The outdoors are for everyone. I truly believe this, even as I am bullied out of the parking lots of my favourite places by the beer-bellied owners of overlarge pickup trucks.
But as more and more people take to the trails, I’ve noticed some interesting trends developing. And by “interesting” I mean “I am questioning all of humanity right now; this experience is reorienting my worldview in a way I’m not entirely comfortable with”. In short, there is a disturbing lack of trail manners out there that has a lot of us clutching our backcountry pearls and muttering “wtf?” under our breath.
I’m not sure if the people following these trends are actively trying to make everyone around them want to poke their own eyes out with their hiking poles or if it’s just a side-effect of not knowing or caring that they are being truly obnoxious. Either way, I’ve decided to make a list of trail manners to avoid, to help build up the next generation of shitty outdoor people, or SOPs.
So, if you want to take your wilderness nuisance game to the next level, read on! Or if you want to avoid being a SOP and contribute to harmony among wilderness users, you might consider avoiding these behaviours. Just sayin…
1. Bring Your Crew
Whatever you do, do it with at least 20 other people! Is the trail wide enough for two people? Travel three across, just to make sure nobody can get past you in either direction. Fail to notice when somebody is trying to pass – they will probably really enjoy hiking with you instead of experiencing the solitude of nature. When you get to the top, spread your stuff out over the entire lookout, and shout at each other across it. Take lots of group photos. If you’re climbing, set up anchors on all the climbs at the crag, including ones you are saving for later. Leave a trail of destruction and an atmosphere of yesterday’s epic house party behind you wherever you go.
Those beer cans will decompose eventually, right? And they’re a real pain to carry out with you, never mind that you managed to carry them in. “Forgot” your old tarp with the hole in it at the campsite? No worries, the next campers will be happy to use it and then bring it home and dispose of it for you. The wildlife will love those empty bratwurst wrappers, once you’re safely out of sight. Let someone else deal with the bears.
Who doesn’t love Top 40, amirite?? You’re out here to get your burn on (or your par-TAY going), and you need TUNES but you absolutely do NOT need earbuds. You may have heard that some people go into nature to get away from things like noise pollution or the frenetic pace of daily life. False. They do it to rock out to your sweet mix.
4. Get Agro
Do you have an anger problem? The wilderness is the perfect place to take it out on other people. Ease your mind by yelling threats at people in the parking lot who might be inclined to take YOUR spot. Brush past people who are moving more slowly than you and make it clear by the heaviness of your breathing and total lack of acknowledgement that you don’t have time for them or their pathetic attempts at “hiking”. When you get home from a day at the crag, post a lengthy rant on your local Facebook climbing group about the assholes who chalked up the routes. Really dig in. Mountains feed on anger. They need you.
5. Pretend that Multi-Use Trail is Single-Use
It’s like those mountain bikers expect you to move to the side of the trail to let them pass. You’re hiking – they can go at your pace, dammit. Step wide, right in front of them – let them worry about braking. Or maybe you’re going for a trail run? In that case, damn those hikers, thinking they can just walk along a trail where people obviously want to run. When you run by, get nice and close so they know they’re being a nuisance. A little bit of elbow goes a long way.
You have marshmallows to roast! And hot dog wieners! And while you’re at it, go ahead and light that cigarette – flick it right out that car window or tent flap. Only someone else can prevent forest fires.
7. Become a Saviour of the True Wilderness Experience
Has a piece of garbage fallen unnoticed from the pack of a hiker further down the trail? Don’t stop at picking it up. Return it to them, accompanied with a lecture about Leave No Trace principals. Make it clear they are ruining our wild places. Embrace purism. Judge anyone whose gear was purchased after 1995. Is that a woman on that climbing route? Closely examine her placements, as she’s probably made a mistake that she needs you to correct. Extol the virtues of “back in the day”, whenever you believe “the day” to have been. Cast sideways glances at sport climbers. Preach the superiority of hammocks over tents. Make everything out of webbing.