Opt Outside; #fuckyou

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Just a friendly reminder this Thanksgiving day that while it’s great you spent yesterday in mass carbon mode to get somewhere nifty so you can do rad things today and #optoutside tomorrow, the world really isn’t so simple.  It would be nice if hiking, camping, and even more complex things like backpacking and mountain biking were the democratic pursuits they were meant to be, but they’re not.  You can spend T-day shredding slickrock and pass on Black Friday at TJ Maxx because you are well outfitted from mining online discounts, and don’t have 180 bucks with which to holiday-fit four kids.  It’d be nice if our culture made gifts of experience as attractive and attainable to poor folks as it does to yuppies, but it doesn’t so hold that instragram righteousness.  It is in bad taste.

And have a lovely holiday.

Luck doesn’t exist

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M and I have lived in some damn nice places over the past 13 years, but in the six days since we and our massive accompaniment of boxes rolled into Colorado I’ve had many more than the usual number of pinch me, I can’t believe we’re here moments.  There was walking the border of Colorado National Monument, following rabbit tracks through fluffy, two-day old snow, before setting Little Bear down for a walk break and watching in bemusement as he discovered (got stuck in) melting clay soil.  There was the top of Joe’s Ridge, a day later and with the other painted view of the Grand Valley, contemplating lungs roasted by a chest cold and poor fitness, and the incalculable options for riding within view.  If only I’ll eventually learn enough to see them all.  And there was this afternoon, on a short stroll up slickrock ledges, with LB turned loose from the backpack and crawling, walking, and crabwalking sideways with abandon as he tested new limits for his evolving balance and of legs stronger seemingly by the hour.

It’s a satisfying feeling, knowing that we’ll all put many more miles into this corner of the planet, that Little Bear will really learn to hike and bike and paddle and ski here.  It’s the landscape I fell in adult love with, when I was just old enough to begin to understand how my own limits shaped what I saw through my eyes, and the place in which M and I began in earnest our journey as a couple.  The satisfaction is, in short, from looking back and seeing all the choices that have led us to be back where we wanted to be, and in circumstances that involve no real compromise at all.

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These things do not happen by chance.  For over a decade we’ve willfully and without complaint limited our effective incomes by only living in place which are, from an outdoor recreation and aesthetic perspective, truly desirable.  We’ve lived in smaller, sometimes outright dingy apartments and bought or built cheap furniture while spending serious money on bikes and packs and boats and guns, and most importantly, gas and food to go places to use them.  We’ve turned down invitations to parties and weddings and family events because we had planned ___, or because ____ would be in good condition.  All of which is to say that the richness of our memories, skills, and gear closets has been purchased by corresponding deficits elsewhere.  Nothing is free, and no one these days ends up living in an A list outdoor location because of luck.  They do so via deliberation, sacrifice, and most likely a background suffused with enough privilege to allow such frivolous choices in the first place.

In a few weeks this blog will be a decade old.  The first 3 or so years of posts are exceedingly uninteresting, even to me, save in moments of historical curiosity or indulgent introspection.  In 2010 I started to take writing, and the blog, more seriously.  I migrated it to wordpress for more creative control, and the result is what you’re looking at now; six years of staying the course, or doing mostly the same thing and letting content evolve in tune with my life.  I’ve thought about, and rejected, changes in content and approach which would make Bedrock & Paradox a source of direct income.  As I told Andrew this summer, I’ve never made a cent (in cash) here.  I’ve gotten some cool free stuff, met a bunch of great people, gone places I likely never would have otherwise been, and built a resume which led to several fantastic jobs, including the one I start next week.  Any one of those would have been sufficient return, spiritually or economically, on my investment of ~200 dollars in fees to WordPress and however many hours thinking and typing.  Let alone all of them.

None of that is ever likely to change.  I can’t see myself ever doing affiliate links, ads, sponsored content, or more consistent posting of more consistently amenable content to increase traffic.

