Uneducated Hikers/Climbers

12:03 p.m. on October 26, 2010 (EDT)
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I figured this would be a good beginners topic for any beginners that come here to learn and ask questions. I'm not an expert by any means, but I found myself very frustrated over the weekend during a hike I was on.

I can't stress the importance of beginners doing their research before heading out somewhere. What type of clothing, supplies, and shelter do you need? What is the climate in the area like? What are the weather patterns?

This weekend while hiking in the White Mountains of New Hampshire, I experienced a typicaly frustration for lots of people who have hiked or climbed there. Extreme weather combined with easy access = dangerous situations.

During my night out, we abandoned our attempt on 3 summits due to snow, hail, and 75 mph sustained winds. The next day on the hike back to the car, we met hikers at lower elevations who had no clue what they were heading into. Granted, the weather for that night was predicted to be better, but that's not too hard when the weather the night before was atrocious.

At lower altitudes, temperatures were 20 degrees warmer, there was no snow, no ice, and not much wind. At about 3800 feet, crampons became necessary, wind was cutting, and weather became less predictable.

Yet we met SEVERAL people, completely unprepared. Wearing cotton tshirts, shorts, sneakers, light hikers, no pack, tiny pack, etc etc. There were also some groups who were very well prepared, and as we talked to some on the way down to explain conditions above, they actually turned around and understood that they were unprepared to continue. One hiker told us of a storm he was in the week before. As he headed up the mountain, he saw foot steps straying off the path. He checked it out and found a young adult man in cotton sweatshirt and sweat pants, shivering and in a ball. He surely would have died if this guy hadn't checked it out just for the heck of it.

Do your homework, ask questions, go with someone who's experienced, and don't be afraid to turn around. The mountains will still be there next time you go back.

5:43 p.m. on October 26, 2010 (EDT)
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Sorry to say, nothing new about your experience. I belong to VFTT, a New England site. I live in CA, so it's out of curiosity and info on winter more than anything other reason, but I see stories like this posted there fairly regularly.  I guess the Whites are really popular, easy to get to and so you get a fair number of inexperienced hikers, even in winter.

Many of the members there are pretty hard core hikers with a lot of winter experience who don't go anywhere in winter without a full kit of gear in case they get stuck out overnight-emergency bag, extra clothes, fire starters, stove, food, snowshoes or skis, but they also see the folks out there in a light jacket and a daypack with little more than a camera and maybe a couple of energy bars.

Not sure about the number of rescues compared to other places, but they get posted on the site fairly regularly.

What gets me are people who get offended when you offer advice and it's obvious they are clueless.  I had this happen at my local ski hill when I saw a couple skiing with a baby in a chest mounted baby carrier (mom had that on I think) and another kid between them. I saw them fall at least once and couldn't resist telling them it was a bad idea. They couldn't have cared less. When I say baby, I mean like less than 6 months old.

6:54 p.m. on October 26, 2010 (EDT)
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The same thing happens in the S. Appalachians although our weather is not as severe as the Whites.

We have a high yearly rainfall, something like 80" on average with over 100" periodically. Our average winter low temps are relatively mild at around 35-40F, but it might quickly spike down below Zero F. in just a 24 hour period. When that happens, at the very least we will ice over, and can have 2-3 feet of snow.

In either event you aren't going to far without special equipment, and fire building suddenly gets much harder, but from time to time I see folks out hiking or camping with inadequate gear and clothing.

The single biggest mistake I see people making is wearing cotton hoodies and cheap thermals from Wally's. The second is a $26.00 tent.

We all have to learn, it's just a matter of how isn't it?




7:41 p.m. on October 26, 2010 (EDT)
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Earlier this year, in July, some friends and I were in the higher elevations of the Appalachians when we mt some hapless teenagers. Our first night out we camped in the same location, and discovered they had forgotten what trails they were supposed to follow to get where they were going, had neither map or compass, and coudn't remember at which trailhead their car was located.  We gave them two maps and detailed info on where there needed to go, and they left camp around 10am the next morning. hours later, we ran into them about a mile and a half away, and as cunfused as before about where they needed to go. So we gave them another map and even more detailed information before watching them scramble down the mountain.  If they had tried that trip any time other than the peak of summer they could have gotten themselves in a bad way fast.

