Are you backpacker material? You might be closer than you think. Traits you’ve cultivated under fluorescent lighting might translate nicely to the natural world. And if they don’t, don’t despair (just keep reading). Take a look:
You think on your feet. Your biggest survival skill is your ability to think on the trail, to pay attention and use your head. So in the office, let’s say it’s time to move a project forward; you might work a pro/con list on a path or two, then send the project on its way. On the trail, when you reach a fork, you look in each direction, checking first for a blaze that translates to :”Go this way!” (easier, really, than in the office, yes?). If there’s no blaze, you might need to travel on a ways to see if it is a spur or the real path forward. “Reading” the trail—like reading options in the office—gets easier with experience.
You plan ahead. If you’ve got a meeting to pitch a client, odds are you prepare, then prepare for questions, the unexpected. Likewise, on a backpacking trip you prepare, then prepare for the unexpected. For instance, if you look at a map, don’t simply assume there’s water at a campsite. You check the map for the color blue — a wavy line indicating a stream, an oval indicating a pond or a lake. You study maps, you consult guidebooks, you go online; websites with crowd-sourced content can be especially helpful for current info.
You’re cautious in the face of potential adversity. Office politics — woo boy! New management coming in requires careful observation to see which way the tea leaves are blowing, or something like that. Same skill applies when, say, you encounter a water crossing. You scout, looking first for an obvious rock-hop across. If there’s no rock-hop, you slip on water shoes (see “Planning ahead” above) for a wet crossing. Then you proceed with caution, checking your every step before moving forward.
You embrace your reveries, but don’t space out altogether. Face it, no one can work a straight 8 (or 9 or more) hours. You need a little “me time” to recharge. You’re discrete and can snap back in a second if need be. Similarly, a big reason we hike is to redirect our mental energy, and nothing I know of does that better than walking a forest trail. Just don’t let your reverie make you miss a key turn in the trail — or walk over the edge of a cliff. We like group hikes because, unless you’re the leader, you don’t have to pay as close attention to the trail. But we also like hiking on our own on occasion, and for those occasions you need to take some leadership responsibility.
You take control. There is, understandably, a reluctance to take control in the workplace. To a large extent, corporate culture is cautious; the tendency is to lie patiently in wait and let someone else make a decision—and take the blame. But you, if you see a viable option and direction from above isn’t forthcoming, you act. The “Going Solo” backpack class we did this past weekend (and will do again Oct. 5-7) is all about not waiting to be told what to do, to taking control. From deciding where to go, to figuring out your needs for the trip, to making double-dog certain you’ve got everything you need, to taking control.
You listen. Nothing makes a supervisor more crabby than having to give instructions more than once: listen and your life will be so much easier. Same is true on the trail. A crack of thunder in the distance should give you time to prepare, to get off a ridgeline, to throw on rain gear, to put up your tent. Listening is a vital survival skill, much like it is in the workplace.
Even if you didn’t answer a resounding “yes” to all of the above, there’s hope. You can develop these “trail smarts.” Stepping out of your comfort zone, in a supportive environment, can help you tap into these skills that, you may be surprised to learn, can help you far beyond the trail.
If you’re willing to try, we’re willing to help.
Be a backpacker
Overnight Sampler. If you didn’t score well on our test and aren’t sure how much of a commitment you want to make to determine your backpacker-worthiness, our Overnight Sampler gives you just that — a sample of what it’s like to spend a night in the woods. We provide the key backpacking gear — tents, packs, stoves, sleeping pad — you provide the willingness to try. Our next class is July 28-29 at Eno River State Park in Durham. More info here.
Intro to Backpacking. After an introductory gear session and a Saturday spent training at Morrow Mountain State Park, you’re ready to take on our weekend graduation trip to South Mountains State Park. Our next session is in September. More info here.
GetBackpacking! Intermediate Skills Going Solo. Got a little backpacking experience but not sure if you’ve got what it takes to go it alone? We get you prepped for your first solo, then camp nearby as you experience the true solitude of backpacking. Our next session is on October. More info here.