Currently, in the post-LB world, I have in time and inspiration two co-equal limits on posting here.  And even amongst the chaos of the last two weeks, and the posting draught which has been the direct result, I do not think waking hours has been the more significant of the two.  When my days are as full as they’ve been this month, I don’t have enough downtime to think, and the direct result of that is not having things well-formed enough to be worth writing.  During even the most banal stretches of the past six years I’ve had lots to say here, provided the conditions existed so that I could get to where they were worth saying.  Doing redundant how-to essays, or discussions of products which are of only marginal interest, would worsen, not improve, the conditions for contemplation or creativity.  I’ve seen it elsewhere, quite directly, over the past six years: an outdoor blog comes into existence, becomes popular, becomes more professional, and becomes less interesting to read.  Thankfully I’m finally in a position where I can be my own patron; keep food in the fridge, keep new(ish) shoes in the mail, keep paying wordpress for space, as well as give myself conditions which should foster writing better than ever.  Given the current landscape, I see no reason to do otherwise, or why the next decade won’t be as rewarding as the last.

Thanks, everyone, for being here for it.

Moving on

Today will be my last day, for quite a while or perhaps ever, as a professional social worker.  I’ll go in to the office to tie up a shockingly small number of loose ends, make one final home visit to hand off one last case, and be back home this evening unemployed for the two weeks it will take to finish packing, move to Colorado, and set up house.  Just like the past two mornings I’m up early, though today I just gave in and got out of bed, in hopes that doing this would put order to my thoughts and the ensuing peace earned would do more good than a bit more sleep.  And just like the past two mornings I’ll leave the house and go through the day with a subtle, burning anxiety riding in my stomach, because one of the following must be true:

-Russian hackers tampered with voter returns.

-Millions of Americans want Donald Trump as their president.

I must assume it is the later, because as appalling as that is the other option is even worse.  And I’m not talking about the disaffected folks who as Michael Moore explained so well voted for Trump out of alienation or unthinking hereditary misogyny or simple malaise, but those far smaller number who made a more deliberate choice.  Those people who thought and think that Trump isn’t the least worst option, but a genuinely good one.  I can respect the structural reasons why a populist would be appealing in 2016, understand why any Democrat would have an uphill road in the shadow of Obama, and have no problem blaming Hillary Clinton for a campaign at once timid and arrogant, but can’t make the leap to Trump being an acceptable choice.  As president I hope he disrupts American political culture in an enduring fashion, uses his unpredictability as an asset to make progress on the thorny international problems in which we are currently swimming, and is ideologically pragmatic in a way his pre-campaign actions would suggest, but I can’t let go of how bad a role model he has been, nationally and globally, for the last year.

I was, in hindsight, extraordinarily lucky to have been in Egypt in early 2010, not quite a year into the Obama presidency and right after his speech in Cairo.  The reception we got as Americans was extraordinary, and had everything to do with our president.  Being hailed on the street and harangued by shopkeepers became routine, and I could not help but be proud that the fame usually given the US by virtue of simple economics was finally being earned much better.  That Trump enthuses people like Marine Le Pen only enforces my pessimism.

The last eight years have, inevitably, made me more of a lefty.  Today you don’t find many Republicans in social work, and the few which come easily to mind are only conspicuous as bad practitioners, folks whose work suffered due to both laziness and myopia.  Graduate school set me well on the road to seeing how structural poverty is, how transgenerational mental illness and social maladaption are what make social and economic mobility so intransigent, and by extension so expensive to facilitate.  JD Vance chose a good year to publish, and as a result has gotten lots of time on TV news this fall.  I think his explanation of Trump’s appeal in unimpeachable, but the press has given almost no attention to his thesis that economic factors and the structure of government programs have conspired to create learned helplessness, which is as significant a factor as any in promulgating poverty.  And by extension, the disaffection which made Donald Trump president.

Early in my six year tenure I gave up writing here about the job I’ll soon leave.  The daily grind of social work is a tough thing to put into words, in no small part because the job simultaneously requires intense emotional investment and profound personal detachment.  This paradox is clearly embodied in all the good meta-analyses of mental health treatment outcomes, which universally show that the best predictor of positive outcomes is the consistent perception, by the client, that the therapist/doctor/worker has genuine empathy and emotional regard.  Different studies of the same data show that exploitation of the worker-client relationship, often in the form of sexual relationships, is a disconcertingly widespread problem.  I’ve had more you-can’t-make-this-shit-up moments in the last six years than I can hope to easily remember, a significant minority of them involving fellow social workers, but have always held back from telling those stories due to concerns over confidentiality.  I want to let myself go from that, at least a little, before I forget too much.