7:49 p.m. on October 26, 2010 (EDT)
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This summer Dave and I did a one-day, one-way Presidential Traverse in the Whites. At the end of the day, the cabbie who drove us back to our campground had a lot of entertaining stories about very unprepared people on Mount Washington he's given rides to.

One I remember was the group who came up on the cog railway and then decided to hike back down, but unwittingly went down the wrong side (hence needing the cab ride all the way back around).

There were many, many more stories. It was entertaining, but also scary.

8:55 p.m. on October 26, 2010 (EDT)
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Over the years, I have encountered an astounding number of people who were ill-prepared. I related the story here on Trailspace of the fellow my group of Scouts and I encountered, who had gotten separated from his companions some 3 days before with only a couple cans of coke, no map, no idea how to get to the intended campsite, apparently not noticing the signs indicating the direction to the lake where they were camped, and when we had him follow us to his party, turned out his party was just starting to consider notifying a ranger that he was missing (3 days!!??!?!?!).

Yesterday, I went for one of my usual hikes in what is nominally an urban open space. On my return to the parking lot, I encountered a fellow who asked if this was the trail to the peak (standing next to a big information sign that had an enlarged map on it and a box containing maps to take with you). He asked which was the peak (easy to spot, highest point on the horizon as you stood at the entrance to the trail), how far (umm, look at the map?), and how long (I had carried a 50 pound pack up since I am in training mode for an upcoming expedition - took me 1h34m to do the 3.2 miles, 2100 ft of climb heading up, he was in sweats with no water visible and there are no drinking fountains - what should I tell him? How about the very fit lady who had run up to the top in about 40 min - is that the time to tell him? Or is the time of 2+ hours or more that it seems to take a lot of people the right time to give for the ascent?) It was 60 to 65 deg F, partly cloudy, breezy on top, so the sweats were probably ok.

I have encountered people in New England starting up a trail that my group had just done with ice ax and crampons as we finished at about sunset, the group headed up in shorts and T-shirts with sneakers - as several previous posters noted, our suggestion that the trail was in condition to require a bit more than that was laughed at (in one case, literally laughed at).

But worse are the youth groups I see in summer on the hills with no more than a 1 pint bottle of purchased water per 2 or 3 people, 90 deg bright sunny day - I would think the adults in charge of these groups would know better and would make sure their charges were adequately supplied (this is on trails where the group has 5 or 6 miles of uphill in full sunshine ahead of them to get back to the bus that dropped them off).

As Tom said above, unfortunately you see that unpreparedness all the time, everywhere in the world. Then again, I don't know what to make of the Kiwis (haven't been to NZ myself, but folks I know like my spouse and son and Tom D tell the same story) - standard hiking attire for the natives is T-shirt and shorts, in pouring rain and cold winds. Maybe we Yanks just aren't tough enough.

10:38 p.m. on October 26, 2010 (EDT)
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OK, I'm going to play Devil's Advocate here >:-)...

First of all, I totally agree with all of you in that there are many very (very) unprepared people who venture into places where they could get themselves into trouble.  And I must admit in my early years I recall it being great sport to laugh and make fun of the "guffers" hiking the Tuckerman Ravine trail in "white high heel sandals".  (many of them were actually wearing them, too).

That having been said, there's another side to this story.  I'm not saying it applies to what any of you have described, but it does happen.  'just sayin' :).

There are some of us who have felt at times that we've been "judged" and "looked down on" those decending on trails with their multi-thousand-dollar backcountry "outfits".  They look at us with that quizzical look ... tilted head, raised eyebrows, and often even a smirk.

Why, you ask?  One can only guess.  But one might assume it's because we're not (in their eyes) "suitably attired".

Case in point.  Four years ago I took a trip to the Grand Canyon in December.  Where I camped at Mather Campground, one of less than a dozen groups camping, it snowed at night and got down into the teens ... and during the day, it snowed some for a couple days, then warmed up into the 40's or even 50'ish during the day.

