What Kind of Backpacker Are You?
You are definitely one of these 6 types (even if you aren't a backpacker)
I just got home from a backpacking trip to the Sawtooth Mountains in Idaho with my old college buddies. The trip included immense craggly peaks, icy cold lakes, a bit of wildfire smoke in the air, and a giant thunderstorm that chased us all the way back to our van. It was great.
One thing I’ve noticed on the trail is that backpackers fall into distinct categories. Archetypes, if you will. Here are the types I’ve documented so far:
The Corporate Adventurist
The Corporate Adventurist sacrifices a third of their salary on REI’s altar every year. Their gear is fairly new (funded by that cushy day job), and they’re easy to spot because at least one article of their clothing has a Patagonia logo on it.
The Corporate Adventurist has totally been to that place you’ve heard about. A couple times, actually. Their Instagram is crammed with pics of places like that place you’ve heard about, but they don’t share locations anymore. Too many Unworthy Amateurs started showing up at their favorite hidden gems.
You shouldn’t bother trying to make weekend plans with a Corporate Adventurist. Why would they go on your stupid dinner date to Applebees when they’ve got permits for the Grand Canyon?
You can always spot a masochist because they look like beef jerky and hike like a sled dog. The Masochist’s typical itinerary involves daily mileage in the double digits. 20 miles? Standard. 50 miles? Hell yeah bro.
Why meander when you could be setting a Fastest Known Time? You don’t buy $150 trail runners just to amble through the woods.
The masochist would like to do that extra side hike (or two). The masochist thinks type 2 fun is the only fun. The masochist will wake you up at 4 am so “we can make the peak before the hail storm hits.”
The main benefit of traveling with The Masochist is that you will see more things because you will hike more miles.
The Old Timer
The Old Timer is carrying a hatchet, a cast iron frying pan, a mess kit, a fishing pole, a saw, something that could be described as a bedroll, and a hundred other things that no one else would carry anymore.
All of that stuff is packed in, strapped to, or dangling from an aluminum external frame pack that weighs nearly 300 lbs (though The Old Timer has never weighed their pack).
The Old Timer loves walking sticks, shuns trekking poles. Carries a pocket knife and actually whittles something with it.
Old Timers don’t do freeze dried backpacker meals because they have a delicious rainbow trout they just caught and gutted and dressed with lemons and herbs that appeared from some hidden side pocket.
Drag-alongs are the backpackers who don’t want to be backpacking. To identify them, listen for phrases like “what if we just rent a cabin next year?” Or, “I hear Palm Springs is nice.“
They are on this stupid trip because of friendship, camaraderie, and peer pressure. They bought the cheapest gear they could find because they are never doing this again.
Though they may be prone to complaining about little things like bears and frostbite, Drag-alongs deserve respect for putting up with their friends’ completely irrational desire to lug heavy packs through the mountains in the rain.
The Naturalist would be The Hippy if they were older (but they aren’t). The Naturalist has an eclectic gear collection (nicer if their parents are rich) and their food selection is vegetable based.
Naturalists congregate in ski towns and beach towns, and when you meet them you’ll wonder if they live out of that backpack full time.
The Naturalist will most certainly be getting naked in the hot spring. And the lake. And every other body of water. The Naturalist might have dreadlocks. The Naturalist definitely has drugs.
The Gear Guy
The Gear Guy would like to show you their brand new Garmin UltraSat 9.0 Tracker Watch ($15,499). It comes with a satellite that tracks them from space and watches them sleep.
The Gear Guy has an experimental tent that weighs 3 oz. Their pack employs some type of anti-gravity technology. They are trying not to make comments about how old your crappy gear is and they are not always succeeding. They are suggesting you get this new graphene buck knife that costs $489 because dude it could cut a bear in half but it weighs less than an ant.
Closely related sub-type: The Ultralighter (a Gear Guy who’s entirely obsessed with the weight of every item on their person)
And that about wraps things up! Recognize yourself in some of these backpacker types? Leave a comment and tell me who you are!
This is my primary type.
I am the day-tripper. I never hike anywhere you can get back to your hotel or AirBnB for the night. As my wife explains this strategy: "Why sleep on the ground when there is a perfectly good bed nearby? A shower, and you don't have to poop in the woods."