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View Full Version : Is it ok for an 18 year old to hike?



Starburst
01-26-2015, 12:17
I am planning on thru-hiking in 2016 and my good friend would like to be my hiking partner. I will be 21 when I walk the trail but she will be only 18 (she will turn 19 towards the end of the trail). Do you think that it would be safe/normal for someone so young to hike the trail? I know that it's recommended that we hike alone and just meet people along the trail, but I think that I would feel a bit better with someone I know and trust hiking with me.

Tuckahoe
01-26-2015, 12:24
Yeah I guess this is the smart assed response but last time I checked an 18 year old is an adult and no longer a child.

HooKooDooKu
01-26-2015, 12:33
Yeah I guess this is the smart assed response but last time I checked an 18 year old is an adult and no longer a child.
They didn't ask "would it be legal", just would it be safe and would it be normal.

On the issue of safety, I don't see an issue. Children much younger than that hike with a parent/guardian along.
On the issue of normal... collage age "kids" are normal on hiking trials, and I would define 18 as collage age. So she wouldn't stand out.

The only thing that would stand out would be if you were a 20 something male and she appeared to be underage. Then it would look inappropriate for you two to be travelling together.

Lone Wolf
01-26-2015, 12:35
if it's ok to go to war at 18, it's certainly ok to walk a trail at 18

Mags
01-26-2015, 12:38
Yes. Have fun.

I thru-hiked with a 17 yr old (graduated early from high school) when I did the AT...nearly 20 yrs later, he is now an executive at a hospital FWIW.

Starburst
01-26-2015, 13:10
yes, thank you. We are both females and she is one of my best friends, she'll be in her first year of college so it should be fine. I appreciate you understanding my concern :)

earlyriser26
01-26-2015, 13:16
I started some long distance section hikes at the age of 13 with another 13 year old back in the 60's. Try renting a motel room when you are 13. LOL. You should have no problems at all.

TomN
01-26-2015, 13:23
I did a couple solo hikes at 17-18, not a thru, never had any problems.

sympathetic joy
01-26-2015, 13:23
I'm thinking it may more safe for a 18 yr old to be on the trail than on a college campus.

Malto
01-26-2015, 13:46
if it's ok to go to war at 18, it's certainly ok to walk a trail at 18

Lone Wolf beat me to it. I was in basic training at 17 so in my book that is OK also.

Tuckahoe
01-26-2015, 13:56
They didn't ask "would it be legal", just would it be safe and would it be normal.

And not answered with thought or regard to legality, but rather the thought that an 18 year old is not "so young" and now an adult.


she will be only 18...Do you think that it would be safe/normal for someone so young to hike the trail?...

AO2134
01-26-2015, 13:59
I'm thinking it may more safe for a 18 yr old to be on the trail than on a college campus.

Bingo. While no place is completely safe (there are bad people everywhere), i'd say for most people they are safer in the trail then in their everyday life.

I see partners hike all the time. It is completely normal. Also I read somewhere of the youngest person and/or girl to complete the AT. I believe she was 15. Of course, he family was also close by and accompanied here in an RV.

Furthermore, I do think there is safety in numbers. IF someone with ill intentions were around, I think it is harder to approach 2 or more people versus a solitary hiker.

I wouldn't be to worried my friend. 99.9% of the people on the trail are some of the best, kindest people you will ever meet. It is a community. We try to take care of our own and everyone else for that matter.

Enjoy the hike.

CarlZ993
01-26-2015, 15:32
Lone Wolf beat me to it. I was in basic training at 17 so in my book that is OK also.
Ditto. I graduated Army Boot Camp on my 18th birthday. I was a happy camper.

I wish the two hikers the best of luck.

fredmugs
01-26-2015, 16:24
I am planning on thru-hiking in 2016 and my good friend would like to be my hiking partner. I will be 21 when I walk the trail but she will be only 18 (she will turn 19 towards the end of the trail). Do you think that it would be safe/normal for someone so young to hike the trail? I know that it's recommended that we hike alone and just meet people along the trail, but I think that I would feel a bit better with someone I know and trust hiking with me.

Sounds more like you're asking it it's OK for YOU to hike.

Rolls Kanardly
01-26-2015, 16:58
if it's ok to go to war at 18, it's certainly ok to walk a trail at 18

Plus 1

You beat me to it Lone Wolf

Rolls

ATAdam
01-26-2015, 18:12
18 is like the new 15? Yeah adults can do whatever they want. Except drink.. or buy cigarettes in some parts of Mass, now 21.

peakbagger
01-26-2015, 18:23
I know some 15 year olds that are far more mature than 25 year olds so its all down to how she was brought up. She does have to figure out her response on offers or booze and other substances. There will be plenty of folks who want to party and they will not care what the number is on her license. The smart approach is steer clear and let them burn out around Damascus.

