Pre-Trip Strategies for Wilderness Trip Risk Management

There’s always a lot of excitement and energy as your group hops out of the van at the trailhead. Chatting with your driver, usually your supervisor, you button up last minute details, and then you’re off.

Wait a minute! Before you hit that dusty trail here’s a few tips to make sure your group is prepared.

Starting a new journey is always exciting.

Starting a new journey is always exciting.

Remember, these tips should be paired with pre-trip planning and training of participants which should be much more in-depth.

Weather contingencies

Make sure your group is aware of things like the lightning position.

On the same note, hopefully you’ve already taught the “ABC’s” of backpacking, but make sure your group has appropriate clothing accessible. At least rain gear in an outside pocket (if it’s summer time).

Lost hiker protocol

How will the group respond in case of a lost hiker among your group? Make sure before you hit the trail that everyone in your group understands what to do if they become separated from the group.

I usually suggest the “hug a tree” policy whereby any lost hikers from my group immediately sit next to the nearest tree the moment they realize they are lost.

People often try to find their way back only to become more lost and make the situation worse.

Trail ETIQUETTE

It’s incredibly important to maintain good relations with other back country travelers when leading groups. Often you, or your employers, special use permits depend on keeping good standing with the land managing agency and if they get negative reports of your groups use, you’ll lose those permits.

  • For large groups always yield to smaller groups by standing to the side of the trail.
  • Always yield to horses by stepping to the downhill side. This is for the safety of the horse and rider in case the horse spooks.
  • When stopping for a water break or rest break, always move your group off the trail to allow passage of other users. Nothing is more unprofessional looking than a group of a dozen people clogging up the trail.

From a risk management persepective the most important tip to remember here is about horses. Always remember to step to the downhill side when yielding and keep a low voice as you greet the rider from a distance. If the horse spooks near you or your group it’s best for it to shy away toward the uphill slope where it’s less likely to hurt its self or the rider.

Communication

Make it clear that no one leaves the group without informing you. No matter the reason every hiker in your group must let you, the leader, know when they’re leaving.

Even for quick facili-tree breaks (bathroom); you are responsible for the group and must know where they are at all times. You don’t have to follow them to the bathroom but you must be aware that they have left.

pace setting

Consider using yourself and your co-leader (you MUST have a co-leader, never walk into the woods without a co-leader) as the lead and sweep hikers for the first half day.

This is important because you can set a good example for the group by playing trail games, setting appropriate pace, checking in with the group, monitoring rest breaks, etc.

You’ll want to let your group rotate into the roles of lead and sweep hiker as the trip progresses but it’s important to model good lead hiking so they have a tangible example to replicate.

Setting an appropriate pace is very important for group dynamics, mental health, and physical health on trail.

Often times hikers will struggle to keep up with a strong lead hiker but won’t say anything. Eventually you’ll realize it’s becoming a problem when you have an asthmatic episode from a hiker in your group who pushed themselves too hard to keep up.

Be proactive with pace setting, ask your group often “Would anyone like me to slow down?”

Eventually the group will learn to ask eachother and often they’ll ask you to slow down for someone else in the group they can tell is struggling but unwilling to speak up.

Encourage a safe environment for this, you’ll be glad you did.

 

What tips do you have for pre-hike risk management at the trailhead?
Leave me a comment!
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One Fatal Mistake of Team Leaders and Managers

Hey there, fans and followers. After a long hiatus, I am back on the scene.

Let’s get right down to it: here’s one of the biggest mistakes I’ve seen managers and team leaders make over the years.

Not taking advantage of a team member’s passion and skills.

I know, it seems so obvious. And you might be saying “who is this kid to be telling me what mistakes my managers are making (or me)”?

Well you’d be right to question me up until recently: I’ve spent the last few summers running or managing (both maybe?) wilderness and adventure based trips programs.

Sure some of you have more years in the saddle than me but, as Frank Turner would say, “I’m the one who’s got the microphone here, so just remember this”.

Time and again I go into seasonal work and, either as an employee, or as a team leader I find that potential is lost because people in positions of leadership do not take the time to ask what their team is good at and passionate about.

