Are outdoorsy people just plain nicer?

8:59 a.m. on May 25, 2010 (EDT)
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This thread is for comments on the article "Are outdoorsy people just plain nicer?"

The previous blog about losing gear on the trail and honesty led me to ponder this question: "Are hikers, backpackers, climbers, and other outdoorsy folks just plain nicer?" I'd like to believe so, but that's a rather self-serving thought process. Feeling more altruistic and connected to community? Most of us know that being in nature reduces stress levels. I wondered if backcountry people, in ad...

Full article at http://www.trailspace.com/blog/2010/05/25/outdoorsy-folks-nicer.html

10:31 a.m. on May 25, 2010 (EDT)
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I totally think so. I've worked at a few retail stores and one of the most entertaining and interesting(probably goes without saying) was the outdoor gear store. The people were more eager to chat, were WAY nicer and just had a different personality to them than the standard people that shop the malls and big box stores. Some of them are the same people but the ones that go went into the outdoor stores were much better to interact with.

That said, some people refer to 4x4ers and ATVers as outdoorsy people but I don't think I'd lump them all in together. The engine seems to bring attitude and a general disrespect for the environment. Don't get me wrong, I do love a good ride on my dirtbike. But it's human-powered first, then with the engine.

2:17 p.m. on May 25, 2010 (EDT)
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I completely agree that immersion in the nature inclines people towards generosity, compassion, and friendliness. It seems nature provides a foil against the bent towards greed and self serving interests that we all share. The beauty and constant poetry of the natural world divert and strip away our attention from the avarice and conceit that is implicit in Society. We all carry that inclination, be it innate or inbred, of our materialistic "dog-eat-dog" world, but being "alone" with oneself and nature has the tendency to remind us of what is meaningful at a core level, and how we would want to be treated by others. Self serving motives seem, well, pretty selfish after that.

The only exception is when it leads to a self righteous contempt for others who might not share the same brand or degree of "ethics" that they have adopted regarding the outdoors.

7:22 p.m. on May 25, 2010 (EDT)
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Outdoor activities do not lend themselves to screen for people possessing compassion, so I think this observation is in error. Church people have the same observation about their brethren, yet my experiences indicate they are generally no different than the random off the street encounter. After all, one doesn’t have to be a good person to believe in God, and so it is with hiking camping, climbing and other backcountry pursuits. Perhaps when we are all in our respective temples we are more respectful and better behaved for the moment.

Example of how inimical outdoors types can be is illustrated by incidents that occur on Mt Everest on an all too regular basis. As we all know, the mountain claims a few climbers every season. Often they are discovered by a passer by while still alive, but in obvious need of life saving help. Many times they are left to die. This very phenomenon happened in the infamous May 10th 1996 summit disaster, when eight climbers met their maker due, to a combination of human error and bad weather. In this case, however, the encounters occurred as people were coming off the mountain, and claimed they were barely able to save themselves, let alone attempt to evacuate a victim from the “death zone.” This is a morally plausible excuse in only certain circumstances. In fact the South African team present high on the mountain at that time not only did not participate in any rescue attempt, they allegedly refused to loan their radio to a party attempting to effect a rescue of guide Scott Fisher and a client, both stranded just below the summit. Several members of same South African team had a second encounter with death a few days later on the mountain, when members of their group came upon a woman attempting to be the first American woman to summit without oxygen. The South Africans determined they had neither the strength nor skills to effect a rescue, and in despair retreated lower back to camp and notify others of the situation. Curiously enough, eight other climbers summited the peak that day along the same route, all passing the distressed climber, and all obviously possessing the strength necessary to both summit and return to camp, yet all somehow rationalized they were not compelled to help the distressed climber. Some argue the mountain and high altitude casts a spell, and clouds normal logic. Having been in some dire outdoor situations, however, I (and others) posit the credo of mountaineering ethics is not firmly seeded in many climbers hearts, who are either unwilling to place themselves at risk to help others, or worse, refuse to let someone else’s misfortune get in the way of thier own personal ambition. These are not isolated incidents either; they occur on all busy high altitude summit routes. Climbing lore is rich with amazing heroics, but is also rank with the acts of other climbers who in their personal quests to summit literally step over the bodies of distressed mountaineers.

