Updated: Apr 2, 2022
When taking on long thru-hikes over weeks or sometimes even months, Zero days can become a useful tool to help you and the others hiking with you to regain energy and be ready for further days of walking.
So what actually is a Zero Day?
Well put simply it is a day that sits midway through a hike where you travel ‘zero’ kilometres and stay in the same place for the entire day. Similar to a Zero day is another hiking term called a ‘Nero’ day which is a day of hiking where you cover practically zero kilometres and allows people to take it very easy when it comes to timing their days including being able to sleep in.
These terms were popularised in the United States but are becoming ever more present within the trail lingo of hikers around the world and is now not unusual to hear on the trail of a thru-hike.
What do you do on a Zero Day?
Well, if you are on a thru-hike then zero days can be spent in a local town or at an established campsite, this can allow you to stock up on food, get replacement gear for stuff you have broken while walking and take a well needed/deserved rest from walking day after day.
If you spend your zero day at a campsite you might take an extra-long sleep in, make a complex breakfast such as hiking pancakes or even go for a swim in a nearby river or creek. Though rest is the primary objective of a zero day it always allows you to have some fun and because you are not bound by time you are able to do a lot more things that you would avoid because of how much time it takes out of your day.
What are the benefits of a Zero Day?
Well giving your body a break from the constant walking day after day is a good idea especially if hiking longer than a week to make sure you don't overextend your own physical abilities and give your muscles time to recover. For people who are newer to thru-hiking, ‘zero’ or ‘nero’ days can become a must because completing a thru-hike for the first time can be extremely hard and this is one great tool to help make it that little bit easier.
Giving your body a rest is of course one great reason but another fantastic reason to schedule one of these days into your next thru-hike is to give your mind a break too. Doing the same physically exhausting activity for weeks on end with no break can also take a toll on your mind along with your body and having a day with a break and a little more fun can help reverse any negative outlooks along with improve your mindset to complete the rest of your hike.
All these benefits are only compounded if you start getting that feeling that you are not as young as you once were and feel as if you don’t have the energy to just push through like you might have when you were younger.
So next time you are out on the trail doing a thru-hike, consider adding a zero day into your schedule to allow more fun and rest and recovery for both your body and your mind too.
Written by Josh Welch