It is easy and simple, as a social worker, to blame and be hostile towards your clients.  I’ve had plenty of cases for which society currently has no good solution.  Violent or suicidal 10 year olds, for example, are generally not served in most group homes, residential treatment centers, or even hospitals.  The police are also generally flummoxed by the mother of an 4th grader who calls for help because she can’t control her son and is afraid he might follow through on his threat to cut off his own hand with a kitchen knife.  There are, thankfully, not enough of these cases for specific services to have evolved for them, at least in Montana.

Most of my cases have not been like that.  Most of them have had solutions which both had a decent chance of working and were, for a professional conveniently removed from the daily chaos, obvious.  The difficulty is in herding someone towards the obvious, ideally having them embrace the ideas as their own, and sustaining that commitment through the year or two or three it takes for changing habits to show rewards.  I don’t have too many questions left, in a broad sense, about what works, about what can get a family to break the hereditary pattern of high school dropouts, teen pregnancy, absent fathers, and intrafamily emotional abuse.  The big question I have left is where do we, as a society, draw the line.  How many years of therapy, billed to the government at 65 dollars an hour and with parental non-involvement, should be allowed before  the family is cut off?  Talk therapy is great for some kids, especially girls, even if the family isn’t bought in and the weekly dropoff just serves to check mom’s mental box of parental responsibility, but in the end it is no substitute for doing something.  How many weeks and years of case management, for children currently billed to the state of Montana (and through to the feds) at over 72 dollars per hour, is justified absent progress or at least investment?  How many times does a family get to ignore a recommendation, if the service in question is paid for by the state?

As Vance points out in the aforementioned interview, questions like this are an almost invisible tightrope, stretched between learned helplessness, which social services without question reinforcement, and economic privilege.  If historical factors and the circumstances into which they are born are largely responsible for folks being unable to extract themselves from poverty, who are college educated professionals to arbitrate what they should or should not do?

My concern with Donald Trump is at base that he has been nothing more than a spectacular fraud.  While he has implicitly held himself up as the embodiment of the American Dream (of bootstrapping social mobility), his personal history proves that dream to be the fiction it almost certainly always has been.  And unlike past presidents (two prominent examples are both named Roosevelt) there is little evidence that he’ll transcend his background and act out of anything other than his own view of the world.  In this I sincerely hope I am mistaken.

Vote no on Montana ballot initiative 177

Four years ago, while volunteering for the park service, a friend and I had an encounter with the ugly side of trapping. We had forded a river in waders and were slogging up a dry side channel, to find a tree for stashing said waders and ideally enough snow to immediately click into skis. In full posthole slog mode, with a heavy load of skis, overnight gear, and bait (read: frozen deer parts) in my pack I could be forgiven for not seeing the mountain lion until we were within 20 yards. It was tucked up under a pine above the cutbank, and my first thought was to wonder why it had not yet charged us. Then I noticed the chain in the snow, which ran in one direction to a 10 foot log, and in the other to a leghold trap on the lions leg. It had enough chain to easily reach us, but under the circumstances was understandably sedate. We got on the radio and called in the cavalry, who long after we proceeded up-drainage to our objective tranquilizes, collared, checked, weighed, and released the lion, unharmed.

On that particular river the park boundary starts at the high water mark, so flood zones on the park side, like where we had been walking, were national forest and thus technically legal for hunting and trapping. The lion had dragged itself and the trap up into the park, introducing a legal complication. I was later told that the trap did not have the owners name and phone number, a clear violation of state law and one supposes an admission of the traps placement in a legally dicey location. All of which is to say that it is easy to see why the general, non-hunting public is not so keen on trapping, and why Montana Initiative 177, which would ban trapping on all public land, gathered over 33,000 signatures and made it on to the ballot.

I think it is a bad initiative, and plan to vote against it.
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In the first place, it’s a bad initiative because it is over broad.  Leghold traps, like the one used in my lion encounter, are non-lethal and potentially cruel.  The larger predators such traps generally target can indeed cause the victims to chew or twist their paw off to escape, which is why Montana law mandates frequent checking of traps, and personal information on all traps placed.  Other traps, such as body-grippers used on beaver and muskrat, are generally lethal immediately or in short order.  Being in general about as humane as bowhunting, this side of trapping deflates the cruelty argument against trapping, as well as the trapped pet argument.  Other trapping methods, such as snaring, get similar broad-brush treatment.

