Introduction: Hitchhiking How to From a Man With 2,000 Miles Under His Belt.

Picture of Hitchhiking How to From a Man With 2,000 Miles Under His Belt.

Ever want to hitchhike across country? Have a little adventure in your monotonous life? Maybe become one with the road? (Disclaimer: I am not responsible for injury or death while performing this instructable. This may be published by anyone as long as they give credit to the author Robert Davidson, or post a link to the original copy of this instructable).

Step 1: Preperations

[edit] I'd like to thank everyone for their nice comments, added tips (read the comments if you havent), and good ratings to make this featured. Peace and happy trails

-Big Rob

Sorry about not having pictures, I'll add some within a few weeks.

Now you have maybe chosen to get on your way.
Make sure you find out where you want to go.
You'll want to pack a few essentials, make sure you pack light enough to walk upwards of 50 miles a day.

Things to pack:
2 t-shirts
1 Long sleeve button up shirt.
2 pairs of pants
4 sets of underpants
1 pair of shorts
1 road map (Rand McNally is very useful)
1 Survival knife (Make sure it is legal in the ares you will be traveling through)
1 Swiss army knife (Standard 10 tools I think)
1 set of good heavy duty sneakers (Preferably steel toe)
1 gallon water jug
2 10oz. water bottles
1 sleeping bag (-10c rated minimum)
Warm coat or jacket
Good big Backpack (preferably one in a dark colour)
At least and I mean at least $100 (My first time out I started with $0 and it screwed me up)

Other various things:
Bank Cards
Cell Phone (Tracfones are best because of the non-monthly payments)
Loose Drum Tobacco and papers (if you smoke, they last longer than regular cigarettes and is cheaper ;P)
Notebook and pens (to write your best selling novel based on your trek)
Enough food to last 5 days (Ramen is best(It can be eaten and used as a fire starter))

Step 2: Dress for Success

When beginning, Make sure you have your hair cut, shaved, deodorant/smelly stuff is all done and on.
This stems from the fact that almost no one wants a stanky hitchhiker in their car.
When choosing clothes, choose ones that are clean (no rips or satins) and somewhat colourful (to make you stand out). A hat is almost always a good thing.

On your trip out the door, make sure you tell the people you love that you love them (this is a quite dangerous thing to do, and it very well could be the last time you see them).
Make sure your pack is tight, shoes are tied, fly is zipped and buttoned.

Step 3: The Ride of Your Life

Picture of The Ride of Your Life

Now your out and at a road I presume (if going to a road was an after thought for you, go back home and watch the television). Again recheck everything, again, and again, and once more. You can never be too safe.

The sign of the hitchhiker is the beginning (hopefully like me, you have the hitchhiker thumb). Thumb out, fingers curled in. Stand on the same side of the road that traffic is going, in the direction you want to go.

Now come the hardest part for a first time HH, the actual making of the sign. It is tough at first to ask for a ride, and most every HH had to overcome this barrier in the mind. Trust me, it gets easier. At this point, when you see a car, you'll be thinking 'What if they stop? What do I do? Why am I on this trip? I have a good life here,' don't give in to these thoughts, don't even think when you extend your thumb. Just do it. DO IT! DO IT!! DOOOOOOOOOOOOOO IIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIIT!!!

You did it? Good, you are a good padawan. You have now broken the mind barrier, and have become a Novice in the Hitchhiking Union.

Chances are though, you didn't get a ride. No worries, there is always another ride coming, the only problem is when? Keep at it, best chances for a ride is somewhere that isn't in a large city, but there is alot of traffic. Keep at it, and there will always be a ride.

Step 4: Scoping Your Ride

Now, a car has stopped, walk up to the passenger window, and scope out the ride. Is it a man or woman? How many other people are in the car? Are they drinking? Does it smell like weed in the car? Do you get a gut feeling that this person or persons may be dangerous? If so, don't take a ride.

90% or the time, you are going to get a smoker as a ride. If there is an open container in the car, or these people have been smoking weed, just say "Sorry, I was using this as a sign so my Sister/brother/Girlfriend/boyfriend could see me". Its as easy as that.

