Friday, May 11, 2012

How to Reintegrate Into Normal Society: A Guide for Backpackers


Single pot desserts: acceptable in
the backcountry; not so at home

As someone who’s completed a number of backpacking trips, I’ve come to realize that the standards of behavior one follows on a backpack tend to be somewhat “different” from those one follows in normal society. This can lead to reintegration issues as the erstwhile backpacker attempts to rejoin normal society. This brief guide is intended to rectify this situation and help backpackers understand what is required to become, once again, regular, functioning members of polite society.
  1. The “snot rocket” is generally considered impolite. Regular people use items called “Kleenex” or “handkerchiefs” to blow their noses. If you’re unsure what these items are or how to use them, ask.
  2. When you drop food on the floor in normal society, you throw it out. Picking up a morsel of food, inspecting it, and flicking off or blowing away any particles of dirt before eating it is not acceptable.
  3. Backpackers spend inordinate amounts of time discussing bodily functions – a necessity given the importance of monitoring these functions while hiking. However, telling a normal person that your pee is clear and copious, it’s a little too yellow, or (worse) you had a really solid crap that morning is not considered polite conversation. Discuss sports or politics instead.
  4. Slipping behind a random tree to urinate, or simply turning one’s back on the group and dropping trou (a particular issue for male backpackers) is not just considered rude in polite society: it may get you arrested. Practice self restraint and seek out “restrooms” or “bathrooms.”
  5. Lifting your arms and sniffing your pits to assess the current state of your stench is a major red flag that you’ve gone “backcountry.” Most people avoid the stench issue by 1) changing clothes every day, 2) showering and 3) wearing deodorant.
  6. In normal society, people wash dishes using a sink and dishwashing detergent, or a dishwashing machine. Cleaning a bowl and utensils with one’s tongue is generally restricted to household pets.
  7. Be careful with terminology. Statements such as "I need to fill my bladder," "There's a leak in my bladder," or "My crampons are full" may lead to confusion with normal people. 

What about you? What tips do you have for backpackers who need to return to normal society?

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