty sure I started a thread about this once and people said you could be as alone as you wanted most of the time if you timed it right. To me, though, that sounded like playing spy games in the woods trying to engineer a state of solitude on a busy trail. I am still interested in a longer trek some day, but I don't know if it will be on one of the Big 3 simply b/c "the people you meet" seems to be so much a part of the trail culture and experience. I'm not a curmudgeon (I just play one online). I the feeling of being alone.

Marc Eldridge
(meld) - MLife

Locale: The here and now.
Re: "'Trail names'" on 07/21/2013 09:59:44 MDT Print View

This is my favorite.

Edited by meld on 07/21/2013 10:03:17 MDT.

Brian Lewis
(brianle) - F

Locale: Pacific NW
Another HYOY issue on 07/21/2013 10:05:51 MDT Print View

I think this is another issue where it's best to not judge.

If you thru-hike the PCT or AT around the same time that others are doing so, there's a kind of social pressure to pick up a trail name --- in the early stages it feels kind of awkward to say "I don't have one yet". Eventually it's just a name, so that most of the time you don't ask for the story behind it, you just use it.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: names on 07/21/2013 14:21:05 MDT Print View

MB: Thanks, I hadn't made the obvious connection between multiple Mikes, Lisas, etc and the need for trail names. Even though we did it for the same reason in the UC Berekeley Hiking Club. Coy Christiansen assigned the names to the numerous Mikes:

"Bones" Mike - archeology grad student
"Rex" - called himself King of the UCHC
"Bio" Mike - again, his major
"Lectro" Mike - likewise
"Nola", short for Granola - more liberal, and hippyish than most

The names stuck so well that decades later, we still use them for those guys.

A few years later, the number of Davids got too much.

Desolation Dave, Cave Dave, Toxic Dave, Dessert Dave - I always go by David, not Dave, but I made an exception those years.

Jennifer Mitol
(Jenmitol) - M

Locale: In my dreams....
Re: Re: names on 07/21/2013 15:25:43 MDT Print View

Not that this will surprise anyone, but we name patients this way as well. I mean, you can't violate the privacy law HIPPA, so we can't actually refer to patients by their names when ridiculing them.

We have:
Chin hair
The Crier
Crazy Martha
The Memory Lady
Cheese whiz
The Urinator

You get my point. Names can be great descriptors, and while not having thru hiked I can certainly see how they are helpful...

names on 07/21/2013 16:54:21 MDT Print View

We named people when I was in college the same way, and the names stuck for years.

It happens in the military too.

Even at work in large facilities.

Anywhere a group of people spend a lot of close time together, they are likely to get a nickname if they stand out for some reason.

I worked at a plant once, when a new young engineer came to work. His name was Gary. This plant already had 4 Gary's in the technical structure, they told him to pick a new name, he thought they were kidding so he said "Rick". He became Rick. Everyone called him Rick, and next to his initials and last name on the phone list, in parentheses it said Rick. To the company, he was officially Rick until he left a couple yrs later.

Not that unusual either, many oriental employees pick an american first name to use because their actual names are too difficult for people to pronounce, they just arbitrarily choose a new one to go by at work. Either that or get called some shortened version of their last name , sometimes just the first syllable.

Edited by livingontheroad on 07/21/2013 16:59:37 MDT.

David Thomas
(DavidinKenai) - MLife

Locale: North Woods. Far North.
Re: names on 07/21/2013 17:19:18 MDT Print View

>"Even at work in large facilities."

It can happen with engineers, but is much more common in blue-collar, union settings.

And the biggest guys get nicknames like, "Fuzzy" and "Froggy".

A 300-pound guy in leathers on a Harley has to be called "Tiny". His given name of Alfred or Nathan just doesn't work in that setting.

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
trail names on 07/21/2013 22:00:14 MDT Print View

I happen to have nick name I use on a trail..guess I'm a bit of a fraud. :)

Mags is a very obvious nickname if you have a hard to pronounce last name of Italian origin like mine.