Pajj
01-26-2015, 19:35
I'm 18 and I'll be thru hiking this year

gunner76
01-26-2015, 19:44
Go for it and have fun

PennyPincher
01-26-2015, 20:48
Ditto. I graduated Army Boot Camp on my 18th birthday. I was a happy camper.

I wish the two hikers the best of luck.HA! I was a full month + shy of my 18th!

FlyFishNut
01-26-2015, 21:25
I was amazed the trust the USMC had in me at 18. Lots of expensive gear and lots of things that go "kaboom" and "ratatat".

I'm not worried about your age as much as your being female. Not that you are not capable (my mom was an officer in the USMC) - but that there are some shady people out there. Just be smart and a little wary.

My two cents.

Starburst
01-26-2015, 22:09
Yes. Have fun.

I thru-hiked with a 17 yr old (graduated early from high school) when I did the AT...nearly 20 yrs later, he is now an executive at a hospital FWIW.


thank you!

Marta
01-26-2015, 22:38
Something you two might want to make explicit ahead of time is whether you are only going to hike as a team, or whether each one of you as individuals wants to complete the trail, no matter what. It's not unknown for friction to develop between hiking partners. One partner wants to stop for the night and the other one wants to hike to the next shelter. One wants to take a zero day; the other wants to get back on the Trail while the sun is still shining. One wants to get up at 6 am and be hiking by 6:15; the other likes to idle in her tent until halfway through the morning...

The more stuff you share (maps, guidebooks, tents, cooking gear, food, money…) the more areas of potential friction there are. If you're basically two independent hikers who start the Trail together, you are free to split up at any time.

I started my SOBO with a "partner," someone who was on WhiteBlaze at the time, and who asked to join me. She made it part of the way up Katahdin and quit. Dealing with her fears and indecision was a drag on me at a time when I didn't have a lot of emotional energy to spare. There were several other SOBOs who started with lifelong friends who either became injured right off the bat, or decided this hiking thing wasn't for them. (I've also realized over the years that I have a number of lifelong friends who are quite high maintenance and who make terrible hiking partners or traveling companions.)

If you're two independent hikers who happen to be friends, and are honest with each other, the decision to go your separate ways for a night or a week or the rest of the hike is a lot less painful.

It's great that you have someone to share the excitement of planning the hike, and someone to share the start of the adventure with. Good luck to both of you!

shakey_snake
01-27-2015, 12:34
Are you still young enough to be loud and obnoxious?

Because the real problem is being loud and obnoxious, not your age.

wornoutboots
01-27-2015, 13:29
Many teenagers have completed the trail, a few years ago a 16 year old from Maine did it as a class project.

CarlZ993
01-27-2015, 16:17
HA! I was a full month + shy of my 18th!
It was a heck of a birthday present to graduate boot camp on my 18th birthday & have some leave to go home between duty assignments. My dad asked me if I was in shape. I told that I was in great shape. He said, "Good, because we're moving." No rest for the weary. :)

vega802
01-27-2015, 18:29
I'm thinking it may more safe for a 18 yr old to be on the trail than on a college campus.

agreed!!!! Trail seems much safer than most college campuses.

Mags
01-27-2015, 19:10
It was a heck of a birthday present to graduate boot camp on my 18th birthday & have some leave to go home between duty assignments.

My youngest brother spent his birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas and NYE (on NYE 1999 in 2000 no less) in boot camp. :)

vega802
01-27-2015, 20:14
I also think that 18 is a FANTASTIC time to hike the trail for a couple of reasons.

reason #1 A thru hike will teach you invaluable social skills, self confidence, the ability to push through hard times and work hard, the ability to prioritize, and how live without parents/elders being easily reachable. For example, say post hike you go to school and there is an awesome powder day at the mountain. Despite a large desire to skip class and head to the mountain, having already experienced making similar decision on the trail (extra day in town vs hiking in the rain???) might allow you to see the long term value of pushing through another unpleasant day of class and studying.

Being on the trail allows you to learn how to talk to strangers, and be nice and friendly. That's a skill that can't be beat!

