Getting 2 Friends Outside of Their Comfort Zone
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- This topic has 13 replies, 7 voices, and was last updated 1 month, 1 week ago by dirtbag.
Apr 10, 2023 at 12:29 pm #3778565
Companion forum thread to: Getting 2 Friends Outside of Their Comfort Zone
About 3 months ago, 2 friends of mine who I have known and been close with since early elementary school days asked if they could join me on an overnight backpacking/camping trip…Apr 11, 2023 at 7:13 am #3778617Kevin BabioneBPL Member
I’ve taken a number of first-timers out. A couple of things I’ve learned:
- They typically borrow a bunch of my gear, so we get together at my house a week before the trip to do a test run, packing everything but food. I ask them to bring all of the clothing that they’ll be carrying because I’ve found that to be the most bulk and weight.
- I have a favorite “beginner” trail (the Pinchot Trail in the Poconos in PA) that doesn’t have a lot of elevation gain/loss or tremendous views, but it has a lot of variety along the trail (hardwood forests, rhododendron tunnels, following a stream, a waterfall, etc.) and nice campsites. It helps to REALLY know the trail well so you can let them know what’s coming up.
- I definitely plan shorter hikes and more time in camp for first-timers because it can take them a lot longer to do the mundane camp chores like setting up their shelter, cooking meals, and perhaps making a fire. They usually want to experience it all and I’m happy to do that with them, but it definitely takes more time.
Even so, I’ve experienced some of what you saw. For my last newbie trip we did our test a week before and he told me that he had ordered poles but that they hadn’t yet arrived. No worries – those don’t go in the pack so I wasn’t concerned. The day of the trip arrived and they were fixed-length poles and he was borrowing my DD X-Mid tent! Mine are adjustable so I knew it wouldn’t be a problem (his ended up being fine at an angle). His pack was bulging but he told me that all his gear was in there. We were transferring his stuff to my car for the ride to the trail and he pulls out a huge stuff sack.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“That’s my food – I’m kinda particular so I packed what I like to eat.”
We had been emailing about different freeze-dried food suppliers for months and he had assured me that he was good. I didn’t realize that he meant he wasn’t bringing ANY FD food! I think his food bag weighed about 12 pounds by itself! He packed 9 large apples! I think that was half the weight. We ended up removing two of his three fleeces (he had only brought one to the test run) and that made room for the food bag.
Taking first timers out requires an extra level of patience. I’ve read too many reports here of people never talking to each other again because of a lousy experience their first time out. I like to control as much of the trip as I can (I’m a bit of a planner). Once they’re hooked you can ease up…Apr 11, 2023 at 8:37 am #3778619
Lol. Yeah my friends live in NJ, im on Long Island, so we chatted on phone and texts to plan. I knew what i was in for with these 2 cats.. childhood friends, close at that. Teach them a lesson!! I prefer to hike solo 80% of the time, so if they decided to never ask me again, I would be ok with that, lol. The other 15% of the time, I dont mind hiking with company if they are self sufficient. The final 5%, well i am ok with teaching and helping out to some degree! Funny thing is, both these guys just texted me this morning.. already planning another trip for the fall!!! Hahaaaa.Apr 11, 2023 at 9:27 am #3778620AK GranolaBPL Member
That’s amazing your one friend wants to go again. Good for him for doubling down and not giving up! That all on its own is the key to success. Now he needs some cardio at the gym and a lighter pack. As do I.Apr 11, 2023 at 11:24 am #3778633
Yes. He definitely needs some form of movement. This is a prime example of what working from home can do to you, and smoking the cigarettes..Apr 11, 2023 at 12:12 pm #3778636Mark VerberBPL Member
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I have had trips like that. The best thing we can do be is bring a sense of humor and be prepared to adapt. Your trip reports reminded me that I really want to update my getting started post https://verber.com/backpack-start/ and write up recommendations for how to lead a trip with neophytes.
Like Kevin, there are some things that have helped… but not always reduced problems:
1) offer to help equip people. most people are happy if they don’t have to spend money, though some love spending money.
