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I’ve been a little hesitant to share my 74-song playlist of hiking and backpacking music with the world. The whole idea makes me a bit uneasy.
See, I’d love to believe that when I’m out hiking, I’m a purist who can walk alone in the wilderness, at one with nature and nothing else. I understand that there’s a time and place for music, and beauty is often found amongst the silence of the great outdoors.
But I also understand how excellent it can feel to slide my headphones in, press play, and let the perfect song run wild as the beauty of the world unfolds in front of me. Fitting and well-timed music can enhance my experience on the trail, sometimes even more than silence does.
So, I guess I’m not much of a purist after all. Damn.
And that is why I’m sharing my 74-song genre-spanning hiking and backpacking playlist with you, fellow music lover. I want to enhance your experience on the trail. So dig through my list, find a few new favorite tunes, strap on your boots, and get moving.
HIKING AND BACKPACKING MUSIC:
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. How I Listen to Music While Hiking
2. Songs for Getting Your Day Started
3. Songs for Breathtaking Moments
4. ‘In the Zone’ Hiking Songs
5. Classic Rock/Folk Songs
6. Songs for Hiking Through Brutal Terrain
7. Songs for Soul Searching & Reflection
8. Joyous Hiking Songs
9. Songs for Winding Down in Your Tent
10. Final Thoughts: Hiking Music
11. Amazon & Spotify Hiking Playlists
I currently use Amazon Music Unlimited for all my digital music needs, although I have used (and enjoyed) Spotify Premium in the past. Both services offer offline access to 10s of millions of songs, which means I can listen to virtually any music I desire while hiking, just as long as I’ve downloaded it beforehand.
I’ve arranged all my hiking and backpacking music onto playlists for Amazon Music and Spotify, which you can find at the end of this post.
Don’t have a digital music service yet? Try one out!
Oh! And one tiny little rant before I dive in…
If you’re going to listen to music while hiking, be respectful of others and use headphones. Playing music over portable speakers or phones around others is a big no-no in the hiking and backpacking community. Blaring music on the trail is noise pollution and fellow hikers will resent you for it.
Now, who’s ready for some good tunes on the trail? Let’s get started.
Early mornings spent backpacking and hiking are hard to beat, especially with quality music playing as the day gets started. These are the songs that play as I brew coffee, cook breakfast, shake the dew off my tent, and stretch my muscles. Relaxed and calm, this section of the playlist helps me wake up, refocus, and prepare for a new day.
- Here Comes the Sun – The Beatles, 1969
- Wake Me – Mandolin Orange, 2011
- Saturday – Chromatics, 2017
- These Days – Nico, 1967
- Here it Comes (The Road) Let’s Go – Spiritualized, 2018
- Aerostar – Los Straitjackets, 2013
- Oh, Louisiana – Chuck Berry, 1971
- Shattered Love – Part Time, 2018
Sometimes I come across a landscape so stunning that I know words and photos will never do it justice. So what do I do? I put on one of the songs below, hike a bit slower, and soak in the splendor.
And sometimes (if I’m lucky) I’ll re-listen to these songs months, or even years, later and they’ll bring back vivid flashes of these mind-blowing moments on the trail. And they do it better than a photo or a paper full of notes ever could.
- Njosnavelin – Sigur Rós, 2002
- San Luis – Gregory Alan Isakov, 2018
- Northern Sky – Nick Drake, 1970
- Rafstraumur – Sigur Rós, 2013
- So What – Miles Davis, 1959
- Stars – Hum, 1995
- Shadow (Instrumental) – Chromatics, 2017
- A Tear for Eddie – Ween, 1994
- Hoppípolla – Sigur Rós, 2005
Behold, the section of the playlist I turn to when it’s time to transform into an unstoppable hiking machine. These are the songs I blast when I have miles upon miles of terrain to cover and very little time to do so. These tunes, among others, helped keep my legs churning for my grueling, 24-mile final day hiking the ‘O’ Circuit in Torres del Paine, Chile.
- House of Cards – Radiohead, 2007
- Close to Me – The Cure, 1985
- Don’t Stop Me Now – Queen, 1978
- City Beds – Chromatics, 2006
- Yes I’m Changing – Tame Impala, 2015
- Bowls – Caribou, 2010
- Jam 292 – Jimi Hendrix, 1967
- Here Comes Your Man – Pixies, 1997
- Clint Eastwood – The Gorillaz, 2001
There’s something about classic rock and folk songs that sync up seamlessly with wide-open spaces, blue skies, and sprawling landscapes. Some music was just built for the outdoors. All the songs I’ve chosen below are about freedom, travel, movement, and change. Isn’t that what hiking and backpacking are all about?
