Have you ever seen someone who looks more comfortable on a mountain than in a Starbucks? You know the look. A worn-in Patagonia half-zip from 1989. Hiking boots with dried mud from Madagascar. A hiking pack with marks from a bear attack.
I want to be that person. Wait. I mean, don’t you want to be that person?
It is never too late to become the person your Instagram account says you are. We live in a world where people are constantly reinventing themselves. Don’t let that flavored macchiato fool you. Anyone, yes anyone, can become an outdoor adventurer.
“He who fears death will never do anything worth of a man who is alive.” — Seneca
Let’s explore the essential hitlist for upgrading your personal brand. I promise by the end you’ll be a different person. You will be ready to step out of the remodeled Airstream (#camperlife) and into a tent that you pitched.
Know The Lingo
Before attempting to look the part, you’re going to need to sound like you know what you’re doing. Walking into an REI without proper knowledge is not for the expert adventurer.
From base layers to shell layers and everything between. Not only do you need them, but you need to have a story about each.
“That time I was stuck in a rainstorm in a cloud forest in Costa Rica, that Arc’teryx shell saved the day!”
Monday stories with coworkers. Chatting with friends after a sketchy rappel down El Capitan. Whatever the occasion, you’re going to need to sound like an overzealous Patagonia headquarters intern.
Your Homework: Get to know trail lingo. You won’t be tested but this list will give you an idea of how much you don’t know. Become familiar with things that would likely apply to a weekend trip: headlamp, day pack, etc.
This is it. The moment you’ve been waiting for. As you step out of your vintage Toyota 4Runner with a hi-lift jack & shovel mount, people will notice your excellence. But it won’t be about what you’ve done. It’s about what it looks like you’re about to go do.
Appearances aren’t everything but from 20 feet away, they sure are my friend. For light hiking adventures or month-long expeditions, you will need the right pieces of gear with you.
Some of the essentials that aren’t found in your glamping kit:
- Compass — No, not your iPhone app
- A Real Map — real adventurers don’t rely on tech alone
- Headlamp — Great for finding those cans of local IPA in the dark
- Matches — Did you think the Tinder app would start your campfire?
- First Aid Kit — You don’t want to be “omg literally dying” without it
Even if you weren’t instilled with the “always prepared” mentality, having more gear than you need is ideal. We all have that friend who always comes prepared with a Swiss Army knife.
Preparedness is the difference between looking outdoorsy and being the real-life Ron Swanson. Be the latter.
Your Homework: Read over a more extensive list from REI. Get to know what you need for where you’re going to go, what you’re going to do, or what you plan on talking about at the bar.
Gear is great. But gear without transportation is just a pile of rubble on your floor. Any keen adventurer knows the value of each kind of bag available.
There will come a time when your free work backpack isn’t going to cut it. That is almost always true, but when you’re fighting the elements like Bear Grylls, that‘s upgraded to always-always.
You might need to carry drinks on a hike to a hidden beach. Or all of the clothes you forgot to pack when moving. Regardless, having a handful of sizes and uses will never go out of style.
Let’s go over two of the staples.
- The Duffel — Fits everything. Sometimes with wheels. Always with space. Throw one over your shoulder and look like a pro road tripper.
- The Hiking Pack — For day hikes or post-breakup soul searching trips. Various sizes mean you’ll need at least two, and need to call one lucky.
Remember, when people ask if “that is excessive”, your answer should always be yes. And so should your justification. One can never have too many bags.
Your Homework: You’re not prepared. Not yet. But you will be once you have a few bags under your belt… or rather, attached to it. Educate yourself on the different sizes, uses, and features.
Brand Name Drops
You may look the part but if no one knows you’re wearing head-to-toe Patagonia, what’s the point right? Not only that, it’s important to know the various outdoor brands and their pecking order.
- REI Co-op
- The North Face
- Black Diamond
There are plenty more but you’re going to need a hoodie from each one to look professional. But what if you can’t choose who deserves your hard-earned dollars?
Form follows function, especially when it comes to outdoor gear. Yet, there is something else that your craft-beer-drinking brethren are chatting about. Social responsibility.
It’s not enough to just have cool branding. We’re living in an era where businesses are held to a higher standard than ever. Outdoor brands are embracing that need and many are raising the bar with their community efforts. Support those brands. Then tell everyone how awesome you are for doing so. Obviously.
Your Homework: Get familiar with the brands that are giving back to the environment and communities. Much like the towing capacity on your offroad-capable 4Runner, these things really matter.
The Someday List
You have the gear. You know how to talk about it. The brands you support are changing the world for the better. What else is left?
Plans. And not just any plans. Grand and ambitious ones that leave people jealous before you even share the selfies.
Every adventurer has travel goals in mind for the future. Some take so much planning that years are needed to plan logistics. By making the list of those nearly-impossible goals, you’ll have stories to tell for a long while.
“It is our choices… that show what we truly are, far more than our abilities.”— Albus Dumbledore
Your Homework: Make a list of countries, cities and famous parks. Write down the daring activities you have yet to buy gear for. You must have adventure goals in mind before you can generate stories about your plans.
Don’t know where to start? Play some Earth Roulette.
Now You’re Locally Sourced
Well, that was a journey, wasn’t it? You’re likely a different person than when you started reading this article. There might be some things in your REI or Amazon shopping cart. You may even be wearing a half-zip this very moment.
But here’s the crazy thing — what if between a laugh or two, you started thinking that you could be that person? What if you realize that 1500 thread count Egyptian cotton sheets aren’t needed when camping?
I’m calling you out. Yes, you. I bet you thought I didn’t see it.
You’ve been that enthusiastic and resourceful person all along. From the moment you clicked that title, that’s all the proof needed. Now quit waiting on having enough gear, far-off plans or an expensive camper.
Get out there and experience this unbelievable and marvelous world. And don’t forget your compass.