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Millennials and the Backcountry
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Matt Thyer
(mthyer) - MLife

Locale: Pacific North West
Millennials and the Backcountry on 07/23/2014 16:15:28 MDT Print View

Thought I'd pass along this article form HCT about the youngest generation and their lack of interest in backpacking and backcountry. It's certainly worth some discussion.

http://www.hcn.org/issues/46.12/the-death-of-backpacking

I began backpacking when I was a kid. I don't even know when I started because it has always seemed like part of my life. Before I could carry weight I was luggage.

My mother-in-law recently visited us here in the Pacific North West. She is a long time resident of Louisiana where the only place people are known to run between the parking lot and the air conditioned store. Life there is nothing like it is here, and lifestyles are completely different as well. I overheard a conversation she was having with my brother-in-law on the phone while she was here in which she described the vast expanse of softwood forests that extends all the way up to the tundras of the arctic as "I don't know, maybe a forest or something." Later she wanted to know who planted all the trees.

Different mind set for sure, and I'm not mentioning this to belittle her or others who seriously just don't know. I wonder what the BPL community can do to reach these young kids who don't see life on the trail as the ultimate in freedom, but rather a particular kind of hell. I write a lot of science fiction in which my characters do things outside. I want to write role models.

Edited by mthyer on 07/23/2014 17:13:55 MDT.

spelt with a t
(spelt) - F

Locale: SW/C PA
Seattle ultrarunning? on 07/23/2014 17:03:25 MDT Print View

Did you link the right article?

Matt Thyer
(mthyer) - MLife

Locale: Pacific North West
Re: Seattle ultrarunning? on 07/23/2014 17:13:25 MDT Print View

Whops, clipboard didn't clear.

http://www.hcn.org/issues/46.12/the-death-of-backpacking

Dale Wambaugh
(dwambaugh) - MLife

Locale: Pacific Northwest
Re: Millennials and the Backcountry on 07/23/2014 18:08:16 MDT Print View

Scouting and many summer camp organizations help the process along, not to mention the Mountaineers and Sierra Club. It would be great to see a back-packing centered organization for kids, without the indoctrination that goes along with Scouts or some of the religious-based summer camps. Of course the challenge is building it and hoping they will come. Video games, sports camps and the economy don't help. I'm sure there are direct correlations to the lack of outdoor activities and health issues like diabetes and obesity.

I see these day hiking groups where there is one skinny couple with three obese friends in tow, huffing and puffing up a set of switchbacks. Little wonder who organized the outing!

There are regional differences, along with simple ignorance of nature and geography. My wife noted vitamin D deficiencies in the Southwest because everyone spends the summer indoors. There was a joke told on Maui: a woman asked a local what the name of the ocean was, and was told, "that's the Pacific Ocean." The woman replied, "Oh! We have one of those home in California too!" We seriously had a friend with a college degree ask us about the Alps in Holland. I've been wanting to make a travel style posted of someone skiing on flat ground with their scarf trailing in the wind and caption it, "Ski the Dutch Alps!"

My clan spent as much time outdoors as possible and had recreational property and RV's. I spent my childhood running around the central Cascades and car camping with my family. My own kids camped, hiked and traveled since infancy and both were summer camp staffers for several years.

When I tool Physical Geology in college, a good portion of the class couldn't grasp stream morphology. It was dead simple to me, and it finally dawned on me that they never played around rivers and lakes or seen old growth forests. That is scary on so many levels, especially conservation. I can see why people will commit millions to team sports and nothing to wilderness conservation.

Art Tyszka
(arttyszka) - MLife

Locale: Minnesota
Re: Re: Millennials and the Backcountry on 07/23/2014 20:46:29 MDT Print View

"Indoctrination" like the Boy Scout Law? Yeah, pretty terrible stuff . . .

Boy Scout Law

A Scout is:

Trustworthy,
Loyal,
Helpful,
Friendly,
Courteous,
Kind,
Obedient,
Cheerful,
Thrifty,
Brave,
Clean,
and Reverent.

