When does one stop being a newbie?

5:55 p.m. on February 2, 2011 (EST)
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I started backpacking in 2006. I've taken about a dozen weekend trips (a couple every year) in the High Sierras for no more than 4 days at a time, and many one nighters in my local mountains. I've got all the cool gear and stay in hiking shape all year long. However I've never taken any extended trips (5 days or more) and I've never gone alone. At what point do I consider my self an intermediate or advanced backpacker? Any thoughts?

6:59 p.m. on February 2, 2011 (EST)
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Honestly your way past the point of being a newbie....You did that after your first five trips..By then you probably figured out what worked for you and didn't..I also dont give backpackers titles personally..I think we all have strengths and weakness's...I figure you are still learning while doing it regardless of time and add in new equiptment...Well also to me you haven't gone 5 day's SO? Your taking the time you have and enjoying what your doing...Thats what counts..You have never gone alone..Again some people like the company of others....When you feel ready with doing a Solo you will.

But because you haven't doesn't mean your that much less experianced  to someone who has.Thats just a personal thing for each backpacker..To me your happy being out there and it's been since 2006 that speaks volums..You dont have to have a title on it..IMO...I am glad your doing it...

8:13 p.m. on February 2, 2011 (EST)
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There's resonance in what Denis says. Labels often try to categorize, and I don't think that's helpful. You are way past being a newbie, but in the end we are always constantly learning, refining, and sometimes redefining what works for us, both in terms of gear, as well as our own skill levels. I am continually evolving ideas, and I've been backpacking since the early '60s.

8:19 p.m. on February 2, 2011 (EST)
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Denis is the man, and he's right on. You're well past a newbie, that's for sure. Keep at it my friend- I hope you'll join in here often, we'd love to see photos and reports of your trips.

8:36 p.m. on February 2, 2011 (EST)
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You never stop being a "newbie"!  {8=>D

I grew up in a family that spent lots of time camping, hiking, and generally living in the outdoors, am married to a beautiful lady (for 45 years, though she is still just "21") who grew up the same way, raised a son in the same manner, and have spent most of my 7 decades in various wooded and hilly parts of the planet from the Arctic to the Antarctic on 6 of the 7 continents so far (we are both missing Asia). Every time I go out, I learn something new about dealing with the woods and hills (or get reminded of things I should have known, sometimes a harsh reminder).

Something to keep in mind - the day you think you know everything and become complacent in your extensive knowledge and experience is probably the day your hubris will lead you into a major problem. There is an old saying among experienced outdoor people - "The day you don't learn something new is the day you should take yourself down to the mortuary and turn yourself in."

If you are so experienced that your time in the outdoors is no longer exciting and exhilarating, it is time to try a new area or a new activity. Can you recognize and name all the plant and animal species in the areas you hike? Have you hiked and camped in all those areas in all seasons, in both fair and foul weather? Have you bagged all the peaks within 1000 miles of your home? Have you hiked, backpacked, camped in forest (including rain forest and jungle), grasslands, deserts, along miles of ocean beach, mountains, flatlands, snow country, glaciers, ... ? Have you canoed/kayaked/rafted all the streams in your area (both high water and low water)? Have you canoed to an island several miles off-shore (ocean or lake) to spend several nights? Have you taken photos, painted, sketched, and written essays and poetry about your experiences and your companions? Have you passed on your knowledge and experience to others, including your offspring, your nieces and nephews, and other youngsters? How many continents have you hiked and camped on, plus how many islands? If the answer to any of these is "no", you are still a "newbie" with much more.

   --- the Old Grey Bearded One, who is still a "newbie" (I am often asked what I want to be when I grow up, to which my reply is "Grow up? What is that?"

9:46 p.m. on February 2, 2011 (EST)
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I was told by an Indian you have to go out for more then twenty days alone before the wilderness changes you. I still haven't done it yet but it sounds interesting. I wish I had the time to try it out.

 

9:57 p.m. on February 2, 2011 (EST)
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I go out as much as I can. Longest trip was 3 days 17 miles. I go alone 95% of the time. Do I know things? Sure. Am I still learning? You bet ya! This was my first year camping in the winter. I love it. I'm a newbie. And I'm proud of it.

9:35 a.m. on February 3, 2011 (EST)
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I was told by an Indian you have to go out for more then twenty days alone before the wilderness changes you. I still haven't done it yet but it sounds interesting. I wish I had the time to try it out.

 

Find it if you can, it's worth it.  I 've been on the Mistassibi river solo for 23 days back in 2002. Life changing.

As for the newbie issue, Denis's word is gold. Follow your own lead and overprepare for your first times, tell people were your going, and have fun.

10:51 a.m. on February 3, 2011 (EST)
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Thanks guys. That was reassuring and encouraging. I guess we are all at some point of growth and discovery. I'm asked often by friends I introduce to the outdoors, "So you must be like a pro huh?" to which I respond , "not even close" but don't how I should respond. Not that big of a deal I guess but it has more to do with assessing my own wilderness prowess for my own sake. Recently I ran into a guy with his grandkids at a backcountry campsite. He was in great shape and well travelled and told me of his trips to the Himalayas. Later on that evening he approached my campsite for help because he couldn't get a fire going. I was quite surprised but he told me that in all his trips and treks he was never 'the guy' to start the campfire and needed help becuase it was getting dark. He had hiked all over the world but couldn't get a fire going.     

I'll continue to seek opportunities for learning and improving skills in the woods. The great thing is knowing we all learn and grow every time we're out there. Again, thanks for the wisdom.

1:09 p.m. on February 3, 2011 (EST)
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I think Bill has said it best so far....one is never done learning.  Someone may have some experience but there is always someone with more or different experience.  So in one way or another everyone will always and forever be a "newbie".

