Self-reliance is not about being able to crawl alone to safety with a broken leg like Joe Simpson, the climber of Touching the Void fame. It’s making sure you have the basic skills, equipment and plan to be able to paddle that river, or take on that hike without needing to bump into a friendly soul to ask for directions, or worse, call the cavalry in.
It’s knowing what to do when the weather changes. It’s being able to fix a collapsed tent when a pole snaps. It’s knowing where you are on a map. Being self-reliant means taking ownership of your safety and not assuming there will be someone to bail you out when things take a turn for the worse.
It’s not just farming out your safety to others that can be an issue, but also a reliance on technology. Online guidebooks and apps have caused problems on popular long-distance trails in the United States, with hikers depending on their phones for details on where to eat, sleep, and even walk – according to amusing cases of people walking five feet from the trail because their GPS said that’s where the path is. Less amusing are reports of walkers following Google Maps along potentially fatal terrain in Scotland.