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Why You Should Throw on a Backpack and Head for the Hills

Updated on November 16, 2015
Availiasvision profile image

Jennifer is an adventure writer and loves helping people outfit themselves for adventure. She loves backpacking, camping, and scuba diving.

Get out there!

Backpacking above Palm Springs, near Mt. San Jacinto.
Backpacking above Palm Springs, near Mt. San Jacinto. | Source

To Disconnect

Technology has taken over our world so fast that we haven't had a chance to sit back and assess how much, and in what ways, it is affecting us. Many of us spend every waking moment plugged into a machine or media outlet and clinging to our smart phones like they're life support.

It's nearly impossible to discover how much media we consume until we experience twenty-four hours without it.

Try sitting quietly for a few hours with no music, no sound of cars going by outside the window, no television playing in the background, no politically funded media source running from your eyeballs to your brain. What's frightening is that you may have to listen to your own voice, that thing we go to great lengths to tune out.

Disconnecting from technology may connect you in new ways to the natural world. A fire becomes your bedtime companion, a sunrise your alarm clock, and the wind through the evergreens, your own private symphony.

No man should go through life without once experiencing healthy, even bored solitude in the wilderness, finding himself depending solely on himself and thereby learning his true and hidden strength.

Jack Kerouac

To Reconnect

Being out in nature, disconnected from the facades of society and all of its distractions, prompts you to experience reconnecting to your own soul. It will allow you the time and space to search yourself and reconnect to your truest and deepest self. There is a part of you that knows what truth is, a part that is brave and courageous, a part that is both vulnerable and invincible.

When you see a sunset so beautiful that it is like the veil of heaven opening on you, you have to wonder if God is putting on a light show just for you. There are moments where you may be the only person on the planet to see an act of splendor.

The wild forces you to be present, in the moment, disconnected, but fully engaged.

Your soul needs this every once in a while.
Your soul needs this every once in a while. | Source

And I also know how important it is in life not necessarily to be strong but to feel strong. To measure yourself at least once. To find yourself at least once in the most ancient of human conditions. Facing the blind death stone alone, with nothing to help you but your hands and your own head.

Christopher McCandless, Into the Wild (2007)

To Test Yourself

The magnificence of the wild is that it is untamed, fierce, and often unforgiving. You have to constantly make decisions and be held accountable to those choices. There are moments where it is just you and a mountain. There is no one to rescue you, no one to drive you each step higher, just your own will thrusting you onward.

You may have been brought up in a world that plays fake war games online and is entertained by the false dangers of theme parks and television NASCAR races but inside your heart longs for adventure and the chance to be courageous and free.

Why do we enjoy heroic movies? Deep down we wonder if we could be so brave. Can we stare death in the eye? Can we be self-sacrificing?

As a people we have to face our own mortality. We have to test ourselves, and until we do, we will only do it vicariously through the media we consume. Your inner Indiana Jones is calling.

Your accomplishments in the wild can never be taken from you. They are yours. When the mountain tests you to your limit, when there is nothing inside you to keep going, and you overcome, you gain an incorruptible confidence.


Health Benefits to Wilderness Exploration

  • No unnatural fluorescent lighting or squinting in front of a screen
  • You'll get stronger, fitter, and more energized
  • Just seeing the color green is naturally soothing to the eyes
  • You'll breathe tons of fresh air straight from the trees
  • You'll build bonds with fellow adventurers
  • The vitamin E and sunlight is good for the mood
  • It unclutters the mind

To Hone Your Instincts

Man was built to survive. Your body and mind are way more resilient than you give it credit for. Deep inside you, there are instincts that need to be discovered, dusted off, and nurtured. There are three attributes the wild pulls out of you.


As you tune into the natural world your mind will instinctively go into hyper-focused mode. You begin to feel the subtle rise of the river revealing a storm upstream, you are keenly aware of every movement around you, and you feel the energy of a thunderstorm, the snap of a twig, the hush of a flock of birds, and the hair raising on the back of your neck. When a single misstep can kill you, that focus is vital to your survival.


The wild is ever changing. The spring on the map dried up, a rock slide blocks your way out of a canyon, a flash flood is brewing fifty miles upstream, or you find yourself in a summer snowstorm on a high altitude pass and to survive you must asses your situation, take stock of your resources, and adapt your plan. You ingenuity and creativity then shift into high gear. It's survival of the fittest, adapt or die.

Fight or Flight

In the face of danger your subconscious boosts your adrenaline and gives you superhuman strength to either fight the danger or flee from it. You don't think, you react. Adrenaline is a gift to you in your weakest and most vulnerable moments. You don't know if you can climb that canyon wall to safety until you're spread eagle, hips to the rock, with sweaty fingers searching for one slice of weakness on a sheer piece of granite.