My grandather was Dom Mags, dad is Steve Mags and the three brothers have Paul, Joey and Steve Mags as their nick names. (If you know me very well from growing up you just may call me Paulie Mags. :O)

Here in town, most people still call me Paul Mags or simply Mags.

...and it just happens to work well for the trail.

My good buddy d-low also has a story similar to mine (DiLorenzo).....

Edited by PaulMags on 07/21/2013 22:01:02 MDT.

Nick Gatel
(ngatel) - MLife

Locale: Southern California
Re: trail names on 07/21/2013 22:06:00 MDT Print View

J Lo must be a backpacker.

Josh Brock

Locale: Outside
im with nick on 07/21/2013 22:58:15 MDT Print View

Trail names seem silly to ME. But I don't care if people use them. It doesn't bother me If some one want me to call them speedy or whatever it maybe......

Ken T.
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: All up in there
Re: trail names on 07/21/2013 23:00:02 MDT Print View

I thought Needs A Bath was your trail name.

stephen jennings
(obi96) - F

Locale: Deep in the Green Mountains
trail name on 07/22/2013 18:39:07 MDT Print View

How far must one travel before getting a trail name? It seems a tad presumptuous to start a hike with one if not a carry over from another trek. What if you don't like the trail name bestowed upon you? Do you have to keep the first one thats given to you, or can you try out several till you get one you like?

names on 07/22/2013 20:01:48 MDT Print View

Lots of people will refuse suggested trail names, thats OK.
But they can stick in spite of it, especially if something funny happened to you that others witnessed. If everyone else starts calling you something, you may not have a choice. So, some pick their own names ahead of time to prevent that from happening.

I recall one fella that buddies woke up before him one morning and observed that his sleeping bag looked like he had a tent pole in the middle of it, if you know what I mean. He became known as "pup tent".

On long trail thru-hikes, many get them in the first couple of days as the tight "trail familys" form. As someone alluded to, theres a bit of pressure to have one, because everyone asks "whats your trail name"?

Ive suggested two names out to people that they accepted at least temporarily. Dont know if they found better ones later or not. Lots of people will offer up suggestions if someone doesnt have one.

Yes, some will also change their name after hiking for several months with one name, they may switch to one they like better.

Edited by livingontheroad on 07/22/2013 20:05:41 MDT.

Jake D
(JakeDatc) - F

Locale: Bristol,RI
Re: Re: trail names on 07/22/2013 20:14:46 MDT Print View

"Trail names seem silly to ME. But I don't care if people use them. It doesn't bother me If some one want me to call them speedy or whatever it maybe......"


-Speedy LT '12 (I generally only use it when talking to thru hikers)

I was given it by an AT hiker. I think names should be given or earned. I think it is more fun that way than calling yourself something with no story behind it.

Buck Nelson
(Colter) - MLife

Locale: Alaska
Re: Another HYOH issue on 07/23/2013 00:42:54 MDT Print View

"I think this is another issue where it's best to not judge." There you go. Typical HYOH theory. It's more fun for everyone that way.

Edited by Colter on 07/23/2013 00:44:01 MDT.

Daniel Pittman
(pitsy) - M

Locale: Central Texas
Great Responses to 'Trail Names?'. Thanks for the input! on 07/23/2013 21:13:56 MDT Print View

Lots of really good insight! I always thought trail names were kinda silly, but for someone trying to lose themselves in a thru-hike, I could see the reasoning. Come to think of it, my ex-wife has two names. Her 'white-man' name that's on her birth certificate, and the name her elders call her during tribal ceremonies. Them Indians might be on to something.... Aho!

Matthew Perry
(bigfoot2) - F

Locale: Oregon
Re: names on 07/24/2013 09:44:59 MDT Print View

"No one wants to be known a "piss-on-shoes" or something worse for the duration of thier thru hike, so they name themself "star child" instead"

Wish I could've been named Star Child.....


(I bet this spawns a Chaff thread on "What to do when encountering Love Guns on the trail")......

Edited by bigfoot2 on 07/24/2013 09:46:04 MDT.