Dedicated to Mara's travel and hiking adventure journals as well as her words of wisdom and suggested resources for hikers and travelers.
Hair care. Long or short?
My perspective on hair care and length preference. I used to have long hair but cut it short when I became active both dancing and hiking.
I used to have long hair but cut it short after struggling with it for years when dancing and hiking. Just brushing and braiding each morning while on the trail was an exercise in frustration.
My hair is so fine, that even when in a regular or french braid all day, it would be a tangled mess at the end of the day. Leaving it loose when I was active was not an option.
If you are used to having long hair and have already done a fair bit of hiking and haven't had problems, then you'll probably be fine with it long while on the trail.
I love having short hair. It is so easy to manage. It takes a fraction of the time to wash, rinse, dry, and brush and needs far less shampoo and conditioner than when I had hair down to the middle of my back.
I no longer have to "plan" when I'm going to wash my hair to make sure it has time to air dry or time for me to blow it dry. With short hair, if I want to blow it dry, it takes a minute or two - literally. If I air dry it, it'll be dry in less than 20 minutes. When I had long hair, if I braided it while it was still wet, it would still be wet at the end of the day. And there was nothing like having your hair freeze while out on a winter hike. Especially when it started to freeze to your hat and other clothing. Ouch!
As for maintaining it on the trail, when I started the Pacific Crest Trail, I didn't have a chance to get it cut before hit the trail. By the time I got to Big Bear City, it really needed a cut. Here's an excerpt from my journal:
"Upon inquiring at the front desk about a place to get my haircut, the manager eventually got in touch with her daughter, a licensed and practicing beautician. Lo and behold, a couple of hours later, her daughter pulled up to the motel with scissors in hand. Sitting on the walkway just outside my motel room door, I had my hair cut. How cool is that?"
For me, my trail cut needs to be at least long enough so that the hair provides sun protection for my scalp. This ends up being just a bit longer than a buzz cut. Bald hikers or those that shave their heads end up needed to wear a hat or use a lot of sunscreen.
On the Appalachian Trail, I didn't bother to get my hair cut at all. It was very short to start and by the end, I mostly wore a bandana to keep it out of my eyes. Had I completed a PCT thruhike, that Big Bear City cut probably would have been enough to get me to the end, or at least well into Oregon.
Hair care while I'm actually hiking takes less than a minute to run a comb or brush through it in the morning - if I even bother. If I run into a stream, even if it's cold, I can often rinse my hair, scrub my scalp and feel refreshed without having to worry too much about it staying wet and sapping heat for a long time. I save my soap and shampoo for when I'm in town.
If and when I care if it looks messy, I just hide it under a bandana.
When I get home, I just have it restyled into a slightly longer, but still short cut. with short hair, just a small difference in length can make hair look very different.
Last updated, June 28, 2013.
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