To Learn the Lost Art of Survival

We have built cities of safety and convenience, but forgotten the way our forefathers lived nomadically. This has created two worlds and two different, conflicting sets of values. Reality has been flipped and man has come to see nature as dangerous and life sucking. The wild is the real world, the one he was built for. He no longer knows how to feed, clothe, or house himself from the elements, and has begun to fear what he doesn't understand.

What happens when an economic, political, or environmental emergency compromises the modern conveniences you rely on for your livelihood? Earlier generations were much more self-sufficient and knowledgeable of bushcraft. Your time in the wild connects you to the lost art of navigating without a compass, purifying drinking water, foraging for food, and making a safe shelter.

What is frightening is whole generations are growing up more versed in MTV music videos than how to build a fire, catch a fish, or navigate by the stars. I am that generation and I am disappointed that I was not more heavily exposed to a more simple way of living from a young age.


To Explore

The wilderness is the world's biggest playground full of interesting creatures, unearthly formations, and mountain ranges that look too large and daunting to ever pass. Your curiosity is begging to see what's around the next bend, over the next mountain, under the next rock. There are places man has not yet stood, species that have never been recorded, and ancient mysteries to be uncovered.

You work too hard and need to get out and play. Go climb a rock just for the fun of it, sit and listen to a babbling brook just because its noon and you have nowhere you need to be, find a transcendent joy in the simplicity of life in the wilderness. Life is too short, and the world is too big, to not get out and explore. You could spend a thousand lifetimes adventuring and never uncover all that this earth possess.

My idea of a wilderness experience is

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If my plane crashed on a deserted island

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© 2013 Jennifer Arnett


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    • Will Jason profile image

      Will Jason 

      6 years ago from Chattanooga, Tennessee

      We just did a small segment. i've never been able to take a "gap year" or take 5 months off from my day job to do the whole thing. if i could get paid to gear up, take trips, and write; i surely would.

    • Availiasvision profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Arnett 

      6 years ago from California

      I am so excited that you and others are relating to this hub. Getting outdoors is something very near and dear to me.

      How was the AT? You are very lucky to be able to hop onto it so easily. Isn't it so rewarding to use your compass?

    • Will Jason profile image

      Will Jason 

      6 years ago from Chattanooga, Tennessee

      I loved the part at the beginning about tech and how it's changed our lives. I call my phone my "digital leash" because when i'm not in the woods, i always feel that i'm doing what the "voices" on the phone tell me to do.

      And it's funny when i think back to when i was a scout or even after that. i remember using a compass, a map, and my intersection/resection skills combined with azimuths to determine where i was going. now i use a backcountry gps app on a tablet. last month, i hit the smoky mountain section of the AT and left the tech at home to refresh my map and compass skills and had a blast.

      You were right on so many levels about adapting, and listening, and making decisions that affect your entire trip. Great Hub!!!

    • Availiasvision profile imageAUTHOR

      Jennifer Arnett 

      6 years ago from California

      Thanks for reading Outbound Dan. I still haven't learned how to deal with people who plainly don't get it, including my own family. Here's a quote I love from Bear Grylls' book Mud, Sweat, and Tears:

      “Many people find it hard to understand what it is about a mountain that draws men and women to risk their lives on her freezing, icy faces - all for a chance at that single, solitary moment on the top. It can be hard to explain. But I also relate to the quote that says, If you have to ask, you will never understand.”

    • Loreva13 profile image

      Lorenzo M Vasquez III 

      6 years ago from El Paso, TX

      Awesome Hub!!! Great reasons to get on out there and explore a world that is slowly disappearing because our culture seems to have forgotten its there. There is absolutely nothing that compares to going out in the wilderness and discovering the wild while discovering yourself.

    • Outbound Dan profile image

      Dan Human 

      6 years ago from Niagara Falls, NY

      These are all great reasons to head for the mountains. The most difficult thing is exploring why I "must" go to a person who just doesn't get it. They just look at you with their head cocked sideways and their hands on their smart phone.

      I know that during a trek I am able to center myself and reattain focus in my life.

      Great Hub!

    • CyclingFitness profile image

      Liam Hallam 

      6 years ago from Nottingham UK

      I love to get my hiking pack on and go for it but love it in short blasts. To me a walk needs a purpose- scaling a climb or a heritage type trail with some history. There's nothing more refreshing than a week without a mobile phone. Great hub. Liam

    • Natashalh profile image


      6 years ago from Hawaii

      I'm not a crazy wilderness survival person - I guess I'm one step less rugged that that but far from a glamper! I love getting outside, whether it's hiking, being on the water, or getting under the water. Very fun hub and I lope lots of people read it!


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