While I have chosen extreme examples of how outdoorsman demonstrate a lack of regard for others, I believe the questionable behaviors of others prove we are just like the rest of humanity, no better, no worse. Any tendency to view us otherwise is probably a bias of those making the judgment.
Ed

8:26 p.m. on May 25, 2010 (EDT)
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99% of people I have personally met in the backcountry are usually generously nice folks. Kinda the way people in small out of the way towns are nice too. Thats what I like about Mt Carmel UT and Reserve NM. Both have less than 200 souls and they are open and friendly too.

10:28 p.m. on May 25, 2010 (EDT)
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When people are doing something that they enjoy I think that bleeds over into their attitude towards others.

That said, some people refer to 4x4ers and ATVers as outdoorsy people but I don't think I'd lump them all in together. The engine seems to bring attitude and a general disrespect for the environment. Don't get me wrong, I do love a good ride on my dirtbike. But it's human-powered first, then with the engine.

I would disagree with your statement about engines and attitude. I went riding at an OHV area on Sunday and the place was over run with people on enduros taking part in an organized ride. One rider told me that over 500 people had signed up for the ride. Of all the people on the trail that day only one was anything less than pleasant. I stopped a couple of times to help people or answer questions or just to talk and had plenty of interaction with riders that day. I think the people you (and I) have met on a bike with attitude have issues unrelated to the bike causing that crappy attitude.

11:40 p.m. on May 25, 2010 (EDT)
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It's hard to group people like this, but I have noticed something I'll share. It seems the further out I go, the more pleasant people are. Whether in the desert or the mountains, when I'm out hiking, it seems the people (tourists) that are near the trail head seem less friendly. Many won't make eye contact or even reply to a friendly "How's it going" as I pass by.

One the other hand, as an example, I was in Death Valley again this spring and wanted to camp in a location about 12 miles down a 4WD (dead end) road. When I arrived there was a couple already camped there. Not wanting to bother them, I parked about 100 yards away, explored the area, had lunch, and took a nap. A bit later the wife came down and introduced themselves and asked if I was planning on camping. I told her my plans, but was going to leave, not wanting spoil their camp. She invited me to stay there and to share their campfire for the evening.

Following morning we said our goodbyes and exchanged emails. They've become new friends.

12:54 a.m. on May 26, 2010 (EDT)
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Outdoorsy people stuck inside for too long are not nice people, speaking for myself of course.

8:26 a.m. on May 26, 2010 (EDT)
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Not so sure that outdoorsy people are any different than others. Yes, many are extremely nice. And I would trust them more than others. But I have noticed a real "uppity" attitude with many backpackers. I dont like snobs of any type, but it seems to annoy me more in backpackers as I expect they should be more down to earth.

10:00 a.m. on May 26, 2010 (EDT)
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I can honestly say I've never had any truly bad experiences with other folks on the trail. Have I been annoyed at times by some fellow hikers who were maybe too loud or left some trash behind sure but I would categorize them more as ignorant and not necessarily "not nice" people.

I would tend to agree that I have more positive experiences with other outdoor types then lets say walking through the mall but I think it really has more to do with the state of mind that being outdoors generally brings to people. For some its just the simple relaxation, for folks like me its the pleasant distraction from my senses being to busy to think about work, for others it's possibly the humbling experience of looking out over a beautiful vista at 5000ft. Either way I think it lends itself to being more pleasant.

WhoMeWorry does have a good point but I generally don't group those types of "outdoor people" into the same category as say general hikers and campers that I run into on the trail. Climbing a mountain such as that is a competitive sport, yes its outside, but its still a competitive sport. Whether its climbing a mountain or trying to march through the AT in record time it's less about the experience and more about the challenge and that puts people in very different mindsets. Not that this is a bad thing but its still apples/oranges. It would be like me falling on a sidewalk during a marathon and expecting one of the runners to stop and help me, or stop and comment on what a beautiful day it is - not going to happen.


Josh

12:27 p.m. on May 26, 2010 (EDT)
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..Climbing a mountain such as that is a competitive sport, yes its outside, but its still a competitive sport...

