Wilderness Douchebag Identification System

  • Wilderness Douchebag Identification System

Every outdoor adventure attracts some type of douchebag that challenges everything you find sacred about the wilderness.

This guide won’t help you handle yourself in such situations but it will help you identify the type of douchebags that you may encounter in the wilderness, and give you a fighting chance at heading down the OTHER trail.

ID #1 – The Denim Adventurer

Wilderness Douchebag Identification SystemI’ve found that technical gear is much less important to me than I had previously thought.  But there are still limits that I just can’t cross.  Denim as adventure wear is one of those.

I’ve had friends join me on the trail wearing their favorite blue jeans.  Not one has returned to the trailhead after a big day of hiking without regretting the decision.

But occasionally I meet someone on the trail that will comment on my REI Adventures Pants by saying something like “Boy, you wasted your money on those.  My jeans can go anywhere your pants go.”

While that may true, I am certain that my level of comfort is far greater than theirs.  Jeans aren’t wilderness ready.  Of course, there is also the performance aspects to be considered.  A crazy afternoon downpour may reveal the shortcomings of your pant selection.

Denim may not be the worst apparel decision ever but it most certainly isn’t the best one you’ve made, douchebag.

ID #2 – The Know-It-All

I like to engage other hikers and backpackers on the trail.  My wife has concluded that I’m actually a better person when I’m on the trail.  But on every adventure I encounter the “been there, done that” guy.

You’ve likely crossed paths with someone like this before in the wilderness.  You greet each other and he asks where you’re headed.  You share your destination, maybe a peak or a backcountry landmark, only to prompt a response like “Yeah, I’ve done that.  It’s alright.”

I appreciate feedback from those that have gone before me.  The response doesn’t necessarily make them a douchebag because not everyone enjoys the same pursuits. Most of the time, I will dismiss the response.

But the douchebag label applies if your new “friend” fits into multiple categories from this list.  Often, the evidence is just too overwhelming to support reasonable doubt.

ID #3 – The Shuttler

Wilderness Douchebag Identification SystemThe National Parks alone spend millions of dollars each year on wilderness rescues.  Those in need should be given the services of the Search and Rescue teams but the question is “why” there was a need for rescue.

Often, the Parks simply eat the cost of rescues regardless of the role that the hiker had in their own demise.

But in the past few years, stories have surfaced of douchebags getting in over their head knowing that SAR is just a call away.

Those that find themselves overcome by extreme weather, debilitating injuries, or poor navigational choices that render them lost should be rescued without fault.

But the douchebags that feel that search and rescue is some sort of shuttle service should pay for their ride.

ID #4 – The Dog Shit Doggy Bag

I love to see dogs on the trail but I immediately look to their owners for an instant assessment.  There are three ways this can go:

1- Your dog is going to pop a squat at some point.  Responsible owners will bag that business and hike it out.  That’s what I would do if I owned a dog.

2 – Others will just kick the duty off the trail and I’m ok with that too for the most part.  It’s biodegradable and adds some nutritional value back to the soil.  Of course, some may argue that the presence of dog feces may have an impact on the behavior of wild animals in the area that detect the dog’s presence. I’m not really sure how that works, but I see the leave-behind as a viable option to bagging it out.

3- Then there is the douchebag solution.  They bag it and leave it behind as some sort of dog shit doggy bag.  Hey genius, you took something that would break down and disappear in a matter of days and made it a permanent piece of litter that then changes my wilderness experience.

ID #5 – The Rock Jock

Wilderness Douchebag Identification SystemDouchebags seem to be drawn to cliffs and overlooks.

These natural features are perfect for launching small boulders over the edge or tossing rocks to “see how long it takes to hit the bottom”.

But it’s dangerous for those that may be hiking below.  Of course, there’s no need for me to point this out.

Even the gaggle of douchebags at the cliff’s edge hurling rocks know this.  They just choose to ignore the fact and toss away usually shouting a “did you see that!” as each one hits the canyon floor below.

