View Full Version : Does familiarity breed contempt?

04-12-2004, 07:00 PM
I was out hiking on Mt Tom and Mt Field today (a beautiful hike) we saw only one other hiker. He had on shorts, socks and 3 season boots and was carring poles without tethers and a tee shirt. he had little more than a fanny pack and I saw no water. We did see him again and he did have a fleece vest on. In our short conversation he said at least 2 or 3 times that he does this 6 mile loop daily. Do people get too at ease with there surroundings? After seeing this my vote has become YES! Even the guy we saw hiking nude... yes rally nude on Laffeyette last summer had a full pack. If any thing had happened this guy would not have lasted long. Granted it was 41 degrees but there was also full snow cover and the distinct possibilty of post holing or sliding off trail and who knows what could happen. My pack for today included crampons (which were used) snow shoes and a full change of fleece plus first aid a bivy sack of which none were used plus food and water ect.... 28lbs of which i used 6lbs. What are these people thinking?

04-12-2004, 07:52 PM
I agree, people really do get too comfortable with their surroundings. many hikers forget how dangerous and unpredictable the mountains can be. When we go hiking, we always carry full packs even on short day hikes. Sometimes when we see other hikers carrying almost nothing we feel ' overpacked' but I would rather be safe than sorry!

04-13-2004, 07:18 AM
You can never shield yourself from all risk. Most people make reasonable choices based on experience, and this guy knew his trail well. There's nothing steep or exposed on Field and Tom. I've climbed Monadnock with only a bottle of water in my hand, but only because the weather forecast was good.

Personally, I'd never schlep 28 pounds of gear on a dayhike like that. If you like that feeling of extra security, do it!

04-13-2004, 07:31 AM
I agree Audrey. There are as many hiking styles and comfort levels as there are people in the mountains. In light of all the annual recent accidents, its difficult not to wince when you see someone with less stuff than you feel appropriate. But there is no uniform that would fit us all.
I hiked that loop in March and saw a guy with shorts and gaiters. I got a smile out of it. Probably the same guy......
"fare thee well" I thought

Michael M
04-13-2004, 10:20 AM

Did you ever wonder what he was thinking about your pack?

Remember an experienced/ elite athlete who travels this loop daily could make this trip in under one hour and would hardly be putting himself at any significant risk.

I agree with Audrey and Bruin that we all travel in different styles.

My teams are neither experienced or elite and we completed the winter ADK 46ers with 18 Bivis and never carried over24 pounds.

I doubt this hiker gave a second thought to you and your style, and I wouldn’t ither.

I do however think about those guys carrying fifty pounds plus but periwinkle straightened me out on this. We all have our own style and can appreciate the advantages of all. My guess is that overtime and with more experience, and better gear we will all be carrying less not more in the future. What do you think? Will your kit be lighter or heavier in 5 years?

04-13-2004, 10:25 AM
I'd be more concerned about the foks I run into half way up (or down) Marcy or Algonquin with sneakers, jeans, no pack and parched lips.

As mentioned comfort levels vary and as we each push the edge of the envelope, we increase our zone of comfort.

Sometimes tragedies occur, but aside from the bizarre tragic deaths that occurred this winter, I think there are usually more negative outcomes from those unprepared and out of their element than those that are underprepared but within their element.

spider solo
04-13-2004, 11:20 AM
I have met many an impressive athlete over the years but don't think I've ever met an "elite" one.
Don't think I ever will. I think it would require a basic belief in elitism. Something I don't have.
...met plenty a person who thought they were elite...but then again perhaps there are other words for them.......

04-13-2004, 11:59 AM
Originally posted by Michael M
I do however think about those guys carrying fifty pounds plus but periwinkle straightened me out on this. We all have our own style and can appreciate the advantages of all....What do you think? Will your kit be lighter or heavier in 5 years?

:D Although I may be carrying the same gear in five years, I will be replacing each item possible with a lighter model. Can't wait to shave a few pounds off the load!

But, for all that I went on and on before defending my large pack, I could have ended up being the poster child for Familiarity Breeds Contempt. Last August I went up the loop trail near home to plant another tree wearing a tank top and shorts, carrying only a shovel, a small plastic bag and a fanny pack with a snack and water bottle. I was about to head back when it started pouring buckets out of a blue sky. I wasn't too worried for the first five minutes, but I quickly chilled on that hot day. I started running to generate more body heat. The risk of falling increased, but it's an easy trail -- I just wanted to stay warm. I got back to the car in less than a 1/2 hour, but I was shivering badly -- my hands were cold, white and shaking badly. I was soaked straight thru. My boots and fanny pack were retaining water. I didn't have any extra clothes in the car either. Had to drive home shivering, waiting for the heat to kick-in in the car. Scared the $h!t of me!

