Why City People Are Made for the Backcountry

By Shelby Cranshaw

Jul 22, 2016

 A city prepares you for the backcountry more than most might think. We call them “concrete jungles” for a reason. 

In a city, you develop a certain set of skills that translate surprisingly well into the wild. So fear not, city dwellers—here's why you're already prepared for the backcountry.


Going to the mountains
Photo by Vikas Kanwal.

Excellent Navigation 

Unless your Uber charges are as much as your rent, you have likely mastered the public transportation system. That is no easy feat. Navigating with a topographical map will be a breeze!

City subway
Photo by Martin David.

Ability to Organize

Is your apartment tiny? Well, guess what—backpacks, tents, and boats are small, too. You are probably a creative packer and organizer, which will come in handy in the backcountry. You’ll be able to stuff your sleeping bag better than anyone.

City lights
Photo by Wojtek Witkowski. 

Sound Sleeper 

Most cities never go to sleep. Unless you are a zombie on a daily basis, you probably are able to sleep through sirens, honking horns, and other nighttime city noises. That is great for the backcountry sleeper because there will likely be some snoring tent mates, wind blowing, and animal noises throughout the night. The wild never sleeps, either.

Prior Wildlife Experience

Speaking of animals, are you nervous about the wildlife? Don’t be. City wildlife is scarier. Rats, cockroaches, pigeons, and bedbugs? If you can handle all of those in your living quarters, you'll love the way following Leave No Trace principles helps keep wildlife at a distance. 

Cooking Creativity

In a city, you have access to so many different cultures in a concentrated area, so why not bring what you have learned (or eaten) to the backcountry? Get creative with your camp cooking and re-create your favorite frontcountry meals, from tacos to pizza to curry.

Crowded street
Photo from Pixabay. 

Unknown Bushwhacking Skills 

If you are a city dweller, then you are excellent at dodging people and foreign objects on crowded sidewalks, while maintaining a brutal pace. Congratulations, you’ve been practicing for bushwhacking without even knowing it! But, for once, while in the wilderness you can actually slow down. In fact, you are encouraged to slow down and enjoy your surroundings.

You often hear that living in a city forces you to be flexible, self-reliant, and mentally tough. You are a little fish making your way in a big pond of people. The backcountry pulls a lot of the same qualities and skills out of you. So, fear not, city dwellers. You are more equipped for the backcountry than you might believe.

Get out there with NOLS.

Loving the backcountry Photo by Austin Schmid.


Written By

Shelby Cranshaw

Shelby is currently taking a gap year-and-a-half. After completing her Fall Semester in Patagonia, she caught the NOLS bug and became the 2016 Fall PR and Marketing intern at our world headquarters in Lander, Wyoming (she's a Wilderness First Aid grad, too!).

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