Don’t just assume that you know everything about your employees.

Let’s use me as an example:

Just because I got on-boarded as a backpacking instructor doesn’t mean that I don’t have other skills. So many trip leading organizations are micro companies, often desperate for tangible skills.

I’ve been recruited to fix networking and WordPress issues for a company that hired and employed me as a Wilderness Programs Supervisor.

I’ve done mechanical work for nature education programs while technically working as a naturalist.

When you take the time to get to know your team (and I mean really know them) you’ll be better able to bring their skills and passions to bear in helpful ways.

So many times I have been asked by an employer to do X task when really my skills and passions are much more aligned with Y task. And there are many times when, no matter your job title, you have to put on whatever hat your employer asks of you and get the job done.

But I’m not talking about that. Let’s say you’re developing summer curriculum with a team of a dozen people. Find out what they’re all knowledgeable and passionate about and help guide them in ways to bring those skills in line with your program so that both your employee and you can benefit.

Got someone with wild edible plant creds and passion? No wild edible plants class in your lesson book? Well then sit down with them and build a new class for them to teach!

The level of investment from your instructors and return from your students will go through the roof when you empower your leaders to teach skills and information that’s already waiting to burst out of them!

I think you’ll be amazed the next time you’re leading a team and you take the time to truly get to know them. Find ways to let their passions merge with their position in your team or company.

Don’t forget; this works wonders when you’re leading trips on trail, too. Get to know your students and give them opportunities to merge their passions with your course so that their impact on the trip and other students (and yourself) can be exponentially magnified.

You’ll be happy you took the time.

 

If you’re still with me after my hiatus and still reading, PLEASE leave a comment. I really want to get to know those of you I’ve been able to help and to bring you better content personally.

Happy Trails, friends.

Exploring Outdoor Education as a Career

Hi Casey,
I’m a junior in high school living in the suburbs of Philly. I’ve done a lot of hiking and tent camping, some skiing and trail riding and a little rock climbing, backpacking, kayaking, and whitewater rafting. Not a ton of outdoor experience but I would love more. I found your article on whether it was necessary to have an Outdoor Education degree. I’m interested in an outdoor career and was wondering if you could answer some questions for me or direct me to someone or someplace who could
Is a love for the outdoors enough for an outdoor career or is there more to this type of work?
The question I get asked most when sharing what I want to do with my life is Is there any money in that. I’m not planning on owning a Lamborghini but is this a financially stable path? Could I raise a family with this type of work?
Is it wise or even worth it to get a degree or minor in adventure/outdoor education? For example I am currently considering and English major and adventure ed minor would that be a good plan?
Besides guiding, instructing, outfitting, and camps are there other jobs under this umbrella and if so what are they?
Any other information you would like to share would be greatly appreciated!

 

Let me start by saying thank you to Bethany who sent me this! I should also apologize to her for the original email being lost somehow.

Alas, now I have an opportunity to answer this great question, so here it goes. I’m posting it here so the rest of you can benefit from some of the answers. Hopefully it will be helpful to everyone.


 

Question 1:

Is a love for the outdoors enough for an outdoor career or is there more to this type of work?

Answer:

Since you mentioned rock climbing, skiing, hiking, backpacking, and paddle sports in your question I assume that your question is about becoming an instructor or guide. This field of work is known as adventure education, outdoor education, experiential education, or environmental education depending on exactly what outdoor pursuits you are involved with and what outcomes your program intends for its participants.

Let me mention, at the same time, that it is completely feasible to do something like environemntal sciences or conservation sciences and also have an “outdoor career”. These more academic based fields of study have potentially higher payrates but will require a lot more education up front and, potentially, a lot more lab-based work and number crunching.

There are a couple ways one could approach this:

No Degree (Experiential):

It’s possible to jump straight into leading summer camp activities without any degree or any real experience in the field. It might also be possible to start some environmental education with nothing more than some FFA experience from high school or an environemntal studies class.