I carry my daypack now with my rain gear no matter what. I figure it's a good training exercise at the least.

04-13-2004, 12:20 PM
Periwinkle - I know what you mean. Last spring I decided last minute to hike Belknap Mt. Of course, you can practically drive to the top and there are a lot of trails to the top (color coded blazes). The road to the parking lot has a gate and the sign says the gate is closed and locked at 6 pm (and I was not sure how strict this was). It was a beautiful day, so I just took a small fanny pack, one bottle of water, and some gorp. Left my car around 2:30 - plenty of time to hike up and back. Hiked up one trail - got to the top in about 45 minutes (took my time). Then decided to take a different trail down. Well, I missed the trail junction that would take me back to the parking lot and continued down a trail that was taking me a looooonnnggg way from where I needed to be. but the views were beautiful from the ledges and I was enjoying myself, not realizing I wasn't headed back to the car. By the time I realized that I was going the wrong way, it was 5:00 p.m and I had been hiking downhill for well over an hour and a half! Not knowing if the gate would be closed and locked, I booked it back up to the top and then ran down the right trail. I ran out of water - I didn't have a headlamp - no cell phone to call my husband or even a town cop if the gate had been closed and locked! No extra clothes. The trail down had sections of ice and it was slippery. Would have been in real trouble if I had fallen and hurt myself. There were no more hikers on the trail at the time. I got back to the car at 5:50. Never did find out if the gate was closed and locked at 6. Drove home and didn't tell anyone!!! (until now).

I often take more than I need when I go for a dayhike. I'd rather have something and not need it then to not have it and really need it. There have been a couple of occasions where I have shared clothing and food and water with hiking partners who mis-judged what they needed.

As Periwinkle says - it makes for a great training exercise.

04-13-2004, 01:55 PM
Great topic!!!

When I ponder this subject it always brings to mind Dr. Phil's
famous quote. "You choose the behavior, you choose the consequences."
I will continue to haul my pack and I worry no more about those who choose to go light, wear cotton, and not carry water on those scorching summer days.
I have learned a lot reading all the discussions over the past few
months with regards to mountain safety.
I have also learned that I need to respect other people's decisions with regards to what they consider is safe for them. This has helped me to come to some conclusions about how I would deal with an injured /incapacitated hiker on a trail.
If I come upon an "elite athlete" who is ill prepared or a "minimalist"hiker I will do my best to get them help. I will not however place myself at risk by handing over my emergency provisions in the event that I might need them if I became lost or injured on the way out.
If on the other hand I come across an injured hiker who is prepared I will assist them in any way I can by utilizing their gear to make them warm and comfortable prior to going for help.
I fractured my radial neck in my very own campsite in Acadia Ntl. Park. Over the years I've had a few other near misses.
And to think....this wasn't suppose to happen to me.I train, I'm strong, I have experience.
The joke was on me and I wasn't laughing........
I often hear these words at work from patients who are injured.
"I don't know how this happened."
"I was being really careful"
"I've done this a million times."
"I can't believe it."
"I'll never do this again."
Life is risky business. Perhaps there is no right or wrong way.
The more I read the more I appreciate the fact that people hold fast and firm to their beliefs of what they should or should not carry. I don't know what it is
about the human but we seem to learn best from our mistakes, providing of course that we survive them. The Buddhist say "we are the heirs to our actions." Same as Dr. Phil I guess!!!
Happy hiking to all as we welcome spring.

04-13-2004, 03:15 PM
Thought you guys were talkin' about spending too much time in a tent with another person. My bad.

Michael M
04-13-2004, 03:52 PM

A dictionary check!
So their is no misunderstanding elite as in "a small group of people within a larger group, who have more talent then the rest of the group", verb, or belonging to an elite, especially in being more talented, or highly trained." adj This is not about privileged, restriction or wealth or elitism.

In the early 80's I encouraged Lynn Hill to participate in her first triathlon in the Mighty Hampton, she finished third place in a national class field. She has always been considered by me to be an elite athlete, and has consistently demonstrated this by standing far and above her athletic peers, in many endeavors. She is clearly well trained, disciplined, determined, and is also genetically gifted.

