This past March, two of our brand ambassadors were going to be passing through Great Smoky Mountains National Park, close to where I call home. Carolyn and Jeff are hiking both the Appalachian and Continental Divide Trails this year as an alternative to a traditional wedding. I was excited to finally meet them in person and hear about what they’ve learned growing together as a couple on the trail.

As we firmed up our scheduling for when I’d cross paths with them at Davenport Gap, I wondered what I could bring them as an offering on their journey. I started to wonder what thru-hikers really wanted most from their visitors. So, I turned to some of my favorite experts for ideas—the rest of our Gossamer Gear crew!

I loved the variety of responses I got from everyone. If you’re meeting a pal on the trail soon, here are some of the things thru-hikers crave below!

1. The Perfect Beverage

While the types of beverages our crew shared covered a range of tasty refreshments, it was a clear trend that delicious drinks were a much-appreciated thru-hiker treat. After miles of ambient temperature water, electrolyte tablets, and powdered coffee, the right beverage can hit the spot.

You’ll have to ask your particular thru-hiker for their favorite, but here are some of the drinks our crew called out in particular:

  • Cold beer!
  • On chilly days: Warm evaporated milk with sugar and vanilla extract.
  • Ice cold soda / ice cold, sugary, fizzy, caffeinated drinks (with three specific shout-outs to Dr. Pepper).
  • Espresso, and, more specifically, Yirgacheffe espresso. Even more specifically: “Ice cream and espresso. Ethiopian beans grown in South America and brewed into a bitter, piping hot liquid. Then milk (of whatever sort) seasoned with sugar grown in the tropics and a panoply of spices and flavorings from around the world, sweet and creamy and frozen. These two things together sum up civilization for me.”
  • Milkshakes.
  • Sparkling water.
  • Coconut water.
  • Kombucha.

2. Fresh Foods

After miles of pre-packaged and dehydrated foods, nothing beats real, fresh food on a long trail.

Again, check in with your thru-hiker to see what they might be craving, but here are a couple favorite quotes from our crew on this category:

  • “Big ol’ salad loaded up with fresh goodness.”
  • “Some kind of juicy fruit - like a crisp apple or nectarine or watermelon. Yuuuumm I just made myself hungry.”

3. Calorie-Dense Comfort Foods

As one of our Gossamer Gear pals explained, “Basically everything that you haven't been carrying for 5 days tastes like heaven.”

Ask your thru-hiker if there’s a particular food they might be craving, but also know that you can fall back on some pretty standard post-hike favorites. Here are some foods that got special call-outs from our team:

  • Burritos. Burritos with all of the guacamole.
  • “Cheese. Like real, non-powdered, non-oozing from five days without refrigeration cheese.”
  • Pizza.
  • Brownies.
  • Turkey dinner with mashed potatoes.
  • Lasagna.
  • Gyro.
  • Burger.
  • Spaghetti.
  • Grilled cheese.
  • Ice cream.

4. Replacement Gear

Items like a fresh pair of socks or shoes scored high with our Gossamer Gear thru-hikers as something they’d love to see you arrive with on your visit. 

Some also mentioned possibly needing other replacement gear if they’ve broken or lost something along the way. A beloved spoon perhaps?

When you’re making plans to meet up, check-in with your thru-hiker pals on whether they’ve lost or broken anything along the way that you can help replace. And, for everyone’s sake, please consider bringing some fresh socks!

5. Massage

One of the dream items mentioned by our crew? A massage for the neck, shoulders, and feet. If you’re close enough to your hiker and want to pamper them, their sore muscles will love you forever.

6. Fully Charged Battery Pack

Especially if you’re meeting someone at a non-resupply point, a fully charged battery pack can be a sight for sore eyes. Bring one along with you so your trail friend can either swap theirs out or take some time to fill up their devices with the sweet energy juice.

7. Your Shiny, Happy Self!

Amidst all of the food, gear, and self-care love our crew shared, one of our brand ambassadors also added, “FYI, when I’m solo hiking, just having a friend show up is magic in itself!” This sentiment got a lot of love from the rest of the crew, and I can attest to its power, too.

While I ended up bringing Carolyn and Jeff some breakfast burritos and chocolate chip cookies, I think what we all enjoyed most was the chance to just sit there for a bit and swap stories. So, in the end, don’t stress too much about what to bring a thru-hiker on the trail. Little bits of kindness and presence go a long way!

July 19, 2021 — Korrin Bishop