The text of the initiative admits another weakness bold face, by stating that Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks will be able to trap for predator control purposes and that”…the state will incur other costs associated with monitoring wolf populations and hiring additional full time employees…”  I have serious problems with wolf hunting in Montana, but none of my objections have to do with the wolf population being able to withstanding hunting and trapping.  While there is little reason to suppose that hunting and trapping of predators like wolves and mountain lions will shape their populations more forcefully than prey availability, there is equally little reason to think that allowing predation will not ease conflict between two-legs and four, for many reasons.  Plainly put, if trappers cannot contribute to predator management, social factors will probably oblige the state to do so in their stead.

Last is the slippery slope objection, articulated here by Steven Rinella.  I don’t like how easily this line of reasoning fall into culture wars and conspiracy, but at the same time have little patience with the naive, overly sentimental view of wildlife the trapping ban would seem to endorse.  The trapped animals implicitly targeted by the ban tend to be more cute, noble, and sympathetic than most, and it is difficult to not think that this is most of the story.  Few people are lamenting the horrible fate of trapped rodents.

As for the keep our dogs safe argument, I call poppycock.  The statistics for pets trapped annually are minute (8-15 per year, depending on who is talking), and existing regulations mandate traps be quite far enough from trails and roads.  If your pet is impulsive or dumb, keep it on a leash, or better yet train it properly in the first place.

More than anything the very presence of I-177 on the ballot should point hunters and trappers at exactly where they are failing to get through to the general public, a failure which left to long unfixed might just well result in further hunting restrictions, and even less general sympathy and support.  If that comes to pass pity will be hard to come by.

The worst things about Montana

Necessary companion to yesterday.  Feel free to take offense.

1: The food

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I irritate friends and coworkers almost weekly on this subject, but the thing I lament most often about Montana is not being able to get a decent Avocado for less than $1.25 and being able to count the acceptable eating institutions in a valley of 100,000 on both hands, with fingers left over.  The former is a function of distance, and I presume lack of demand, but the later* is less easily explicable.  The prominence of the exceptions to Montana = shit restaurants, and the fervor with which they are upheld by their devotees, only proves my point.  With a few exceptions (Bernice’s, Sportsman’s Lodge, the Polebridge Merc under the previous owners) my most memorable meals have all been at home or in the field, and centered around wild game or fish.  So go suck it Montana, and let me know when the 20th century has made it over from Wyoming.

*It should be noted that this does not apply to Montana breweries, of which there are many good ones.

2: The distance

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As I noted yesterday Montana wins much by being far from population centers.  The somewhat inexorable corollary to this is that a substantive change of scenery, when for instance the rainy fall doldrums have set in, is often a very long way away.  6-8 hours, or in the grip of winter even more.  Lower latitudes provide more diversity of opportunity, especially when they’re associated with more drastic changes in elevation than most of Montana provides.

It also requires more time, money and effort for folks to visit you when you live in Montana, which can be both a blessing and a curse.

There is no way to have your cake and eat it with this one.

3: The dark

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These last two are somewhat specific to our corner of the state, which has both the short days of early winter along the 48th parallel and occasional spells of Pacific-influenced drizzle and cloud.  We also, in the valley, are frequently blessed with inversions of mist and fog off Flathead Lake, which during severe temperature gradients can be thick enough to necessitate fog lights and sub 40 mph speeds on the highway.  In short, late fall and early winter can be tough, especially when all daylight hours are spent at work and the snow has yet to fall in earnest.  Getting into hunting has made this much easier to bear, as by the time the season is over I’ve generally been so tired that I’m quite content to stay home in the dark, reading and cooking.  Nonetheless, we miss southwest sunshine, when a cloudy day is so rare as to be an afterthought.  Having it again will be a welcome return.

4: The white people

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Of which I am of course one.

The Flathead Valley is sufficiently remote and uninviting (see above) that one needs a compelling reason to be here in residence.  The most obvious, and in my book most trustworthy, reason is any permutation of hiking/skiing/boating/hunting/fishing.  Most of the truly enthusiastic participants here are transplants, do more than one outdoor activity at a dedicated level, and are white.  The second reason, and in my book the least trustworthy, is those who moved here “for the view.”  I’d like to deport any Flathead residents who don’t drive east beyond West Glacier at least six times a year, it’d doubtless sort out the sprawl, hilltop eyesores, and continue degradation of the wildland/urban interface nicely.  These people are also majorly white, and much more likely than average to be from California (an easy slur, but a true one).  The third reason, which will be addressed in a forthcoming valedictory post concerning my professional life over the last six years, is that the folks in question were born and raised and due to the cathection of choice and circumstance cannot leave.  Again, most of these people are white.