Furthermore, it’s probably feasible to suggest that there are possible opportunities out there for leading adventure sports without any degree. If you’re a highly expereinced paddler, for instance, you could go through Nantahala Outdoor Center’s (NOC) river guide program. If I remember right, it’s a week or two long, costs a couple hundred bucks, and virtually guarantees you a summer of river guiding.

Doing it this way is completely possible but you’ll run into road blocks when you begin trying to move up into administrative and directorial positions in outdoor and adventure education. Many positions require at least a Bachelor’s degree in order to move past field based positions (and higher in the pay scale). Fortunately many positions also allow for a clause which permits “equivalent experience”.

If you envision yourself in a directorial position for an outdoor program or want to move past minor supervisory roles, it may be necessary to obtain a related graduate degree.

Degree:

The alternative approach would be to go get your schooling. Green Mountain College, Central Wyoming College, and Prescott College are some of the many schools now offering outdoor education or adventure education under grad or graduate level programs.

When I went through school there were only 4 schools offering outdoor education specific degrees (that I could find). Now there are many! Almost every state has at least one school offering an outdoor education degree.

Prescott is the only school I am aware of offering Master’s level courses in outdoor and adventure education.

At the same time, however, it is very common and almost as effective, to get a degree in a related field such as tourism, eco tourism, parks and recreation, etc.

These more common outdoor oriented programs are usually easier to find close to home and allow you to get in state tuition for a graduate degree which will be effective in leveraging higher paid positions in the outdoor career world.

My two cents:

My suggestion?

I’d advise people to get their WFR certification. It’s ~$800 but will make you an invaluable candidate in job applications.

If you have good experience in a particular outdoor skill (called an outdoor pursuit) it’s pretty likely you’ll be able to get a job as an assistant instructor or guide once you have that WFR certification. Just make sure you document your climbing trips, paddling trips, and backpacking trips. It’s essential to include them in your resume.

If you lack experience, then get a job as a summer camp counselor. Often you can be an assistant or lead facilitator of a certain activity in which you have some experience. For instance, my first summer in the field I became a lead rock wall and dynamic high ropes facilitator. I had almost no prior experience.

If you want (or your parents are bugging you to get) a degree and you’re not 100% sure that you want to commit to a nich field such as adventure education (that degree is not super transerfable) then I’d suggest something more robust such as tourism or parks and recreation for your graduate degree.

A degree like that is much more versatile and will allow you to secure jobs ranging from backpacking guide ($) all the way to park director for the National Forst Service ($$$$).

Whichever path you choose, you will need lots of documented experience in your chosen outdoor pursuit if you want to become a guide. Get after it!


Question 2:

Is this field of work financially stable? Could I raise a family with this type of work?

Answer:

Intially I would not expect your jobs to be stable. Personally? I have to move from coast to coast about every 5-6 months in order to keep employed. Almost all guiding work is seasonal.

It is possible to find positions which roll into year-round employment.

If a stable and steady income is a necessity (or priority) for you then you’ll need to take that into account.

Shooting for a supervisory or administrative role of some kind would probably be the best and most stable source of significant income while remaining active in the field. Many larger outdoor organizations (such as NOLS, AMC, and the ATC among many) employ marketers, directors, logistical coordinators, rations managers, customer service reps, etc.

You could also consider a career with a large outdoor retailer such as REI (though I can’t imagine seeing myself cooped up in an REI my whole life).

Once you’re in with NOLS as an instructor they more or less give you a calendar and let you declare what stretches of the year you want to work. I personally know several NOLS instructors who lead one or two trips a year for a few weeks to a month and then work relatively “normal” jobs the rest of the year. They just work their schedule around it.

In skiing, for example, most resorts now operate year round. They offer biking and hiking in the summer and skiing in the winters. Here at Deer Valley where I work, many instructors stay for the summer and work children’s summer camps or something similar. Alternately many younger instructors will ski the winter in the northern hemisphere and then flip to South America or New Zealand / Australia and teach skiing there during our summer.

Some outdoor pursuits work better together than others. For example, it may be difficult to stay in one place if your goal is to lead skiing and canyoneering. They generally don’t happen in the same places.