- Blue Sky – Allman Brothers, 1972
- Me and Bobby McGee – Janis Joplin, 1971
- King of the Road – Roger Miller, 1965
- Take Me Home, Country Roads – John Denver, 1971
- Ol’ 55 – Tom Waits, 1973
- Proud Mary – Creedence Clearwater Revival, 1969
- Boots of Spanish Leather – Bob Dylan, 1964
- Going to California – Led Zeppelin, 1971
- Free Bird – Lynryd Skynrd, 1973
Whether it’s harsh temperatures, steep elevation changes, or downright nasty conditions, sometimes the trail just kicks your ass. This is the music that helps me fight through those tough times on the trail. Turn to these high-intensity songs when your heart is beating through your shirt, sweat is pouring down your face, and your legs are screaming for a break.
- Never Let Down – Andrew W.K., 2003
- Zero – Yeah Yeah Yeahs, 2009
- Kashmir – Led Zeppelin, 1975
- Policy of Truth – Depeche Mode, 1990
- Glass Slipper – Chromatics, 2006
- Brennisteinn – Sigur Ros, 2013
- Mouth for War – Pantera, 1992
- Raining Blood – Slayer, 1986
- Requiem, K 626: Lacrimosa Dies Illa – Mozart, 1791
Hiking and backpacking can bring lots of emotions to the surface. It happens. Maybe you’re heartbroken or homesick. Maybe you feel angry, alone, or overwhelmed. Or maybe you just have a habit of mulling over the meaning of life while you’re out wandering trails. While being alone with your thoughts surely can help, sometimes a fitting song will do the trick too.
- Nobody – Mac DeMarco, 2019
- Forget It – Blood Orange, 2011
- The Man Comes Around – Johnny Cash, 2002
- Never Going Back Again – Fleetwood Mac, 1977
- Slide – Luna, 1994
- I Feel Like Going Home – Yo La Tengo, 2006
- Say Hello, Wave Goodbye – Soft Cell, 1982
- Sometimes Always – The Jesus and Mary Chain, 1994
- Interstate Love Song – Stone Temple Pilots, 1994
- Bring it on Home to Me – Sam Cooke, 1965
- Yellow Ledbetter – Pearl Jam, 1992
There are few better feelings than walking the trail when everything is going your way. You’re hydrated, content, and full of energy. The landscape is impossibly beautiful and there isn’t another soul in sight. The horizon brings about nothing but curiosity and excitement.
For the moments when you’re feeling on top of the world, that perfect song just might take your hiking experience to the next level. This is the music that I turn to when backpacking gets blissful.
- Heroes – David Bowie, 1977
- Hit or Miss – Bo Diddley, 1974
- 007 Shanty Town – Desmond Dekker, 1968
- Pretty Girl – Ween, 1996
- Gentle on My Mind – Dean Martin, 1968
- Kodachrome – Paul Simon, 1973
- Goodbye Horses – Q Lazzarus, 1988
- Pretty Baby – Buddy Guy, 1961
- Bad Reputation – Joan Jett, 1980
- Hunnybee – Unknown Mortal Orchestra, 2018
- Harlem River Blues – Justin Townes Earle, 2010
We’ve all been there. After a long and tiring day of hiking, you pitch your tent, crawl into your warm sleeping bag, and shut your eyes. But. You. Just. Can’t. Fall. Asleep. Maybe your body is tired, but your mind is racing. Or maybe you just really miss your cozy bed at home.
While I’m a big advocate of sleeping with earplugs, sometimes I enjoy putting my headphones on and unwinding in my tent with some tranquil tunes. These are the songs that help me fade away into dreamland after a long day of backpacking when nothing else seems to work.
- Out Like a Light 2 – The Honeysticks, 2019
- Pale Blue Eyes – Velvet Underground, 1969
- Oh! Sweet Nuthin’ – Velvet Underground, 1970
- The World Spins – Julee Cruise, 1989
- Consolation – Michael Dulin, 2004
- Clair de Lune – Claude Debussy, 1905
- Gymnopédie No. 1 – Erik Satie, 1888
- Threnody – Goldmund, 2008
Kurt Vonnegut once said, “Virtually every writer I know would rather be a musician.”
This quote radiates with truth, even if we writers don’t like to admit it.
Music often speaks to us in a way that words on paper never can, and writers understand this wholeheartedly.
And nowadays, any song we desire is just a press of a button away. How powerful is that?
I’m a writer, a backpacker, and a hiker. That’s what I’ve labeled myself at least. But I don’t write every day, nor do I take to the trail or sleep in a tent.
But I listen to music every day.
And I certainly listen to music when my backpack is strapped on and I’m off adventuring on a distant trail. Sure, I also cherish silence when exploring great outdoors. I’ll hike for long periods without ever taking my headphones out of my bag.
But, as nice as it’d be to call myself a hiking purist, I’d rather have the freedom to turn to music when the moment strikes and fire up the perfect song as I soak up the world around me.
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What are some of your favorite songs to listen to while hiking and backpacking? Are you a silence-purist or a music-junkie when you hike? What’s your essential hiking playlist look like? Let me know by leaving a comment below!