Hopefully this beer is thanks enough: A gratitude scale for outdoorsfolk

drawing of beer gratitude scale

Last Wednesday, I was standing in my neighborhood liquor store trying to decide whether I should buy a bottle of scotch or a six-pack of good beer for a friend of mine. I was borrowing his set of ice tools, and seven ice screws, for a trip to the Ouray Ice Park. My girlfriend does not own ice tools, and I do not yet own any ice screws. And I am big on appreciation. I figure we’re talking $400 worth of screws, and $400 worth of ice tools, so he’s saving me quite a bit of money by allowing me to postpone my investment.

$11 worth of Dale’s Pale Ale ought to cover it. I decided a bottle of scotch would be way over the top.

I was thinking, though, for a guy who doesn’t drink, I seem to purchase my fair share of beer, in liquor stores and bars. Maybe it’s because in my hometown in Iowa, beer is currency. I bought my first car for $500 and two cases of Busch Light. My father once rented a skid-loader for a day in exchange for eight steaks and four cases of beer. My friend’s father once picked up a topper for his pickup truck for $15 and a handle of Black Velvet.

There are certain unspoken levels of appropriate gratitude — you wouldn’t ask your friend to help you move furniture all day and buy him/her one drink. No, you would buy them pizza, and a bunch of beer, at minimum. It’s the same for the outdoors. I’ve come up with some rough guidelines to help you decide what’s appropriate when thanking someone for an outdoor-related favor.

1 beer:

  • Friend/climbing partner picked you up and drove to the trailhead
  • You forgot to pack a tire patch kit or extra tube, you got a flat tire, your friend let you borrow their tube/patch
  • You borrowed a guidebook
  • You ran out of water on a hike and your friend split their last bottle of water with you
  • You are very late getting home from hiking/climbing; friend/climbing partner allows you to tell your spouse that it was his/her fault you are late

2 beers:

  • Friend/climbing partner picked you up and drove to the trailhead while you slept in the passenger seat
  • Friend/climbing partner picked you up and had donuts and/or coffee for you; you did not sleep in the passenger seat on the way to the trailhead
  • Climbing partner led the hard pitch, or pitches
  • You borrowed a pair of skis or snowboard
  • You are very late getting home from hiking/climbing; friend/climbing partner calls your spouse and explains that it was his/her fault you are late
  • Friend/climbing partner cooked dinner on overnight trip; it was better than you can cook at home
  • Friend brings firewood for weekend car camping trip
  • You bail off climbing route, leaving friend’s gear (can be more, depending on amount of gear left)


  • You borrowed a set of ice tools and a rack of ice screws
  • You borrowed sleeping bag, tent, or stove for weekend
  • Following a bicycle mechanical on a road ride way outside of town, friend drove and picked up you and your bike and took you home
  • You borrowed a friend’s mountain bike or road bike

1 beer every time you get together for the rest of your lives:

  • Partner dug you out of an avalanche, full burial
  • Friend ran to get help when you sustained a leg injury in the backcountry and couldn’t walk; you survived


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