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Fearless but not reckless: Enjoying the outdoors safely and responsibly

April 14, 2016

written by Ben Phenecie

The outdoors, sometimes referred to as “the wild” is not quite as wild as we may think. Exciting, challenging, and sometimes even dangerous, the outdoors can seem uncontrolled and chaotic but nature is perhaps more ordered than we are.

Nature follows rules. Nature abides within certain restraints, timelines, and cycles. Nature is strong but it cannot say no to its Maker. In a battle of sheer strength, nature will always defeat us but our advantage is that we can make choices and decisions while nature does not have that luxury.

I think there is a socio-emotional idea that has been gaining speed lately. An idea that I believe has been perpetuated by the recent “glamorization” of nature. This idea is that when we go to enjoy the outdoors, we must attack it with reckless abandon, fueled by raw emotion and passion. The idea that a true outdoor adventure is going for a last-minute hike in disregard for proper preparation. Planning a calculated outdoor trip has become lackluster and “cold” because it is not burning with the passion of the aforementioned last-minute trips.

I would like to heartily disagree with this notion. When we decide to simply insert ourselves into nature with no regard for its strength and ferocity, we are acting in a more chaotic manner that “the wild” itself. We are gifted with the ability to reason and to make decisions for ourselves and we should use those tools when we go outside to enjoy God’s creation.

Here at Student Activities: Outdoor Rec, one set of tools that we use to make these decisions is “The Four E’s of Decision Making”. I have mentioned these before in my past posts but repetition is the key to retention!

  • Environment
    • What does the environment look like? Do your best to get a picture of what nature is going to look like on the day/time of your activity. Knowing the weather, terrain, sunrise/sunset, etc. is all very important when making other important decisions.
  • Element
    • What activity are you participating in? Is this activity going to fit with your environment?
  • Experience
    • What is the experience level of you and your participants?
  • Equipment
    • What stuff do you need? What stuff do you have? What is the condition of your stuff? (I am using the word “stuff” because this includes food, water, clothing, gear, and medical supplies).

After you answer all four E’s, you need to see how they all connect with each other. Don’t just ask, “Is this environment safe?” but ask “Is this environment safe for our skill level and the equipment we are using?” Do you have the right equipment for the activity? All of these things work together and they are a great place to start when responsibly preparing for an adventure.

We can all enjoy nature and all its wonder without being irresponsible. Obey the laws of nature and listen to people that are more experienced than you. Decide when to participate and when to wait. You can be fearless without being reckless.