Whether it’s on the first ascent of an isolated mountain or on a chill car camping excursion for the weekend, the people around you can make or break a trip. You can’t change much about the core personalities of you or your friends, but there are a few things you can all agree to smooth out the wrinkles of any trip.
Those with formal outdoor education (I’m looking at you, PRT Department and NOLS) have probably seen these tips before, but for us casual campers, here are the tricks to have a more relaxed outing with friends:
1. Help out
Contribute to the tasks that need to be accomplished. Pitch in ideas planning, help a driver navigate, build the fire, cook, clean up, set up the tent, etc. Everyone appreciates each other and things go smoothly when people help out.
2. Pick people with similar ability levels and goals
Scrambling up Class 4 mountains might be a typical day for some hikers while those behind them are texting their families their final wishes. Varying abilities can add some flavor to a trip, it’s true, but being on par in fitness/adventure level helps everyone get the most out of the trip.
3. Communicate openly about everyone’s comfort levels and what they want to accomplish
It’s alright if someone is new to what you’re doing. The adventure of trying something new is part of the fun. Make sure everyone is in the same boat and in the know regarding the goals of the trip and how the weak link(s) will be supported. If one person wants to ice climb and another wants to just sleep in a cabin but neither bring it up, there will likely be problems.
4. Let everyone know if you have something that might hold you back like an injury, fear, etc.
On a similar note, if you have something that could prevent the group from accomplishing the goal of the trip, let everyone know so it can be accommodated and prepared for as early as possible. If you have some irrational fear of tent stakes, for example, that might be good to share.
5. Don’t complain about the weather, or other obvious situations
This isn’t original, but I like it. When it’s raining or the drive is really long, it’s no secret to the rest. There’s no reason to be a downer and complain about it. Just embrace it, it’s part of the fun. Talk about something else. Complaining isn’t fun, man.
6. Don’t forget your gear, and if you do, keep it to yourself
There’s no reason to stress other people out about gear that you lost or forgot if you don’t have to tell them. It’s best to avoid making yourself look silly and unprepared if it’s something simple like forgotten toothpaste.
7. Be in shape
Being the slowest in the group isn’t fun for you or anyone else. Know your physical abilities and set expectations to meet them. Don’t be that person repeating, “Man, I’m out of shape” along the trail.
8. Enjoy yourself and try to maintain some sense of optimism and happiness
When things go south, it’s OK to be stressed and bring problems up to the group. If everyone keeps their heads up with a positive attitude, it goes a long way to keep the group motivated together working toward your end goal.
9. Play nice
In the outdoor community, most of us are pretty decent people connected by our common love of the outdoors. When you are on a week-long river trip, you can’t really escape anyone you get in a tiff with. Address issues as they come, but don’t ruin everyone’s trip by being a rude know-it-all. If you get frustrated, take a breath of the fresh air and realize where you are.
Photo by Chris Hammock