By Chris Mah
Updated August 20, 2014
Whether you can do this or not, it's important to make people think you can.
| Credit: © John Henley/CORBIS

We’ve all been there. You’re meeting a group of people for the first time, and the conversation turns to outdoor sports. You’re desperate to impress them, but the extent of your wilderness experience is limited to that time you peed in the bushes at Coachella because the lines for the Porta-Potties were too long.

One by one, your new would-be friends wax nostalgic about the time they slept under the northern lights, the time they almost died BASE jumping in the French Alps, or the time they free soloed the peak of Half Dome in a thunderstorm while rescuing a black bear cub. Then someone asks about your most extreme adventure, and you tell your Coachella story, embellishing the bit about the thornbushes and gesturing to the areas where you got poison oak, and then it’s silent for what seems like minutes until someone finally coughs and changes the subject.

To prevent this situation from happening again, try these simple tricks to becoming the mountain man, woman or goat you’ve always wished you were.

1. You’re going to need some gear. Purchase a steel canteen and use it for everything you drink. Invest in at least 25 more carabineers than you know what to do with. You never can have too many. Don’t worry about what they’re used for, just clip them onto everything you own and tie some knotted rope onto them. The carabineers say, “I’m rugged and durable,” and the rope says, “I’m likely to need rescuing.”

2. Invest in multiuse garments. Your pants must zip off into shorts. This is especially important since they will be the only pair you own. Dress like you could be forced to go off the grid at any time.

3. Develop an air of smugness about environmental issues. Say things like “leave no trace” when exiting parties, and if you have to go out, ask your bartenders to serve you an organic gin and tonic in your new steel canteen. If they refuse, lecture them about the gallons of water wasted annually from cleaning “lightly used” glasses.

4. Throw away your razor. You may no longer remove hair from any part of your body and must instead oil it regularly so it shines. Like your new steel canteen.

5. Your new hobby is clamming. Tell your new friends that you love the rain, and that foraging for your own food makes you feel connected to the Earth, and reminds you of the summers you spent hitchhiking along the Oregon Coast.

6. Know your flora and fauna, or at least know that one means plants and the other means animals. Use words like deciduous, old growth and marsupial at every possible opportunity. For example: “Isn’t it great that old-growth deciduous forests have so many marsupials?”

7. If anyone asks, your favorite places to travel are South America and any country that has more than seven vowels. Have a prepared bucket list of places you’d like to travel and (this is very important) know where they are on a map. Reykjavik is the capital of Iceland, Bolivia is not part of Russia, and Machu Picchu is not a Pokémon character. Also very important, Mordor and Middle Earth are not real places. Do not include those on your list.

8. Take up at least one outdoor sport, and be sure to store all necessary equipment on the roof of your new Subaru Outback. If your asthma prevents you from taking up trail running, choose rock climbing. If your fear of heights eliminates rock climbing as an option, choose scuba diving. If you can’t swim either, well, work on cultivating your inner artistic loner instead.