Ken Thompson
(kthompson) - MLife

Locale: Behind the Redwood Curtain
triple posted on 07/23/2014 21:06:58 MDT Print View

Here

here

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=93507&skip_to_post=795167#795167


and here

http://www.backpackinglight.com/cgi-bin/backpackinglight/forums/thread_display.html?forum_thread_id=93491&skip_to_post=795131#795131

Matt Thyer
(mthyer) - MLife

Locale: Pacific North West
UL is a gateway on 07/25/2014 00:49:03 MDT Print View

So, hum? The discussion is either "scouts solves all" or circular links? Lame (my two cents).

The article is talking less about the changes in numbers and more about the change in attitude for the part of the public that is interested in getting outside at all.

Scout may have a place, it may introduce some kids to the idea that being outside, in wilderness is a good thing. That preserving wilderness is an important component of our civic life. But these notions have to be understood and shared by the people running those programs. How many scouting leaders have read Aldo Leopold? Which badge do you get if you memorize the Wilderness Act of 1964?

I came to UL backpacking years ago working as a wilderness guard on the White River National Forest. My first season there I showed up with 50 lbs of crap strapped to my back and it took me weeks to cross the Flat Tops Wilderness. UL was what happened when I realized that all that stuff was just slowing me down, and reducing my back size made me a much more mindful can caring person. Backpacking by myself allowed me to develop some independence, assurance that I can both exist alone and be content while inhabiting that state of being.

Anthony Analetto
(Fubar2us) - F

Locale: MidWest USA
Location, Location, Location on 07/25/2014 01:40:54 MDT Print View

The economics of things might make backpacking something that is hard to market to younger people, but location is something that plays a bigger part in all of this I think. I live in the Midwest and no one I know goes backpacking. I have an uncle that taught me a little as a kid when I lived in New England. When I moved out here to the Midwest and the opportunities were not there for me to continue I lost interest. It was not until I was almost 30 and took a trip to the Black Hills of South Dakota that I rediscovered the outdoors. I then had to teach myself thru trial and error along with this website, how to backpack. There are no stores that sell anything resembling gear worth using, no groups to join that are exclusive to or heavy in backpacking, and no wilderness within a few hours drive large enough for a multi day trip.

All of these factors help to harbor a culture that is not inductive to backpacking. Since teaching myself I take week long trips several times a year backpacking in the backcountry. I now have several coworkers that continue to say they have always wanted to go backpacking but never learned and did not have the money to buy the gear and learn when they had the time. And now for the price of a backpack and a few days of their time they are learning the art of backcountry backpacking. ( I have extra gear for all other than extra backpacks).

So is backpacking dying for the younger generations? Yes, but it is not due to lack of want. Sometimes it is due to lack of knowledge, teachers, resources, and wilderness.

Michael Gunderloy
(ffmike) - MLife
Re: UL is a gateway on 07/25/2014 06:20:12 MDT Print View

"Scout may have a place, it may introduce some kids to the idea that being outside, in wilderness is a good thing. That preserving wilderness is an important component of our civic life. But these notions have to be understood and shared by the people running those programs. How many scouting leaders have read Aldo Leopold? Which badge do you get if you memorize the Wilderness Act of 1964?"

None, of course - though Boy Scouts are required to memorize the Outdoor Code. My experience is that most learn it just long enough to rank up, though.

In our troop at least we manage to get them outside plenty, and to the wilderness (well, what passes for wilderness in Indiana) 3 or 4 times a year. But most of our camping is car camping, with a trailer full of gear. There are a few that look forward to our annual backpacking trip, but I struggle to fan that spark of interest into full flame.

Girl Scouts is another story. I know lots of Girl Scout troops that never even camp, let alone hike. That program has gone into a combination of STEM and marketing training, and the outdoors stuff has fallen by the wayside in recent years.

