Friday, January 17, 2014

Ultimate Hiker or Ultimate Camper?

I recently began reading a great book that I bought a few months ago: "The Ultimate Hiker's Gear Guide" by Adventurer (the Capital "A" was intentional, cause this guy is a real Adventurer!) Andrew Skurka.  I mean, this guy has done 30,000 miles of long distance hikes, including the 4,700 mile Alaska - Yukon Expedition!  He once spent 11 months traveling 7,800 miles coast to coast, including 1,400 miles on snowshoes through Michigan, Wisconsin, and Northern Minnesota.  So yeah, Adventurer! I highly recommend this book to any hiker or backpacker.

In the first part of the book, the author discusses backpackers as being either Ultimate Hikers vs. Ultimate Campers.  One of the key characteristics separating these two groups is the type of fun one loves to have in the outdoors.  Type 1 Fun is fun at the time and fun to talk about later.  Type 2 Fun is not really fun at the time, but fun to talk about later.  And then there is Type 3 Fun, which is not fun at the time and not fun to talk about later, although how can that be considered "fun?"  In my mind, type 1 fun might be a back country trip with great weather, great scenery, or great wildlife where you are never too exhausted, wet, cold, or hot.  Type 2 fun might be the same great scenery or wildlife, but maybe the miles are long and exhausting, or your tent fails and you are soaked for days, or a bear eats most of your food with three days to go.  Type 3 fun?  Well, that probably has some element of tragedy, like you lose fingers or toes to frostbite, or someone on the trip dies - not fun in any respect, I should say.

Among other things, the author characterizes Ultimate Hikers as wanting trips dominated more by Type 2 fun, whereas Ultimate Campers are more into Type 1 Fun - fun at the time, and fun to talk about later.  Some other key differences: Ultimate Hikers tend to want tough challenges, they have a long hike with very long (20-30 mile) days as their primary objective, are more knowledgeable about being comfortable and safe in the outdoors, are very gear conscious and scrutinize every item in their pack, and tend to arrive in camp late and leave camp to hit the trail very early.  Ultimate Campers tend to have some other kind of objective as their primary goal - birding, hunting, photography, backcountry cooking - as opposed to just wanting to do a long and arduous walk.  They tend to carry more gear to be prepared for anything that could reasonably happen, have a more relaxed daily itinerary, and don't have as high a skill level because they carry gear and supplies that don't require high skills to use.

I have to say, I am more of an Ultimate Camper, although I would like to acquire more trip knowledge and gear knowledge such as the Ultimate Hikers and ultra-light backpackers have.  But I am definitely more into Type 1 Fun, that is for sure.  Of course, I've had my share of Type 2 Fun at times, and enjoy recalling it.  The time I camped out without a tent and got eaten alive by mosquitos all night while a fox crept up in the dark to sniff my face.  The time I spent hours drying out from a hellacious thunder and hail storm only to fall into a river trying to photograph a moose.  The many times when I packed stupidly and staggered for miles feeling like an abused pack mule, reaching camp too exhausted to do anything but put up a tent and crawl inside.  I could go on, but won't.  So anyhow, yeah, it is mostly Type Fun I am into when I hike and backpack!  However, I am willing to become more of an Ultimate Hiker and do some longer trips, which pretty much ensures at least some Type 2 Fun.  So a trip with a mixture of type 1 and type 2 fun would be all right.

What about you? Where would you fit in this categorization?  Would you be more of an Ultimate Hiker or an Ultimate Camper?