Jul 7, 2007 at 11:23 am #1223999
According to a 2006 study made by the Outdoor Activities Foundation, only 2.6% of all Americans age 6 and older participated in "backpacking overnight" in 2006.
The Foundation generously defined 'backpacking' (as contrasted with camping or RV camping) as hiking more than 1/4 mile away from camp or vehicle!!! We can only wonder how steeply the already-low 2.6% figure would drop if we lengthen the hike to 1 mile? 5 miles? 10 miles? Or two nights, three nights instead of just an overnight?
Methinks the percentage of folks who do multiple-nights backpacking is probably just a small, small fraction of a percent — easily rounded off to zero in any general survey! Sobering — and sad actually.Jul 7, 2007 at 1:34 pm #1394685
Don (Biloxi) CarterMember
@donjuan70Locale: Red Neck Riviera
yes those stats are sobering but expected!.the younger generation "mostly" are soft as hell.they don't even want to go outside cause "it's hot" or "cold" or "to far".it's a shame now days,they don't walk anywhere anymore.except from the X box to the fridge..does that constitute a "thru hike"???? from endless summers spent hiking,fishing,hunting and just playin around in the woods and camping with friends .to lazy ass,smart mouth cream puffs.and I know of what I speak I have a 18 and 17 yr old boys..soft ,soft ,soft>>WWWWWWWAAAAAAA "I don't wanna walk,it's hot" it's a sad state of the youthJul 7, 2007 at 1:44 pm #1394687
@ckrusen66Locale: Pennsylvania's Little Grand Canyon
Well said Don, unfortunately most will never know what they are missing.Jul 7, 2007 at 4:20 pm #1394706
Actually, I myself am a late convert. Growing up, my parents always took us traveling — but at mom's insistence — we only stayed at 5-star hotels or better.
As an adult, pretty much every year, I pick one or two countries and 'backpack' solo for a month (using the European sense of the word).
Just four years ago, it suddenly occured to me that even though I've seen a lot, I have never really seen anything beyond a certain radius from towns and highways! So, at the tender age of 42, I signed up for a course and did my very first overnight hike. Amazingly, I found that it was indeed possible to survive without modern plumbing! And I haven't looked back. :)
To date, none of my brothers — never mind my parents — will even think about camping or backpacking! I think that's the trend these days. While there will always be exceptions, I also think that the number of backpackers will continue to dwindle…Jul 7, 2007 at 6:03 pm #1394713
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
There is NO lack of dayhikers ;-)Jul 7, 2007 at 7:25 pm #1394717
How many of us have tried to get a youngster out overnight? Not very many, I bet. And if they have, it was with Boy Scouts. Face it, most backpackers are either apathetic about passing it on, or selfish and glad they don't have to share the backcountry with others. You know the wilderness is the private playground for a select few….but don't get me started on why I hate the Nature Conservancy.Jul 7, 2007 at 7:56 pm #1394719
Im 17 and avidly backpack. I know of a fair amount of people around my age who do it as well, but the overwhelming majority of kids my age would never venture out for more than a night in the woods.Jul 7, 2007 at 8:07 pm #1394720
Curious Jon — who introduced you to overnight (or multi-night) backpacking? Your family? Scouts? Other?Jul 7, 2007 at 8:18 pm #1394722
@gaugustLocale: Penn's Woods
i'm the only one of my friends i know that backpacks. i can convince a handful of them to go camping with me for a weekend over the summer, but as soon as the thought of "carrying" all your food etc. is brought up they bale out and laugh at me. thankfully my girlfriend is more receptive and i've convinced her come with me and she loves it. but for the vast majority they have "better things to do". i thank my parents for getting me into backpacking at a young age.Jul 7, 2007 at 8:28 pm #1394723
@butukiLocale: Kanto Plain, Japan
Well, don't blame the kids!!! Blame the stupid adults who thought it was more important to develop a society in which buying X Box's and sitting in front of computers and considering money and shopping the end-all of the purpose of life. Blame the adults from the generations who did spend time outdoors and all those things Don mentioned and didn't value them enough to show the wonder of them to their children. Children learn from earlier generations and what is around them, they don't come with their attitudes on their own. Now with wilderness and local woods and rivers further and further away it's becoming harder and harder for children to even know what nature is. Children in Tokyo have never even really seen the stars! How can you expect them to appreciate them? And images that they do have of what nature is is completely formed by the caricatures of Disney and National Geographic, not by actually being out there and seeing for themselves what it is all about.Jul 7, 2007 at 9:05 pm #1394725
@blister-freeLocale: Puertecito ruins
An overpopulated, hi-tech world is worth escaping, but primarily for those whose earliest experiences of the world were otherwise. The kids can't see the forest for the trees of distraction they've known since day one. Who grew these trees? Our parents? Us? Yes, perhaps, but the gloomy shade now cast upon the next generation was never the intent. Does fate come into play in human systems? Are we where we are, less by choice, and more by the unavoidable rapid evolution that befalls an advanced species? If so, then blame is wasted energy. Instead, we can accept, adapt, and control what is in our individual power to control – not by shielding the next generation – our own kids – from the world, but by broadening their view of what in its entirety this world is made of.Jul 7, 2007 at 9:50 pm #1394729
@sarbarLocale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
I started taking my son in the outdoors as soon as winter was over his first year (he was 6 months old). He has been backpacking with me since he was 5 or so. On average the boy sees 10 or so backpacking trips a year.Jul 7, 2007 at 10:04 pm #1394732
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I am not surprised the numbers are low. There has been a pretty consistent drop-off over the last 20 years or so which is why a lot of outdoor companies have been moving into things like "lifestyle clothing" because that market is easier to grow. You can see the same trend in visitation to most national parks (excluding big destinations like Yosemite, Yellowstone, etc).