The best sign in my experiences to getting a safe ride is if they are a little suspicious of you. This signifies that they will watch you and you can watch them.

Make sure before you get in the car that you ask them where they're going, if it isn't in the direction you want to go, just say "Oh sorry, I'm not heading that way. Peace"

Step 5: Hotile Hostilities and Home Like Homeopathic Remedies.

Picture of Hotile Hostilities and Home Like Homeopathic Remedies.

Now, here is the part that many people should follow closely.


No matter who they are, be careful. Do not leave your bag in their car, ever. If both of you stop to get something to eat, bring your bag. If they ask (which they probably wont), just say "I'm going to get changed", or "I'm going to fill my water jug up," and then get changed in the restroom or top off your water.

But if you don't feel like doing that, just tell them the truth "Its not that I don't trust you, but I can't afford to trust you" if they truly are a cool person, they will fully understand.

Your bag is your life, it has most if not all of your things inside it. Without this tool, you have almost nothing.

Step 6: The Ride, the Destination, the Love. Philosophy of the Ride.

Picture of The Ride, the Destination, the Love. Philosophy of the Ride.

"We are the modern confessors, the truly romanticized, the frontiersmen, the ones with the will to hold an entire culture and generation in contempt. We scorn the advertisement, the control, the brazen wastefulness that is a mark upon our peers" - Ed, The zen master, my old bus driver.

Take this quote and hold it in your very soul, it was given to me by my old bus driver. When we get in the car with our ride, we are the beggars. This is a very close interpretation of the way the disciples of Gautama Buddha were taught to live.

When you are in the car, make your driver feel relaxed, ask questions about themselves, family, job, and life in general. Share what you have, and pass along a serene sense of oneness. There is no way to live life being a mean hateful and spiteful person. Sure, tough times are plenty, but never let them get to you.

I hope you have enjoyed this instructable, and remember that there can be a chance of you not surviving, dehydration, freezing to death, and murder are very real dangers while on the road.

I will now leave you with a quote in which I wrote while I was on the road.

"My life is how I lived it, I won't let myself be controlled by people who do not know me. If I should fail to survive this trip, I want everyone to remember me as a man who refused to give up, a man who chose to live a life of peace. Others may see me as nothing more than scum because I choose to get my food from dumpsters, to sleep on the streets, and to beg for rides, but I am not, I chose to live a life using others waste, and to become closer to my god, instead of living a false life like everyone else".


mrthom (author)2015-09-24

Come summer, New Zealand is awash with hitch hikers! It's very rare to not get picked up here if you are patient, but in most towns people will pick you up within 15 mins if you choose you're spot well. Even if you're not hitchhiking, people will sometimes just stop and offer you a lift.

EcoExpatMike (author)2015-09-10

Note that the "hitchhiker thumb" is NOT universal in all countries...

LadyLuck1337 (author)2008-05-27

This is an incredibly beautiful instructable. I will carry it in my heart always. I would be terrified to hitchhike across my fair nation of Canada as one lone woman make one heck of a target, but this embodies my spirit. I just want to keep moving on. Poetry aside, thank you.

Samw (author)LadyLuck13372013-03-26

Keep off Highway 16 in Northern British Columbia LadyLuck. This is known as Highway of Tears for the missing women.

snotty (author)LadyLuck13372010-07-23

If you're interested in trying this type of travel, you can find a way to make it happen. Going with a friend (gender inclusive) would be the easiest way.

It's interesting that to hear that you'd be terrified to go. Fear is a scary thing eh? Sometimes I like to examine what I'm afraid of. First I ask myself why I am afraid. Second, I re-examine my sources of information with a critical eye to judge how truthful they are or whether they might be fear-mongering headlines to sell more newspapers. Third, I  try my best to examine the situation objectively and compare it to my own personal experience. Then, sometimes, when I think about it, somethings are not that scary; AND other things become very scary. Things like, car crashes, cigarettes, cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure, boredom.

snotty (author)LadyLuck13372010-07-23

Hitchhiking in Canada is super low-stress. I've done it lots from coast to coast sometimes with a friend, and our bicycles, and camping gear...

