Back of the Pack Tactics

A user’s guide to lying, cheating, and manipulating your way to a great day in the backcountry.

by Kristy Davison and Andrew Dawson

Do you dread that feeling of straggling behind your friends in the backcountry?

Have you ever considered manipulating the dynamics of the group for the sake of your own enjoyment?

If you answered yes to either of these questions, rest assured that you are not alone in your wily ways. If you answered no to both, well, we’ve watched you from behind (thx!). Kindly forge on, this article is not for you.

Photo by Kristy Davison.

Photo by Kristy Davison.

Okay. Now that the others have carried on up the trail, we at Highline have a confession to make: we too are left in the dust from time to time. We can relate to the backcountry experience of a typical “Back-of-the-Pack” (BOTP) explorer, one who is often riddled with guilt, competitiveness, nutritional peril and occasionally just the slightest smidgen of self-doubt. So to help you stay positive, we’ve compiled a comprehensive “trail mix” of crafty tactics that will help you (and us) keep stride with the rest of the wolf pack out there this winter.

You newbies may find these strategies curiously sociopathic, but seasoned BOTP-ers like the ones we surveyed have been employing them for years. Regardless of your level of experience, the tactics suggested below will help liberate you from physical and psychological woes as you pursue your goal of being stoked in the outdoors.

We’ve divided our top 20 tactics into four groups that represent the most common BOTP personality types. Blossom from a rank amateur into a truly enlightened BOTP-er this season by sampling the suggestions below. Study them well, and keep them in your arsenal for when things get rough.


The Manipulator

  1. Suggest a topic you know your friends are passionate about. Excessive talking is guaranteed to exhaust their lungs and slow them down, and all you have to do is listen.
  2. Suggest that a friend’s backpack is open: “Hey, is your backpack open? Let me get that for you.”  Then proceed to secretly un-zip the backpack before letting them continue on. They will eventually lose something and have to go back for it, providing you one more rest stop.
  3. Be overly safety conscious: “Should we dig another pit?” (Note: at nine or ten pits in the same location, the group will usually begin to catch on that you are stalling.)
  4. Casually suggest a controversial topic to extend the length of a group break: “What do you guys think about developing Jumbo Glacier — wouldn’t that be rad?”
  5. ***EXPERT MOVE: Stop and rest for five minutes out of sight before arriving at a group rest stop. You’ll appear fresh as a daisy when you come around the corner, boosting your morale and the group’s impression of you. Also, you won’t feel as choked when the group gets moving the moment you arrive, as the jerks so often like to do.

The Handicapper

  1. Eat a complete breakfast, but offhandedly mention that you only ate an apple: “I didn’t have any food in the house this morning.” (Only a bowl of oatmeal, an omelette, two coffees and an orange.) Bring toilet paper.
  2. Tell everyone about the scandalous night you had (and “can’t remember”), despite having gone to bed at 8:30 and spending ten hours in a quasi-hibernative state, preparing for today.
  3. Talk up an old injury (that is currently NOT bothering you in the slightest).
  4. Wear several layers so you can always have a great excuse to take a break to make adjustments.
  5. EXPERT LONGTERM THINKING: Refrain from upgrading your gear so you always maintain the classic excuse of having the heaviest and most outdated set-up in the group.

The Pretender

  1. Be overtly positive about everything: You are “enjoying the fresh air,” rather than “sucking wind.”
  2. Continually make pit stops to “smell the roses” and appreciate nature (and question why you came here).
  3. When your nose starts to drip uncontrollably five minutes in, tell others “I think I’m getting a cold.” 
  4. Tell the group you have been taking lots of pictures, which has slowed you down.   
  5. BONUS!!! Later, make sure to tell your friends that your memory card was erased so you don’t have to produce any of your fake photos.

The Controller

  1. Always keep some kind of collateral from the group: “I’ll carry the (car keys, first aid kit, spare parts, flask…etc.).”
  2. Be the driver: “I need to leave by about one o’clock (shortening the length of the trip); is that cool with everybody?”   
  3. Keep your friends’ bellies under your thumb by carrying the best snacks: “I made enough (brownies, chocolate chip cookies, lasagna…etc.) for everybody!”
  4. Keep a leash on their hearts by constantly professing your love for them: “I flippin’ love you guys…”
  5. IMPORTANT: Never let ‘em see you cry.

Drawing from the wisdom of enlightened expert BOTP-ers is sure to make your adventure through the mountains more relaxing and enjoyable. Remember, at the back of the pack, the ends always justify the means. Use these hints wisely and have fun out there.

Kristy Davison

Kristy Davison

Kristy founded Highline Magazine in 2008, motivated by the pursuit of stories that both inspire and make us laugh at our wild ways. Her background in fine arts and design, love for reading and research, and a life spent wandering in the Rockies combine to lead the vision for the magazine. She lives for hut trips, live music, walks in the woods, and kicking back with friends in the summertime.

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