She is neither snobby or an elitist, but clearly recognizes she is a bit more talented then the average bear.

As Communication continues to shrinks the world, to a point where the larger group may in some cases include the entire planet it become ever more difficult to meet elite athletes. The good news is we can make our group as small as we have to -- if we really need to label ourselves as elite!

04-13-2004, 04:37 PM
Went hiking with my wife in Connecticut Hill state forest near Ithaca. A simple hike. Weather was supposed to be foggy with temps around 75, so I only brought a quart of water. Weather was actually bright sun with temps around 95... and humid. Walking on logging roads, exposed to the sun, we both got dehydrated... she worse than me. About a mile from the car, and walking uphill, she was having difficulty breathing. I ushered her into the shade, and ran to the car... up the remainder of the hill and back down a steep slope, where I filled up on food-tainted cooler water from our camping trip. Ran up the 500-foot incline and back to my wife. A few minutes later she was able to walk again and made it back to the car. Since that day I've vowed not to be ill-prepared.

Mike P.
04-13-2004, 04:50 PM
For the guy who does a trip almost daily, he likely will also turn around at the first sign of bad weather (I mean like clouds, more wind from a direction not expected, fog on a clear day) since he/she can come back tomorrow.

Snowshoes, why, if trail is not well packed come back after the following weekend. He probaly lives 20 minutes away. In my fanny pack I can get wind pants, rain coat, light fleece, ER blanket, (I have to try new ER Bivy) food, headlamp, phone, two liters water & if in convertible pants, legs fit in pockets.

Is there a place on that hike without cell reception, maybe on AZ in a couple of the gullies the streams run through. Was the low forecasted to be below 25? If not I'm tempted to say I could get by there with my fanny pack? When it was -10, did he have same gear?

Since I live far away, I choose to carry all the gear because turning around at the first sign of a cloud is not an option I choose. Monadnock, Wachusetts, Bear & Greylock though from May to 11/1, fanny pack is a go. Osceola, Tecemseh, Cannon, Jackson & a few other shorter trips in the Whites, in mid- June thru Labor Day, I'd consider it too.

04-13-2004, 10:06 PM
Originally posted by Mike P.
For the guy who does a trip almost daily, he likely will also turn around at the first sign of bad weather ....

Not necesarily, or maybe it's just me. I'm more likely to keep bebopping along on a hometown hike. It's my turf. I used to tell myself that I could find my way home in the dark. Not...

This may make you feel better, Little Bear: I got lost on the Welch Dickey trail. Seriously. Been there countless times. Though I knew it like the back of my hand. I started up late in iffy weather, but had my gear. Started down at the scheduled time, but daylight faded fast with a low cloud ceiling. With my headlamp on, I followed the path of least resistance on the way down the Welch side. I didn't realize I was off the trail until I hit the brook. I immediately turned around and headed back the way I came. I would have continued straight across the trail if the dogs hadn't taken a hard almost reversed right on the trail.

I wasn't off the trail for long, but I learned a lesson. I also bought a better headlamp. And every time I've been up since, I've tossed a branch across this opening. I've got a respectable pile going!

And now all I want to know is -- WHY am I confessing all my "sins" on this thread?????? Because I'm sitting home sick and bored and it's raining? This thread should be re-named the Hiker's Confessional. I'm going to do my penance and go to bed! :)

spider solo
04-14-2004, 06:32 AM
Michael M
Well glad to see we both know how to use a dictionary...
I, of course, stand by my beliefs.
Also glad that dictionaries are still available to use.
Seeings as this is a hiking thread...I figure it's best to let it slide.......spdr

04-14-2004, 06:53 AM
"Does familiarity breed contempt?"

Contempt? By carrying less gear, is that showing contempt? Don't you mean complacency? I know that's not how the phrase goes but contempt does not seem to be the correct word or concept you are trying to present here.


04-14-2004, 07:09 AM
At the risk of turning this into a dictionary drill, I respectfully submit that Boots' use of the popular expression in asking the question is appropriate here, whether or not one believes it to be the case. An argument can be made that the complacency you speak of is a form of contempt (in the context of "a lack of respect" -- Webster's Ninth New Collegiate) for the environment and the dangers it presents.

