I recently started a thread that dealt with hikers being guests in private homes.
It provoked some lively and usefull discussion.
Here's the flip side of that, in case some of you might ever entertain the thought of hosting hikers in your home.
1. Get 'em Clean!! Contrary to popular belief, most hikers really enjoy getting
a good cleaning for themselves when they get off the Trail. And as a
host, this works out to your benefit, too. So providing a decent shower
for your hiker guests, whether indoor or outdoor, is a great idea. Towels,
soap, and shampoo don't hurt either.
Keep in mind that hikers are slobs. Your bathroom will get destroyed, so
either be prepared to clean it, or give your hiker some rags or paper
towels and ask him to clean the room himself. A small discreet sign inside
saying "Please leave this room nice for the next person!" couldn't hurt,
Hikers will use whatever is in the bathroom, so if you have really nice or
expensive shampoos and conditioners, put 'em away unless you want
them used up. And regrettably, you might want to strip your bathroom
of presecription drugs, painkillers, etc. before opening it to strangers.
Provide a bin or basket for dirty towels, cloths, etc.
2. Be aware that hikers fresh off the Trail really stink, and some of this funk
WILL penetrate your house, so unless you WANT your living room furnish-
ings permanently funked out, you might want to keep hikers out of your
living room, i.e. off the sofa, etc. until they've had a chance to get them-
selves and their clothes cleaned.
Hiker's packs and footwear are also pretty disgusting; you may want to
keep them out of the main house.
3. Hikers really like to get their laundry done. In most cases, they can do
this themselves with proper instructions from you. If you DON'T want
hikers using your machines on their own, make sure they know this. And
it's always nice to have some spare shorts, T-shirts, etc. that your
hikers can wear while their stuff is in the laundry.
4. Hikers are food obsessed, and will eat anything you offer them. They will
also eat ALL of it, so if you cook for them, or buy food, buy large portions.
And if you don't want everything consumed, i.e. you put out a pie after
dinner or a half gallon of ice cream and you want to save some for later,
well make sure you actually DO put it away or it'll be gone in three
Likewise, if you tell folks to "help themselves!" to your fridge and its
contents, then EVERYTHING will be eaten, especially deserts, ice cream,
and cold drinks. If you're going to have regular hiker guests, you might
want to consider getting them their own fridge, so there's no question of
what food and drink is OK to eat, and what isn't. And if you let hikers
graze in your fridge, if there's something in there you DON'T want eaten,
like your husband's birthday cake or your kid's fruit juice, then put a sign
on it or put it somewhere safe. In short, any attractive food in a fridge
that hikers have access to will not be around long, so be warned.
5. Hikers will want to use a computer if possible. If you have any restrictions
in regards to computer use, downloading, etc., make sure this is clear.
6. Hikers will need to make phone calls, and if they don't have their own
telephone, then they'll want to use yours. Simply asking folks to use
calling cards, etc. will probably NOT do the trick, i.e. if your phone use is
on the "honor system", then be prepared for $400.00 in unplanned bills at
the end of hiker season. Better yet, put some sort of "lockout" system
on your phone.
Hikers may well be hearing from friends or family members while they're at
your house. If you have any restrictions on this, like no late incoming
calls to your house, then let them know.
7. Hikers may be tenting or staying outside. If so, be very clear on where
you want them to stay, and be aware that they WILL have sanitary
needs while staying with you. If you have neighbors nearby, make sure
hikers use common sense, in regards to nudity, peeing behind a tree, etc.
In point of fact, the fewer or further away your neighbors actually are,
the better off you are in terms of having hiker guests.
8. Hiker guests will be delighted to help you with chores, house projects, etc,
but be upfront about this, i.e. your guests are not slaves. Expecting five
hours of work for letting a guy crash on your porch is not cool. If labor
or work is EXPECTED of hiker guests as a condition of staying with you,
you should let them know ahead of time.
9. Likewise, if you expect to be paid or compensated for anything (like a
shuttle ride somewhere, a slackpack, or whatever), then it's probably best
to make this clear upfront, i.e. offering to slack a guy and telling him later
that you want 20 bucks from him is to be avoided. In all likelihood, hikers
will be all too happy to be for goods and services that you might be
offering, but if you need to be paid for something, make this very clear.