2) have a “gear up” gathering a few weeks before the trip (typically in my garage). I used to have a lot of loaner equipment and I would also borrow some packs from friends. We would have everyone try on packs and see if we could get everyone hooked up with an appropriate pack. If someone wasn’t covered we would have someone associated with Stanford arrange a rental pack from the school backpacking club.
Next we talk about shelter and figure out between the shelters people own, I owned, and I knew I could borrow what would provide the lightest shelter that was appropriate for the conditions. Oh and whom would be sleeping with whom.
After settling shelters I would then show them a basic gear list and ask what they needed. For people who needed a lot (especially people with less means) I would try to supply them. For people who needed items I would offer to go shopping with them or be free to consult. Something like 25% of the people would take me up on that.
3) plan the menu together… typically right after the “gear up” meeting. Do it with a BBQ or potluck because “if you feed them, they will come”. Often 100% attendance. We would together plan menu for group meals. I would have sent them my https://verber.com/food-backpacking/ in advance. Generally around 25% of people actually read it. We talk and typically after 15 minutes have a general outline. I would offer to make sure we have the right amounts and ask who would like to join me on the grocery store run the day before we head out.
4) Create a shared document for the group. I would share the a “trip” web page which included description of the trip / expected conditions, the menu, and how the shared gear would be divided up.
5) Shakedown gathering. Around a week before the trip I would invite people over for dinner and a shakedown where we would look at what people had ready to go and I would pass out the shared gear. Around 50% of the people would participate in the shake down, 75% would join us for dinner.
6) Finally, we would gather the just before we headed out. I would attempt to make any last minute adjustments I could.
Generally it’s gone well, but there have always been people who “knew” what was best. They would bring way more water than was needcd given streams we would cross, had a crappy backpack which they said was super comfortable (which caused pain often the first mile and late fell apart), brought lots of unneeded technology, etc.
Another example was a father daughter trip that one of the people was a long time boy scout who thought me and my daughters ultralight gear was inadequate. He and his daughter brought heavy packs which the daughter ultimately couldn’t handle. The last couple of miles was him carrying his daughter. The daughters gear split between the other dads, and my carrying his pack on my back, and my pack carried on my front.Apr 11, 2023 at 1:00 pm #3778639
Wow.. Lol. You a better man then me. I successfully raised my 3 kids and they are self dependent. I am not one to babysit others children, let alone adults. Again, this is where I much prefer going solo and enjoying “me” time. Once in a blue while I don’t mind bringing beginners out with me, but be assured, I will not coddle them or go too easy on them.. I will, however, make sure everyone is safe and has memories to last a lifetime, though I can’t promise they will want to come back out with me, I am ok with that. We can hang out at the bbq or meet up for dinner one night.. The mountains are my time and space.. By all means you are welcome to join me, but understand, its not always a simple walk in the park.Apr 11, 2023 at 4:45 pm #3778657Apr 11, 2023 at 7:38 pm #3778670Mark VerberBPL Member
@verberLocale: San Francisco Bay Area
I hear you. With adults I just make sure we have squared away food/shelter, and offer to consult if they have question. More of my group trips were with 4-10 younger folks ( junior high through college students), many of whom hadn’t even car camped much less backpacked. They were encountering the outdoors for the first time. I wanted them to have the best possible experience in the hopes that backpacking would become a life long love. So I was willing to go above and beyond before the trip started. Once we were on our way I generally took a step back and let people face the experience, only stepping in if it was an issue of safety.Apr 11, 2023 at 8:01 pm #3778672AK GranolaBPL Member
One of the reasons I won’t lead local hikes is because of beginners who think they know everything from a few YT videos, or from advice given by store employees, etc. I went through Sierra Club’s leader training many decades ago and the issues haven’t changed. The only way to make sure they’re ready is to do a thorough pack check. Even then, no way to know someone’s fitness level. I’d rather just hike with people I know well. Sometimes I do group hikes that someone else leads, and then I’m happy to help out, but I’m not held responsible for someone else’s misery!
