Yes, you know it before we even touch on it here.... but we reiterate again solely for the sake of showing it the never ending love that we feel for it. Of course we are talking about the Dollar General or the DG! You can resupply there, you can get lost in the wonders of the cheap shiny objects in each aisle, and sometimes yes you can even sleep behind there in their parking lots... (Appalachian Trail Story). Why did we want to do a post fully around the Dollar General this week? Well, it is a place, more so of a home, that holds a special place in many thru-hikers hearts, ours included. It has embraced our empty stomachs, it has snuggled us inside of its neon light glow from miles away, and it has always welcomed us with open arms and open bags of chips!
ElevenSkys did you really take time to make a collage of hearts around the DG logo?!?! YES...YES WE DID, and not a minute was wasted!
All jokes aside, the Dollar General is an extremely important resupply point for many hikers. Especially in the Southeast, if you have hiked any trails around there, you know that there will be a Dollar General in the next town, no matter the size of the town itself. There could be one stop light, a small diner, a population of about 100 people, and then neatly nestled into the very fabric of the community itself, a Dollar General. We are going to go through the reasons that Dollar General holds such a special place in thru-hikers hearts.
First, the accessibility. The Appalachian Trail aside (since there is so much growth and community around this trail) every other trail that we have hiked out east, the resupply tends to lean heavily into Dollar General after Dollar General. Yes, this is also because we are biased, and we love this establishment so deeply, but it is also because sometimes this is the only option available. When we thru-hiked the Pinhoti Trail back in 2019, every single one of our resupplies came from a Dollar General! Granted some areas had more options, but usually the neon sign drew us in like moths to a flame to the DG. The Dollar General will never disappoint, if there is a town (specifically the southeast) there will be a Dollar General, no questions asked.
Yea, that is an insane amount of Dollar General's!
Second, the price. The name itself should tell you what the general price should be.....a dollar. Yet, if you have never been blessed and gifted with the opportunity to experience a Dollar General, let us help describe this more for you. There are many dollar stores out there such as; The Dollar Store, The Dollar Tree, The Family Dollar, Five Below, and almost every bigger community has a local variation on the concept of a Dollar Store. Yet, the Dollar General is the one and only that continues to hold status in many thru-hikers hearts and wallets. For the amount of junk food and cheap food that a hiker craves, the DG is a perfect stop. You can easily resupply for 4-5 days at this store for about $30, if that. That can still be on the more expensive realm of a resupply. We have resupplied for 8 days before for $50 from a DG. So, when a hiker needs cheap calories if there is a Dollar General in town, you can guarantee that you will find a hungry hiker or two wandering the aisles with looks of amazement and happiness written across their faces.
Third, the variation. The Dollar General is not meant for the picky eater, so picky eaters beware of this next segment! We do however want to clarify when we say "picky" it is in the concept of our thought of thru-hiker calories, not others. Many other thru-hikers we know eat vegetarian, eat Vegan, or chose not to snack as much as we do, and that works great for them and it is awesome they found their groove. We respect the dedication and commitment it takes to do that on trail, and honestly are in awe of these types of hikers. We are also sad that they do not know the loving embrace of a Dollar General Resupply. Yet, we digress, back to what you have to chose from for a resupply at a DG. Snacks, candy, bologna, crackers, Spam, tortillas, bagels, cheese, and many other hiking staples are available at the DG. Granted these options tend to lean towards the generic brand or Dollar General brand food, which being completely honest again, does not completely WOW you with taste. It can be bland and frankly we try not to think too much about the quality of the ingredients that went into the slimy piece of Bologna we just consumed from the Dollar General. Yet, they do also have a lot of name brand food for cheap as well, their brand is just the cheapest out of the options. Most of the time if you find yourself in a "health food" aisle, simply you are NOT in a Dollar General. Yes, we love to eat healthy as well, but when on trail we rationalize that the cheapness, the options, and the reliability of a resupply at a Dollar General, outweigh our stomachs distress. So, when it comes to variety, the Dollar General again reigns supreme in very small towns, that the option is either a gas station or a beautifully lit and invitational siren call that is the DG.
