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

Wearing denim on the trail is not a good ideaI’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

Search and rescue isn't a shuttle serviceThe 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

Throwing rocks on the trail is badDouchebags 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

Don't destroy nature douchebagI 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

Your echo says douchebagYour 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

Don't be that guy in campDouchebags 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.