In all the years I've hitched, I've never had a problem, ever. That said one woman I know has found herself in some dangerous rides. I always feel nervous when my girlfriend goes hitchhiking by herself but nothing has happened.

Remember this: a hitchhiker who has a safe trip will never be on the news. Whereas the one who is a victim of a serious crime is a much more appealing story for the media.

The point being, I think hitchhiking is safe but we only hear the horror stories on TV so it sounds dangerous.

What's wrong with poetry?

Nothing at all. Poetry is the eye of the storm. It is what keeps the winds moving around you. Poetry is every emotion that one's heart possesses rolled into imperfect words. It's just hard to thank a person without a little prose.

inquisitive (author)LadyLuck13372008-08-02

Beautifully put!

A good name (author)LadyLuck13372008-05-27

Show off (rolls eyes)

If you are reffering to me, I don't believe in internet friends. And plus I only like funny poetry.

Lol... I was reffering to Lady luck...


SelkeyMoonbeam (author)2012-05-21

Good tips- for girls looking to hitchhike, I'd actually recommend going to Chile (assuming you speak spanish..). I never hitched a ride alone, but I heard from local girls that they had and it was fine. About 1 in 2 cars will pick you up, and even as a blond foreigner I never felt unsafe. I traveled several hundred miles 'a dedo' and met some wonderful people!

ilpug (author)2011-11-08

Here in Northern California, Hitchiking is a pretty common way to get around. Everyone here smokes, grows, or just generally lives around weed, so you will often see hitchhikers holding their thumb and forefinger about an inch apart, instead of the normal thumb sign. This means loosely " I will give you a little bit of weed for a ride." My family picks up hikers commonly, so we just give them the ride regardless of offered weed or not, which we turn down if it is offered.

DIWhacked (author)2008-12-12

I've picked up a few hitchers, and my advice would be to watch for the "no hitchhiking inside city limits signs. Sorry but even if I want to, I won't stop, because cops tend to watch those areas on the edge of the city on main roads. In Canada, if you have anything illegal on you, the driver becomes an accessory to your crime, so most people won't stop. And if you smell like weed or look strung out (more than just tired) I'll tell you "sorry, not today", However if you are sitting on the side of the road with a book, I'll be more sympathetic. call it a stereotype, but it works Also, stay visible, I've passed a few people that I just didn't have time to react to. Stay light, I drive a small car and carry a lot of extra crap, if you can't keep it on your lap, I might not stop And ask me where the best places to look for rides are, I've picked people up, only to drop them at the next town 20 minutes later because of either the reputation of the town they were near, or the type of people that live there. ie, I'll drive someone from a commuter community to a small town that all truck drivers, and people on long trips stop in. Don't turn down a short ride from a local who can get you to a better spot. As for truckers, be polite, offer to buy lunch, and you might have a ride. they are at work, and owe you nothing. Oh and make sure you are on the right road, if your sign says you are heading east, and I'm in the west bound lane.... stay safe, trust your gut, and fair winds to you all

reangerer (author)DIWhacked2011-03-11

As an addition, when I was a little we'd only pick up walking hitchhikers, the theory being if you're willing to make an effort, so am I.

TRANSLTR (author)2011-01-14

I used to hitchike everywhere in the 1980s as a teenager. I found wearing any shirt with a collar helped especially if I put a tie on too... a kind of daft look but I am sure it worked. The key thing though is to know where you're going and have a sign with the name of the place on it. Keep a rapid marker in your bag for writing on scraps of cardboard. And always put "please" at the bottom. Last time I hitchiked was about ten years ago, when I hitched from South Wales to Dublin in four lifts. Never waited longer than 15 minutes. Look presentable and be good company. Find what you and your ride have in common - we all have something in common. Be super perceptive - if anything rings alarm bells but you don't know what it is, don't get in. Make an excuse. If you're hitching at night stand somewhere well lit. And don't be on a tight shedule!