ID #6 – The Litterbug

Every time I hit a busy trail I see people that fit this mold.  They toss orange peels, apple cores, and paper wrappers assuming the squirrels will take care of it or more likely, a trail crew will hike it out.

This type of douchebag is really more irritating to me than most others.  It requires little effort to hike out your garbage and the assumption that trail crews will handle it is infuriating.  There are so many other things that trail crews could do with their free time.

And despite your half-baked argument, squirrels don’t eat orange peels douchebag.

ID #7 – The Destroyer

Wilderness Douchebag Identification SystemI support the humane harvesting of wild game for consumption and subsistence.  But the douchebags that you see on the trail that will fling a rock or swing a stick at anything that moves are on my short list of the worst.

Destroying ant hills or a bird’s nest is the ultimate disrespect for the wilderness that I love and it triggers an immediate reaction from me.  It usually starts with a greeting like “Hey, douchebag…”

I have no tolerance for these folks.

Their prey are often the very things I hit the trail to discover with my boys.

ID #8 – The Camel

I was 9 miles in, completely exhausted but still reeling from the shot of adrenaline that summiting Charleston Peak triggered.  A woman was crying and her “guy” was anything but understanding.

Though they were not wearing denim, they were most certainly ill-equipped for an 18 mile round trip with 4000+ feet of elevation gain.  To top it off, they had just 2 water bottles between them.

She was exhausted, likely dehydrated, and most certainly emotionally alone when I saw her.  The douchebag she was with just kept saying “Let’s go!  You’ll be fine.  We’ll just push hard and you can drink when we get back to the cabin.”

He wandered off and we approached her.  We offered some of our extra food, a few bars and some GORP.  We also topped off her water bottle and told her how to get to Cave Spring on the way down.

Despite the desire to smack her boyfriend when he circled back, we offered him water as well.  His response “No thanks.  I’m like a camel.”

Sure you are, douchebag.

ID #9 – The Screamer

Wilderness Douchebag Identification SystemYour echo says “Douchebag!”

The canyons of the desert southwest that we call home are a hotbed for echo chambers.  Almost every hike has a place where my boys will yell at the top of their lungs just to hear the echo.  We let them engage this mystery of the wilderness a few times and then move on explaining why their voices echo and the conditions required for that to actually occur.

But when it’s a grown up doing the same thing for 15 minutes it’s a totally different story.

Their obnoxious behavior pushes the limits for many and it seems that over time their shouts echo back with a distinct “DOUCHEBAG”!

ID #10 – The Non-Believer

If you have kids, I bet you’ve seen The Lorax or perhaps even read the book by Dr Suess.  For those that haven’t, The Lorax speaks for the trees.  He protects for the wilderness.

Every year, I come across someone on the trail that has little regard for the trees.  They snap saplings on the edge of the trail because they need a good walking stick.

Last year I encountered a group of hikers that had just harvested 6 saplings for walking sticks and had done so right on the fringe of the trail leaving behind a half dozen frayed stumps.

I know The Lorax is a fictional character but I hope that one day karma delivers those folks what they deserve.  I just hope that the end result isn’t a trail defined by foot high stumps incapable of providing a safe haven for the critters that currently calls the wilderness home.

ID #11 – The Guitar Hero

Wilderness Douchebag Identification SystemDouchebags like to camp too.  On a recent camping trip, we were welcomed by our neighbors for the weekend as they set up camp late in the evening.

They unpacked a few guitars and some percussion instruments, a strong sign of a forthcoming drum circle.  One of them came over to ask for my blessing and promised that they would keep it low and quiet acknowledging our kids with a high five.

They began playing around 10 pm and continued on until about 1am.  The level of the sound wasn’t so bad when they were actually playing, but the random outburst by one or two of them clearly reflected that a level of proficiency was lacking.

If you break out your guitar in camp you better deliver.  We all share the same intimate space and anything short of entertaining for me just makes you the douchebag with the guitar.