Now that I’ve word vommited all over the last few paragraphs I’ll remind you that superviosry positions (directors, assistant directors, wilderness programs supervisors, etc) tend to have a higher chance of year round employment or full time benefits. You’re going to trade the higher pay for more time in the office, however.

One thing that I constantly thank myself for is staying out of debt. I went to school on a scholarship, worked since I was 16, worked all through school, and have never once carried a debt. In this field, where pay tends to be low, sporadic, and seasonal, having debt hanging over your head is almost impossible to manage.

The off seasons when there’s no work (April – June and October – December) are almost impossible to make it through when you’ve got debt payments looming. Do everything you can to stay clear of debt! It’ll give you the flexibility to survive as you initially navigate this odd field of work.

Whether or not you can raise a family, I think, depends very heavily on what type of lifestyle you envision. In the field, actually guiding, you’ll be hard pressed to make more than $30,000 a year, even with good experience and education.

In a supervisory role, you could easily get into the $50,000 a year range and I’ve seen salaries approaching $100,000 for directors of large environemental education organizations.

You’re going to have to be realistic about how soon you intend to start a family and what income you will need when you do so.

It is 100% completely possible to support a familty with this work. You’re just going to have to plan ahead. Don’t start a family on your first season’s wage as a river guide. It won’t work.


 

Question 3:

Is it wise to get an outdoor education degree?

Answer:

Let me answer Bethany’s specific question first. English degrees don’t tend to have huge salary ranges nor does outdoor education. Outdoor education as a minor would be great but, personally, I’d pair it with something like recreation management or environemntal science. That would be a killer one-two punch for jobs from Park Ranger to backpacking guide, all the way out to conservation sciences and research.

Of course, if English is a huge passion then go for it! In my opinion, however, there are better majors to take if you’re looking for a “fall back plan”. Something like finance or business is absurdly useful and marketable to a massive range of employers and it gives you a fallback that can achieve huge salaries compared to outdoor education in the case that you ever need it.

If your plan is outdoor oriented, I’d really recommend a more outdoor focused major/minor combination.

Now, on to the more general… if your plan involves guiding or teaching outdoor or adventure education then a degree in the field is definitely worth your time when it comes to getting a job. I covered a lot earlier so I won’t go into detail but keep this in mind:

Outdoor and adventure education does not pay huge. You’ll be lucky to hit $35,000 within your first 5 years (that’s crazy low compared to most professions).

If you asked me, “should I pay $60,000 in student loans to get a bachelor’s in outdoor education?”

I’d tell you, “hell no!”

Keep your educational expenses stupid low or you’ll stuggle getting started when you leave shool. That kinda applies across the board though, so tell your friends I said so.

Get in state tuition, work through college, get scholarships, but whatever you do please don’t take out loans!

What did I do?

I got an academic full ride in state and took all my transferable general education credits and then transferred into an undergraduate program in Wyoming with NOLS at Central Wyoming College. It only took me two semesters to finish my focused degree since all my general eds were taken care of and the school I attended was absurdly cheap. I also worked every night to make some money.

I don’t regret any part of that educational approach a sit kept my expenses low and allowed my to very effectively enter the market. I have now moved into supervisory roles and am considering returning to school for a graduate program.

That approach worked great for me.


 

Question 4:

What jobs fall under this general umbrella of outdoor and adventure education?

Outdoor Education encompasses both Adventure Education and Environmental Education.

Adventure Education covers most guiding positions. Backpacking guide, rock climbing guide, river guide, wilderness therapy, ski instructor, etc.

Environmental Education covers most natural history and inertpretive positions. Naturalists, nature interpreters, historical interpreters, conservation education, park rangers, etc. These positions would be found with the DNR, BLM, nature centers, non profits, etc.

There are jobs galore in these fields! You can find office positions ranging from accounting and marketing for outdoor organziations. To jobs focused more on criminal justice like some park ranger positions. To environmental and conservation education such as LNT master educators and interpretive naturalists at nature centers. To behavioral and correctional type positions such as wilderness therapy which may require pertinent training and education.