abadfart (author)2010-12-09

people in old trucks are always a good way to go

gfahey (author)2010-07-05

In 1974 I took off from Maine to California. I had a backpack with a collapsible cup, a knife, sleeping bag, a windbreaker and pretty much pocket t-shirts, socks and 2 pairs of jeans. I might add that I left with ZERO money in my pocket. That's right, zilch. I went 3 days with no food. I refused to ask or beg for anything. First night in western Mass was raining and I was just off the interstate. I got under a tree and covered myself and sleeping bag with fallen leaves. I didn't get wet at all. 3 days later (from the start) I stopped in Omaha and asked a local very small restaurant if they needed help for 1 or 2 days. They helped me out. They asked me if I knew how to carve a turkey! I was taken to a basement and was left alone with 12 cooked turkeys! Oh man, it was heaven! I was soooo hungry. They gave $13 for the day/ I was off to LA. Long story short, I had a few episodes where I could have ended up in a dumpster. I was a "long hair" then and I had a few close calls. I would stop at gas stations with my collapsible cup and and quick wash and shampoo with their soap and water and paper towels! Bottom line? I hitched over 6,000 miles when all was done. It was the best education I ever got. 99% of people were great. Most everyone wanted to get me high or have a beer. I still remember ever ride, person and people I met on that trip. I fell in love with my country and am so grateful to have made it alive! Nowadays? Forget it.

Cereleste (author)2008-10-08

Is hitch hicking currently in the "men-only" cattegory? (as in if you're a woman there's a 99% chance you'll never be seen again (alive at least, your body might turn up someday))

WurdBendur (author)Cereleste2008-12-26

Being male is often a good deterrent to would-be assailants in many situations. I can't say I know anything about hitchhiking, but if you want to do it, I suggest having some pepper spray and being picky about which rides you accept. Actually, that's probably a good idea for guys too. But personally, I'm just carrying a big stick. Not a REALLY big one - just big enough to be useful but inconspicuous and easy to wedge into my backpack for a quick draw. But I've got the kind of experience to make it useful. For most people, pepper spray or something is probably a better option.

Carrying a gun works wonders for security. The most you'll have to do with it is brandish and people will back off.

doesn't matter if it is a gun or a stick or a spray, or anything else, before carrying a weapon a person needs to learn to use it, (which is more than how to pull the trigger.) merely brandishing a weapon might work, but don't count on it, statistics show it is more likely the thing gets turned on its owner. if you don't have time for any training then carry a realistic but harmless fake so at least it can't be used on you. if you have found this to be a successful way to defend yourself in the past I don't mean to take away your confidence since confidence it probably a big part of why the bluff works.

Problem is that when you pull out a fake, sometimes they pull out a real one......I hate it when that happens.......

bwpatton1 (author)AntonioMDC2009-05-08

This is very true, Learn how to use it, before you buy one!! Guns dont kill people, people kill people

mg0930mg (author)bwpatton12009-09-17

bwpatton1 (author)mg0930mg2009-09-18

LOL, Wow

Ah, that too. I just don't really like guns enough to carry one. Besides, I made myself a new set of kali/escrima sticks, so I should be set.

ajjardin (author)WurdBendur2010-05-12

Escrima Sticks are good but also look into kubatons / pocket sticks. they are a lot more portable and cane be concealed a lot easier. when things go bad, grip very tightly and start Hammering away. at the collarbone, eyes, face, and even the back of their hand.