ID #12 – The High Beamers and Beep Beepers

Let’s consider this passage a tip.  If you roll into camp late at night, or you find yourself needing something that is still in your vehicle, please don’t lock your vehicle after you get it.

Most vehicles, my F-150 included, will kick on the lights when you open a door and setting your car alarm will trigger that very loud “beep beep” which will resonate through the entire campground.

Don’t be a douchebag, just unpack all your stuff when you get there and leave your truck unlocked or lock it once you’ve taken all your gear out.

It will help all of us sleep better once guitar hero next door finally shuts his pie hole for the night.

BONUS ID – The Government Hacks

Ok, admittedly, you will not likely cross paths with any of these specific douchebag types.  They tend to stick to the DC area and cast their influence from within The Beltway.  But you have likely felt their impact during the shutdown.

Their shortsighted decisions have impacted thousands of federal employees charged with protecting and serving our National Parks and hundreds of thousands of would-be Park visitors.

This category of Douchebag is particularly annoying but easily identified by their self-serving approach to life.  They’ll cash their paycheck while holding checks for Veterans and National Park employees hostage to promote their own personal agenda.

Unfortunately, these douchebags are everywhere, at least it seems, so you’ll likely be impacted by their mere existence in one way or another even if you never see them.

What do you think?

Have we missed any big categories?  Do you encounter any of these douchebags regularly on the trail?  Share you thoughts in the comments below.

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I'm the founder of Vestor Logic, the digital strategy and web design firm that created Trail Sherpa, ParksFolio, and Modern Steader. I'm a day hiker, top chef in camp, doting husband, and father to two headlamp wearing boys. My work in digital media brings those experiences to life.

  • The Weekend Warrior

    The techie: Someone who goes out and buys everything they might need in case of an emergency, but really would only need on a trip to the North Pole. They then feel they have to show it off to you and explain to you why they got it, how it works, and why you need to pull out your phone, buy it, and have Amazon ship it to the campground the next day.

    • http://www.trailsherpa.com Trail Sherpa

      I’ve definitely encountered this person on the trail. You can hear them complain about their pack weight.

  • Jeff Hester

    Awesome post, Tim. Pretty funny, and pretty true, too. Although I have to say, my Levi’s 501s and corduroy OP walk shorts got me through the entire JMT back in 1980. Sometimes, you make do with what you’ve got.

    • http://www.trailsherpa.com Trail Sherpa

      Jeff, you could hike the JMT in your old highschool wrestling singlet! Superman! And your point is well taken. Of course, several of these categories represent just a subset of folks that might be lumped into category as a whole. This would include the Denim Adventurers. I’ve hiked with a dozen folks in denim and only one of them made me think they could pull it off. Most regretted it.

  • Charlie Marquardt

    Great stuff! I might add (though I am, on occasion, a mild-mannered trail rider myself) mountain bike douchebags – though, technically, they’re not hikers, just trail users/abusers. You know, the kind who believe they have the right of way on any trail. Yield to hikers & equestrians? Why do that when you can yell “On your LEFT!” or “STRADA!” (if you’re trying to beat some other douchbag’s time on a trail) and scare the bejesus out hikers out for a quiet stroll. The kind who, in spite of trail and wilderness prohibitions, believe they are entitled to ride anywhere they damn well please. It’s a goddamned American right, after all, right? The kind who are decked out in the slickest, skin-tight gear, maybe with a bit of full-ballistic armor on, with $3000 full-suspension bikes that just love to tear down the trails at 30 mph. Or not on the trails – that’s always an option. Switchbacks suk, right? And don’t get me started on all those stupid discarded gel packs I’ve picked up on the trails…

    • http://www.trailsherpa.com Trail Sherpa

      Mountain bikers certainly fit as a category. I hike Red Rock mostly here in Las Vegas which has no bike traffic at all (there is a separate area for them). My encounters with mountain bikers are limited but I can absolutely appreciate the frustration. Thanks Charlie.