David Chenault
(DaveC) - BPL Staff - F

Locale: Crown of the Continent
Re: Millennials and the Backcountry on 07/25/2014 07:16:18 MDT Print View

I don't disagree with the article, but I still can't find the specific evidence it gives that millenials are especially culpable in this regard. On the rare occasion the author cites examples, they're Gen X, whose yuppism and ADHD is I think more relevant than anything. Amongst the increasingly small patch of the population who take the outdoors semi-seriously, my experience is that multi-day stuff is becoming more popular, presumably as folks discover that the DIAD simulacra is ultimately hollow (by comparison).

Joe Clement
(skinewmexico) - MLife

Locale: Southwest
Millennials and the Backcountry on 07/25/2014 07:47:54 MDT Print View

Geez, I don't even know what a Millennials. But I'm glad the only the the Boy Scouts indoctrinated me into was a love of the outdoors, and goal-setting. I do know a shocking number of parents who really don't want their kids outdoors. Hard to be a helicopter parent when your kids is off somewhere being forced to become self-sufficient.

Sarah Kirkconnell
(sarbar) - F

Locale: In the shadow of Mt. Rainier
Re: Millennials and the Backcountry on 07/25/2014 09:59:02 MDT Print View

So David...

What generation do YOU belong to?

Gen X being yuppies. Snorting.

It is kind of hard to go out for multi-day trips when Gen X is taking care of kids, their parents and for many, trying to still play catch up in an economy that has constantly held them back - for the last 20 some years.

Travis Bernard
(DispatchesfromtheNorth) - F - M

Locale: Lake Laberge
Accessibility on 07/25/2014 12:41:23 MDT Print View

I grew up in the prairies so backpacking wasn't even a thought for me and my friends. What were we going to do, wander around out in a farmer's field? (Actually, we did do that, quite often) Luckily, I had parents who were big into camping, so while my friends spent their summer's playing baseball in the city I was out camping, fishing, boating, and getting exposure to the great outdoors. Once I moved away from the prairies I had a basic outdoor skill set that easily transferred to backpacking.

Living in the Yukon though, I find that almost everyone I know is into outdoor adventure, whether it be backpacking, canoe tripping, mountain biking, skiing, climbing, hunting, or fishing. It ranges from people doing multi-week expeditions in the backcountry to families just trying to get out for day hikes or overnight camping trips as often as time will allow. In this type of atmosphere, you're more likely to see kids getting involved in sports like xc-skiing and kayaking than joining baseball teams. If we didn't have such easy access to such vast wilderness, I doubt that would be the case.

Katherine .
(Katherine) - F

Locale: pdx
sensational - in a bad way on 07/25/2014 13:47:02 MDT Print View

The author (or his editor) did a great job writing an attention-grabbing headline!

I'd be far more concerned to hear about Millennials not caring and valuing wilderness preservation in their politics and advocacy. If they'd rather go home at the end of a day outside, fine. Why should I judge them?

Could it be that the desire to get out in the wilderness doesn't kick in strong for some people until later in life? Personally I had no real interest, then when I turned 30 a "must go backpacking" urge rose up out of nowhere. (I'm squarely in the Gen-X demographic.)

Could it be that older people are often retired and simply have more time to stay out?

The kids are alright.

Edited by Katherine on 07/25/2014 14:14:55 MDT.

Michael Gillenwater
(mwgillenwater) - M

Locale: Seattle area
Pew Center study on 07/25/2014 13:55:07 MDT Print View

"The green movement has a Millennial problem"

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2014/03/07/the-green-movement-has-a-millennial-problem/

Katherine .
(Katherine) - F

Locale: pdx
Re: Pew Center study on 07/25/2014 14:13:57 MDT Print View

nice link. be sure to read past the headline to the end:

"This isn’t to say that they don’t care about the environment. For instance, a 2011 Pew survey found that compared to other generations, Millennials were more supportive of stricter environmental laws, more likely to attribute global warming to human activity, and more likely to favor environmentally-friendly policies like green energy development and tax incentives for hybrid vehicles."