This includes food. If you want to have a communal meal or cookout that
everyone present throws in on, well that's great. But to throw a big
bar-b-Q and to then ask everyone for ten bucks afterwards will not
generate good will. In short, never surprise people by asking for money;
if there's something you expect or need to be paid for, always try to tell
people about this ahead of time, so they can decide for themselves
whether or not to avail themselves of what's being offered.
10. Along those lines, don't get taken advantage of. If you have house rules
about how long one can stay, make it clear. If you have rules regarding
dogs, make it clear.
11. Most hikers enjoy a few beers and some smoke pot. If you are OK with
these things, that's between you and your guests. If you are NOT all
right with this, then try and find a way of letting people know, as it'll cut
down on all sorts of problems. And don't be shy about this. If you don't
want alcohol or drugs in your house or used on your property, well that's
the end of the matter, period, no explanations necessary.
12. Along those lines, if there are things you feel REALLY strongly about as
far as house rules, consider posting a small list of them in a prominent
place, and ask your guests to read them at first opportunity. That way,
nobody can say later that they didn't know about dogs in the house,
muddy shoes in the living room, etc.
13. A trail register or sign-in book is a good idea, as it'll help you keep track
of who's there or has been recently, etc. Encourage hikers, if they wish,
to leave contact information in case of an emergence, a lost item you're
trying to get back to them, etc. And along those lines, make sure they
know your information as well in case they need to reach you after they
have moved on.
14. If you lend a hiker something, be prepared to get it back late, dirty,
damaged, or never. Resist lending money, it usually ends badly.
15. If you loan a hiker anything while he's in the house (say a screwdriver,
duct tape, etc.) make it very clear where he needs to bring it back to,
or ask him to hand deliver the item directly to you. Otherwise, I
guarantee that your electrical tape or scissors or whatever will never be
16. If there are any areas of your house that are private or off-limits, such
as bedrooms, private bathrooms, home offices, etc., make sure this is
clearly stated, i.e. consider putting a sign on the door.
17. Make sure your house locks all work. Sooner or later, if you get in the
habit of taking in hikers, word will get around and you may discover that
people have made it to your property and home that you don't know
about or haven't specifically invited. So if you don't want to find some
bearded stranger in your living room, lock the doors.
18. Hikers may well want to explore the neighborhood or the town. Make
sure they know where they're going and how to get back. They may
want to go out in the evening. If you have a curfew or don't want
people going in and out of the house at all hours, make sure they know
19. Hikers will generally help out with small things, and this is often very
useful, especially if you have several guests at a time. Be aware that
sometimes this "help" is well-intended, but doesn't always work out. For
example, hikers are OK folding laundry. Doing dishes......well, not so
good. And for heaven's sake, don't give a hiker a real work project
unless you are 100% sure they know what they're doing; otherwise, your
plumbing WILL be installled backward; your porch WILL be horribly
painted, etc. Also, it shouldn't need to be said, but use special care
with power tools, i.e. just cuz you're doing some work in the woodpile,
don't immediately assume that Joe Hiker knows how to use a chainsaw,
20. If you entertain hikers regularly, sooner or later you're gonna have to
deal with sick or hurt ones, so make sure you have a good idea where
the local health clinic is located, when it is open, which doctor in town
might be the best or cheapest, etc. Having good info on dentists and
veterinarians doesn't hurt either.
21. Make sure you're taking in hikers because you really want to and
because you think it's a fun or helpful thing to do. DON'T do it because
of an ulterior motive, whether religious, sexual, etc. This often ends
Along those lines, if yours is a religious or spiritually connected house,
your guests will certainly pick up on this. A short grace at meals is, of
course, fine. So is inviting your guests to church on Sunday morning.
But overly intrusive questions about their personal lives or religious be-
liefs is to be avoided, as is forcing literature, bible readings, etc. on your
guests. (Along those lines, your guests beliefs will usually stay their own
but if they become a problem, by all means speak up. I once had a
guest who was a chanting Buddhist, which was perfectly fine. His en-
gaging in this practice in the living room at 6 AM was not fine, and I
certainly had no qualms about telling him this).
22. Lastly, have fun, which is the main reason to take in hikers. If you're
lucky enough to have guests you really like, encourage them to write
you, or stop by on their way homes. To this day, some of my closest
friends in the Trail community are folks I encountered entirely by acci-
dent, i.e. they either visited me at my place, or I was lucky enough to
find hospitality in theirs.
As always, feel free to add comments and suggestions to this, especially if you've hosted hikers in the past.