SCUBA diving, sky diving, youth trips, international travel, historical tours, sea kayaking, mountaineering, base camp chefs, wilderness medical staff for expeditions….

I could probably spew out potential positions for hours.


Final words:

Working in outdoor education needs to be a passion. You’ll never make it if you’re not truly passionate. The pay is low, the jobs are difficult to get started in, and moving seasonally is a very real possibility.

However, if it’s something you truly want to pursue you will never work a single day in your life.

I wake up every day and put on my ski boots and click in to my skis for a ride up the mountain. It’s my office. It’s  

Photo

Welcome to my office.

 

 one of the greatest jobs in the world. They pay me to play, they pay me to do things I’d be happily doing anyways.

Can you make enough money to support a family reliably? Yes.

Can you find stable employment in this field? Yes.

You’re going to have to work for it, though. You’re going to have to plan a bit up front and figure out where the job market is.

There are some states, and many many areas in most states, where outdoor education simply isn’t a vialble career. It’s not like being  a banker, where every city has five banks you could apply at.

Get in touch if you need helping narrowing down a degree choice or a location to start working.

When I first started in the field I had to (and still do) just go where the jobs are. Which means moving every 5 months as you begin this career.

Get used to living out of your car and having some the longest road trips and greatest jobs of your life.

Do What You Love

How do I choose my Career Path?

When I was a kid I always heard “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life”.

Do what makes you happy!

It’s really true! I don’t make much money, but I have some of the best jobs in the world. I get paid to play, stay in shape, challenge myself, and teach others about the wonderful challenges and experiences waiting in the world.

When I was a senior, graduating high school, I was faced with the decision of what to do with my life. What job to get. What school to attend. What degree to seek.

I knew I didn’t want to go work in a cubicle all my life. I narrowed down my options to a degree in Forestry from a major technical university. They wanted $21,000 per semester.

Then, before finalizing that commitment, I got a letter stating that I’d been accepted to a community college on an academic full ride. Financially it was an easy decision.

Some time very shortly thereafter I was watching Survivorman and realized, “Hey, they pay this guy to hang out in the wild, film himself, and practice survival. I could do that, too.”

That solidified my decision. I enrolled at the community college and took my gen eds. While taking care of my education, I researched how to become more like Survivorman.

That was the very first time I’d ever heard of Outdoor Education. I learned there was a popular school called NOLS and they had education degrees with a few colleges.

Two years later I was living in Riverton, Wyoming. I got my degree in Outdoor Education and Leadership from Central Wyoming College partnered with NOLS.

While I love my profession and all the jobs I’ve had, there have been many forks in the road recently trying to pull me away.

I love motorcycles and would like to spend more time making and repairing them. I thoroughly enjoy computer programming and have been doing it on and off since I was only twelve. I really enjoy economics and finance and would enjoy going back to school for that or, perhaps, business.

It comes back to: What really makes me happy?

I am often torn between dreams and aspirations. I love spending the winters as a ski instructor and traveling for the summers working at various adventure education establishments. The problem is: I really want to pursue many other things!

What I’ve done many times at large turning points in my life is ask myself this:

What would make you the happiest?

A year from now would I be as happy as I could be if I come back to ski?

Would I be happier finding somewhere I could work part time adventure education and part time mechanical?

Even simple decisions can be answered this way:

Would I be happier going home, saving my money, and reading a good book while eating home made dinner. Or, would I be happier if I gave in to a request to go out drinking for the evening where I would be less than productive, spend a lot of money and, sometimes, regret it in the morning?

Usually I stay home (not to say that I don’t really enjoy going out with friends on occasions!).

I’m not much of an advice guru, but this is something that has helped me many times.

Maybe you’re considering leaving your day job and becoming a rafting guide. Answer this question:

What will make me the happiest?

Five Things I’ve Learned About Ultralight Lifestyle

Over the last month or so I’ve made some huge progress toward adopting ultralight philosophy into every aspect of my life.

