Many of us have been raised with the impression that only serial killers pick up hitchhikers. In truth, hitching is pretty common along long distance hiking trails in America. Of course a hiker could also walk into town, but that sucks. The third option may be safest, albeit, most expensive: use your cell phone to call ahead into town. Most towns have hostels, hotels, and trail angels who will pick you up for a fee.
If you are going to hitch rides from trails to towns and towns to trails, please heed these 10 hitching tips that I’ve learned over the years:
1. In general, make this experience as easy as possible for the folks in the car, cause they may be nervous too (would you pick up a someone who looks and smells like a vagabond?). Be a friendly adult and you’ll probably get the same result.
2. Clean yourself up, before attempting to get a ride. And put on some clothes…
3. Be sure that you’re in a spot where cars can see you and have time to safely stop. Get your thumb out early.
4. Stand in a spot where a car can easily pull over and off of the road.
5. Guys can have a difficult time getting a ride. Groups have an even more difficult time. It’s science. Get over it.
6. You don’t have to get in a car just because it stopped for you. If your gut tells you not to get in, think of an excuse. Ex: Immediately exclaim, “Oh, shoot! I just realized that I left my water filter back at the last spring. I can’t go without it. I’m sorry to have you stop for me, thank you.” Get out of there quick.
7. Always get a window seat. Always immediately put the window down. This is a pro move here; saving the driver from that horrible smell that comes from you. That, five days of busting your butt, in the middle of the summer, through a mountain range, without a shower, kind of smell.
8. If you can, offer up a few bucks for gas. Positive reinforcement for the good people who pick up hitch hikers, and you may even get a free meal out of it…
9. Keep all of your gear packed in your bag, so as to never ever leave gear behind in a stranger’s car. Double check. Every time.
10. Getting out of town is usually easier. Many times you can make a deal with whichever business fed you and/or housed you. Ask storeowners, locals, etc. Begging at a gas station is classic form too.