Some hard lessons are easier to remember than others

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the wisdom I’ve gathered over the years spent in the wild.

While thinking about some of the wisdom I’ve gained from experiences in the outdoors, I thought of the most obvious piece of wisdom first: Don’t eat yellow snow. But some of my wisdom has been even harder-earned.

I’ve learned to never go into the field without a spare compass. After sitting on the only compass I had with me on a trip into territory new to me, this piece of wisdom is bought and paid for with sweat and a pair of hiking boots.

Speaking of boots, it’s wise to break in new boots and clip your toenails before hiking 30 miles in those boots. To neglect either is to doom your new boots and socks (as well as your toes) to the scrap heap.

Some lessons I learned for the most part at someone else’s expense. For instance, I learned from John Whipp that down sleeping bags with nylon shells and tent stoves don’t make good bedfellows. My dad’s collapsible wood-burning tent stove consists of a fire box, an oven and a metal shelf. Though the shelf stays much cooler than the other parts of the stove, it still gets pretty hot. There are two legs coming off the side of the shelf farthest from the stove, and they warm up, too. It was these legs that did in Whipp’s bag.

I happened to be awake, reading by the light of my Mini MagLite, when Whipp rolled over in his sleep. I glanced up when I saw movement, and the next thing I knew, there was a loud, booming “WHOOOMPH,” and the entire inside of the tent filled with tiny white feathers. When Whipp rolled over, his bag touched the shelf’s support leg. When that nylon hit the hot metal, it contracted and disintegrated almost instantly and sent the feathers flying. Whipp spent most of the rest of the night chasing feathers around the tent and stuffing them back into his bag, which he repaired with duct tape. The price I paid for this bit of wisdom was enduring the smell of burnt feathers for the rest of the trip.

Get out and learn some lessons of your own.