Last week, I shared 9 Practical Tips for Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers, and this week I’ve got Town Day tips! I loved “town day” while I was hiking the AT in 2022. I didn’t take a lot of zero days, but I did stop in a town every 4-5 days for a nero. I would hike a full day, hitch-hike into town, get a shower, do laundry and get dinner. Then the next morning I would have breakfast, resupply at a grocery store, convenience store, or gas station, get lunch, and then hitch-hike back out to the trail for a shorter day of hiking (less than 10 miles). In the beginning, town days were tricky because it took some time to figure out how to handle all the logistics of getting a bed and shower, doing laundry, and getting my resupply done. But after a few months, I had found a pretty good rhythm, and my hiking partner and I would work together to get all our chores done. So here are 11 Town Day Tips that I adopted during my thru-hike that you might find helpful.
Town Day Tips for Appalachian Trail Thru-Hikers
- ABC- Always Be Charging- My hiking partner and I made this little mind trick to help us remember to charge our devices as soon as we got into town. Town days are exciting and there’s a lot to get done. Finding a good restaurant, getting a shower, doing laundry, and resupplying can take up a lot of time! So don’t forget to ALWAYS BE CHARGING! Charge your phone, GPS, headlamp, headphones, and battery pack as soon as you have access to an outlet. Most hostels have charging outlets and many restaurants or grocery stores have outlets available. The larger battery packs can take all night to charge, so plug them in asap!
- If there is a shower, use it! Thru-hikers go days without showering, getting soaked in sweat and dirt and stink. And we don’t just stink, we staaaannnnnk! The summer is definitely the worst. I remember one morning when I smelled my shirt before I put it on, and literally started gagging at my own stench! Eventually, we get used to our own stink and it becomes easy to forget how gross we are. Before you get to town, figure out where you’re going to shower and go there first! It might be a hostel, motel, or community center, or maybe just rinsing off at a gas station bathroom. Wherever it is, go wash that stank off before you pop into a restaurant or grocery store.
- Check Hiker Boxes- Before you resupply at the grocery store, check the hiker boxes at your hostel, hotel, or gear store. One time, I was able to do an entire resupply from a hiker box, including a big bag of what I called “mystery oats” that contained a little bag of white powder (milk, hopefully). You can usually find ramen, potatoes, snacks, and some other foods in hiker boxes, and sometimes you’ll find shampoos, lotions, razors and other town day supplies. I always like to shave and wear deodorant while in town, and could find those types of things in hiker boxes, too.
- Use a grocery basket when shopping. Don’t take the cart! As a thru-hiker, I was always hungry and could very easily over-buy at the grocery store. Then I’d be cursing myself as I lugged my super heavy backpack up the first climb out of town (and it’s always uphill out of town!). You can avoid this by using a basket in the grocery instead of a cart. Most of the time, you’ll have to leave your backpack outside the store or at your hostel or hotel. Then grab a basket while you shop and it will help you get a sense of how heavy your food bag is going to be when you hike out of town. Also note that as you travel further north, there are some states that don’t offer grocery bags, so you may need to borrow one from a hostel.
- Try Amazon for Resupply- You can get a lot of resupply items on Amazon that are hard to find in small town grocery stores, like dehydrated refried beans, powdered milk, and your favorite freeze-dried backpacking meals. If you plan on staying at a hostel or even just passing through, call ahead and ask if you can send a package. There are even a few gear outfitters that will hold packages for hikers. I used Amazon for several gear replacements and food resupplies on my thru-hike and it worked great.
- Try a Walmart Online Order- Save time in town by making an online order for your Walmart resupply. There’s a good chance you’ll spend a whole day on trail thinking about your next resupply anyway, so make some notes in your phone and then put in an order when you’ve got cell service. Then when you get to town, you can pick up your order and not waste time wandering around Walmart. I found that Walmart was one of the best places to resupply, but there aren’t very many along the trail, so take advantage when you find one!
- Repackage Your Resupply. Buy some ziplock bags when you resupply, and then repackage everything. Get rid of all the cardboard boxes and extra packaging and if you want, pack everything into single servings in ziplocks. I found this helpful for me to get organized. I packed everything into ziplocks and then laid it all out on the floor by day, so I knew exactly what I had to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks for each day on the next section. If I had extras, I shared them with my hiking partner or dropped it into a hiker box.
- Town Day Clothes- Many of the hostels on the AT will have loaner clothes for you to wear while doing laundry. But if you stay in a motel or hotel, you won’t have that luxury. Many hikers resorted to wearing their rain jackets and rain pants while doing laundry which worked pretty well. But I decided to buy “town clothes” and carried a small one-piece romper with me for the second half of the trail. I absolutely loved having a clean outfit to put on while in town, and it was nice to wear something that wasn’t hiking clothes. That luxury item was absolutely worth the weight!
- Shower Laundry- You won’t have a lot of laundry to worry about while thru-hiking. You’ll likely have 1 hiking outfit and 1 sleeping outfit and a couple of pairs of socks. You’ll probably hike in the same clothes every single day, which means they get really dirty. Especially the socks. When I got to town, I would “pre-wash” my socks in the sink and could wring out the dirt over and over and over again. They never seemed to get clean! So I finally resorted to doing “shower laundry” as a pre-wash, which just meant that I threw my nasty clothes on the shower floor while I showered, stomped my socks to get some of the dirt out, and then threw them in the washer when I was done. And if I didn’t have access to a washer and dryer, I just scrubbed the best I could and then hung them to dry or put the wet clothes back on. So when your clothes get gross (and they will), maybe try throwing them in the shower with you to get rid of some of that dirt and stank.
- Wash Your Pack- At least a few times during your thru-hike, take a few minutes to fully wash and dry your pack. Your pack will get soaked with sweat and bacteria and eventually smell worse than you. When you find that you’ve got access to a bathtub, it is worth the time to scrub it, soak it for a few hours, and then hang it out in the sun to dry.
- Kitchen Chores- While you’re hiking, you likely won’t be cleaning things very well. I always joked after dinner that it was time to do dishes, which meant I licked off my spoon and shoved it back into my pack. So when I got to town and had access to a sink, I actually washed my pot and spoon. It’s also a good time to back-flush your water filter and check to see if you need more fuel or a replacement water bottle.
So there ya have it, 11 tips to help you with resupply and town day stops! If you want to learn more about my 2022 Appalachian Trail thru-hike, check out these articles about the gear I packed, a sample meal plan, or safety for solo hikers.