Adventuring with Newbies
This list is inspired by a friend of mine who recently went on his first backpacking trip. Actually, it was his first outing of more than 5 miles, and may very well be his last. It’s a very unfortunate tale, but I’ve heard others like it as well.
My friend was offered the opportunity to spend 5 days traveling 55 miles in one of our National Parks here in the PNW. He would be accompanied by 4 other “friends”, three of which are very active outdoorsmen and another “newbie”. He considered it a great opportunity to see amazing places and bond with his companions.
The week came and went, and I started hearing stories about the adventure, and some didn’t seem quite right. Finally my friend returned and I was able to ask him in person about the trip without mentioning the negative reports I was hearing. At first he seemed a bit hesitant to tell it like it was, but soon opened up.
Now, before I get into it to much, I would like to say that my friend is a no BS kind of guy. Very honest, humble and down to earth, I believe every word of what he said. And what he tells me is nearly unbelievable.
The 10 rules to adventuring with newbies:
Rule number 1: Respect their limitations.
In no way were his limitations regarded. They continued to push on without ever questioning his ability to continue. Someone should have immediately realized he was out of his league and evaluated the situation.
Rule number 2: Be ready to carry more than your own weight.
Though struggling after the first day, we was never offered assistance of any sort. The more experienced should have stepped up and done more.
Rule number 3: Make sure they’re prepared.
He went on this adventure with one of the 10 essentials. Water. Literally in tennis shoes, tee shirt, hoodie, cotton socks, baseball hat and cargo shorts. Knowing he was inexperienced, he should have been provided a supplies list and gone through a gear check. Seriously.
Rule number 4: Don’t push it.
He spoke of being extremely fatigued on a regular basis, and was never given the opportunity to adequately rest. How do you ignore this? Between the terrain, altitude and lack of conditioning he had to be showing signs of exhaustion.
Rule number 5: Make sure it’s a fun environment.
He says he will never do something like this again. Enough said.
Rule number 6: Set goals that are obtainable.
11 miles is doable. 11 miles a day for five days in rough and rugged environment in improper gear? Without proper rest and hydration? His companions should have never invited him on such a daunting adventure. Try something smaller first and assess his ability.
Rule number 7: Display patience and consideration.
Though he tried his hardest to keep up with the others, they would leave him alone, and out of eyesight. They would also get up before him, pack and hit the trail without warning. Seriously… If someone isn’t able to keep up, slow it down, take more frequent breaks, take a “off day”.
Rule number 8: Practice good ethics on the trail.
Undoubtedly, he was looking to his peers for support and knowledge. I would like to think that through all this, he gained at least the knowledge portion. Leave No Trace, parks rules and regulations, and the unwritten common courtesies of the trail were hopefully practiced. He didn’t mention it either way.
Rule number 9: Share the adventure duties.
My friend in the 5 day period was never asked to assist in decision making. He was never asked where to camp, to lead the pack, when to break, to help set up camp, etc. Being given tasks, and being tasked with making decisions, including important ones, is crucial both psychologically and morality wise. Everyone wants to feel important, especially when trying something new.
Rule number 10: Be diligent in making certain their safety is a priority.
Reading through the list, I’m sure you have noticed more than one or two things that would be considered unsafe. Well, consider this; he was left for over 10 hours by himself one day after falling behind. Amazingly enough, he was given a map, no compass ( which wouldn’t matter anyway as he has no navigational skills) and told to meet them at X marks the spot.
When you take someone into the wilderness, that person becomes your responsibility. Plain and simple. You are accountable for that person and their well being.
At some point and time, those of us who spend a lot of time in the outdoors will have the opportunity to adventure with a newbie. It could be a coworker, family member or stranger. Regardless, we should try our best to make this a safe, fun and educationally positive experience. Our goal should ultimately be to inspire others to want and aspire to #getoutdoors!
On a side note, I have talked at length with my coworker/friend and although he literally wrote a goodbye letter to family (before being found by a survey crew in the woods), he has agreed to go day hiking with me. It’s a start!