How To Sound Smart On The Trail

Are you an expert? Well, thankfully, it’s 2017, and everyone can be one. Here are a few tips to help you establish yourself at the top of the hierarchy of trail users of all types when you’re out there this summer.

  1. Remember, you have something in common with every person on the trail: a passion—some might say obsession—for having the best experience possible in nature. You possess the knowledge of how to best do that, and everyone you encounter on the trail needs it.
  2. If you see someone doing something incorrectly (meaning a different way than you would do it), don’t be afraid to point it out. Mountain bikers, for example, love technical advice from passing hikers. Horses, too.
  3. Is everyone you encounter wearing the right apparel and using the right gear? If not, it’s your chance to make recommendations—after a quick up-and-down visual scan. ex. “You know, you guys, this hike is a lot easier with a pair of Ultralight Alpine Trail Pro ZX trekking poles. Like the ones I’m using.”
  4. If other hikers or trail users are within earshot, try to begin all of your sentences with “When I was climbing Kilimanjaro …” This will draw them like proverbial bees to a proverbial honeypot. If you haven’t climbed Kilimanjaro, pick another famous mountain you have climbed, such as Mount Whitney, or Mount Sanitas.
  5. When you approach other trail users, politely ask them, “Would you like some advice?” Then, regardless of their answer, give them advice.
  6. Bring all of your gear, even if you’re just going for a short day hike. Sure, it’s only a couple miles, but you never know when you might need a sleeping bag, folding hand saw, bear canister, microspikes, ice axe, pith helmet, machete, or book(s) detailing the plants, animals, and/or birds of the region you’re hiking in.
  7. Scold people who do not appear to have the appropriate gear, including, but not limited to, the items discussed in point #6.
  8. If you don’t know how to open the conversation with fellow hikers/trail users, try talking about something basic, like the weather. Say something like, “Beautiful day we’re having out here, huh?” And before they respond, use that topic to segue into a more serious topic, like how easy it is to get caught out in a thunderstorm and be killed by lightning. Point to the west and say, “See those clouds? Yeah, they look tame now, but give them a few hours, and they’ll be full-on thunderheads. You guys really should have rain jackets with you/should have started your hike earlier/should maybe just head back down now before it gets dangerous.”
  9. What you lack in actual knowledge, make up in volume.
  10. When in conversation with other trail users, listen to what they have to say. Then say, “Actually,” and tell them why they’re wrong/why they should do things your way. This is the most effective way of establishing yourself as an expert.