Climbing a competitive sport? Who are you competing against? Most climbers are not out attempting first accents, or first anything; most are communing with nature, just like you. To the extent they push against the clock it is to be done by dark or before a storm; not be done faster for speed's sake. Check out some of the web sites dedicated to climbing and you will discover most mountaineers are preoccupied the beauty and fresh air. Weekend hikers are just as determined to reach their objective as the typical climber, laboring with great effort while muling their kits up to a lakeside camp, muttering the mountain ain’t gonna get the best of them. Getting up and back can be as challenging and competitive as you choose to make it at any elevation, be it hiking to that remote, high, lake or scaling the face of the peak above it. Essentially the same people can be found hiking or climbing, albeit climbers are generally in better shape.

I chose the Everest example because it provided a glaring example that outdoors people are not any different than the everyday Joe. The climbers’ behavior on Everest had nothing to do with competitiveness, but everything to do with lack of ethics and a disregard for others. Only a moron or an incredibly selfish person would place attaining a peak first, before aiding others in serious distress. But if that example doesn’t convince you, consider the car load of hikers who impatiently tailgates you until the next pullout on that mountain road. How about the guy who drives at a snail’s pace and refuses to pull over and let others pass? How about the guy who endangers everyone passing slower traffic in no pass zones? Or the guy who dented your car door at the trailhead parking lot, not bothering to leave their contact information? Or the guy who couldn’t be bothered digging a cat hole or even taking his business away from obvious camp site areas? How about the downhill hiker that refuses to yield to your uphill march, or the slow as all get out up hill hiker that doesn’t bother pulling over so you can overtake him? How about the friend of a friend who got belligerent around the camp fire, mainly because he can’t hold his liquor? How about the fisherman who gets pissy with the game warden when asked to display his fishing license, or the hunter who shoots over ridge tops with no concern where his rounds lands? And then there is the couple arguing because she was bullied into a trip that was too much for her comfort level, or the parents having a bad time on a family hike because – well – kids will be kids. These encounters happen all the time. In fact several seem to happen on almost every trip.

Perhaps it is our own perceptions and attention to other’s behavior that change with the venue, and not the behavior per se. Granted, the level of confrontation in the backwoods is low, but that is a function of population density. You don’t have to travel to the mountain to see lower levels of human confrontation; just leaving the big city and visiting a village will surround you with town folk who are just as amiable as the outdoors fraternity.
Ed

8:58 p.m. on May 26, 2010 (EDT)
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Whew!


Me for one hopes I never run into Ed in the back country!


Might be missing my melon after that encounter!


:)

9:40 p.m. on May 26, 2010 (EDT)
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Wow - the first thing that came to my mind after reading Ed's post was "who pissed in his Wheaties". If I felt as negative about my experiences on the trail I think I would just stick to the mall.

I prefer to stick to the more horizontal trails with nice views but I do have some friends who climb and they really seam to approach the act of climbing really differently then lets say meandering down a trail for a few hours - I call it competitive but pick your adjective. Yes that is a big generalization but this whole discussion is one big generalization about the folks you meet on the trail.

I agree, people are people, and the fact that your on the trail doesn't mean you won't run into inconsiderate idiots or other types of miserable people but I think generally speaking my feelings mirror that of many of the commentors. I think being outside in nature generally brings out the better side of folks not the opposite. So maybe a better way of putting is not that "outside people are nicer" but more "people outside are nicer"

Josh

9:43 a.m. on May 27, 2010 (EDT)
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Woops - reread my response from last night and I think I came out a little confrontational in my first comments about Ed - not my intention! Hope you didn't take it the wrong way Ed. I left off the much needed smiley face at the end lol. Dangers of posting on forums when I should be sleeping.

Anyway I think we see things differently but thats fine - I do hope however you start having some better luck not getting into such close proximity with the idiots out there on such a regular basis. :)


Josh

9:50 a.m. on May 27, 2010 (EDT)
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I think being outside in nature generally brings out the better side of folks not the opposite. So maybe a better way of putting is not that "outside people are nicer" but more "people outside are nicer

I think this an excellent point. It is being outdoors that has a positive influence on people, not that people who choose to go outdoors are necessarily better people to begin with.

