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Dirtbag Explained


Official Webster dictionary definition (INCORRECT):

  1. low, worthless person. 

Climber / Outdoor Enthusiast / Person Living the Dream definition (CORRECT):

  1. Any person who allows passion to infiltrate their lives
  2. Gives permission for the heart to dictate the actions of life
  3. Someone who can be truly happy doing what they love
  4. Does everything possible to maintain a lifestyle which allows them to follow the heart and live the dream

Looking out over Castle Valley

Nuzzling the side of my warm sleeping bag allowing the beer to gently rock my brain cells to sleep, I overhear a conversation in which the correct and incorrect definition of the term “dirtbag” was being discussed.  I had turned in for the night after a day of climbing the scariest 5.8 slab routes in the universe, playing in the Tuolumne River, drinking beer,  and swapping stories with good friends.   Kris Linstrom proceeded to educate the “other guy” in the conversation the true meaning of the term dirtbag.  Other guy was quite surprised at the contrasting definitions, but as far as I can remember (enter beer fuzziness) he understood.   At this point in my climbing career I proudly proclaim myself to be a dirtbag, having run the full gambit of being a wannabe dirtbag all the way to being a full fledged, living the dream dirtbag.

One may ask, “How do I know if I am a dirtbag?”.  I will attempt to answer this question and possibly give you an insight to the life of a dirtbag.

Ways to know you are a Dirtbag

1.  You love the outdoors and are willing to give up most things that others would consider a necessity in order to pursue a lifestyle that is concentric with being outside as much as possible.

Andrew Kuklinski and Kris Linstrom after a night under the stars. (Photo: Lucas Marshall)

2.  You can not remember the last time you bathed.  Getting ravaged by sick class V whitewater, taking a dip at midnight with your naked significant other, and getting caught in an apocalyptic rainstorm on pitch 7 of 12 do not count as bathing, even though they can accomplish the same end.

Bath? Good enough...

3.  Your home has 4 wheels, gets crappy gas mileage, leaks slightly when it rains, and consists of an elevated wooden platform for sleeping with storage for adventure toys and clothes underneath.  You are always looking to improve upon the design of your living quarters and are obsessed with how other people have constructed their homes.

Dirtbag living community.

Fueling up after a slot canyon adventure (Photo: Ron James Photography)

4.  Your detection skills for free food are sharper then Superman’s x-ray vision. Removing untouched food undetected from a strangers plate after they have left the restaurant table, knowing the exact times the grocery store throws away expired food in order to get the best selection, and locating the best places to get free food are all skills gained.

Don't mind if I do!


5.  The subjects of Climbing / Whitewater rafting / Mountaineering / International travel / <enter passion here> are always on the tip of your tongue and the ability to start a conversation about these subjects is easier then a drunk prom date.

6.  Beer.  You drink lots of it.  Most of the time it’s the cheapest, crappiest beer you can find.  Other times it’s an expensive microbrew, but most of the time is PBR.  It can be consumed before, after, during, when you get home from, well into the night after, and into the next morning after engaging in your passion.

Beer goes in the boot.


You drink the beer.

7.  You have been so focused on living the dream that all your cloths come from the local thrift shop.  Some of my best clothing has come from these locations!  Underwear is optional and the same pair can be worn in a clean state for up to 4 days.

8.  Every penny earned is saved in order to maintain the dirtbag lifestyle.  If the decision has been made to “get a real job” then you did something wrong.  Go back and try again.

Adam Scheer doing things right! (Photo: Carl Dec)

9.  The seasons dictate the location and the activity.  Late spring, summer and early fall one can be found rafting the amazing whitewater of the Colorado River or climbing in Eldorado Canyon or Yosemite.   Winter time brings skiing in Summit County or Park City.  For those you really have it “bad”, the winter season can be circumvented by heading to South America.

Looking out over Yosemite Valley

10.  You love your life and love the freedom it has given you to explore the world.  You twitch with excitement when you describe your life to others.  You would give anything to able to continue to pursue your passions.

Ryan Wilson livin' the dream over the Boulder Creek. (Photo: Charlie Sievers)

It’s a term of admiration.  It’s a term of endearment.   The next time someone asks you “What’s a dirtbag?” take a second to think over all the adventures you have had throughout your life and all the good people you hold close to your heart. A smile will undoubtedly appear on your face as you tell them “There is no way to explain it.  Pure happiness?  Maybe.  The feeling of a life lived to it’s fullest?  Perhaps.  The only way to know is to get out and get after it!  When you come home covered in mud, bruised, broken, bleeding, with sand in your eyes and fire in your soul, and stories that make you think “Probably should NOT have done that but it was siiick!”,  you won’t have to ask that question.  You will just know….”.

lizzil - LTD!!!March 24, 2012 – 11:36 pm

Adam Scheer - Great post on dirtbaggery. I’d throw in one more definition:

5. If you own and haul with you a figure 8 belay device as is the case for the gentleman in picture 1.

Only four days for drawers? My knickers go much longer than that on a regular basis!

Ending this post by drawing attention to the subtle smile that had crept across my face was perfect. Nice work, Andrew.March 25, 2012 – 10:54 am

Andrew Kuklinski - Adam, not sure if you noticed but there seems to be a nice set of hex’s hanging at the ready as well. Besides, you never know when a figure 8 might come in handy! Thanks!March 25, 2012 – 6:17 pm

Tyler - Nice post! There are a number of times in my life that could have been better spent dirtbagging it up. Maybe I’ll try and buy a truck or van, just in case I need emergency shelter.March 25, 2012 – 10:35 pm

Kate - Shit- now I want to be a dirtbag! I had such high aspirations of ‘dirtbaggery’ in college… where did I go wrong?! Great post- thanks AndrewMarch 25, 2012 – 11:14 pm

Emily Knowles - Great post Andrew! I was left grinning and inspired to run out of my office, forget about the PhD, throw my climbing gear in my truck and just start driving. Maybe tomorrow…March 28, 2012 – 10:45 am

Ron James Propri - Great post! Adam, in all fairness, he did say that the same pair can be worn “in a clean state” for up to 4 days. Any real dirtbag knows that a clean state is just the beginning.March 28, 2012 – 12:06 pm

Adam Scheer - Ah yes, excellent point. I retract my previous statement and laud Andrew’s clandestine subtlety. Only a true linguist would internalize such a verbatim interpretation.

Bravo to you both.March 28, 2012 – 12:51 pm

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