Hopers and Preppers: My Path To Becoming a (Slightly) Safer Idiot
It’s Moab in October and things are just right. Crisp air, not a cloud around and spirits are high. As I pull my bike out of the van, I take a moment to soak it in. I’m at the start of my favorite remote, secret-stash all-day ride (name and exact location undisclosed) on the fringes of Utah’s favorite ride mecca. To top things off, I’m riding with my boss. How cool is that!? Who gets to take epic rides with their boss?
With 60 degree temps and no chance of rain, I’m weighing my options. It’s obviously not going to rain, so I ditch my shell. And hell, I could probably do this ride with 2 bottles and snacks in my pockets and then leave the pack behind. Nothing feels better than riding technical trails with freedom of movement and a cool back, right?
Before I can make my final decision, Brian saddles up. Ever the efficient engineer, he’s locked and loaded before my front wheel is on. His bag was packed, so he put it on, no time wasted.
I’m not surprised by his punctuality. But the size of his pack blows my mind.
“Brian, what the hell is in that camelback!?” I ask, laughing. “Are we gonna have a picnic? Do you have a pie in there?”
His answer is short. “Twenty-four hour bag,” he replies. My humor dissolves into humility.
That moment highlights a key difference between Brian and I and one that divides the world of outdoor enthusiasts into two distinct camps: The hopers, and the planners.
Brian and I each came to that ride with adventure-filled lives behind us. But my good fortune and (and therefore alive-ness) was based almost entirely on old fashion dumb luck. I’ve done some big, remote adventures in in my life, almost always under-prepared for mishaps, and frequently alone. I’ve had plenty of scares, a few unplanned car-rides and countless tests of caloric deficit and dehydration. But shit has never truly hit the fan. And the longer I’ve skated by on good luck, the more accustomed to that haphazard approach I’d become. I have become one of the hopers.
Brian, on the other had has spent 20 years in mountain rescue. He’s seen things go awry in ways I can only imagine and done the body-retrievals to prove it. While I’ve rolled the dice, he’s planned for survival.
I spent the rest of that ride in Moab – and many days afterwards - re-thinking my approach and honestly assessing my decisions, my style and my personality. I’ll never join mountain rescue, and I’ll probably always keep my pack-list lean. But I clearly had to up my game.
For this reason, I’m exactly the sort of rider that the new O.N.S. seatpost is made for. It packs the absolute bare-essentials inside my bike within a component it’d be impossible to forget. Once installed, I’m covered – in some small way – on every ride. The contents are sparse, but simple. Even I know how to use them.
Since I got the post, I’ve made plenty of questionable decisions – just like I did before. But something about those supplies act as a reality check, reminding me that when I take risks, well… they’re risky.
I often think of a story Brian shared with me early on in our friendship. In a brief synopsis of lessons learned in a life of mountain rescue, he pointed out that more often than not, it wasn’t the first bad decision people make that leads to disaster. It’s the 3rd or 4th, made in the grip of panic. People that have what they need to survive might make the same first bad decision (“We’ve got plenty of daylight to add on this spur trail…”), but when it goes South, they respond differently. Knowing that in a pinch, they have what’s needed to make it through a night, the time-pressure is off. They keep their wits. Panic-free, they’re more apt to find their own way out of a bad situation.
I’ve felt that shift in my own thinking since I installed the O.N.S. and frankly, it feels great. It reduces an element of anxiety that allows me to enjoy my rides just a little more. Better yet, making that one improvement in preparedness hasn’t led to riskier behaviors, but the opposite. It acts as a reminder of the risks I’m taking. And now that the door to wise outdoorsmanship has cracked open, I’ve stepped further in.
Early last Fall I was again packing for a ride. It was a gravel adventure, home in Montana. I was kitted up, with a water filter, more food and warm clothes than I could imagine needing jammed in my bar-bag. I pushed my bike out of the garage and took stock of my supplies. My eyes fell on the seatpost. I was comforted by the knowledge of its contents and simultaneously reminded of the tenuous nature of life outside. I sighed, and went back inside to find my bear-spray. The risk of leaving it just didn’t seem worth the reward. Preparation, it seems, is contagious.