Is it people are "soft"? I don't think so. Sure there are people who don't leave the house and are playing on their xbox or in second life… but there is still a lot of "outdoor" activities. What's changed is the pace of those outdoor activities… most are "done in a day" sports: mountain biking, climbing, aggressive day hiking, etc have been growing in popularity. Most people lives are busier (accelerated) than what was typical 20 years ago. These people often don't feel they can afford the time for a multi-day trip so they try to pack in as much excitement as they can into a day.
The best thing you can do to combat this is to encourage people you know to give backpacking a try. Remove barriers such as them not owning the gear they need so it is easier for them to give backpacking a try. Help others appreciate slowing down might be good.
For example, I am part of a group of dad's who starting taking our daughters backpacking when they turned 7. Originally we thought we were passing backpacking on to our daughters… but we have found that some of their friends wanted to join in so we ended up picking some some dad's who had never gone backpacking. They enjoying it enough that they are passing on this new found activity to the rest of their family.Jul 8, 2007 at 1:25 am #1394747
Thirty years ago someone like me would've been out bushwalking all the time but in my profession 90 hour weeks are now common – I don't get to see my kids let alone go on multi-week bushwalks.Jul 8, 2007 at 7:48 am #1394754
Ben; thanks for starting this thread with that revealing stat!
I think it is a lifestyle choice as to how much time you spend away from civilization. I had to change jobs to get more free time; get rid of a couch-potato spouse (the legal way); move to an area with more recreational opportunities, and just say 'no' to weekend overtime and the stuff it could buy.
Every weekend I used to see SUVs with toys on the roof headed OUT of town while I drove home to my McMansion "..looming in the headlights" and it's list of self-created chores. I lost 10 years of my life in a cycle of buy-maintain. The things I owned truly owned me.
I didn't want to lie there on my deathbed wishing I had done so many things with the short time I have here on earth. After that heck-on-earth I used to call a life I feel like I've been released from prison; and now it's me heading out of town on the weekends. When I have kids I will try my best to make sure they have the same opportunity.
So in short, why so few people hike; you give up a lot to squeeze some free time out of a modern hectic life; but to quote someone more wise than me:
"You have brains in your head, you have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose."
– Dr. Seuss
Everything I needed to know I learned in kindergarden; I had just forgotten it for a while..Jul 8, 2007 at 12:30 pm #1394768
Philip Mack FurlowMember
@philipmackLocale: North Texas
Thank you for your quote from Dr. Seuss. I have three children. Austin Boyd – 8, Travis Mack – 5, and Shelton Alexandra – 4. The boys went fly fishing with me as early as 12 months – and we now car camp some as a family. (I ruined my wife on backpacking prior to our nuptials.) She is not much of a hiker. We Bushwack with Austin Boyd, Trail Blaze with Travis Mack and Sight See with Shelton (She poops out the quickest.) We day hike and we have done some short 2-3 mile 2-day backpacking trips with Travis and Austin and they love it. Austin is chomping at the bit for his own pack to carry his sleeping bag. Travis too wants a pack – but other than his water, snacks and a toy or two that may be it for him.
We are planning backpacking trips for the fall when North Texas Cools off (110 degrees and 80% humidity can be plenty miserable) and maybe some winter trips in the Hill Country. In fact even though we are active in Cub Scouts we still need more.
(I'm our Pack Chairman – [last year when we did our campout and I reserved the "walk in loop" – farthest campsite is about a mile in – there were plenty of complaints – of course when you bring everything including the kitchen sink and haul it in on dollies and wheel barrows I guess I understand the complaint – Many Dads were amazed – I loaded up a tent, food, stove three sleeping bags – even hauled water – one trip in. Set up camp then went back and loaded other people's stuff up and helped 'em haul it in. The boys thought it was really cool to help and kept asking everyone else "What is all that stuff for?"]
