If you are reading this, there is a good chance you have some connection to the outdoors – you may even call yourself an outdoors enthusiast – but are you really? Being outdoors is hard: you have the weather, the physical challenge, sleeping outside is usually a pain, you are always hungry and tired, your feet/legs/back/arms hurt, blisters and rashes are normal; not simple at all, but would you trade it for a more comfortable hobby?
When it comes to being outdoors, we are all pretty sure we want to go out. As someone who really loves being outdoors and tries and find excuses to do so all the time, people around me obviously start to associate me with the idea of being outdoors. So many times I have heard “oh, I’d love to join this weekend” or “wow, that sounds great, I’d love to do that too” etc. People just love this idea of being outdoors, but then you take them out and it all crumbles: it was raining, or was too hot, the hike was hard or they just couldn’t sleep, there is always something. Even my wife went through many agonizing weekends and gear upgrades before enjoying being outdoors with me, though she still backs down when it’s pouring rain…..
What I mainly learned from years (decades?) of trying to take people outdoors is that they like THE IDEA of being outdoors, but not the practicalities of it. The romantic notion of being one with nature, connecting with the earth, plants and animals (they forget the bugs), finding peace and other things. Nature is a very fundamental concept and we all (I think) have a level of longing to the outdoors, to being outside. Maybe it is the freedom it offers, or the simplicity of survivalism or maybe just the sheer size of it and feeling small – every person has his own motivation. For me it was all of the above and much more, it really depends on the day. The big thing that happens is that most people forget the other side of nature – the discomfort, the danger, the fact that you are small and insignificant, the need to respect nature.
So to see if you really want to go outdoors and don’t just like the romantic idea of it, let’s check whether the downsides are worth it for you:
All the dangers outdoors (or what can kill, injure or maim you)
- Animals and bugs – bears, wolfs, crocodiles, snakes, spiders, scorpions (in the right place), should I continue? Bears are probably the most commonly known to kill you but there are many others that will be happy to bite or sting you to death.
- Water – from drowning in a river to being washed away (and then drowned!) in a flash flood, water will always be happy to remind you that you’re not the best swimmer and that crossing point in the river wasn’t the right one.
- Gravity – aka a big bloody fall. Gravity is known to be an issue for outdoors people, especially the ones who like going vertically, testing how much they can increase their velocity by free falling off a higher place. But don’t get me wrong, a fall from a low place in the right angle can kill you just as much.
- The weather – in England you blame everything on the weather, so we shall do it here too. Too hot or too cold will make your body reach situations it shouldn’t and will enjoy heat stroke or hypothermia, causing death.
- Avalanches – an evil mix of gravity and weather or water (in the form of snow), avalanches can come out of nowhere, sometimes with no warning, moving masses of snow, mud, rocks or sand on you making a human pita bread.
- Human error – the biggest reason for any death or injury outdoors, your own mistakes and bad planning can cause insufficient food levels, dehydration, and stumbling into any of the dangers above.
- Other humans – the rarest of them all for outdoors folk, but other humans can be a danger, though not as bad as a downtown of your nearest city, so being outdoors is safer than the pub!
The bad things that won’t kill you (just make you lightly to very uncomfortable)
- The weather – just as it’s a danger, the weather can be blamed for discomfort but in reality it is you: if you are uncomfortable, you should have planned better.
- The wrong campsite – once again, you picked the wrong place or the wrong gear; picking a bad camping spot is a real pain in the neck (in more than one way) and can ruin your trip. To pick wisely read Andrew Skurka’s excellent series about it.
- Food – not enough food or the wrong food (don’t try new things outdoors for the first time) can be a real spoiler, no one is nice when hungry so packing right is vital.
- Bad night sleep – when tired and groggy you will not enjoy your trip, no matter what, so getting a bad night sleep will most definitely make your trip bad and ruin everyone’s time.
- Lousy and noisy company – popular camping grounds are the worst, annoying people at a nice lookout who talk all the time and ruin your tranquillity, will cause a fair share of discomfort and might prompt aggressive behaviour.
- Bugs and other crickets – from sand flies to midges and mosquitoes, bugs will make your life a living hell if you are ill prepared in the wrong season. There is something pretty terrible when you keep picking those flying devils from your teeth, even with the extra protein you are getting.
- Rain, rain and more rain – yes, this is also weather, but this specifically is the number one reason that most people end up hating being outdoors, and with the right mix of conditions, rain will make you suffer. The famous saying is pretty simple: there is no such thing as bad weather, just wrong gear, and it can’t be more true for rain, so you must have forgotten to check the forecast.
- Physical activity – it is practically impossible to be an outdoors enthusiast without moving (driving somewhere to fish/camp/look around/take pictures doesn’t count), so don’t be surprised if you are tired, sweating and aching, it is a natural by product of moving. It might even be fun!
No matter how bad it gets, it can always be even less comfortable outdoors, but that is part of the fun (for some, me among them). For a more in depth look into the idea of comfort outdoors and how to solve it you can delve into this little post.
If you have made it all the way down to here you might be an outdoors enthusiast or a over romantic masochist, willing to put up with any kind of discomfort, pain or danger to enjoy the outdoors.
To the romantic one I’ll say that if you do some learning, start slow and maybe ask a more experienced person to take you outdoors you will find all the above a mere potential of discomfort or danger, but not the reality. If you have yet to try going outdoors there are so many ways to start, from friends to meet ups and local groups to reading too much on the internet. Don’t shy away from going outdoors for real and no, using Google maps doesn’t count, you need to BE outside for it to count.
If you are an outdoors enthusiast who is just reading this for fun and curiosity, you know that it is all up to you to be prepared, to plan and use the right gear and skills. Whether it is a trip that will be type one or type three fun, it is up to you to make it great and safe – no matter what nature, your mistakes or the weather throws at you, even a storm!
If you are sure about your ability, check the Download page for some guides to help you
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