Looks like that didn’t happen in this trip anyway – dude wants to go again!Apr 11, 2023 at 8:28 pm #3778673jscottBPL Member
@bookLocale: Northern California
I have a friend for whom backpacking with others means bonding in the outdoors through shared meals. She brings her home kitchen experience with her. typically we hike in a group of four or five–already I’m out of my solo-spoiled comfort zone. I tell her straight out that for me, backpacking isn’t about eating. I like to keep things simple and light. She, on the other hand, is willing haul in fresh food and spreads and lots of little snacks to share with everyone. Madness, I say! Friendship, she says. In the end I carry some of her heavy food, trying to hide my exasperation.
But with a couple of guys? No way. again, I state straight out that I don’t care to make elaborate shared meals. If they want to haul in fresh pasta and chicken and apples and a fry pan, and the stoves and fuel to cook with, it’s on them.Apr 12, 2023 at 10:36 am #3778729Grace ABPL Member
dirtbag, I love this video – especially the views :) Also the story, especially the still in-the-box gear from REI. Ouch. Encouraging newbies to borrow before they buy is good, but it can be a losing battle. So many people believe that a trip to the store or an online shopping session is the best way to prepare for a trip to the wilderness! Still you got your buddies out there and it looks like you had fun, even if some was Type 2 fun. Maybe they’ll do it again some time – with their new gear only not all of it. Will REI let them exchange their pads for lighter ones?
My experience getting people out of their comfort zone is quite different — I’ve been hiking with Boy Scouts with my sons’ troop for more than fifteen years and now lead the linked BSA girls’ troop. I’m quite experienced working with inexperienced (mostly young) backpackers; getting kids into the woods and teaching them the skills to take care of themselves can be life-changing. They are not only leaving the material comforts of home but also leaving the comfort of having their folks take care of everything. They learn to rely on themselves and each other to make decisions and carry them out. I think “each other” is a big part of it. I hope some of them will still be getting together to hike when they’re 48!
Some of our practices: meal planning by patrol, with adults forming a separate patrol (we don’t cook for the kids and they don’t cook for us); group gear distribution at the meeting preceding the trip; a before-trip shakedown with the Scouts. On the trips we teach skills as the need arises and then have the Scouts practice. And of course there’s lots of adult-monitored peer-to-peer teaching at meetings before and after trips. The current group of girls, although young, have taken to heart the patrol method and really do collaborate on planning their meetings, their food, their tent pairings, etc. When a few of them learn something, they teach the others. They’re young enough to be excited to teach and willing to learn.
We let the Scouts hike at their own pace, so long as they have a buddy and wait at trail junctions and stream crossings (we do stick to established trails most of the time). The group aspect would not be to many adults’ liking, but these kids do grow up, and the ones who keep backpacking can easily adapt what they’ve learned to solo or small group trips if that’s their preference.
We tell the new Scouts to start with good footwear, and we’ll provide the rest of the gear (packs, sleeping bags, pads, and tents) until they know they want to keep doing this and perhaps have finished their puberty growth spurt. Most of the parents listen, though occasionally parents of complete beginners will either buy a cheap crappy backpack that is really uncomfortable or an expensive, too-large backpack with “growing room” that their kid promptly fills with way too much stuff. (Those kids tend not to be repeat backpackers.) We provide a suggested clothing and gear list that’s been refined over the years. It’s not at all specific for brand but emphasizes basic essentials, multi-use items, and lighter weight. Scouts tend to start mostly with what they have and upgrade as they get older. We provide cooking gear for groups of 3-6 and Ursack bear & critter proof bags (we’re in eastern black bear country and used to hang group bear bags, but since we got the Ursacks for a long summer trip to the Sawtooths, they’re just too easy not to use at the end of the day).
For the shakedown, usually the night before a trip, I like to have the less experienced Scouts completely empty their packs; then an experienced adult goes through item by item to make sure they’re not missing something they need like a headlamp or bringing something ridiculous like a plastic box of 100 wet wipes (that was a boy – said his mother packed it!). Then I have them pack all their gear into the backpack, balance it, and put on the pack. Unpacking and repacking is a practical backpacking skill used daily on the trail. Also just in case a parent packed the pack the first time, now the Scout then knows what they have and where it is. After the trip, I recommend they take out their list and edit it for the next trip based on what went well and what didn’t.
