134: MUSIC: Songs on the Trail

Show Notes: Episode 134

Today on the First 40 Miles, music on or off the trail is one of the great pleasures in life.  Today we’ll talk about how to incorporate music on your backpacking trip:  what to bring and what not to bring.  Then, a top 5 list that will help you plan your personal playlist.  Next on the SUMMIT Gear Review, a three stringed instrument, that’s trail worthy and is impossible to play wrong.  And our Backpack Hack has morphed today into Backpack Homework.

To join us for the SOLVE Clean Up, register here:



  • Music on scout campouts
  • Incorporating music
  • Letting natures sounds prevail…
  • Want to start incorporating music on the trail, the simplest way to do it is to use your own voice, whistle, or use your body as a rhythm instrument.
  • Don’t have to gather everyone for a group sing along (that wouldn’t work in our family…)
  • Harmonica
  • Ukulele
  • Strumstick
  • Canjo
  • Mouth Harp
  • No external speakers


Top 5 Elements That Make a Great Campfire Song

Easy to Remember

  • This usually means it a folk song or song from your childhood
  • “Day-o (The Banana Boat Song)”
  • “He’s Got the Whole World in His Hands”
  • “If I Had a Hammer”
  • “The Ants Go Marching”—for this one, if you can’t remember the words, it lends itself to making up new words

Gives you that nostalgic feeling

  • “Home on the Range”
  • Country Roads “take me home to that place I belong”
  • “Don’t Fence Me In”
  • Have that “home” feeling

Story in the song

  • “Waltzing Matilda”
  • “American Pie”
  • “Cockles and Mussels”
  • Takes some effort to memorize

Strong chorus

  • Everyone can join in on even if they don’t know the verse
  • “This Land is Your Land”
  • “Threw it Out the Window” (The Nursery Rhyme Song)

Shared culture

  • Religion: hymns like “Amazing Grace” or “Swing Low Sweet Chariot”
  • Patriotic songs or songs based on a shared location, “Deep in the Heart of Texas”
  • Songs of a movement or era: “We Shall Overcome” or “Blowin in the Wind”
  • Shared culture can even mean shared decades—feel free to pull from popular songs. “Riptide” was popular at Girls Camp last year, simple chords, simple tune, repetitive


If you’re looking for more folk-type songs:

Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, Peter Paul + Mary, Kingston Trio, Joni Mitchell,

SUMMIT Gear Review: Strumstick D


  • Spruce top
  • Three stringed instrument
  • Bright sound, steel strings


  • No wrong notes
  • Simple to just play around on
  • Simple to tune (Superman tuning)


  • 4 ounces
  • D Strumstick has a longer and wider body than that G Strumstick, so if ounces and grams matter, the G is lighter.


  • Tuning, very simple
  • Keep protected from rain
  • Purchase carrying case separately


  • $200


  • So fun
  • Lightweight
  • Easy to play, sounds great, little skill needed to get started

Backpack Homework of the Week™:  Find a Few Songs

  • Bring a few songs in your brain worth singing on your next trip
  • Zero grams
  • These songs you select might take you back to your childhood or to a time that makes you happy, or they might take on new meaning as you hike and ponder the lyrics
  • No instrument needed
  • Save them for the campfire or bring them out on a lonely quiet stretch of trail

Trail Wisdom

“Music gives a soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination and life to everything.” -Plato

To join us for the SOLVE Clean Up, register here: