10 comments on “Kick the Old School

  1. We were in Hot Springs NC this past May vacationing, which is another big stop off for thru hikers. It was interesting meeting a few people who were hiking the trail. They seemed glad to find a shower hahaha JGR

    • Hot Springs was pretty much my favorite stop on the AT in 2007. Great outfitter, great food, great people. And yes… showers are definitely necessary for AT hikers when they stop in towns from time to time!

  2. This is perfect timing, ’cause I wanted to tell you (from your prior post about becoming a NOLS instructor, and being concerned about being expected to carry “old school” pack weights there): Dump the Old School! You ARE the New School, and that’s what folks want and need to hear, not only on your website, but within NOLS as well. “Your mission, should you decide to accept it…” 🙂

    • I’m very curious to see how NOLS has changed in the past seven years since I was there, but the weight of the equipment is only a small part of the overall picture. In general, I think NOLS is pretty cutting-edge in terms of thinking differently about wilderness. You’ll see when I get around to writing the individual pieces of this series.

  3. I don’t want to sound snobby but it is amazing at how many people get on the trail without knowing what they absolutely need or how to dress properly. I can’t tell you how many winter hikes I have been on to see people on the trail with cotton hoodies on as their insulating layer. This is a good series of posts and I look forward to reading them!

    • I think it’s all too easy to sound snobby when talking about hiking, so sometimes I shy away from it and sometimes I try to go for snobby in the extreme (when it suits me). Really popular hiking areas like Monadnock and Mt Washington make for painful people-watching experiences if you’re a seasoned hiker, so I hear you on that one. As they say, though, it’s all about education. I often see people dressed like they’re in a basketball game when climbing Monadnock, and while it looks funny, a lot of that is synthetic clothing so it’s not all bad. Cotton hoodies, though… silliness!

  4. It seems pretty clear that the 10 Essentials are meant to be a guideline, and not taken as literal gospel. That said, I have always carried some variation of them, wherever and whenever I go.

    As for the point about unprepared hikes, I hear ya. But it hasn’t changed any in all the years I’ve been hiking. On my first AT hike in 1979, I spent my first night with a guy who was burning all the excess gear and food he had. Luckily there was no Walasi-Yi to up sell him expensive gear. He made what he had work, and persevered to Katahdin. I was actually on Blood Mt. today, and met a similar young hiker. He was headed for Neels Gap, and intended to spend money. I doubt he’ll make the whole hike.

    I have always been a gear geek. Even in 1979. So I’ve always tried to keep my load light and efficient. I’ve tried the AT twice and failed to finish it. But I’ve proabably hiked several thousand miles over the years. The point? Everyone has a reason for going for a hike, but the AT draws people who want to join a tribe. Finishing is 100% about the mental attitude, and not about the equipment. The people who think they’re joining some kind of social experience, are the ones who drop like flies. The serious hikers, whether they come to the trail that way or become that way, are the ones who are more likely to finish. And they all carry some variation on the old school essentials :-).

    • Absolutely– equipment is a very small piece of the hike. Long backpacking trips like the AT are definitely a good case study for this, and for the mentality of hikers in general. Looking over that list of old-school essentials, I also carry almost all of those things in some form (I usually don’t carry two or three of them), but in a very different way than how it is described in the list. My first point (which I’ll post tomorrow morning) is in the fire starters category. I almost always carry a stove and the means to light it, but I never assume that I will be lighting anything other than my stove. The fact that it’s listed as “fire starter” rather than “camp stove” seems to me to imply that it’s for a campfire rather than a stove, which I think is… well, you’ll see.

Comments are closed.