On this one day, it was still spitting snow at the rim.  Temps were probably 30-ish.  I dressed in my mountain Asolo "PainfulFeet" (Fugitive) GTX boots, a thin base sock, Smartwool oversocks, Mountain Hardwear insulated wind-repellant pants, a calipene-type underlayer, and a cheap fleece "softshell" jacket (at that time I coulnd't afford $150-200 for a name brand one).  Oh, I also wore my Mt Hardwear fleece gloves, and a windblocker/fleece hat.  Yep, and sunglasses, too, since it got pretty bright at times on the snow, even with the cloud cover.

I did have my DSLR camera bag over one shoulder for quick access, and had my tripod stuck in the side mesh pocket of my Kelty Redwing 3100 that I use as a large day pack.  In my pack I had extra food, and most likely a minimum of a liter of water, if not 2-3.  I also had extra clothing including extra base & mid layers.

On my boots, I wore the little strap-on crampons they sell at the NPS store.  OK, better than nothing, since all I was trying to do is avoid slipping on a snow/ice-packed trail.

Before I started hiking, I ate some food, and drank lots of water to "hydrate up".

My destination?  a rim-to-rim hike?  a campsite on the river below?  No, I was out for a little day hike to take some pictures.  :)

The time of day was probably 1-2pm when I left, and since I spent lots of time just observing the scenery and taking photos, it was late afternoon when I got back (I recall it getting dark not too long after I started driving again).

I don't recall the trail name, but it was probably a few miles east of the NPS lodge.

Anyway, I hiked a mile or so, maybe more, but not much.  I did get out of the "snow zone" pretty quickly.  Once I got out of the snow, it became too warm for the cheap "softshell" jacket, so I added it to my pack.  It felt warmer, probably upper 40's (not sure if these are accurate temps ... that's quite a different in a short distance from the rim, but that's how it felt, once the sun got brighter).

On the way down I encountered several small groups ascending from the depths of the canyon.  They were all obviously overnighters.  And not one, but each of them gave me the looks I described above.  They'd stop, smirk, cock their heads, and raise their eyebrows.  It was a "you can't seriously be doing the rim-to-rim hike dressed like *that* kind of look".  :P

Oh, and now that I think back on this more, one guy actually started quizzing me about my destination.  It wasn't in a friendly trail-talk kind of way, it was very "inquisitive".  It started off fine, asking something like, "what's your destination", I'd say, "oh, just a short hike", and I forget the exact words of the respone, but it was along the lines of "are you sure you're up to that?", or "are you sure you're equipped for that kind of hike", and accompanied by the quizzical look, raised eyebrows, etc.

Did I really appear to be that much of a "guffer"?  I wasn't wearing a stich of cotton, no light boots or sneakers, no tshirt, baseball cap, no shorts, etc.  Geeze.  Or maybe he thought "a short hike" led him to believe i meant "a short hike to the river and back", or "a short  hike over there (pointing to the other rim")?  LOL :)

Anyway, my point is (and again I'm not saying you all are doing this, but this thread triggered all this :)) but often people are quick to judge others becuase they don't fit their own preconceived notions of what should be.



11:03 p.m. on October 26, 2010 (EDT)
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I understand your accounts of preconceived notions. However I am not judging them for what they can or can't afford. I am concerned for their safety. Mt Washington is the 8th most dangerous mountain on earth, at least on lists I've found online - 7th most dangerous is Everest. The danger is in terms of percentage of people who die on the mountain when trying to climb it.


Needless to say, if you can't afford the gear necessary for serious winter hiking or climbing, YOU DON'T DO IT!! Stick with 3 season hiking so you don't die! 


When I saw these people hiking in tshirts, shorts, sneakers, etc, I was concerned for their apparent lack of respect for the situation at hand, or perhaps, their lack of knowledge for that situation. If they truly knew what they were doing, but couldn't afford the gear, then they probably wouldn't have been trying to climb in those conditions with that lack of equipment.


Also, I have scrapped together my gear over many many months. I couldn't afford to go out and buy $400 shell jackets, $600 tents, and on and on. I bought things in the off season on sale, I substituted off brand products when I knew they'd suffice instead of spending 5 times more on brand name products. I sold things laying around my home which I never use to pay for supplies. There's no judgement or snobbery in my OP, just concern for safety and lack of education for people who hike this time of year without knowing what they could be getting into.

11:07 p.m. on October 26, 2010 (EDT)
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iclimb, thanks - and, maybe i didn't stress enough - i wasn't saying you or the other posters were being judgmental.  It's just that this thread triggered those memories (there are actually those who act judgmental).

