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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.”
- 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.
- When you approach other trail users, politely ask them, “Would you like some advice?” Then, regardless of their answer, give them advice.
- 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.
- Scold people who do not appear to have the appropriate gear, including, but not limited to, the items discussed in point #6.
- 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.”
- What you lack in actual knowledge, make up in volume.
- 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.