Book Review: Appalachian Trials

DISCLAIMER:  I bought my copy of this book with my own paycheck.  In fact, I bought two – one paperback, and one eBook.  And while I am scheduled to be a blogger on Zach’s blog by the same name during the 2015 season, I am quite certain he would prefer I give my full, unbiased opinion of his book here, rather than simply feeding the herd.


If you have been around the Appalachian Trail at all, I am quite certain you have at least heard rumors of the latest book I read, Appalachian Trials by Zach “The Good Badger” Davis.  If you have not actually read it, I urge you to do so!

In short, Appalachian Trials is a mental preparation resource for thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail.  While there are stacks of books on the physical preparation, the needed and unneeded gear, how to plan your food menu, and even how to poo in the woods, very few of them, if any, discuss the mental aspects of such a large undertaking.  During his own hike, Zach sat down with other hikers and support teams, discussing why so many attempts fail, and developed a working plan for the different scenarios that an aspiring thru-hiker should think about before hitting the trail to ensure success.  Using his own humorous experiences, with his unique writing style, Davis lays down a course of action to prepare your mind for this strenuous task.

I will admit, I was a bit skeptical when I first picked up the book.  After the first chapter, when I realized I had been highlighting and underlining and noting the margins a tad too much, I was sold.  I also decided maybe the eBook version would be a better match for me, as it would allow me to highlight without making the pages unreadable, make extensive notes wherever I pleased, and add multiple bookmarks for sections I want to go back to.  The paperback will be my loaner book and keepsake (note: no loans of this book, since I got it signed by Zach at Trail Days!), while the eBook is most definitely my “working version.”  Having read it twice – back to back – I can attest that this book, while aimed at Appalachian Trail thru-hikers, has many applications to the real world, and I have already seen some changes in the way I approach tasks at hand.

Taken from Amazon:

In Appalachian Trials readers will learn:

- Effective goal setting techniques that will assure you reach Mt. Katahdin

- The common early stage pitfalls and how to avoid them

- How to beat “the Virginia Blues”

- The importance of and meaning behind “hiking your own hike”

- 5 strategies for unwavering mental endurance

- The most common mistake made in the final stretch of the trail

- The top method for staving off stress

- Tips for enjoying rather than enduring each of the five million steps along the journey

- Strategies for avoiding post-trail depression and weight gain

In addition, the Bonus Section of Appalachian Trials includes:

- A thorough chapter on gear written by thru-hiker of the AT and Pacific Crest Trail, and professional backpack gear reviewer

- Information about the trail’s greatest and most unknown risk and how to guard against it

- 9 tips for saving money before and during your thru-hike

- A thorough FAQ section including information ranging from how to obtain sponsorship, to the best stove for the trail, to avoiding chafing, and much more!

The absolute only criticism I could find about this book – other than it was too short – is simply a pet peeve of mine:  The editing of the eBook was a bit lacking.  There were misused or misplaced words, and while you were still able to understand what was being said, I hope (and would volunteer to assist!) that the next edition would clean these up a little.  I have not compared the eBook to the paperback, so perhaps the errors were made when the book was being converted to digital, especially since Zach’s website is very clean and refined.  Accidents happen.  And again, this is not a big criticism, just a pet peeve (thanks to parents who were teachers!).

That said, I still give this as many stars as the judges will allow me!  Pick up a copy.  Borrow a copy.  Do not steal one, because Zach would not get royalties that way (not to mention the legalities…), but any other way you can obtain a copy, do it.  You will not be disappointed with Appalachian Trials at all.

I would love to hear from you, whether it is about this book or another one you recommend.  Please send me a comment below, or use the Contact Me page up top.

Until next time, remember to “Spin the Compass.”


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