The dark side of all this is that the Flathead is an insular, insulated, often out of touch place.  There’s a reason Richard Spencer chose to move to Whitefish a few years ago, and that reason does not do the area credit.  I’ll miss the Flathead, I’ll miss the mountains in all directions, I’ll miss the clear rivers and the larches changing in October and the deer behind every third tree, and the many friends we’re leaving behind, but I will not miss the cynical utopia which is much of the valley, halcyon uncritical of a daily world which never was.  The more I think about it, the stronger my conclusion that it probably isn’t the best place to raise a child.

Bye bye Montana, we’ll visit often but I doubt we’ll ever be back for good.

Cowboy Coffee redux

Two years ago I detailed my preferred method of making cowboy coffee in the field, and advocated for it as the all around best method.  Plenty of articles about backcountry coffee have come out since, but there is still no new news here.  Via is convenient (especially as it is quite palatable cold), but expensive and for all Starbucks work still has an aftertaste suitable for taking paint off car hoods.  The Aeropress and various french press accessories work well, but for me will always be unacceptably bulky for true backcountry (save something like a canoe trip).  There is also, in my mind, a lot to be said for applying technique to create something beautiful, rather than buying yet another gadget.

The main difficulty with cowboy coffee is cleanup.  If you’re not camping near a water source it’s difficult to not have a big mess to sort out later.  Given my serious coffee habit, and the serious performance-enhancing benefits of caffeine, I never skimp on coffee, and that often means bringing both Via and fine grounds.  The former is for quick mornings and mid-day breaks, the later for sit-down breakfasts and extended stops mid-day.

Regardless, don’t faff about with backcountry coffee.  Bring plenty, and do it right.  Below the photo is my original text on making cowboy coffee, updated.

I grin a little everything some new gadget comes out for making good coffee in the backcountry.  As with many things, the original method is still the best, and in this particular case has the added benefit of requiring no equipment at all, aside from the pot, stove or fire, and ground coffee you already have.  Like pitching a tarp so you’ll stay dry in a storm, digging a cathole, gutting a fish, navigating off-trail, or building a fire after an all-day rain, making cowboy coffee may seem intimidating at first, but is actually quite simple.  Unlike those other things, you can get 90% of the way from cowboy coffee newb to expert without leaving your house.  It’s a skill that, given coffees performance enhancing qualities, should be considered as essential as knowing to piss downwind.

First start with a generous amount of grounds and some cold water.  As many wise folks have said, you don’t need nearly as much water to make coffee as most people think.  Fine grounds are advantageous when making cowboy coffee, they saturate faster and easier, which is the key to their reliably sinking.  I bring espresso ground beans, but there is nothing wrong with turkish either.

Combine grounds and cold water and set it to boil.  You want to give the grounds as long as possible to saturate and get heavy, as well as impart good flavor to the liquid.

Bring to a roiling boil, and keep it there for 10-15 seconds.  On most camp stoves doing this without boiling over will require a less than full pot, as well as hovering the pot over the burner using a grip, pliers, or a glove/sock.  Consensus seems to be that coffee ought to be brought to 200F (+/- 5F) for best results. Given that 200F is the boiling point at around 6000 feet, and the 5 degree margin of error encompasses the boiling point between 4000 and 9000 feet, we hikers appear to be in good shape. The length at which coffee should be held at said temp comes down to personal preference. I have a strong affinity for bitterness, so I go longer. If a triple espresso is not your normal mid-afternoon snack, as it is mine, you might want to boil only briefly or not at all.

Let the pot rest for a minute.  There are many ways, like adding a squirt of cold water or tapping the edge, to help the grounds settle, but if you’ve done the above and have a bit of patience this issue should take care of itself.

Drink.  You can decant from the pot into mugs/cups/bottles, or drink straight from the pot.  Obviously, don’t swirl or otherwise seriously disturb the coffee, or attempt to pour or drink the last ounce at the bottom.

