Picking music for the Appalachian Trail
If you want to Thru-hike the Appalachian Trail, you're going to be walking for 6 months. A total of nearly 3000 waking hours with next-to no internet service, no mobile phones, no laptop or gaming PC. That is a LOT of hours without the constant gratification that we are used to in this day in age.
With this in mind I wanted to write a guide on how I picked music for my 2018 Appalachian Trail Thru-hike. You might think that it's as simple as just putting your favourite music onto an MP3 player and being done with it, but with just a little more thought and consideration, you can put together a truly special, memorable and engaging playlist that will last you the whole hike and many more to come.
Don't just pick all your favourite tunes
Whilst it's going to be super tempting to put all your favourite songs, albums and playlists on there, you need to be careful about taking this approach. Imagine setting your favourite song as your alarm clock sound, I'm sure some of you have actually done this? How long did it take you to hate that song? Now imagine walking 20 miles in the driving rain and hellish wind; starving, exhausted and entirely done with the day. Do you really want to associate your favourite album with that experience? Now don't get me wrong, you'll want to have a scattering of your favourites with you for motivation, a taste of home or some good old-fashioned escapism, but keep it limited!
Pick and explore some new genres
It can be really difficult to discover new music. Thankfully, with all the tools at our fingertips, it's easier than ever to find some new favourites with a little bit of know how. A great strategy for doing this is to pick and explore different genres and sub-genres. I decided that, for our AT thru-hike, I'd delve deep into the world of Lo-Fi and Shoegaze. I knew a little about these genres, and enjoyed what I'd heard, so decided to dive in at the deep end and see what I could find. Your best friend is Google. In fact in nearly every situation, your best friend is Google. A search of "top Shoegaze albums", or "top Lo-Fi artists" will give you a treasure trove of bands and albums you've never heard. Pitchfork is another great resource for this, you can spend hours digging through their Top Albums of All Time. Another method I enjoy for finding new music is through Spotify and their fantastic "Related Artists" section. Simply go to a band or artist that you like, and have a listen through their related artists to find bands you may have never heard of, but love instantly.
Choose albums over songs
Whilst I understand that this can be a matter of preference, but while considering music for our thru-hike, I made the decision very early on to focus on albums over songs on shuffle. When you're doing something else; out for a run or walking through town; having a playlist on shuffle can be great background noise. But when hiking the AT, I want music for those times when I need a proper distraction. I want an album for when my feet hurt, an album for when it's raining. I want an album for when I just really need to escape for 45 minutes and put my head into something that isn't just walking. I think that when you take the time to listen to an album from start-to-finish, it can be a deeply meditative experience, one that I'm certain I will need at various times during our 2200 mile adventure across America.
Hopefully after following these three tips, you should have a hiking playlist to be proud of. What you need now is something to play it on. While the age of MP3 players is all but dead, I think that hiking is the perfect time for them. Low battery consumption, lightweight and relatively waterproof makes them a great decision, and keeps your phone packed in a Ziploc where it should be! For our thru-hike, we decided on the HccToo Music Player 16GB from Amazon. Enough space for over one hundred albums, forty-five hours play time per charge and just 35g made them our ideal choice for the Appalachian Trail.
Let us know in the comments below what music you love for hiking!
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