BJMN (author)Cereleste2009-07-30

I hitchhiked quite a lot in my relative youth - and I met quite a few women who were also on the road. You do have to be more careful - out of the whole "hiking gang" I used to spend time with, I know of two bad incidences that happened to girls hitchiking, but none of us guys ever had anyone threaten them. I spent some time with a fabulous girl I thought wouldn't be a good candidate for hitchiking - she was very petite, very pretty. However, it turned out she was from Israel, and was an infantry soldier in their military - she could probably maim someone with her pinky finger, so... Frankly, the scariest things that happened to me was getting in a couple cars where after a few kilometers you realize "Bad Choice"... Just pretend you're carsick and are about to throw up. Nothing makes people pull over like the thought of puke in their car...

pause88 (author)2010-02-10

I hitched for about four years in my twenties and learned some good tricks.  If you buy a cup of coffee in a truck stop, you can hang out there and chat people up.  Many times I got the ride while others sat outside in the hot sun.  A lot of truckers, despite the rules against picking up hitch hikers, will give you a ride if you've seemed friendly, especially since company makes it easier to stay awake.  Also, ask truckers at gas stations if they're going to use their shower/ meal pass.  Most places give them one every time they fill up, but they often don't use them every time.  Stay clean.  I always told stories about my adventures and asked for recommendations of must-sees.  I was once lucky enough to have the guy who ran the Texas state park system drive me all over Austin showing me his favorite places.  You should carry a light hammock, tarp and sunblock.  Comes in really handy.  I also kept one of those quick drying towels that was big enough to use as a blanket, but folder to the size of my fist.  For meals, a lot of time people would feed me when they ate.  I'd also look for opportunities where people left food untouched in restaurants.  You can cook over an open fire too if you have a light pot.  Last, keep in touch with your loved ones regularly so at least someone has some idea where you are.  BTW, most libraries offer free internet.  Keep a journal, even if it's just a mass e-mail you send to your loved ones and yourself.  Happy traveling.  My experiences on the road were some of the greatest in my life.  Oh, yeah, check out  People will let you stay with them free.  Good times...   

lycankiller6065 (author)2009-02-25

you forgot to add a towel


Spiderdog3000 (author)lbrewer422009-10-19

 You sass that hoopy Ford Prefect?  There's a frood who really knows where his towel is.

You are awesome.


Best. Comment. Ever.

sunshinesmiles22 (author)2009-09-04

This is such a great Instructable, I bookmarked it and everything. I am a girl and yet to hitchhike but looking forward to it when I'm out of school, do you or anyone have tips for a girl going by herself? thanks

fishdirt (author)2009-08-13

Hitchhiking is actually illegal so be very careful checking for police cars and such. I've personally wanted to hobo for a while, any tips on that?

MarietteNL (author)2009-08-07

Nice instructable, here's a tip i'd like to add. As a girl, always try to get a boy to join you for your own safety. If you go together with someone else, in general it is a good idea to let the boy get in first then the bags and then the girl, so that the girl goes out first and the luggage isn't left unattended, people who seemed nice at first my try to get away with your luggage once you get out

Wolf Seril (author)2009-07-22

Is it illegal to hitchhike in the USA? I've heard it was. Not that that would stop me, but it would be nice to know if I should hide from cops.

baneat (author)2009-06-12

If you smoke though people may not pick you up because you stink of the smoke from being bored waiting.

mortifiedmonkey0 (author)2009-05-18

Hope you have a permit for that.

Haha I was just kidding.

papabob56 (author)2009-05-29

Great tips, a well thought out tutorial. I used to hitchhike a lot back in the 70's. I once hitched from San Diego, Calif to Detroit, Mich. The trip took all of nine days to complete, as I couldn't snag a ride for three days straight in Texas. Your point on carrying at least $100 is a good one, I'd make sure it wasn't all in my wallet. During the years I hitched rides I was robbed twice, both times they took my wallet (once they took my pack as well) and drove off without searching me (guess they wanted a quick exit). I always used a money belt that held my drivers license and some cash. My wallet only held a few bucks at all times, so it's loss wasn't tragic. I also kept money stashed inside my shoes, under the insoles. The bills might get a little funky, but they still work at the store.

fancypenguin845 (author)2009-05-25

lol i just ate an instant lunch ramen cup its probably handmade b jesus or something its amazing

Rotten194 (author)2009-05-20

Common Sense: Not so common anymore....

yo man (author)2009-05-19

get a car would help lots!

trickymeacham (author)2009-05-05

this is great man.good advice :)

About This Instructable




Bio: I do stuff, I like to make stuff, I sleep. Fin.
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