As I read through all the past articles I’ve written, I realized that my suggestions have always been a list of Do’s: go here, use this gear, try doing this. I’ve never written about what not to do so the very simple premise of this article is a “Do Not List” for the outdoors.
-Do not leave for a hike that is longer than 1 mile with less than 1 quart of water per person. When backpacking, be sure to note any and all water sources on your route and ensure that you have enough water in case something goes wrong. I have been on the wrong end of that several times, and it has never been a warm fuzzy memory. One time in particular, the group I was with was so desperate that it strained water out of mud puddles, filtered it, and drank it. For when you don’t want to lug gallons and gallons of water, a filter is a must have item.
-Do not throw a propane tank into a bonfire. I know this one seems obvious, but a good friend of mine once witnessed this at a state park in the dead of winter. A group in the next campsite had a roaring fire to say the least, throwing pallet after pallet of wood on the fire. Now, this isn’t known for certain, but I think it’s a safe assumption that adult beverages were being consumed. Suddenly, someone yelled, “No you idiot!! Not the propa-“ and suddenly a flash of light went up like miniature sun, lighting up the entire woods. So, when you need a little extra warmth during your winter camping trip, throw a Dura log on the fire.
-Do not skimp and buy cheap toilet paper for your trips. This is pretty self-explanatory.
-Do not think that because it’s cloudy while you’re kayaking that you won’t turn crispy from the sun. Lather up in sunblock and wear that big floppy hat that you think makes you look like a dork. All kayakers wear them or at least respect them, so there’s no reason to be ashamed.
-Do not waste cool stickers. These are sacred, hallowed objects and must be used with the same grace and elegance that Da Vinci used in his brushstrokes. Some people will layer stickers like coats of paint, only allowing small pieces to poke through to be seen. I belong to the latter school, where each sticker is treated as equally important, and at no point does one sticker overlap with another. Nalgenes and rear windshields are the most common targets for sticker love, but true art lies in adorning something peculiar. My own masterpiece is a dorm fridge with no less than 200 stickers, and I wouldn’t consider selling it for less than $175 or trade for a roof rack for my car.
-Do not think that because somebody is over 60, that you can out hike/swim/kayak/drink/ski/crazy them. Like an old, gnarled root of an oak tree, they are at times relentless because the miracle that is retirement has allowed them to spend all of their time in the outdoors. Learn from these Yodas of the trails; they have much to teach you young padawan.
-Do not wear brand new shoes on a long hiking trip. Your shoes need to be broken in, or else you run the risk of blisters, cramps, and your companions leaving you alone in the woods to escape your complaining.
-Do not (unless an expert) try to take a new boyfriend/girlfriend through the Spider Lilies at Landsford in a canoe. Yes, I’m talking to you smug outdoors guy reading this, thinking that those beautiful lilies would be another jewel in your woo-ing crown. A snake will fall into the boat, the boat will hit a rock and turn over, she will cry, and you’ll end up re-opening your profile on match.com. If you want to woo a woman, give her good socks; this is a tried and true method that I have used with a 100% success rate.
-Do not think that because you wear shorts while running from the house to the car in the winter, that you can wear shorts while backpacking in the winter. You will freeze, and rangers will have to drag your popsicled body out of the woods.
If there’s something you’d like to see in a future article, please email me your questions, requests, musings, recipes, trip ideas, and anything else you can think of and I’ll try to squeeze the best ideas into future articles.
Oh, and one last “Do not”- Do not, under any circumstance, get between an A.T. thru-hiker and ice cream. You’ll lose at least an eye, and most certainly your dignity.