Even if you are hiking in with a group or partner, you are truly responsible for taking care of yourself. One of the people who inspired me to get into long distance backpacking hiked the AT SOBO right out of high school. He is one of the most well rounded, hard working, adults I've met. The invaluable life lessons you learn on the trail can only be an advantage.

reason #2 You have a LOT of time to reflect and learn about yourself.

reason #3 If you act mature and confident, people will be impressed with your hike and all the responsibilities that come along with living in the woods.

reason #4 (warning! controversial subject matter follows) Alcohol!!! It is easy at 18 to not spend money on alcohol. This can be viewed as either advantageous or disadvantageous, depending on ones social desires. Alcohol is expensive, and not drinking is a GREAT way to keep hiking costs down and not blow your whole budget, forcing one off the trail. One unseen effect of drinking and hangovers is that it temporarily reduces the capacity of blood to transport oxygen to your cells. aka not good for optimal hiking. Also would like to acknowledge debate of the effects of alcohol/drugs on still developing brains and increased chance of addiction. Personally, I am not keen on spending money and hiking hungover, but to each their own :)

However, one can also argue that if you party up the trail, partying will lose its novel factor by the end, making it easier to be responsible (and cooler) in situations with alcohol once you are off the trail. Other young adults will be impressed if you know how to hold your **** together, not be obnoxious, and not get overly drunk. Drinking slow at first, paying attention to how the older people are behaving(sometimes), and taking cues from them can be an excellent way to learn how to drink but not act like you are 12. Nothing is worse than an obnoxious drunk, and the trail could be viewed as an opportunity to learn how to avoid being an obnoxious drinker. Also, unwanted or unplanned sexual activity tends to happen more frequently while intoxicated than while sober. This is IMPORTANT to keep in mind and be aware of, especially as a young person on the trail.

There is always the option to drink occasionally but not get drunk. It is a happy medium, and personally I think the best way to go.

Themes of reason #4 can also be attributed to marijuana, which honestly I think is much better than drinking. Best to use sparingly during the day, so as not to get overly distracted by the beauty of nature. It is also hard to beat (super occasionally, to keep it special) enjoying lunch on the top of a mountain on a sunny day, after a long morning of hiking, with a friend and lil bit o marijuana drugs. Once again, to each their own.

I think reasons 1 and 2 are the most important to consider, I just tend to have a lot to say about reason #4.

If you have the financial means, GO FOR IT!!!! Also read Appalachian trials by Zach Davis. Fantastic book on the psychological approach to hiking(or apply themes of the book to life in general). Well worth the read.

Happy Trails!

shelb
01-27-2015, 23:01
When I sectioned part of PA two years ago, I met a 17 year old Thru-hiker who had started at Springer - alone....

Jake2c
01-27-2015, 23:31
I think your asking a pretty hard question to answer. It means very little that someone else did it at that age or younger, they are not you or your friend. By the time I was 15 I was taking a 14 foot, well made boat out to sea fishing for bluefish out of Barnegate Inlet, the worst inlet on the East Coast some would argue. I would go well over the horizon with a compass (before GPS). But I grew up fishing in the ocean. My daughter is 23 and a PhD student, far more advanced than I was at that age but no way would it be safe for her to venture out into the ocean in an open boat of her choosing. She doesn't have that background. Age is a number. Experience, handling yourself, being cool headed in an emergency, able to resist peer pressure, all need to get figured into the equation to decide how comfortable you will be. Has she hiked before or is she a valley girl. I have a niece who is a city girl and would probably try to hand feed a bear because all the ones in the zoo are cute. Is there anything inherently present in hiking the AT that would preclude an 18 year old from going? Nope, I don't think so. IMHO, age is not the right or at least most important part of the question. Chances are, if she has the right frame of mind; if we all go with the right frame of mind, it will be the experience of a lifetime. A fantastic opportunity to grow and learn something about yourself and the world around you. Not knowing anything about you, I would still like to say go, buy only you can decide if it's the right choice at this time. All the best.

ScottTrip
01-28-2015, 08:32
Sure, last year a high school thru hiker left the trail so he could go to his Prom....

msumax1985
01-28-2015, 18:56
Here's a video of "Long Gone". Met him during his 2013 hike. He was age 17 at the beginning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k03mxDZbPkg

CarlZ993
01-29-2015, 14:12
Here's a video of "Long Gone". Met him during his 2013 hike. He was age 17 at the beginning.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k03mxDZbPkg

I met him as well. Nice kid (what little I saw of him). He really cranked out some miles on his hike.

RockDoc
01-29-2015, 18:45
It's OK. I left home the day after I graduated high school and walked from Rockville MD up the canal to HF and north all the way to Maine. It was the best thing I ever did in my life.

lonehiker
01-29-2015, 19:38
I know some 15 year olds that are far more mature than 25 year olds so its all down to how she was brought up. She does have to figure out her response on offers or booze and other substances. There will be plenty of folks who want to party and they will not care what the number is on her license. The smart approach is steer clear and let them burn out around Damascus.

What's to figure out? No thank you works fine......

MuddyWaters
01-30-2015, 00:35
Quite honestly, life is made of the risks you take.
Nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Or as my daughter says, "you will never fly, if you are afraid to fall"