My main experience directly teaching new adult backpackers has been with people who had a lot of relevant hiking and camping experience. With adults all you can really do is teach and advise, and with some you can’t even do that. I’d only do a shakedown with an adult if they sincerely asked me to!
A couple of years ago I and three women that I dayhike with locally wanted to backpack in Glacier NP (along with my husband, two sons, and daughter-in-law, who are all experienced backpackers). All 3 were in their mid-60’s (5 years older than I was), all very experienced hikers and car campers, but only one had backpacking experience – years before on a long section of the AT. I offered to do a gear meeting under an outdoor shelter beside the local river. I took a suggested list and sample gear and went through different options for things like rainwear, footwear, clothing layers, much faster and in more detail that I could have with Scouts, and talked about different price options. (It was more than 100% attended – unknown to me one of the extra attendees was the owner of the only local outfitter, who kindly said he learned a few things – but I didn’t ask what!) We also decided it would be a good idea to do a practice overnight trip on a trail that mimicked the mileage and elevation change, but not the actual elevation, of a day on the planned Glacier trip. That helped people adapt their camping skills to backpacking and helped us get out some equipment and procedural kinks.
Our Glacier permits were cancelled a less than two weeks before our arrival due to a fire – but the one experienced backpacker was also a retired National Parks employee; she went early to meet some rangers and secured us an even better route in a different part of the park. The trip was (mostly) Type 1 fun for all 8 of us.
My experience was that the adults learned much faster and saw the point of things better than 11-12 year olds – in part because they had a lot of outdoor experience to draw on. It would’ve been different if they’d been less experienced and/or less open to learning and experimenting. Or more experienced and more individualistic, though that would’ve been fine too because as long as people aren’t being unsafe to themselves or others, I don’t feel the need to teach them anything!
The Scouts (most of the current girls are 12 and the range for the boys is 11-17) are pretty resilient, even if they make mistakes or experience gear failure, and if they have a good time with their friends they’ll usually backpack again. Last May 4 girls in the troop went backpacking (10 mile round trip in Dolly Sods) with one of their moms along. Later this month we have 8 or 9 girls, including the four and the mom from last spring, plus three additional moms (and a group of boys and associated adults) scheduled for an overnight trip in a national forest. I’ve been struggling with knee arthritis (it stinks, but it runs in my family) so we’re planning at least two crews and two routes, one shorter and more flat along a creek and another with a much steeper hike down the mountain to the same camping area. All the new backpackers (Scout and adult) will be with me on the shorter flatter route. It’s a route my younger son did when he was 10 and the boys’ Scoutmaster’s son was 9, so I think even the most out-of-shape, overpacked youth or adult will survive – and hopefully come back, better-prepared, for more.Apr 12, 2023 at 2:04 pm #3778751Jon Fong / Flat Cat GearBPL Member
@jonfongLocale: FLAT CAT GEAR
Most of the people on this site have been backpacking for many miles. Yes, there is a learning curve, and we have all developed skills to make our trips to be safe, more comfortable, and enjoyable. We often forget what it was like being a new backpacker. On one of my first trips, I brought along a small folding wok, because my Sister-in-law gave it to me, and I wanted to take a picture of it out in the wild. One of my first purchases was the Peregrine tent from TNF because of the way it look way cool (over 7 pounds). All newbies go up a learning curve when they start out. You just need to plan trips that make it enjoyable with the ideal goal that they will want to go out again. My 2 cents.Apr 15, 2023 at 10:53 am #3778966
I think, personally for myself.. The hardest part about all of this is getting them to understand and practice “leave no trace”. Sometimes I even have to catch myself doing something so benign, so little.. But those are the things that add up. Its like grams = ounces and ounces = pounds.. I pride myself in leaving no trace and I prefer to have no one at all know I was ever there. I practice minimal impact and leave every area I pass thru better then it was before I came. Do I make mistakes? Its possible, but I intentionally try my best not too. I had to explain to them, this is one of my favorite spots to sleep and I visit here often, as do other people I’m sure, so lets leave it better then when we got here. For the most part they understood, though I know there were some snickers and sneers how I have turned to a tree hugger. But that’s ok, I was strict and stern about it.. But yeah, that’s a hard thing to do.. Especially from people who have no clue how important it is.
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