Far too often unfortunate hikers seriously injure themselves or die while recreating in the mountains. Their names and pictures appear on news broadcasts and Internet websites, along with tales of their mishap or tragic ending. They become public spectacles and catalysts for the same old discussions and warnings about the dangers of wilderness travel. How utterly boring for those of us who’ve heard it all numerous times before, and how utterly embarrassing for the poor hikers!
I’m sure most adventurers would like to avoid such a humiliating, newsworthy fate. And so for these self-respecting souls I offer five unconventional, atypical tips on how to stay alive and well, and out of the headlines, while hiking.
1) Don’t use special hiking equipment
Special equipment is for hikers who don’t mind dying and becoming an object of public humiliation. Mother Nature blessed human beings with two hands and two feet. There is a very good reason why she did not give us crampons, ice axes, and helmets. And that’s because we shouldn’t be using them.
Daredevils invented equipment for the purpose of improving their odds of surviving risky adventures, such as scrambling across icy mountain ridges. Yet average hikers routinely rely on such gear, thus perpetuating the myth that inherently dangerous activities can be accomplished safely. When, in fact, there is nothing safe about being a daredevil. Daredevils die by the dozens every year and appear in embarrassing news stories.
Hikers who shun special tools rid themselves of the delusion of the modern hiker-daredevil. When all one has are hands and feet for gear, it becomes impossible to gaze upon a narrow ridge of ice and say, “That adventure looks like death, but let me give it a try anyway.” Unlike the daredevil, whose ego has disassociated itself from reality, the enlightened hiker learns to recognize and appreciate the true danger, precisely because he has no special equipment confusing his understanding of the absurd task at hand. He then decides to turn around, head back home, live another day, and stay out of the headlines–as Mother Nature intended.
2) Don’t wear special clothing
Hikers who enjoy living should consider wearing only normal clothing, like t-shirts and blue jeans. Double up on the shirts, and throw on a beanie, and the average person can survive in pretty cold temperatures around the freezing mark.
Sub-zero thrill-seekers, however, spend considerable sums of money on fancy goose down jackets and waterproof underwear. These items merely give them a false sense of invulnerability to the weather. They think, “As long as I have my special clothes, I’ll be okay.” But then something horrible happens. They break a leg, can’t crawl back to the heater in their car, and slowly freeze to death in a blizzard.
If they had been in regular clothing, they would have turned around before it got too cold to freeze to death. Hell, they wouldn’t have been hiking in a blizzard to begin with.
3) Don’t hike with a group
Never, ever hike with a group!
Many people hike in groups because they want to socialize and/or find a sex partner. Their priority is not survival or keeping their names out of the papers. It’s gossiping and getting laid. Plain and simple.
They fail to appreciate the fact that the middle of the wilderness is not their local bar hangout. And so they have no clue whether their group leader has a clue, and they should therefore prepare themselves for the horror of being unprepared in the middle of nowhere.
Misguided collectives provide nothing more than false security–and maybe a sex partner. They learn the hard way that Mother Nature doesn’t much care for ignorant groups talking loudly amongst her trees and boulders. She prefers the solemn, thoughtful individual, who hikes quietly, knows what he’s doing, and silently contemplates various survival skills, such as ways to take down a mother bear if necessary.
4) Don’t carry a backpack
Every respected hiking authority recommends carrying a backpack with the so-called “essential” items like food, water, and a flashlight. What they never mention, however, is the fact that 90% of the people who die in the mountains are found with unopened packs still strapped to their backs. So, clearly, wearing a backpack won’t keep hikers out of the news.
Isn’t it much wiser to toss the pack in the trash and become a real mountain man? Take only what fits in the pockets of those blue jeans. Become a genuine survivalist and learn how to live off the land–and fight bears.
A hiker should venture only as far as his packless back and survival skills will take him. If something goes wrong out there, and a starving backpacker doesn’t know how to strangle a deer with his bare hands, then one of his “essentials” better be a loaded Glock, because that wild animal ain’t gonna murder itself.
5) Don’t hike in the mountains
Let’s face it: many hikers simply don’t belong in the mountains. It’s too much for them to handle. After all, the wilderness is a dangerous place. It’s not a rubber-floored playground for groups of axe-wielding, backpack-wearing, fancy-clothed daredevils who can’t even wrestle a lion. Such folks should maybe stick to the exercise machines at the gym, rather than risking life and limb on icy mountaintops.
So, yeah, what I’m trying to say is: stay away from the great outdoors, if your goal is to not be a hiker in the news. Focus instead on the great indoors. There are plenty of opportunities to hike on treadmills at the local YMCA or senior center, where fatalities occur much less frequently.
Well, maybe not at the senior center.