      • Charlie Marquardt

        Was up at RR last spring – loved it! Almost got hit by a pack of Maserati/Ferrari enthusiasts while crossing the road, tho.

        • http://www.trailsherpa.com Trail Sherpa

          Those rentals are everywhere and so are those little mini cars with 3 wheels. Surprised not more of them are involved in accidents. RR is a very well kept secret. I like it that way!

  • Mandie Carter

    The squatter: They hike to a monument or peak and sit ON the marker. They enjoy lunch, take off their shoes and rest their feet on the register box for an extended period of time. Anyone who arrives after the Squatter has to wait for him to move so they can sign the register and take their photos. As a socially awkward introvert I hate these douchebags as they make me have to choose between confrontation or waiting it out.

    • http://www.trailsherpa.com Trail Sherpa

      Yes! Just met a small group of those DBags in Yosemite last week. Unlike you, I am very comfortable approaching them and making my wishes clear. Of course, my 6’6″ frame and 260 lbs make that a safer bet. But I love this classification for sure. Thanks Mandie!

  • http://www.adventuretykes.com/ Melissa (Adventure Tykes)

    I have 2 more; smokers on the trail. I really despise breathing in cigarette smoke while I’m trying to enjoy my wilderness experience and more likely than not they don’t pack out their cigarette butts. They just toss them on the ground. Also, I would love to catch a douchebag carving their name in a tree, rock, picnic bench or anything else they don’t care about. Why does one think it’s ok to deface such things? Because they are a douchebag. Love this thanks for the laugh.

    • Charlie Marquardt

      Cig butts are biodegradable, aren’t they? Just give them a little time. Just like orange peels, doggie waste bags, empty gel packs, and plutonium 239. And why get worked up about folks’ “improvements” on nature? (A friend was threatened by a tagger in Angeles Nat’l Forest – said he’d knife her if she told the rangers.)

      • Humans are fucked

        Do orange peels, apple cores, banana peels etc really matter? Obviously things like cig butts, plastic and so forth is terrible. I *always* end up packing out bar wrappers and other shit on my hikes (other peoples, btw. I pack in/pack out all my stuff). But I never knew that food waste was a big issue? Ill amend that with knowing that its not good to localize it, so I always eat everything at camp, and if there is a little waste, like cleaning out a pot, to spread out the water after. Dont just dump it in one spot. But is an orange peel flung into the woods (not just dropped into the trail) bad? And if so, why? How is that different from having your dog poop off the trail?

        • http://www.trailsherpa.com Trail Sherpa

          IMO, all of that stuff you mentioned is a big deal. Things dry out in the desert but don’t break down as fast as they might in other areas. There is really no reason not to carry it out like you do (or as I do). It’s really a question of personal responsibility for me. Bring it in, take it out. I’ve seen hikers stop for a break, peel an orange, and just drop the peel where they sit. I don’t want to see that. Not cool in my mind.

          • Humans are fucked

            Sorry, new here and didn’t know where you were doing most of your hikes. A desert environment completely changes things. I do most of my hiking in the New England area. Something like an orange peel or apple core is not going to last long here. In the desert, whole different story (though it’s certainly douchey to just drop it on the trail).

            You can also make cat holes here for #2. Other environments, like yours, that’s bad.

          • http://www.trailsherpa.com Trail Sherpa

            You’re so right. Things just stand out here. Ground cover is sparse.

  • Jessica

    There are those of us who are courteous mountain bikers : )

    I think those who hike and mountain bike perhaps have a higher level of empathy, but there does seem to be a decent amount of disdain for those who love our multi-use trails.

    I would agree that anyone yelling “strava” is a d-bag. You should really try strava though – you can track your hikes!

    • Charlie Marquardt

      As I said, I’m a trail rider myself, and like you, no doubt, I’m courteous & yield to hikers & horses. So it’s “Strava”? Misheard them, I guess. Might give it a try – I’ve used “Map My Hike” – but I mainly just save my gps routes on my computer.

