7 Outdoor Personalities That Spell Trouble


No doubt you’ve seen it in groups in the out­doors: the per­son that charges, ahead, has their own agen­da, or dis­rupts the dynam­ic of the group. These behav­iors that may be fine in town, but they don’t work when you’re in the wilder­ness in chal­leng­ing con­di­tions, whether you’re climb­ing, back­pack­ing, ski­ing, or paddling.

The Fear­less Blus­ter­er
The Fear­less Blus­ter­er will tell lots of sto­ries about all the peaks they’ve climbed, rapids they’ve run, and crazy expe­ri­ences they’ve had along the way, and that the con­di­tions you’re fac­ing are noth­ing in com­par­i­son. Some of the sto­ries may even be true. Either way, their macho atti­tude can wear on the group and lead to poor decisions.

What To Do: Blus­ter usu­al­ly masks inse­cu­ri­ty and fear. Respond by less­en­ing any peer pres­sure. When the more expe­ri­enced peo­ple in the group freely express cau­tion, it allows the blus­ter­ers to back off.


The Laser Beam
The Laser Beam is goal-ori­ent­ed and won’t feel com­plete if the goal isn’t achieved, whether it’s climb­ing a peak or cov­er­ing a cer­tain num­ber of miles. They’re reluc­tant to slow down or adapt if con­di­tions are unfriend­ly or the rest of the group can’t keep up.

What To Do: First and fore­most, build your group with a clear goal: to climb a peak, or to have a relax­ing time in the moun­tains? Sec­ond, make sure that the laser beam is part of the process of assess­ing the con­di­tions and the strength of the whole group. For­mal­ize the no-go cri­te­ria, or the bench­marks that will have you turn around, in order to pre­vent their desire to fin­ish the goal even in the face of fool­ish risks.

The Small Bub­ble
The Small Bub­ble keeps on pad­dling, hik­ing, ski­ing or climb­ing with lit­tle aware­ness of the rest of the group—they don’t turn around and look for oth­ers. For short peri­ods, this can be fine if the group is com­pe­tent and close togeth­er. But before long this can split the group, lead­ing to all kinds of problems.


What To Do: The shrink­ing bub­ble of aware­ness is a fear reac­tion. Focused on nav­i­gat­ing a wind-blown sea or a tra­vers­ing a steep ridge, the Small Bub­ble sim­ply isn’t able to relax enough to pay atten­tion to their sur­round­ings. Don’t try and pro­vide tech­ni­cal coach­ing until they get a break—they won’t be able to absorb it. Focus on reduc­ing their stress: tell jokes, tell sto­ries, and reas­sure them. Once they relax, their bub­ble will expand again.

The Absent-Mind­ed Pro­fes­sor
The Absent-Mind­ed Pro­fes­sor is sim­ply dis­or­ga­nized: the last to be ready to hit the trail and can’t remem­ber where they packed the fuel. In many sit­u­a­tions, its sim­ply annoy­ing, but in crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tions, it can be dan­ger­ous, and it can delay a group long enough to expose the group to weath­er dan­ger or oth­er objec­tive hazards.

What To Do: Pair them with some­one who’s orga­nized. Help them the first time or two, but don’t do their work for them. They’ll ben­e­fit from sys­tems: check­lists, rou­tines, and bud­dy-checks. Let them know the start time, so they can take extra time to be ready. If they’re involved in a crit­i­cal task like rig­ging ropes, make sure some­one checks it.

The Sto­ic
The Sto­ic keeps on truck­ing, even when they’ve got giant blis­ters on their heels, are dehy­drat­ed, or are run­ning on fumes. They may or may not be hav­ing fun. But over time, it’s a risk to the group, since those blis­ters may pre­vent them from hit­ting the trail the next day.

What To Do: Take breaks as a group so they don’t have to feel embar­rassed by ask­ing for one. Say at the out­set that every­one needs to take care of them­selves, so the group can pros­per instead of hav­ing to be slowed down by the per­son who hit the wall.

The Whin­er
The whin­er is the one still com­plain­ing about the bugs or the third day of rain, which can snow­ball into group whin­ing and nobody hav­ing fun. A com­plaint here and there is human. A chron­ic whine is a down­er for the group’s energy.

What To Do: Gen­tly let them know that you heard them, and there’s noth­ing that can be done about the sit­u­a­tion, or ask them if they have any ideas. After that, nip any com­plain­ing in the bud if it starts up again.


The Tur­tle
The tur­tle with­draws into their shell when threat­ened. They seek the safest route, are clear­ly ner­vous about upcom­ing chal­lenges, and reluc­tant to push them­selves. The polar oppo­site of the laser beam, the turtle’s cau­tion can be an asset in poten­tial­ly dan­ger­ous envi­ron­ments, but can put a damper on every­day adven­tures, and holds back  their own skill development.

What To Do: When the chips are real­ly down, lis­ten to them. Oth­er­wise, work with them to over­come their fear with prac­tice in for­giv­ing envi­ron­ments, pair­ing them with a men­tor who’s both com­pe­tent and relaxed. When they start doing well, push them a bit but make sure they end on a high note.