It does sound like however you are well past the point of no experience though!

2:19 p.m. on February 3, 2011 (EST)
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....Someone may have some experience but there is always someone with more or different experience.  ..

and Jordan, the OP who posted the title question, said his friends ask him:

"So you must be like a pro huh?"

mikemorrow said:

Do I know things? Sure. Am I still learning? You bet ya!

Erich added:

we are always constantly learning, refining, and sometimes redefining what works for us, both in terms of gear, as well as our own skill levels. I am continually evolving ideas, and I've been backpacking since the early '60s.

In the past couple of years, I have had people say such things to me as "You are a super-adventurer" and "you are a superman!" (this as I was returning to High Camp on Mt Vinson after a successful summit, barely dragging my body down the hill). Even people here on Trailspace who should know better ascribe huge stores of knowledge and expertise to me. Well, in the sense that a friend and colleague once said in an acceptance speech for a major prize he had been awarded in recognition for a lifetime of advancing scientific knowledge, "The true expert is the one who knows his limitations", maybe I am an expert - I am all too aware of the limitations of my knowledge and experience.

But that's what makes it interesting and exciting - I get to have a lot of fun learning and trying new things, having new experiences and looking at "familiar" places in a different way.

 

 

2:50 p.m. on February 3, 2011 (EST)
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Not sure who should be given credit for the quote, but one of my favorites is "The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know."

10:41 p.m. on February 3, 2011 (EST)
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Relearning.. grew up in the age of army down sleeping bags, hot rocks wrapped in newspaper, wool army pants.. I embarrass my kids while i ski in my goose hunting gear..skis were sized while holding your hand way above your head and the ski hit your wrist..leather lace up ski boots,  I am continually amazed at what technology brings out.. I love the new clothing, gear, I no longer walk to school through 3 feet of snow, 5 miles, uphill both ways.. My home used to be the hardware store, today.. its the mountain shop.. Dad would take pictures of the snow augers on Trail Ridge road standing on his plastic snowshoes, the snow removal crew were in awe... he got there before they did., compared to him.. I will always be a newbie..

12:49 a.m. on February 4, 2011 (EST)
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Sorry for throwing this in, but what does it mean when someone (Bill) says "OP"?  I am guessing "other person"?

1:48 a.m. on February 4, 2011 (EST)
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Sorry for throwing this in, but what does it mean when someone (Bill) says "OP"?  I am guessing "other person"?

 original poster-:-)

7:06 a.m. on February 4, 2011 (EST)
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Jeff said:

 I no longer walk to school through 3 feet of snow, 5 miles, uphill both ways

You forgot "barefoot"

9:08 a.m. on February 4, 2011 (EST)
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.. At what point do I consider my self an intermediate or advanced backpacker? Any thoughts?

Never!

It takes many years to acquire mastery, and by then Father Time has raced by, Alzheimer’s has set in, and you end up forgetting everything you learned.

Ed

9:14 a.m. on February 4, 2011 (EST)
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Not sure who should be given credit for the quote, but one of my favorites is "The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know."

Misquoted somewhat but Socrates is credited with uttering something similar.

Ed

11:03 a.m. on February 4, 2011 (EST)
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OK but what do I have to do to qualify as an "oldbie"? -- or maybe OGB2 (besides grow a beard...)

12:27 p.m. on February 4, 2011 (EST)
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All good quotes, as I said in my earlier post and others have reiterated, we are always learning. There is a caveat to all of this, and I think a big one. At some point, if we have enough experience, there is a danger that the confidence will become over confidence. Hubris killed Chris McCandless in the Alaskan bush, while Dick Proeneke's modesty and measured skills kept him alive for 30 years.

12:33 p.m. on February 4, 2011 (EST)
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The only qualifications for being an OGBO are

(1) being old (as defined by your local government being "elderly", "senior citizen", or otherwise qualifying for some sort of senior pass or discount - simply "feeling old" doesn't count); and

(2) having one or more grey or white hairs somewhere on your body, or being mostly bald (by nature, not by the current fashion among teenagers of shaving your head). The beard is not necessary, since even women can be OGBOs.

Since the grey and white hair coloration is caused by the grey matter leaking out of your brain, wisdom is not needed, only a large quantity of curmudgeonliness (is there such a word?). Remember, there are Old folks, Bold folks, but no Old Bold folks (the original statement was "Old pilots, bold pilots, but no old bold pilots").

Unfortunately, some jurisdictions keep changing their definition of "senior". One example is the ski resorts in Colorado and Utah, which have moved the age of qualification for a senior lift ticket from 55 in the 1980s to 75 or 80 currently (and at least one requires proving you are 85+).

1:13 p.m. on February 4, 2011 (EST)
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Bill please right a book, you are inspiring in more than just your outdoors ways. (As a young man who just married I hope to stay married and raise my kids in like manner.)

I like the theme of always learning in the post. The wisest people I've met are always curious and always learning, and that says a lot to me. That a life long pursuit of knowledge is the key to wisdom and figuring things out. Also learning from others and their mistakes, that's why I read the forum like a hawk.

4:05 p.m. on February 4, 2011 (EST)
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All good quotes, as I said in my earlier post and others have reiterated, we are always learning. There is a caveat to all of this, and I think a big one. At some point, if we have enough experience, there is a danger that the confidence will become over confidence. Hubris killed Chris McCandless in the Alaskan bush, while Dick Proeneke's modesty and measured skills kept him alive for 30 years.

Yes Erich, sometimes we see those skills as only applying to certain environments. I recently went to a local lake with my family and almost drowned from exhaustion after having swam out to the middle. I remember thinking 'this palce is so unworthy of my death'. I take great care and caution in the woods but foolishly abandoned reason in a different environment. I'll never do that again, but I'm wiser because of the experience.

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