- Do you want to look more masculine?
- How about prevent sun burn and potential cancer?
- How about reduce your risk of allergies while spending time in the great outdoors?
- And of course, would you like to look sexier than an Adonis covered in oil on a paradise beach?
Fear not, this is all within your reach.
One of the great benefits of hiking the Appalachian Trail is that you can grow a mane of facial hair that makes you wish ZZ Top were recruiting for a fourth member. Forget those styles like Metrosexual, Retrosexual, or even Ubersexual—the look of this decade is Lumbersexual and a consequence of hiking the AT is you will become a prime example.
Having never grown a beard in my life, I was looking forward to sporting a mane of facial hair akin to supergluing a rabbit to my face. More important was the fact I didn’t have to shave every day, I could just brush my teeth and go for months at a time. However, the beard became so much more than a convenience, so much more than a sign that I couldn’t be bothered to shave.
The beard became a badge of honor. A sign that I was thru-hiking the Appalachian Trail, that I was a long-term, professional, committed hiker. The beard made me a member of the Class of 2014 and I wore it with pride. On the trail, I would see dirty, sweaty guys sporting a beard and know they were part of our sub-culture. Even in towns you would nod at fellas sporting a growth of facial hair.
I felt like Sampson and once shaved; I lost my hiker powers. So I have decided to grow it back and regain my hiker status.
Don’t worry about the fit. Beards are designed to fit your face—nature is funny that way. Plus, their weight-to-usefulness ratio is off the charts: they weight so little but give so much!
Some of the advantages of a beard:
Protects against the sun, therefore help prevent cancer.
Yes, it’s a scientific fact! The University of Southern Queensland conducted research and found that a beard blocks up to 95% of the sun’s harmful UV rays. It is proven that 4 out of 5 cases of cancer appear on a man’s face, head or neck, and basal-cell carcinomas is the most common form of all cancers. The result: less risk of developing skin cancer of the face, where the beard grows. It also assists in reducing aging of the skin and prevents sunburn (as well as a barrier to wind burn).
Makes you more of a man.
According to research from the University of New South Wales, it is scientifically true: women find men with facial hair more attract and perceive them to be manlier. The research confirms: “beardedness affects judgments of male socio-sexual attributes and suggest that an intermediate level of beardedness is most attractive… full-bearded men may be perceived as better fathers who could protect and invest in offspring.” (cite)
Collects valuable food.
No more concerns that your dietary requirements are not being met because that dropped dollop of peanut butter is covered in leaves. No, because now those crucial lumps of calories are held safely in your beard, just waiting for extraction and ingestion.
Insulates your neck.
The extra layer of air pockets on your neck will be a natural insulator, warming your neck and providing an extra layer of protection against the cold wind. An added advantage for those concerned about pack weight is that you can leave that heavy scarf that grandma knitted you behind!
It’s a natural moisturizer.
As some are painfully aware (I’m looking at you, acne-covered teenager), our skin seeps natural oils from sebaceous glands from your face and neck. This oil, known as sebum, is a natural lubricant and water proofer for your skin. Your beard hair will collect these secretions and hold them against your baby soft skin, moisturizing as you hike and sleep.
Filters allergens and prevents sickness.
Having a beard will assist in reducing the pollutants that cause allergy symptoms from getting into your body. YorkTest Laboratories in the UK have over 30 years of experience in laboratory diagnostic testing and provided excellent information regarding this benefit. The pollutants are trapped by facial hair and held until you are ready to hit the shower in the next town. It is also believed that the trapped pollutants are released in small amounts over time and therefore help a sufferer to build immunity. Win-win!
I must apologize to those males in the population for whom growing a beard is a challenge (I am looking at you GOAT and Simba – Class of 2014). Your manliness is contained within and clearly not needed to be displayed on the outside. But for the rest of us on the trail, growing a beard is not only a consequence of hiking, it is a clear advantage!