Andy Howell ponders the decline of walking for days on end (which sounds downright sane when put that way):
One of the more interesting conversation that I had at the Outdoor Show was with Paul Davis, of hike-lite.co.uk. We talked about the trends in hiking and, in particular, the notion that long distance walking and backpacking was on the decline.
I’ve touched on this issue a couple of times in this blog: firstly, there was the entry that looked at a feature from the US Go Outdoors blog “Top Ten Reasons You Know The Outdoor Industry is Dead“; secondly, there was the comment from the Youth Hostel Association that some of their hostels that were sited to serve long distance footpaths were vulnerable because fewer people were walking the long distance routes.
Paul is obviously a man who keeps his eye on market trends and he feels that – certainly in the USA – things are moving towards the day out market. Basically put, people are looking for a high octane day out; the day after they’ll be looking to do something else. Gear trends are following this. The market is increasingly about the day out rather than the longer hike or trek.
A day hike is fine if you want your nature in small doses. Because most people don’t even day hike, you’re still experiencing things other people are missing, which makes it feel elite and exclusive without having to worry Donald Trump will show up. Thing is, you’ve got to get farther from people to get closer to the wilds, and that tends to mean a couple days afoot. Which is hard in the many ways enumerated on this and other outdoors blogs.
Fewer people in the backcounty has pluses and minuses: less chance of a neighboring camper practicing for his American Idol audition at bedtime; more chance of nobody being around to send for help when you’ve thrown your back out while bent over trying to poop.
One thing I can say in camping’s favor: On one of my first overnighters, I awoke in the middle of the night and the forest was silent — all the frogs and songbirds abed for the evening — except for the hooting of a single owl. Then there was the sound of a second owl hooting back. Way up in the trees, they were having having a conversation, perhaps on the subect of which hills had the tastiest tree rats. Some expereinces require you to be lying still, making no sounds that interrupt the nighttime flow of the forest.
It seems like I experience something totally cool like that on every campout, compared to about every 12th day hike. Day hikes are more doable, though — less gear, less planning, less travel to backcountry trailheads — which is why despite having a closet full of camping gear, I’m primarily a day-outer too.
The main thing is to get off the couch, away from the keyboard, and out there. Any day now I’m goinng to start following my own advice (as soon as the mud and the cow crap dries up, I promise!).