Like I said, I do agree it's a problem that people venture to places they're not prepared to handle.  And sometimes it's obvious, like you described.  But other times, like what I've experienced, it's not what people seem to think it is (I may not be prepared to summit Mt Washington, even dressed like I described above, but I am certainly not trying it either ... but I might venture a half mile or mile up the trail just to get a taste of the "wilderness".

11:15 p.m. on October 26, 2010 (EDT)
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bheiser - 


you are right, I don't know how far they were going and I'm pretty sure with no pack and no supplies they weren't about to try an overnight  :-) They were however, a good 2 hours up the hill and still pushing up as we went by going down. To me that was worrisome, since weather there can change on a whim, and white out conditions leave you literally blind and you can't see your hand in front of your face. 

They could have innocently been getting that taste, only to find themselves in a bad situation real quick, which was why I hoped this post would help beginners understand the importance of research. Even now, after being in the Whites countless times, I research for hours where I'm going, look at maps, and plot things out before I'm there.


and I agree, there definitely are those who act judgmentally, and it is unfortunate. It occurs in every aspect of life. I suspect it's the peacock syndrome in all of us that comes out even when we are merely trying to connect with nature and challenge ourselves.


Thanks for the reminder to all of us to stay friendly on the trails, and to treat everyone with respect. 

11:16 p.m. on October 26, 2010 (EDT)
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and after looking at your pictures, I'm not sure what that guy was raising his brow to. Seems like you were wearing pretty typical gear...

3:47 a.m. on October 27, 2010 (EDT)
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Kiwis are tough alright, but surprisingly careful, in most instances about the weather, since it changes from hour to hour down there sometimes. Shorts and wool shirts were the uniform, plus rain gear, when I was there. The big advantage there is most people hike on tracks with huts, so at the end of the day, you can dry out, light a fire in some of them, cook and get a good night's rest.

They get their fair share of rescues of the unprepared, just like we do, even though the rangers are keen on warning people about exposure.  Kiwis who grow up hiking tend to learn quickly what works.

You don't need expensive gear for winter hiking. None of my gear is expensive, except my parka which I bought used on eBay. I'm not talking about expeditions, just winter, snow on the ground, hiking and camping. Snowshoes can be found relatively cheap, and winter boots can be got at a decent price.

Even bc ski gear can be found at reasonable prices. Yes, there are all those fancy softshells, pants and so on, but there are cheap substitutes for those.  I don't think it's a matter of gear, I think it's more a matter of knowing what you need. If you don't know you need it, you won't have it. That's why you see people with no gear for where they are going, they don't understand or haven't considered what can happen to them.

10:25 a.m. on October 27, 2010 (EDT)
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A parallel point: buying all the good gear in the world doesn't necessarily make you ready to use. How many of us have seen folk who "look like everything just kinda stuck to them the last time they walked through LL Bean" (to quote Greg Brown) but obviously have no clue how to use it? I've seen skiers on the Bolton-Trapp trail with shiny plastic boots etc., virtually paralyzed at the top of a short drop with a hard turn at the bottom, routine stuff for anyone with reasonable experience and confidence even on light backcountry gear. On Mt. Mansfield, a guy with brand new boots, ice axe and crampons running wildly at a steep, windpacked slope and whacking at it with the axe (wonder how many hole he had in is pant legs, or the backs of his calves, at the end of the day?). And of course, people with 600 dollar tents that don't know how to put them up...

I think experience will bail you out of a lot of situations even if you don't have the latest and the best.

10:47 a.m. on October 27, 2010 (EDT)
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"I don't think it's a matter of gear, I think it's more a matter of knowing what you need. If you don't know you need it, you won't have it. That's why you see people with no gear for where they are going, they don't understand or haven't considered what can happen to them."

Tom, this is an excellent point.  Most people probably have most of what they need around the house, e.g. fleece sweater and a rain jacket, but don't think to bring these items along not realizing the weather can and will change.  I've felt like an idiot before for taking too much stuff and having the weather turn out to be milded than anticipated.  On the other hand I've been on trips where I wore evey layer I carried in my pack.  I'm sure we've all got that t-shirt.