[albeit no direct mention of wilderness maintenance/preservation]

Paul Magnanti
(PaulMags) - MLife

Locale: People's Republic of Boulder
Millennials and the Backcountry on 07/25/2014 15:16:07 MDT Print View

Generation stereotypes are bunk.

Culture, economic background, religious value systems and so on are more pertinent to a personality than a birth year.

May as well go by horoscopes as a valid way to see a personality of a person by birth year. www.astrology.com/chinese-astrology

And just as valid as this generational theory, too.


"my experience is that multi-day stuff is becoming more popular"

Statistics say otherwise.

In brief, as mentioned earlier, there has been a 2 million person drop off in overnight activities in the NPS units from 1979 to 2013. (700k vs 200k for only backpacking) That's with a 90+ million person growth in population since 1979 no less.

Considering a true two week vacation and even weekends to some extent (checking in with the office, taking phone calls, being on call more and more frequently) is rapidly becoming a thing of the past for many so-called professionals, is that surprising?

And families who work in the service industry and trade jobs usually don't have the income stream to afford time off (two jobs, working frequent overtime, not much or any vacation time) and/or gear for overnight activities. For many families the relatively inexpensive car camping gear can be a budget breaker never mind the more expensive backpacking gear sold at mainstream outdoor stores.

Edited by PaulMags on 07/25/2014 15:39:18 MDT.

HK Newman
(hknewman) - MLife

Locale: Western US
Girl Scouts spotted on 07/25/2014 15:41:38 MDT Print View

@Mike G: actually most of the large groups I've seen from the rugged desert mountains of New Mexico to the beaches of California's Point Reyes have been Girl Scouts (though once an all-girls high school in matching uniforms and blue Arcteryx load haulers). No numbers but wondering who is leading in backcountry merit badges?

J J
(jraiderguy) - M

Locale: Puget Sound
Shift culture on 07/25/2014 15:57:19 MDT Print View

I had do lookup my generation. Apparently I'm a Gen Y.

I grew up camping and backpacking in northern CA. But interestingly, my Dad never went camping or backpacking until his senior year of high school, when on a whim he filled out his schedule with a 1-credit intro-to-backpacking elective. Meanwhile, nearly all my extended family has zero interest in camping/backpacking/etc, and only by chance has my immediate family been so involved with it. From most people I talk to, outdoor recreation as a pastime is inherited, and sometimes it seems to me there are fewer and fewer people out there passing it down.

Edited by jraiderguy on 07/25/2014 15:59:36 MDT.

Matt Thyer
(mthyer) - MLife

Locale: Pacific North West
Re: sensational - in a bad way on 07/25/2014 18:03:44 MDT Print View

"I'd be far more concerned to hear about Millennials not caring and valuing wilderness preservation in their politics and advocacy. If they'd rather go home at the end of a day outside, fine. Why should I judge them?"

This is where my concern actually stems from. How can you appreciate or value a thing if you do not know it? It's not just Millennials, but they're the ones Wilderness needs as advocates. I don't believe anyone is being harsh, I don't think that I've even been judgmental, but it feels like, in particular, wilderness advocacy is losing and I want these kids to wake up and say "Wow! That's something I want to protect." In my experience, the best way to make this happen is to get them out there to wake up.

"Could it be that the desire to get out in the wilderness doesn't kick in strong for some people until later in life? Personally I had no real interest, then when I turned 30 a "must go backpacking" urge rose up out of nowhere. (I'm squarely in the Gen-X demographic.)"

I couldn't tell you. I am simultaneously the poster child for Gen-X and have always been one of those guys described in the HCN piece. I can't remember a time when I didn't value backcountry, untrammeled lands, or solitude.

"The kids are alright."

Yes, kids good, but wilderness is getting chipped away at constantly. Wilderness needs kids.