This is the best, and simplest, and lightest, way to get a solid cup of coffee in the backcountry.  And often a good way to impress friends and neighbors.  Practice a bit at home, and you’ll be set to go.

Ultralight backpacking for assholes

Four years ago I published one of my most read (non-gear) posts, equal parts misunderstood by others and a personal favorite.  The most salient point, and one which readers found and still find hard to swallow, is that the content of small, banal activities has cultural import.  My example back then was that backpacking dreams too long unrealized or at least unpracticed poison the soul and thus, by proxy, the soul of others.  Another example would be that those who enjoy watching Avatar (2009), one of the more notably racist movies in recent memory, are themselves racist, albeit in a likely tiny and almost certainly subconscious manner.  Multiply little, unintended evils by many millions and something significant will inevitably come to pass.

R0013094A year later I discussed that too directly translating the expectations of civilization to the backcountry is a recipe for disaster, or at least disappointment.  Backpacking is fantastic because of the intimacy it demands, with the land and ultimately with yourself.  While I wouldn’t advise going out without a sleeping pad, sleeping soundly in the backcountry is a process which involves campsite selection, a pad suited to your anatomy, enough but not too much insulation, and practice.  Nothing in the world is free, and consistently nailing all of the above and sleeping better in the woods than at home would be robbed of most meaning if it merely happened by accident.  My best guess is that it took around 300 nights in the woods before I slept well almost all the time.  In the 13 years since I spent half a year sleeping almost entirely outside, between working wilderness therapy and sleeping in the dirt next to my home (Subaru), I’ve been firmly on the dark side and look forward to every night outdoors.  Sleeping near water and having a nice breeze in my face make a good thing even better.

M, above, still struggles with this a bit, and has hips which require a much thicker pad.  We’re still collectively fighting her bearanoia, thermal regulation issues, and leaky Big Agnes pads.  Little Bear, so long as he has a few snacks in the night, sleeps as easily in a tent as he does anywhere else. For the moment.  It’s remarkable how far an eight year old can walk, provided there are interesting things to see and she’s never been told that doing it should make her tired.  And it’s remarkable how cold and wet a seven year old can be without either being unsafe or uncomfortable, provided he’s never been fully enlightened as to what uncomfortable is supposed to mean.

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Heavy packs are both worse and not as bad as they seem.  Just as with sleeping outside, hiking shouldn’t be easy, immediately.  No one expects to play a violin well, or even acceptably, without years of practice, but plenty of folks are mystified that their legs hurt after a 15 mile day of hiking, or butt hurts after 20 miles of cycling.  Part of this is laziness and the contemptible desire to not put in the time before the rewards.  Part of this is the persistence of myths; that more padding makes both saddles and pack hipbelts more comfortable.  Part of it is the massive amount of nonsense the internet has cultivated concerning the subject of the backcountry.  No doubt people have always heard what they want, but the internet amplifies this by rewarding flash and the warm fuzzies over substance.  Being unwilling to be a bit miserable is both a personal flaw, and evidence of good planning.

DSC01245In short, while backpacking is supposed to be hard, thoughtlessly making it more difficult than necessary is something to be condemned.  Everyone, no matter how experienced, pack their fears, and having a kid and thus getting out a bit less has in the past year given me a renewed appreciation for just how big a cluster backpacking can be when it’s been months since the logistics and routines have been last practiced.  These are excuses, but not necessary and sufficient reasons for either failing to embrace the process or just being bad at something with which you’ve been consistently fascinated.

A lot of bullshit has been written about how difficult attaining a given pack weight may have been a decade ago, before preferences in fabrics and changes in design philosophy became as widespread as they currently are.  I speak pejoratively because what is really meant here is that attaining a certain pack weight previously required growth in skill and accumulation of experience, which engendered both a more intimate knowledge of what terms like “necessary” and “safety” actually mean, as well as changes in mindset and physiology.  There’s a gap between being so cold at night that you cannot sleep well, and being warm enough at night that you feel immediately comfortable and secure, and when measured in ounces and dollars and insulating garments that gap is larger than most can fathom.

So, does the recent profusion of 30 oz, “double wall” and “two person” 500 dollar tents enhance the backpacking experience?  Or does this do little more than further build the elitist reputation of outdoor pursuits, and allow those practitioners to get further and longer without being obliged to learn anything they didn’t plan to in the first place?

I ask mostly, rhetorically.