The other component to keeping yourself alive is to turn around when you realize you are not prepared for a given day's weather.

10:52 a.m. on October 27, 2010 (EDT)
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This is a really good conversation; the topic is being looked at from different angles, and the various aspects in consideration are being delved into beyond the superficial.

I have probably misread someone's preparedness before, and thought "Look at this idiot!" when they were more experienced and prepared than they looked, and perhaps than was I. On the other hand, I have a great deal of compassion for someone who doesn't have expendable income to buy all the "real" outdoor gear and clothing. For many years all I could afford to do was cobble together a very ramshackle looking kit. I had an ancient external frame pack held together with piano wire, zip ties, and broken zippers. My sleeping bag was enormous, and my rain gear was about as breathable as a soda bottle. Not one stitch of my clothing bore an "outdoor brand" label, and was a mishmash of plaid wool and solid-color synthetics from thrift stores, making me look like some deranged homeless person. But I became quite well "outfitted," having assembled each item carefully, knowing through experience and careful study how important each was and why. Much of that knowledge was gained from getting in conditions without effective items, thus learning what doesn't work. That "growing" happened over many years, through which I learned how to be well equipped mentally and physically for the conditions I would venture. I am sure I didn't appear prepared to many.  A January assault on Roan Mountain, much less Mt. Washington, was out of the question,  but I knew that.

I think there are many people on the opposite end of the spectrum, who are outfitted to the nines, but are not prepared at all. To them money is no obstacle, but they got bit by the "outdoor bug." So they went to the nearest Glossy Outfitter, saying "I need to update my gear," and buy all the "best" and latest the retail "expert" puts in their cart. Days, weeks, or even years go by without their facing any conditions where knowledge and experience is needed more than gear. So they saunter past, sneering at someone who's gear doesn't look like gear to them.

 You meet someone who is at over 5000ft in December, three miles in, wearing jeans, sneakers, a cotton "Vols" tshirt, and carrying no water and no daypack. I think it is safe to assume they don't have a functional understanding of the situation.

With those teenagers, the Vols tshirt guy, and those like them, my first response is friendly concern for their safety and that they can have an enjoyable trip, rather than end up hypothermic or lost. Giving away a water bottle, some food, maps, or even some protection from the elements is more than worth that small loss if makes it more likely they will be ok. Of course, a good chuckle of astonishment between friends is always in order once down the trail and out of earshot! ;) 


1:20 p.m. on October 27, 2010 (EDT)
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It happens here in Palm Springs all the time. People go out in the hot summer months get dehydrated or they get up the side of San Jacinto and get stuck. Of course you never hear about people who go out have a good time and come back.


8:26 p.m. on October 29, 2010 (EDT)
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My favorite Palm Springs comment was from a Ranger I saw on a local program (Huell Howser for you locals) who said in winter he often saw tourists at the top of the tram wearing "one point crampons" i.e. women in high heel shoes. It may be 70 in PS, but at the top in winter, it could be low 30's with heavy snow.

Alan, I always seem to have too much, that's why I have used a sled (winter). I'm trying to cut down my load so I can carry just my pack. I learned from my San Jacinto trip that I could have left a lot of my stuff at home and been fine since the weather was cold, but clear. 

10:24 p.m. on November 1, 2010 (EDT)
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My biggest problem is packing the night before I leave.  Rather than pare down a gear list and then packing, I throw a bunch of stuff together that "looks about right" and head out.  That's a real easy way to take too much stuff.

5:47 p.m. on November 7, 2010 (EST)
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Great thread, especially because I have been there in bheiser and iclimbs shoes.

In my short hiking career, I have seen both types of people far too often. I have also seen lots of like-minded level headed hikers on my jaunts.

I think for overall annoyance, the over-geared snob is tops, albeit easier to ignore. It is the under-prepared overconfident hiker that is a true danger. I experienced this a bit when hiking the TRT. (Tahoe Rim Trail) Although it was mostly day hikers who seemed well enough, I did encounter a through hiker or two that was clearly not prepared for what lay ahead.

That being said, it is the erosion of trail etiquette that really bothers me. This is more common with yielding single track trail, although litter is second.

