What is a trail name? It’s the time-tested tradition of having a hiking nickname that you go by when hiking.
Why does someone have a trail name? Well to be honest, it is a fun way of referring to a peer on the trail. There is no need of it besides good fun and camaraderie.
I don’t know how long trail names have been around for or why they came about. I’m guessing one some cold, rainy night someone did something quite silly like lighting their socks on fire on the drying fire and their fellow hikers refused to let them live it down. Since then, ‘trail names’ have become a unique cultural component to hiking, especially long-distance pursuits like the Appalachian Trail.
Unfortunately, one of the major drawbacks of having a nickname chosen by others is that it is often unflattering. If a hiker leaves it up to the “shelter naming committee” they could end up with names like “Three Peas and a Biscuit”, “The Jet Boil Whisperer”, “Yardsale” or “Chubby Bunny” (all of which are actual 2014 AT hiker trail names from our group). To combat the problem of being named something a bit uncomplimentary a lot of hikers give themselves names prior to starting their hike.
I have a problem with that; you can’t pick your nickname, it doesn’t work like that! Nicknames/Trail Names aren’t supposed to be ‘perfect’, deep, insightful and give the first impression of how you want the world to perceive you. They should have a story and often require you to hesitate a split second before you introduce yourself as “Mustache Bill” because you can’t believe that is what people call you.
Some people choose their own trail names and that’s fine, hike your own hike. We wanted to let the trail name us though, because Lindsay and I decided that’s how the AT should work. That’s why just a few days ago they decided to call us “The Fat Kids” based solely on how much food we carry for each day and that we eat probably 2x more than other hikers. It’s fitting: we don’t have individual names because we are together 24/7; we are fat kids who love eating and definitely carry way too much food.
So there you have it, we’ll be hiking the rest of the AT known as “The Fat Kids”!