Podcasts, Music, and More: What I Listened to on the Pacific Crest Trail

Nature is great for looking at and listening to and smelling and shouting into its abyss. However, when you are hiking for 10-14 hours a day, week after week, its calming, awe-inspiring effects tend to wear off. In short, we become used to our surroundings and will eventually crave new stimuli. 

So this post is about what I listened to in order to fight off boredom, as well as a few helpful tips. 

Music

Music is highly personal, so I won't dive too deep into my own music. That being said, I did post a "Song of the Day" (SOTD) on my daily Instagrams, and I have compiled all of those songs on to this PCT SOTD Spotify playlist to give you all a sense of what I liked to listen to while on trail.

Since I was initially worried about maintaining the battery life of my phone, I opted to bring an iPod Nano (Sixth Generation) on the trail, but eventually I sent it home because I could listen to all the music I wanted to on my iPhone. Before I left for the trail, I maxed out the number of songs I had on the device and deleted any songs that had a skip count of 3+ so I wouldn't waste space with songs I didn't like listening to anymore. 

Eventually, even with 1,000+ songs to listen to, I got bored of the same old music on my iPod. So I opted to ask my friends and family to contribute to a collaborate Spotify playlist entitled, ""Are you doing this because of that Wild movie?" – c_diggitydawg's PCT playlist". I received over 200 new songs to entertain myself with, plus it was fun to have such a supportive response to this request!

More on Spotify for those who are not familiar: If you opt for the Premium subscription, you have the option to download songs via Wifi for listening offline. Whenever we got to town, I would hook up to Wifi and download the new songs to my collaborative playlists as well as any other music I fancied. Well worth the subscription.

 

Podcasts

I went all-in on podcasts while on trail, probably listening to 5-8 a day at my peak usage. Podcasts were great to think about anything else besides hiking and learn new things. Oftentimes, my hiking partner and I would talk about the various podcast episodes we listened to that day and even listen to them together while hiking (no earbuds). Here is a list of podcasts I listened to very often while hiking:

  • Planet Money – This show dives deep into the hidden world of weird industries, international commerce, and even tax law while being fun and light. Fun fact: One time on trail, I dreamt I worked for this podcast, and it truly felt like I had peaked.
  • Beautiful Stories from Anonymous PeopleAlso known simply as Beautiful Anonymous, the set up of the show is that people call in to talk to the host, and they can't reveal who they are. Shows either are light and funny or go to pretty heavy subject matter – or both. This show was great for simply feeling like you were having a conversation with someone.
  • Another Round – One of my favorite podcasts ever, the ladies of Another Round are super funny, excellent interviewers, and simply have a great time being themselves. 
  • Pod Save America – While I didn't follow the news for the first two months on trail, I eventually was curious about what was going on this summer in politics. The hosts of Pod Save America are former Obama White House staffers, so don't expect them to be impartial, but do expect interesting insider takes at political stories.
  • The Moth – Listening to The Moth, a recording of people sharing stories to a live audience, provides you with some of the most captivating storytelling out there. I would always either laugh out loud or squeak out a tear when tuning into this show.
  • This American Life – Honesty hour, for some reason I can't stand the cadence of Ira Glass' voice when hiking, but TAL has some of the most incredible reporting and storytelling.
  • 2 Dope Queens – Straight up just the best comedy podcast I've ever listened to giving a stage to awesome up-and-coming comedians. 
  • Freakonomics – If you enjoyed the same-titled book by Stephen J. Dubner and Steven Levitt, you'll really like this podcast which "explores the hidden side of everything."
  • How I Built This – I got really interested in learning about stories behind entrepreneurs while on the PCT, and this show does a great job of showing you exactly how brands like Southwest Airlines, Patagonia, Airbnb got their start.
 

Old Voicemails and Audio Recordings

When I had moments deeply missing my friends and family (which will happen to you), I would re-listen to old voicemails. Even the simple, "Hey, just thought I'd call to see how you were doing. Give me a call back!" message brought a smile to my face, if only for the familiarity of the voice leaving the message.

I also dug up some random snippets of old lectures I once recorded from school. On the slightest of occasions, I would listen to those if I was truly, utterly bored.

 

Other Tips on Audio Entertainment While On Trail

  1. Try to limit your earbud time. It can be tempting to plug into your music and podcasts all day, but I found it important to create rules of usage for myself. One of the reasons I was out on the trail was to appreciate nature. I had always enjoyed a calming effect from walking in the woods, and I wanted to always remind myself of that. So I set a rule in Northern California that I would not use my earbuds before lunch. After lunch, I listened to as much as I wanted to.
  2. Only use one earbud. Situational awareness is key on the trail. First off, rattlesnakes aren't very loud. You're going to want to make sure you can hear them so you don't run into a testy situation. 
  3. Switch between using your left and right ears. Okay, so I didn't do this and I regret it because I think only listening to music in my left ear has caused me hearing troubles. Learn from my mistakes.