12:18 p.m. on November 14, 2010 (EST)
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The one thing I can add is beginers is when you do buy the right gear don't just buy it from a big lot store like I like to call them. These people are paid to push the retailers items out the door.Go to the store that has informed outdoorsmen and women that hike ,camp year round. You can pick their brain for free. learning is based upon a curve, The curve in the outdoors is cold, wet or worse dead! I learned my lesson young as a boy scout camping in winter didn't have the right sleeping bag and caught Hyperthermia. was cold but a very important lesson.

1:04 p.m. on November 14, 2010 (EST)
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I find that the information on the internet causes many problems for the new hiker, from picking a backpack to getting shoes and boots.  The ultra-light hiker or the week long hiker have all good points, but to a newbe, it's overload.  I learned a lot just going on the trail, meeting new people and asking question.  I followed up by getting information on the net and reading books.  To this day I can't tell you which is the best boot or shoe.  I found a newbe will look on the net and type in the "best hiking boot", which gives you to much information.  You go to REI and they'll help, but the bottom line is you must choose what works for you.  I feel you should wait 30 days or more before you buy anything, this gives you time to think, ask questions and read.  I just want to go on the trail and not worry about gear failing, and if someone ask a question I'll try to help the best I can, and not run him or her off. 

1:51 p.m. on November 14, 2010 (EST)
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This isn't about running people off, it is more about what happens when you talk to people who obviously aren't prepared. No one enjoys criticism and there are ways to put it that don't sound so harsh, but sometimes people have to be told the reality of the situation.

If they ignore you, oh well, you tried. The real problem is that these people don't even know they are unprepared. If someone told them before they left home "oh, by the way, if the weather turns bad, which it likely will, you are going to freeze to death dressed like that" they might reconsider wearing nothing but jeans and a hoodie, but they never get that advice.

By the time you see them on the trail, they are committed because of the effort they put into getting there and listening to you is the last thing they are interested in doing, especially if they are a guy with friends, girlfriend or wife.

5:40 p.m. on November 14, 2010 (EST)
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This doesn't really apply to Mt. Washington because that's a different animal all together, but one thing I'd like to say is that some of what you all are talking about requires experience as well. It's the experiences that lead each one of us to update our equipment, clothes, whatever.

I mean when I started out backpacking and hiking, I didn't have the Internet. That does make it much easier these days, in some instances, but harder in others. I did stupid stuff in my teens. Freezing my butt off at 6,000 feet up because I thought just taking a blanket would be enough was one of them. I guarantee a lot of these people as well are the people who are the ones who are getting outdoors for their one time a year excursion. They might never be back out again until next year or three years down the road when someone finally says "Hey, maybe lets go on a hike today."

It's just part of human experience. I certainly don't want anyone to be put in a position where its potentially dangerous, but at the same time most of these people have to get their own experiences before they start changing their habits. Just like I did. And let's face it, most of the people out on an afternoon stroll also aren't in the same boat as the rest of us crazies who love hiking and backpacking. When the going gets tough, they'll usually turn and head back. They don't like being uncomfortable.

But I do think in these days of the Internet, it certainly is a lot easier to be prepared. They definitely should look up the weather and maybe just do a Google search on where they are going before heading to where they are heading. That's at least the basic they should do.

But the Internet can cause some problems. I mean on some other forums I've seen, if a newbie asks a question, the next thing you know they are being overloaded with how they should have this gear or that gear.

The best teacher of all is just getting out and doing it and finding out what works best for you. JMO.

7:08 p.m. on November 14, 2010 (EST)
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I agree. The Internet is information overload for almost anything.  There is just too much of info out there to absorb and make sense of, particularly on lightweight sites, where saving an ounce or two takes precedent over common sense many times, expecially when advising newbies. Sure, you can do the JMT with nothing but a piece of nylon and a bag full of Snickers bars, but that doesn't mean you should, or tell others they can.  An extreme example, but I've seen close to that many times.

Pretty much everything I knew was what I remembered from the Boy Scouts or read in The Complete Walker, Backpacker Magazine or catalogs before doing a big trip in New Zealand by myself. Long before the Internet was anything near what it is today. I learned about bike touring from magazines, then just went out and did it (also in NZ), but I had a couple of thousand miles on a bike recreation riding and commuting, so that part wasn't exactly new to me.