Here in the front country it’s not all about weight. Some of what I’ve worked toward has been lessening my financial expenditure (having an ultralight expense ratio).

Taking care of my body with the same care I would show to a cuben fiber shelter. Treating myself like the high-performance piece of gear that I am. Metaphorically speaking…

Here are a few things I’ve learned:

1. I enjoy the extra time! Selling my desktop computer and having my laptop die within the same two weeks opened up huge amounts of time. I sit here typing this blog post on my iPad Mini 2, the same device upon which I earlier was reading an in depth account of the causes of the Great Recession.

Ultralight in the front country means having an ultralight load on your time demands. It doesn’t mean doing nothing but, rather, finding what is exactly worth taxing your valuable time and doing only those things.

2. I’ve been able to reconnect. Getting rid of FaceBook meant reestablishing deliberate and thoughtful correspondence with intentional people. Even before deleting FaceBook, as I reached out to people to get contact info, it was nice to be intentionally communicating with some lost friends, rather than just commenting on their statuses.

Now, when I have something worth sharing, I send it straight to those to whom it matters. It feels much more clean and appropriate.

I’ve also been able to reconnect to things which matter to me. I’ve had more time to choose what to do with and I’ve filled it with things I enjoy. Walking to the library and perusing the shelves, reading books of topics as wide as motorcycle repairs to personal finance.

3. I feel more focused. Having less distractions on my schedule and around me physically leaves more room for me to focus on things that are truly important.

My to-do list today is about 12 items long and arranged on the Reminders app of my iPad (I’ve tried a few other apps but none seem to offer me any real value). I have the to-do list scheduled out so that i can get as much done as possible on one of my few days off.

4. There is little pressure. I have more time so I can go to bed a bit earlier, wake up a bit earlier.

I can shave each morning and enjoy the simplicity of a fresh shave with a clean razor (I’ve recently started shaving my head regularly). My drive to work is lazy, I never exceed the speed limit and watch as other cars shove part me to make it to their cubicle on time. Walking in to work I take it slow, enjoy the cold mountain air on my head and in my lungs.

With few financial pressures and absolutely no debt, it’s pretty easy to manage money. I work a job I love, make a very meager income, but still have more saved and disposable than most people I know. Of course, my “disposable” income I also save and will be happily investing while others are out buying 30’s of PBR.

Having ultralight finances and schedules means more time to enjoy the day. Just as we all love having a little more time to enjoy the morning on the trail with a hot drink in hand. Having a lighter, simpler pack, means more enjoyment of the trail. It’s no different in the front country.

5. I have room to make changes. From better time management and productivity, to exercise habits and long desired travel. With ultralight finances and schedule it’s so much more simple to find room for things I’ve always wanted to focus on.

Since I was a kid I loved video games and I still do. It’s a habit that’s stuck with me since I got addicted to the first Poke’mon game. More and more, however, in the past years I’ve begun to realize I’m wasting time. Finally, a month ago, I sold my very expensive gaming computer (along with a huge library of expensive games).

Why did I sell it? Not because there was something wrong with it. No, the computer was fine, and I took a huge loss financially on my investment.

I had been arguing with myself for ages to keep it because I’ve already spent so much on it. The other part of my brain, however, knew that playing games was slowly draining my potential.

Finally I just pulled myself up by the bootstraps and made the change I knew I really wanted to see. I wanted to move forward with my life more than I wanted to level up characters.

I wanted a positive direction for myself so much that I was willing to loose somewhere in the ballpark of a grand to get rid of a perfectly fine computer.

I’m glad I did.

Continue reading

Continuing the Ultralight Lifestyle

It’s been roughly a month since I’ve taken my disjointed passion for ultralight backpacking and brought it together with my interest in the concept of “minimalism”.

I’ve bought into the idea that minimalism is, roughly, defined as “removing all unnecessary clutter from ones life”.

This has lead me to get rid of two pair of skis, an old pair of AT ski boots, helmet, extra set of bindings, desktop computer, and laptop (well, almost).