04-14-2004, 07:10 AM
"familiarity breeds contempt...and children" (Mark Twain)

R. Killjoy
04-14-2004, 08:26 AM
My pack for today included crampons (which were used) snow shoes and a full change of fleece plus first aid a bivy sack of which none were used plus food and water ect.... 28lbs of which i used 6lbs.

Is that ALL? No sleepin' bag? No stove?

I say you are taking some major risks by taking such a remote and dangerous route with such minimalist gear.

I always pack in my Round Oak cast iron woodstove and a 1/4 cord of firewood, just in case. Then there's the old mattress and Army Surplus canvas tent that Spike drags behind him. You won't catch me an' Spike "caught out", no sir. I won't even mention the ham radio gear and assortment of splints.

We may be movin' a bit slower than you bivy-packin' speedsters, but at least I ain't endangering anyone.

04-14-2004, 08:58 AM
"won't even mention the ham radio gear"

what's your call sign??

04-14-2004, 10:30 AM
Originally posted by AlpineSummit
In this case:
Familiarity breeds CONFIDENCE, not contempt......
True enough, to a point.

The trouble begins when it breeds OVERconfidence in our capacity to dodge, cope with and overcome known, potential or predictable hazards that are inherent in what we're doing.


04-14-2004, 12:44 PM
This is a topic I've been putting some thought into lately. When out for local hikes/runs (like the guy in the original post), if I carry anything at all, it's a small knapsack with dog stuff, water, maybe some snacks and a map, perhaps more, depending on the expected weather and season. I don't carry many of the things that I would normally pack for a "real" hike. The "real" day hike pack contains items for first aid and safety. A few weeks ago, I wrenched an ankle about 3 miles into a local hike. As I returned to my car I was thinking that I'd've been all set if I were out for a real hike because that pack has Vetrap and hiking poles, which I don't bother to carry locally. I'd've taped it and used the poles to get out, instead of doing hours of dog-assisted hobbling. Luckily I was in a fairly busy area, I hope someone would have helped if I'd asked. Mostly, though, for local hikes I go to areas where I'm not likely to see people. Sometimes I bushwhack through the woods rather than staying along traveled areas, which makes being found even less likely. For a real hike, I leave an itinerary and schedule with someone, which isn't always practical for local outings.

Should I carry the day hike pack with its attendant safety gear for local outings - probably. Have I since - no. I'm not sure why, I would never head out for a real hike without it. And yet locally there's a smaller chance that I'd be found, or could find help. Perhaps a (mistaken) sense of confidence in the places I know well.

On the other hand, where do you draw the line? Should I carry safety gear on a 4 mile dog walk in the woods across the road from home? What about the walk to the mailbox?

04-14-2004, 03:14 PM
Great thread.

Many a day I have gone out for a run on the Zealand Trail, Oliverian Brook Trail, Great Gulf Trail or other "flat" trail in the Whites as a workout. (Great runs, BTW.) I'm out running, so I just carry a water bottle. But, I always let someone know where I am, and when I'm going to be back. So, if I fall and break an ankle in a hail storm, it will pretty unpleasant, but someone (usually my wife) will come find me. I'm willing to take the risk that none of that is going to happen. But...there is always that chance. I could also fall off my chair at work and crack my head open and die...but I'm not wearing a helmet. I'm willing to take that risk, too.

Mark Driscoll
04-14-2004, 04:22 PM

I agree that it is not complacency be confidence. Until I read the last few post on trail running it never crossed my mind that I go running on a 10 mile loop with just a water bottle in an area that people get lost overnight almost every year. This is a county park and I know I am never more than a mile from the main park road at any given time. Knowing where you are, how you will bailout if needed and more importantly knowing where the people will enter the trail to try and help you, can be better than a full pack. If you are not familiar with the area you need to plan appropriately.


04-15-2004, 04:45 PM
Back in ’99, we met a high school student at Johns Brook Lodge. He had recently completed his 46. He told us that he always hikes with a sleeping bag, tent, stove, etc., just in case anything should happen to him.

A year later we ran into him at Adirondack Loj; he told us he hadn't been hiking much because he needed a knee operation. Maybe from all the extra weight he'd been hauling around?

For myself, I can't bear that stone on my back, so I've been using just a hip pack since 2000. No sense in taking all the pleasure out of the walk.

Hey — now what's going on? How come VFTT doesn't recognize me on my computer at work, but it does on my computer at home? Was something updated beyond that vintage ’95's capability?