Most of camping isn't rocket science (Bill might disagree on that), but a bit of common sense combined with a minimum of the right gear, like rain gear for rainy climates and a basic stove kit.

8:09 p.m. on November 14, 2010 (EST)
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Regardless of where or how people get the information.Its upon them to act upon it! Like Rocklion and you TOm we all have our horror stories of being ill prepared and taking that situation and applying it to avoid any problems now. Do to lack personal inexperiance . every person has their own pace in learning and I still can say i have alot to learn even now!

1:35 p.m. on November 15, 2010 (EST)
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...The Internet is information overload for almost anything.  There is just too much of info out there to absorb and make sense of, particularly on lightweight sites, where saving an ounce or two takes precedent over common sense many times, expecially when advising newbies....

I sort of agree. Where I disagree is where you say "information" in connection with the Internet. I would reword your sentence to say -

"The Internet is overloaded with misinformation, pure garbage, and a small amount of good information, in a mishmash that is almost impossible to sort out for someone who does not have a lot of real experience in the outdoors and an experienced mentor"

Most of camping isn't rocket science (Bill might disagree on that), but a bit of common sense combined with a minimum of the right gear, like rain gear for rainy climates and a basic stove kit.

I do disagree - none of camping is "rocket science". Modern technology, including rocket science, has provided tools, materials, and widgets that, wisely used by someone with outdoor experience, with guidance from someone with extensive outdoor experience, can be very useful, lower risk, and make the experience more comfortable and enjoyable.

As others said above, and as I have said many times, people have enjoyed the wilderness for thousands of years without modern technology. To yet again quote a friend and colleague - "Having the tools does not make you an expert". Having the latest greatest tent/hiking boots/pack/electronic navigation device does not make you an outdoorsman. Nor does possession of these things guarantee in any way shape or form that you will survive in the wilderness, much less have an enjoyable experience. (the original context was a presented talk about recent, at that time, major advances in technology, at an American Astronomical Society meeting - my professional society, and went more like this: "Having a telescope does not make you an astronomer, just as having a hammer and saw does not make you a carpenter or having a Formula I car does not make you a race driver, or having an ice ax and climbing rope does not make you a mountaineer.")

I do agree that "a bit of common sense combined with" appropriate gear is required. The common sense comes from experience and guidance from an experienced mentor - and I fully acknowledge that I am far from the first person to say that (even in this thread).

5:03 p.m. on November 17, 2010 (EST)
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Mountain weather especially, no matter what the locale, can change dramatically. In my younger climbing days, I participated in a number of S & R operations. Sometimes it was a climber who had fallen. However, it was often a group that was unprepared for the conditions. I used to see tourist hikers on Mt. Rainier in t shirts and tennis shoes, on a hot August day, with no awareness that even just above Paradise, they could be experiencing snow in a few hours. Unfortunately today, in an effort to shave a little weight and move quickly, there have been a number of tragic deaths that could have been prevented. Three climbers who died on Mt. Hood several years ago, is a good example. It was a winter climb with a small window and they thought they could beat the storm. They did not have adequate gear to sustain them if they were benighted. And their cell phone did not help them.

This trend of unpreparedness for possible conditions, seems to be increasing. And lest we forget, it's the S & R teams who have to go out in the middle of the night, in often horrible conditions to bring back a person, or worse, a body. A cell phone won't help you survive the night and those extra pair of gloves you left at home to save a few ounces, won't help you prevent frostbite.




3:05 a.m. on November 18, 2010 (EST)
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Hiking and backpacking are activities where the danger isn't always apparent, unlike, say something like scuba diving, where the danger is easy to assess-something goes wrong and you don't know how to deal with it, you drown. Pretty obvious.  I used to be an instructor and I can safely say that I never met anyone who didn't figure that out right away.

On the other hand, hikers may be totally clueless that those clouds they see coming in over the mountains may bring not only heavy rain or snow, but possibly hail or lightning. They may underestimate how soon it will be dark or how much water they need to carry. The variables are often those "unknown unknowns" - the things you don't even know you don't know.

I don't think there is a solution, except to offer advice, which in many cases will be ignored, but look at it this way, at least you tried.

9:57 a.m. on November 18, 2010 (EST)
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Natures way of improving the gene pool.

April 22, 2018
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