I have shoved a great deal of my clothing into a box, leaving only enough for exercise and evening relaxation. Exactly one pair of jeans and two t shirts for every day life. To be fair, I spend the vast majority of my days in a ski instructor’s uniform.

My early 2008 MacBook Pro died a month ago and I was planning to trade in in with Apple’s recycle program. They were to offer me $0 for it and, considering my tendency to tinker, I decided to try to fix it. $6 later (for thermal compound) and a two evenings of work (one to tear it apart, one to reassemble) and I have a perfectly functional MacBook Pro again.

Turns out the solution was to bake the motherboard in the oven @375º for 7:30 minutes.

Anyways, with very few exception, I’ve spent the last month selling a lot of shit and accumulating as little as possible.

I’m moving back to a simpler way of doing things.

I’ve started waking up earlier to shave (head and face) with gel and a razor. It has become one of my favorite parts of my day.

I have more time in the evening to organize. Set up to-do lists, reminders, get in contact with people, and organize work and professional items.

I’ve been able to start playing footbag more often again, one of my on-and-off hobbies over the years.

I’m really looking forward to getting rid of my iPhone in May and going back to a basic talk and text phone. I love the simplicity and freedom I’m finding in every day life without being plugged in.

I’m able to save a huge percent of my income (expecting to save well over 50% this month) thanks to reduced consumption and increased awareness of my own personal finance.

I rode the bus in to work the other day (something I don’t do often because it’s absurdly logistically challenging) and it afforded me an nice hands off morning to listen to Dave Ramsey’s podcasts on finances.

Much like in the wilderness, excess items slow you down. They take up space in your pack. It takes longer to find the things you really need (rain gear) when you have to sort through three dry-bags of camera equipment and charging cables.

In the front country we don’t notice them. Even those of us accustomed to going with less while hiking often don’t realize how much stuff we have.

I have never been a chronic shopper, I have never held a cent of debt, I travel often so it prevents me from accumulating much.

Even so, after really focusing on fusing ultralight with minimalism… well, I’m curious to see how far this can go!

Going Facebook Ultralight

Well, after some planning and experimentation I’ve officially deactivated Facebook.

That’s right, Facebook, I don’t need you.

I found out the following in the process:

I really want people to know how cool I am by putting up pictures. No, seriously, it took me a while to admit this to myself. It’s really cool though because now I can purposely take photos of certain things and send them to people I think will appreciate them. Instead of just posting them on Facebook to get likes, I can share meaningful content with people I enjoy.

I used Facebook as a status symbol often. It’s painful to say it, but most often my Facebook posts would be sharing something badass I’ve done. There have been a few times in the last week where I’ve wanted to write up a status and realized I have no Facebook. It’s actually been really liberating. No one knows where I am or what I’m doing, I’m just doing it for myself. No one else.

• I can do anything at any time I want and no one cares. At first this thought seems kind of depressing. I go skiing on my days off and appreciate the beauty of the day. Mostly I just enjoy it myself and work on my personal skiing. If something is particularly worth noting or sharing, I’ll send a photo to a friend via message or call them.

• It’s actually taken a huge weight off my shoulders. I spend most of my time away from my childhood friends and family. Up until now most of them watched my doings from Facebook. Now, if I do or accomplish something particularly noteworthy I might tell those of them who are closest. Everyone else has no clue what I’m doing with my life. I like it.

• Facebook won’t actually let you export your contacts in any useful way. Before I deactivated, I downloaded a full copy of everything that’s ever happened on my Facebook (including contacts). That file lives on Dropbox, out of sight. Before leaving, I posted several statuses announcing my decision and imploring friends to send me their phone numbers and emails if they wanted to stay in touch. Some in particular I reached out to. Now I have a contacts list that is very deliberate and refreshingly clutter free.

I am really looking forward to moving toward replacing my iPhone with a basic QWERTY style slide out phone (always have been my favorite). I am rather reserved with my use of the iPhone compared to some but even so I find myself all too often seeing the world from the other side of an iPhone screen.

Getting rid of Facebook was an awesome first step I would encourage anyone to take.