      My problem with Strava & other such social media is that, with the extreme sport crowd, these public airings of one’s time seem to breed a blinkered uber-competitiveness. Personally, I’d be only mildly interested if I’m the fastest or slowest time on a trail. And peak-bagging has its obsessiveness as well. Hey, I’m just there for the experience. :-)

  • Ethos Adventures

    As a woman on the trail I frequently come across the “mansplainer.” Similar to the know-it-all, this man feels the need to explain (i.e. share his “superior” knowledge/opinion) why I should take a different route, carry different gear or point out on the map where we are…he never bothers to find out how experienced I am or whether I actually need his assistance. Here’s a hint: I can probably read a map better than you, I’ve probably spent more time in the back- country than you and if I didn’t ask for help, then I don’t need it. Hope the next little lady on the trail helps you feel superior though. ;)

    • http://www.trailsherpa.com Trail Sherpa

      I can imagine! This type is probably a subset of the Know-It-All but one that I would not have much insight into. I’m not that kind of hiker. I keep my suggestions to myself unless someone asks but I am very social on the trail.

      Thanks for the comment and contribution to this priceless guide!

  • Senor

    There are several others that come to mind: Here are 2:

    The sound system:
    One of the reasons I walk into wild places is to escape from the trappings of mankind, and appreciate the Earth in its original pure state, i.e. before we messed it up. The Sound System maybe thinks they are providing us all with a service by bringing and blasting their favorite live concert through speakers while they hike or camp, but more likely they aren’t thinking about anyone besides themselves.

    The Shooting Range:
    Not only do they think that their being in the wilderness makes it o.k. to plink away at targets (read: glass bottles, alcohol containers that they have recently emptied, etc.) in the direction of an area that may or may not be occupied by other human beings, but they get really belligerent towards anyone that may approach them suggesting otherwise. Some of the douchiest, IMO.

    • http://www.trailsherpa.com Trail Sherpa

      Both are good examples. The Shooting Range had escaped me as I was more focused on the trail stuff we do out here. But back east where I grew up it would not be uncommon to cross paths with “that guy”.

  • Tim

    Lots of great ones. For me its the switchback cutters. I hate seeing all the shortcuts eroding the hillside because some dbag couldn’t walk the extra 10 feet to the switchback.

    I also dislike the groups with loud talkers. Nature is my solitude… walking behind a group of loud talkers drives me up the wall. It’s usually same dbag group that walks side by side slowly and won’t let you pass.

    • http://www.trailsherpa.com Trail Sherpa

      Great additions to the list! And I would agree with you on both. We see a lot of the switchback cuts here in Red Rock. Really changes the face of the trail.

    • Humans are fucked

      FWIW, a lot of the switchback trails are made due to changing the trail itself. So its not always clear what was done intentionally to let a trail… rest? Or recover from being too eroded. But those are usually blocked off by rocks or limbs, F people that take the obvious cutting trails.

      • http://www.trailsherpa.com Trail Sherpa

        Out here in Red Rock, I’d say the vast majority are just shortcuts and have nothing at all to do with a change in the trail. Unfortunately, we see a ton of them. We also see lots of extra trails in the long desert approaches to the various canyons. The very well established trails are simply ignored. Some places are so hard to maintain a natural setting because there are a dozen trails snaking through the very delicate landscape.

    • name

      ‘Loud talkers’, you say… they’re everywhere, just like all douchebags in general! Some of them are hard of hearing, which raise the question ‘did they go deaf from talking too loudly?’

  • scottalias

    The douchebag who hassles me about my jeans. I’ve hiked thousands of miles in jeans and my discomfort is not your business, Mr. Fancypants.

  • Nomadie

    The ignorant, rude, or no trail etiquette douchebag that does not acknowledge other hikers or does not stop and step aside when meeting a hiker making a steep climb. Also the douchebag that shits ten feet from the trail or a camp spot and leaves their toilet paper as a monument.