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Must You Bring Hacks With You When You Go Camping?

2016 is, at long last, getting a bit chilly here up north. Yes, we’re nearing the end of the hottest year for planet Earth in recorded human history, but winter still gets cold, and tonight, areas of the U.S. near the border with Canada may at long last, well past schedule, have their first killing frost.

So, perhaps it’s timely that a friend of mine forwarded me an article about winter camping today. Unfortunately, this article was all about being timely. Its author couldn’t be content to share some useful wisdom about how to camp safely in the wintertime. No, this author had to show that she is hip with the times, using the latest lingo for people who get stuff done.

The title of the article: 10 Hacks To Keep You Warm While Camping.

“Hack” is the “groovy” of our decade – a term that will soon make the children of today’s hot new generation, the “millenials”, cringe every time they hear their parents say it. These days, people who talk about “hacking” things are rarely referring to anything remotely related to the unauthorized access of computerized systems of information. “Hack” is more often a term used by people who know little about digital technology, but have nonetheless accepted as a tenet of faith the idea that everything worth knowing about comes from Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

These silicon wannabes use “hack” in the way that Ross Perot used to use the phrase “form a committee”. Lacking any real plan for solving problems, they simply propose the collection of groups of people who, similarly lacking any real plan, will somehow, by gathering together in “hackathons”, devise brilliant solutions that will disrupt everybody’s lives (having your life disrupted is a good thing, because you’re apparently quite miserable until the moment you buy an expensive new something designed by people who hack).

People who “hack” things exhibit a startlingly annoying combination of ignorance, obliviousness about their ignorance, and eagerness to talk about the things of which they are ignorant. In other words, they’re the last people that you’d want to go camping with.

In fact, most people go camping to escape the mindset associated with people who eagerly “hack”. Camping isn’t about innovation and entrepreneurship and glib brainstorming heavy with buzzwords. It’s about peace, and quiet, and rest. Camping is about enjoying the things that don’t need to be improved through cheesy tricks and tips.

You want to know how to stay warm while camping? There’s no need for a hack. People figured this out hundreds of thousands of years ago, with a little old invention they call a campfire.

please don't hack this campground

Nowhere in the 10 Hacks To Keep You Warm While Camping article does the author mention fire. Apparently, a campfire isn’t innovative enough for the hack camping set. No, instead the author advises that you carry something called a “crotch bottle” all the way out into the wilderness with you.

The concept of simplicity goes right out the window when you hack your camp, it seems. The author advises that campers stuff lots of one-use, disposable, chemically-activated hand and foot warmers into their backpacks to use instead of a good old-fashioned campfire.

There’s some downright stupid advice in 10 Hacks To Keep You Warm While Camping. For example, the author advises campers to never sit on the ground, because the ground is cold. Instead, readers are advised to sit in a camp chair. What the author doesn’t realize is that, as cold as the ground is, it’s actually usually warmer than the air in the winter, especially at night, and at least can retain some of the heat of a person who sits down on it, radiating it back out over time. On the other hand, a person sitting in a camp chair is suspended in the air, separated from it only by a thin bit of fabric as the air moves, bringing in fresh chill more quickly than a camper’s body can warm up the air around the chair. A camp chair is also going to be a very bulky and heavy item for a camper to carry – but apparently hackers don’t hike much, driving straight up to their campsites in a car instead.

The most precious advice from this article about how to stay warm while camping is to spend a lot of money – no kidding. “You’re going to feel different in a $60 jacket than a $400 down one,” the author says. Those who hack seem to believe that a coat that costs a lot of money because it’s fashionable will keep people warmer than an unbranded coat that costs less. There may be some very expensive clothes that can keep campers extremely warm, but anyone who’s spent much time in a cold climate knows that the simple act of wearing multiple layers, regardless of the cost of the fabric, is the best way to stay warm. Layers can be added and removed to keep body temperature neither too cold nor too hot. The hacker camper who wrote this article actually advises against multiple layers of clothing, claiming that they “might actually make you colder”.

Layers of clothes make you colder? The author repeats the popular error that being naked in a sleeping bag is warmer than wearing clothes inside a sleeping bag. Of course a person can wear too many layers of clothes, and then get sweaty, becoming colder as a result, but again, the classic idea of wearing multiple layers while camping is that the camper will be intelligent enough to take the layers on and off as needed, to remain free from chill rather than to try to get super toasty.

The author says that she heard the advice about getting naked inside a sleeping bag from a friend who is “a real badass, so it probably works.”

Hack indeed.

For goodness sakes, keep your entrepreneurial, optimized, innovative, disrupted habits out of the wilderness. Save your simple sanity. Keep your campsite a hack free zone.

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