Jan 11, 2008

Typing Teachings, Movements, and Communities: Backpacking

To analyze the community of backpackers, I am going to have to slightly adjust the definitions I used to type teachings and religions so that they apply to the new context. For example, in a religious context extraverted logic is more about community service and building a rational, well-managed society. In the context of backpacking and other physical pursuits, extraverted logic is more about technical knowledge (esp. of equipment) that allows one to achieve the greatest results.

Where do we find the community of backpackers?
People of all different types backpack. Some go in groups for fun and relaxation. Others go solo and walk as far as they can. Some hike in 5 km, camp, and get drunk or stoned, while others meticulously build their hiking diet and count grams/ounces and calories. There are many different styles of backpacking, and many different levels of prowess and technical difficulty.

However, if you look at online backpacking communities where people talk about backpacking in the greatest depth, you find that not all viewpoints are equally represented. Some aspects of backpacking are discussed very little and are basically considered private or irrelevant, while others are discussed publicly in great depth. In other words, backpackers and the backpacking community are two different things. The first are hard to type, while the second is easy. When backpackers meet others on the trail or online, they tend to revert to the common language of the backpacking community. As I have discussed elsewhere, this is -- in my opinion -- the key to seeing what integral types (socionic 'types' of communities) are all about.

So, among the backpacking community:

extraverted intuition: The "searching" aspect of outdoor experience is welcomed in backpacking, but is not widely emphasized. People think of new adventures and look for new ways of experiencing backpacking and share them with other backpackers online and in person, but when discussing them they quickly switch to discussing the technical details of what they want to do or have done rather than focusing on the search itself.

extraverted sensing: Will and personal power are sometimes important aspects of backpacking, but they are not widely discussed in the backpacking community. In many circumstances the "will to succeed" and "overcome at all costs" is frowned upon, because you can die. The physical danger inherent in backpacking, the non-competitive nature of 99% of it, and the length of time spent outdoors means that people must be cautious and take care of themselves rather than try to overcome obstacles through the use of willpower. extraverted sensing is subdued in the community as a whole.

extraverted logic: Discussion of technical details and characteristics of gear, routes, food, etc. is ubiquitous in the backpacking community. "What is the route like?" "What backpack do you recommend?" "What are the advantages of a tarp over a tent?" etc. are extremely common questions asked. The answers require a knowledge of the technical characteristics (weight, fabrics, coatings, price, where to buy, who has used it, durability, etc.). The more of this kind of knowledge someone in the backpacking community has and shares, the more he is esteemed. In fact, in almost all cases the decision to join a backpacker's forum is based on the need to discuss and learn about technical details.

extraverted ethics: Emotional bonding and fun group experiences are not the main focus of the backpacking community. In fact, many serious backpackers hike solo, precluding any emphasis on extraverted ethics except for sharing adventures when they get back (where they still focus on technical details rather than the fun they had). For extraverted ethics, go to a children's summer camp, but not to a backpacking forum.

introverted intuition: The sublime, meditative, or spiritual aspect of communing with nature is rarely the object of public discussion among backpackers, though it can be read about occasionally in essays. Much more important than the ability to feel nature's vibes and experience inner growth and creativity is the ability to stay alive, warm, and well-fed by tending to one's physical needs and responding to outdoor conditions. introverted intuition is deemphasized and considered private.

introverted sensing: Developing the body and being attentive to its needs is of great importance in backpacking and is discussed all over the place in great detail. Community members encourage each other to maximize their physical enjoyment by improving gear, diet, and on-trail choices. Temperance, balance, and realism are upheld, as well as finding individual solutions to the physiological needs that come up in the outdoors. All of this is discussed in detail.

introverted logic: Backpacking has a poorly developed system of ideas, or 'doctrine,' so there is not much to study. Practice is considered far more important than study and correct interpretation of writings and principles. An public emphasis on introverted logic in the backpacking community would seem strange and hardly appropriate for the activity.

introverted ethics: The "moral" or "ethical" aspect of backpacking is rarely discussed outright, but it does receive emphasis. For instance, backpackers who "leave no trace" for those who come after them are applauded, while those who behave disrespectfully are condemned. The general culture of the backpacking community is one of great respect and courtesy, and people go out of their way to be polite and nice to each other. Compare this to the previously discussed communities of socionics and Gurdjieff, and you will see a stark contrast. However, politeness and civility are more values than topics of discussion.


Of the information aspects, extraverted logic clearly receives the most verbal emphasis in the backpacking community. Its complement, introverted ethics, is also clearly valued, though not discussed at length. Next we see a very strong emphasis on introverted sensing, with a rejection of the extraverted sensing approach, which would apply to competitive sports, but not to backpacking. So the integral type of the backpacking community, in my judgment, is LSE.

Backpacking in the Former Soviet Union (added 3/18/2008)

There are backpacking related activities where a extraverted sensing + introverted logic approach is more dominant, for instance group expeditions in severe conditions where a chain of command is an absolute necessity. In the Soviet Union this type of mountaineering was dominant and carried over to regular backpacking as well. Mountaineering clubs would apply a hierarchical chain of command and strict division of responsibilities in situations where it was not actually necessary, in effect "practicing" for future expeditions where such an approach would be vital. In the U.S. this would be called "army-style backpacking" or something like that. In the Soviet Union this style of organization was basically applied to any kind of collective work or production related activity and came from Communist ideals as implemented by Lenin (extraverted sensing introverted logic) and Stalin (introverted logic extraverted sensing).

In essence the whole field of mountaineering in the USSR and former USSR is geared towards preparing people for difficult mountain climbing expeditions. Hikes, passes, and summits are given different "categories," and hiking clubs structure their hikes to be at a certain category of difficulty so that they can receive a certificate and be recognized for their achievement. Even the regulations for visiting wilderness areas (which are usually ignored) were made with the assumption that backpackers would be visiting wilderness in organized groups having a clear chain of command. Only now is the practice of independent backpacking beginning to gain ground on the "machine" of organized mountaineering, in part due to the much greater ease of individual travel, the greater availability of consumer goods (including adventure gear), and the vastly greater amount of information now available from different parts of the globe and on forums and blogs. Such factors tend to weaken the monopoly of introverted logic + extraverted sensing systems.

This goes to show how the same type of activity can be given completely different information emphasis in different places depending on factors of a higher order.


thehotelambush said...

Why not ISTp? Because it's mainly about doing stuff?

Rick said...

>> Why not ISTp? Because it's mainly about doing stuff?

In my opinion the focus on gear and sharing factual information is greater than the focus on enjoyment of the activity itself.

Rick said...

... at least in the community of backpackers itself (rather than the act of backpacking).

meatburger said...

Hmm, going backpacking is appealing to me as are the backpackers themselves. Perhaps this is why :)