If you see this, RUN out the door and check where you are, you ARE NOT AT A DOLLAR GENERAL!
Fourth, convenience. This category could potentially tie into the first which was accessibility, but we thought these two points were far enough apart that they warranted their own category. The accessibility of a place in a resupply town in our minds means whether or not the store will be physically present. The convivence aspect of this is WHERE the store will be physically present. You have to already have ticked the accessibility category to reach the convenience category. So, the convenience aspect of a Dollar General. As hikers are very conscious of their wallets, for the most part you will find many hikers, if they chose to stay in a hotel or motel, at one of the cheapest ones if not the very cheapest one in town. 9 times out of 10 even if a hotel is rated significantly less than its competition but is even $5 cheaper, a hiker will chose this option. So, how does this tie into Dollar General? Well for the most part the location of these cheap motels are on the outskirts of a town. On the outskirts where bigger chain stores are located as well. It is the "industrial" sections of a town. We put industrial in quotations because many of these small towns do not warrant being big enough to have an industrial section, but thought this word would paint a picture in your mind of exactly where we are referring to. So, on a Nero or Zero day in town when a hiker needs to resupply, much of the time we want to be lazy. Incredibly lazy... Many times if are on your motel balcony and look take in a 360 Degree view you will spot a Dollar General within sight. This makes it extremely convenient and easy for a hiker to be lazy and walk 50yds to resupply, instead of having to walk a few miles to a grocery store, or other potential resupply points. There is many things that go into picking the "best" motel or hotel while in town for a hiker. A lot factors in such as convenience to food, resupply, the trailhead, whether you will be taking a Nero or Zero day, and the list goes on. This is a completely different subject however, so we will wait to expand on that until a future article. For now back to the greatness of the Dollar General. The convenience is absolutely amazing! We have had broken bodies in town from hard sections before, and still been able to limp quickly to a DG and resupply and get snacks, and than crash back onto the bed in pain. It is a beautiful thing.
You can even find some comfortable Women's Shoes for $3 while resupplying. Pro Tip: If worn while doing laundry in a small town, and you are male, bearded, and dirty hiker wearing bright red shoes, looks will be quite abundant!
So, the Dollar General. It hits all the major cylinders for what a hiker is looking for. It is always accessible, sometimes there can even be multiple DG's in a town that you wonder how there is even one that is fully operational. The price, while not being completely around $1 for each item, is generally way cheaper than many other stores. Then the variation, is great for a hiker that is looking for cheap and lackluster quality. Not to say we have not scarfed down some DG meals and loved every bite, but of course if your food costs close to a dollar for a big package, it usually will not be the best. Lastly, convenience. It is incredibly easy to get into town at 5 P.M. throw your pack down, and still have the energy to go grab a few snacks and your resupply a few feet away at the DG.
The Dollar General will always hold a special place in our hearts. Whenever we drive by one, even off trail we find our wheel slowly turning into the parking lot, without any thought. Before we know it, our cart is full with a 3-4 day resupply, our clothes smell of dirt and hiker sweat, and we are grabbing an extra soda at checkout. As we load the resupply into the trunk of our car, the excitement of the goodies we scored for the next section, starts to wear off, and we begin to realize that this trunk is not our pack. The hiker sweat stink begins to morph back into freshly washed clothes and deodorant. The extra sugar and caffeine of that checkout soda, is not being sweat out quickly on the miles, but instead sits in our stomach like a brick. Then, the sadness creeps in, because we realize we are not on trail, but sitting in a Dollar General parking lot, crying as we eat Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies...
With brownies in our bellies and the neon light of a DG sign upon our face,
P:S: We are absolutely obsessed with Little Debbie Cosmic Brownies... so if you are a Little Debbie's Rep or have a connection with Little Debbie's in anyway, we will gladly pack out only brownies for multiple thousands of miles if you only give us the chance! Please reach out to us anytime for a partnership with Little Debbie's!