Granted, the level of confrontation in the backwoods is low, but that is a function of population density

This doesn't seem to support the assertion it was meant to bolster. For population density to have a negative effect, it is axial that lower population density, such as in the outdoors, has a comparatively positive effect. But I don't honestly think that anyone believes that a persons living environment doesn't have either a positive or negative effect on that individual.

Sure, there are people who bring their rudeness into the backcountry with them, we all do to one degree or another. I don't think that that fact is either contrary to or disproves the assertion that being in the outdoors has a positive influence on an individual. How a person decides to respond to such influence is a completely different story.

11:06 a.m. on May 27, 2010 (EDT)
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I think Ed's overall point is cautioning against people thinking they are inherently "special" in some way because "special" is implicitly superior.

The historical record on such thinking is, shall we say, littered with examples of bad outcomes.

12:45 p.m. on May 27, 2010 (EDT)
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As seen on a T-shirt:

I am unique. Just like everyone else.

12:50 p.m. on May 27, 2010 (EDT)
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Good point Tommangan :)

4:42 p.m. on May 27, 2010 (EDT)
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Josh said:

..I think I came out a little confrontational in my first comments...

Josh:
I've got a thick skin, and no offence was taken ;) To some degree I have it coming anyway, because here I am taking the contrary point again, and doing so with a bit of sarcasim of my own. But I likewise mean no ill will.

Josh said:

..So maybe a better way of putting is not that "outside people are nicer" but more "people outside are nicer"...

I definately agree with you on this observation!

gonzan said:

This doesn't seem to support the assertion it was meant to bolster. For population density to have a negative effect, it is axial that lower population density, such as in the outdoors, has a comparatively positive effect. But I don't honestly think that anyone believes that a persons living environment doesn't have either a positive or negative effect on that individual.

Gonzan:

Actually my comment implied two points:
1. There are many studies that demonstrate a high correlation between population density and the level of various social depravities, including confrontational behaviors. Thus the same individual living in a crowded city is more prone to act out in an antisocial manner to a specific circumstance than if they lived in the countryside. That, among other reasons, is why overcrowded jails are more violent than jails with more living space.
2. They very nature of placing physical space between people lessens the opportunity for confrontation. Most of our interactions with others in the outdoors are brief exchanges because we are either going somewhere, or wish not to intrude on their privacy at camp. A confrontation by its nature require some protracted time shared together, in order for a difference to arise and escalate into conflict. Additionally, if you are in the backwoods and see only seven people in the week the shear odds for a confrontation are minimal. For that matter if you only encountered seven people a week in the city, and spent the amount of time around them as if in the backwoods, you probably wouldn’t experience any confrontations there either.

gonzan said:

Sure, there are people who bring their rudeness into the backcountry with them, we all do to one degree or another. I don't think that that fact is either contrary to or disproves the assertion that being in the outdoors has a positive influence on an individual. How a person decides to respond to such influence is a completely different story.

I think Alicia's original posting wasn't about the affect being outdoors has on us, but rather are the people who hike and camp different as individuals in their mannerisms than those who keep to the city.

tommangan said:

I think Ed's overall point is cautioning against people thinking they are inherently "special" in some way because "special" is implicitly superior.

The historical record on such thinking is, shall we say, littered with examples of bad outcomes.

Tom, you are spot on.
Alicia said:

As seen on a T-shirt:

I am unique. Just like everyone else.

Yes, we are all just the same, only in differnt ways.
Ed

5:24 p.m. on May 28, 2010 (EDT)
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Ha ha. I always thought they were until I read some posts off this forum lol. ;) JK

The cloak of the internet seems to bring out the nasty in people sometimes, when otherwise they would be much nicer in person, I do believe.

To answer the question, I would say the answer is a definite yes. I don't think the outdoorsy environment creates this though, at least not as much as the outdoorsy environment simply gravitates these kinds of naturally good hearted people to it.

8:08 p.m. on May 28, 2010 (EDT)
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I believe its as John Muir once said:

"Climb the mountains and get their good tidings. Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you, and the storms their energy, while cares will drop away from you like the leaves of Autumn."

Because we like to spend time in wildness, we tend to more at peace with the Earth and its inhabitants...

9:37 a.m. on May 29, 2010 (EDT)
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Great quote Gary, Thanks.

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