I grew up on the farm. Killed Rattlesnakes with wrenches, cleared rocks from pasture, welded to fix and make equipment, worked on tractors and pickups, rode horses, herded cattle. Now I work in an office 60 hours a week – but I constantly try to find ways for my kids to experience the outdoors. Austin loves scouting – Travis can't wait to be a cub scout too. But it takes more than that.
For me personally it is a matter of Stewardship. While these children are in my care I must teach them about nature's fragile beauty. How to respect it. How to go out and experience God's handywork and the grace and beauty it represents. For most kids it takes just one good experience and they are hooked.
We have a group of ten guys that backpack – pretty soon our kiddos will be joining us. It is a great blessing to pass this on to our children and give them the options of joining in on the experience without tv, without phones, without e-mail, with nothing but you, your kids and nature. Can't beat it.
I would urge you my fellow backpackers – if you know someone with kids – invite 'em on a trip. Make it easy – 2-3 nights 5-6 miles – somewhere close, but pretty where you do not have to drive alot to get to trail head. Give the kids research assignments – We alternate responsibilities – Navigator, Information Officer, Scout, Logistics Captain, Supply Sargreant – we try to make it fun. Bring 'em in to the loop – not just the going but the planning as well – I'm certain they will love it.
Recently I took four guys I work with on a trip to a wilderness area about four hours away in Arkansas. We set up day camp and day hiked quite a bit. It started out as a backpacking trip that got converted – but one guy who has kids and had never been camping loved it. He asked a lot of questions about what my kids did, how my wife liked it, how much the gear costs, etc. Long story short – he and two other guys who have never been camping are going with me and my family this fall for a three day trip somewhere. We will more than likely go somewhere with multiple day hike options and do a short "hike-in" campsite to introduce them to the fun. We will day hike and let the kiddos run wild. Both men have mentioned that they are considering going with me and my group on our backpacking trip next year. Just like that we will have two more converts.
This has been a long winded epistle but I am very passionate about teaching families how to be families again. One of the only ways to do that is to remove all the obstacles that prevent us from communicating and interacting as families.
So I will sign off and sign out and take my kiddos swimming.
P.S. This morning before church my kids helped me test my new Stove/Pot kit by making coffee outside. They and I had a blast (for you gear heads it was a Brunton Crux Stove and a Snow Peak 700 cup/mug – Coffee made cowboy style.)Jul 8, 2007 at 1:50 pm #1394777
@yondermountainLocale: North Woods
People don't go out because many people just don't care about nature/outdoors. Look at the state of our planet right now. If people really cared about this earth, do you really think there would be so much air and water pollution, fossil fuels being burnt, and just plain disregard for the land?
People nowadays want AC, big screen TVs, nice cars, a nicer house than there neighbors and a whole bunch of other "stuff". "Stuff" that does no one ANY good and just accumulates into garbage over time.
It's really pathetic to see so many people work for these "things" and still be completely miserable. The traditional idea of slavery may be extinct(in this country at least), but there is a new form of slavery that has become an epidemic. People being slaves to their jobs and slaves to their toys.
Over at the backpacker.com forums they had a thread about the amount of trips you take per year, and how many nights each trip is. I was kind of shocked at how LITTLE even people on a backpacking forum got out. Most did a few overnights and then a weeklong trip when their two-week "vacation" time came around. Many did day hikes and a couple of over nighters. And that was it…for the whole year! This is fine, if that's how you want to live, but it seemed that almost everyone in that thread was saying how they wished they could get out more…but they can't, because they are slaves to their jobs like the rest of the country.Jul 9, 2007 at 9:22 am #1394851
All three of my children enjoyed backpacking growing up including my daughter. They came out that way. My wife and I took them on overnight backpacks when they were toddlers. They wore empty little “Barney” backpacks carrying only their “teddy” or some little game. It was my goal to make them as comfortable as possible so they would not notice the backpack. As they grew we began to add gear to their packs but kept it so that their focus was on having fun. Today my boys occasionally ask me to go backpacking and rarely turn me down when I suggest a trip. They are my best hiking partners. My youngest son and I have taken a week long trips in August for the last few years and this year we are doing the John Muir Trail. My oldest son and I manage to get away in January together when he is on break from school. Needless to say they carry their own gear now and also the heavy end of any shared gear. My daughter who has moved away laments for the days when she could go up to an alpine tarn fed by gurgling little streamlet in the high country. This experience for me has been one of life’s most precious blessings.Jul 10, 2007 at 9:25 am #1394955
Philip Mack FurlowMember
@philipmackLocale: North Texas
Thanks for your insight John. We are trying to get more families and kiddos to go with us on our little treks. I look forward to the day when we are doing 50 milers over two weeks in the high country. Those days will come and go all to fast.
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