The Dirtbag’s Guide to Life – Review

Full Title & Author:

The Dirtbag’s Guide to Life: Eternal Truth for Hiker Trash, Ski Bums, and Vagabonds

Written by Tim Mathis

How I Came Across This Book:

I have seen this book well it’s cover at least, when searching the interwebs for outdoor themed things. It was really brought to my attention when Jen (Chica) posted about reading it on her Instagram. For whatever reason, I just never took time to stop and actually buy the book but was always interested. Then, Tim Mathis himself contacted me about it.

Here is the honest upfront part of this review…Tim asked if I would like to read it, I said yes because I’m a bookworm and why would I say no to any book? and thus he gave me a digital copy. There was no money traded for a review, I didn’t say I would for sure do one, but yet here it is because I feel like it was worthy of one. If you have a problem with this, just don’t read any further, but don’t take that out on the book, check it out online and read the other reviews on it. 

First Thoughts:

I judged it too early. I honestly felt that this book was going to be a bit on the boring side. A guide with a numbered lists of things to read over with a little meat in and around the lists but, I did still want to check it out. Having lived as hiker trash and vagabond I wanted to see if Mathis really knew the realities of this lifestyle or if he just dressed it up and told only the parts everyone wants to hear….”it’s so easy”, “we pay no bills”, “we go wherever we want.” It seems like the dressed up version of this lifestyle is all anyone hears or sees and so that’s what I expected with this book. Mathis, thankfully, disappointed me.


Throughout the entirety of the book, Mathis really doesn’t use a filter. Although I have never met him, I feel like I know him by reading his book. He is upfront, honest, and very open about the realities of dirtbagging; he simply tells the reader how it is…the good, bad and the smelly.

I found the whole book to be easy to read. Sometimes in “guidebooks” you get stuck on boring parts and find yourself skipping around (which isn’t always a bad thing when looking back over a guidebook) or reading the same sentence ten times before really understanding it. Not to worry, I highly doubt this will happen with the dirtbag’s guide. Mathis mixes his personal experiences with helpful suggestions, presents common situations from different perspectives and adds a sprinkling of resources for your continued learning. You’ll be mistaken if you go into this book thinking it’s a guide specifically from Mathis, it’s not. I feel that Mathis really represents and shares an inside look to the community of dirtbags; it’s not just you alone on the road, trail, or wherever, there is a community surrounding and supporting you. The way Mathis has put this guidebook together really portrays this.

Oh! If your confused about what exactly a dirtbag is, Mathis defines that for you first thing! I honestly thought the term was more directed towards climbers and Mathis does discuss the roots of the term starting indeed with climbers, however, he gives the reader a full understanding that the term actually encompasses many types of people; a community.

The book is divided into chapters at which can easily be read straight through and set up in a way that is easy to refer back to (as any guidebook should be set up in my opinion). The chapter topics are all forms of questions that I had before I personally started traveling and questions that I currently get asked from others. For example, “Money” and “Responsibilities” are two chapters that Mathis focuses on. When the reader dives into each chapter, it’s not just short and sweet. Mathis really digs in and tells you what the perception is from looking outside the dirtbag life, what the reality is, what his experience is, what other people he personally knows experiences are, and how it can or maybe cannot work for you, the reader.

Not only does he give you a great break down of the various aspects of each chapter topic, but one of my favorite things was the number of resources Mathis gives. This allows you the reader, to have a better understanding of a topic and also encourages researching more on your own if you still have questions. Mathis doesn’t claim to know all the answers, he encourages you to get out there and live it to obtain your own understanding. He also doesn’t just give you resources for more books, but information on other people who are actually living and exemplify dirtbag-ery in one form or another. Awesome! Where has this book been all my life!


I learned a lot from this guide. I wish I had it when I first started traveling and before Darwin and I hiked the Appalachian Trail. There are so many aspects of the dirtbag life that Mathis touches on that would otherwise be something you kinda just have to learn on your own. I highlighted so much of this book for its awesome quotes, topics and for subjects I wanted to look further into, it’s basically yellow and I’ve lived this dirtbag style life! In a perfect world when someone sends an email or in person slams me with questions about my lifestyle, questions about money, or even pops in some criticism,  I’ll hand over or send over a copy of The Dirtbag’s Guide to Life, smile and walk away.

If your not a full-on dirtbag this book is for you. If your interested in what it means to be a dirtbag, this book is for you. If you know someone that lives a weird dirty traveling lifestyle, but don’t understand why, this book is for you. If you already are living like a dirtbag, this book is for you.

If you have any sense of travel or adventure, you’re going to get something out of this guide. It’s definitely not one of those books you’re going to read and be done with, your going to find yourself referring back to it for information. I’m still going back and taking more notes!  Mine will be close at hand and for you, I HIGHLY RECOMMEND IT.

book cover

(Book Cover) 

You can find this book on Amazon via this link available in both paperback and on Kindle!

Learn more about Tim and his wife Angel via their website You can check out their podcast there too!


A Few Other Book Reviews I’ve Also Done: 

Thirst: 2600 Miles to Home – REVIEW

Learning To See – Review








8 thoughts on “The Dirtbag’s Guide to Life – Review

  1. As usual, you put things in such a prospective that anyone can understand.
    Thinking i may have to check this book out. Seems interesting, always looking for different views of life from others.
    Enjoy your time reading and writing Snuggles, till next time…

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  3. Thank you Snuggles for your review. In about 6 months I’m going to let go of a very lucrative career, leaving behind many things in considered securities in my life. After reading your review I ordered the book and will be picking it up today at the Post Office. I’m eager to peer into this world I’m about to embrace and help me understand my “why” as I take on the PCT next year.

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