Most of my life has been spent outside, and most of my outside time has incurred some kind of risk analysis. And, regardless of whether that was being a rock climber and/or mountain guide, working in Outdoor Ed departments for schools and colleges, or serving in the Military, I have had the concept ‘two is one and one is none’ drilled into my head for all of them. If you’re unfamiliar with this tenet, allow me to surmise it here.

When it comes to safety, especially in high risk mountain sports like rock climbing, you never want to trust your life to one piece of protection for, if it fails, you die. Not to be morbid, but the room for error in the mountains is small, regardless of whether you’re hanging from a rope, skiing down a slope, or hiking along a trail. In all aspects of mountain sports, as in life in general, there can be significant risk.

Having a backup, whether that comes in the form of a plan, partner, piece of equipment, or energy, is important. Another way to think of it is to use the term ‘reserve’. Something in reserve is there ‘just in case’, a ‘the shit has hit the fan’ item you hope you won’t need, but will be glad was there if you do.

This applies to all aspects of life – not just sports (mountain or otherwise). When I was in film school, our Producing Teacher advised us that, “Without a backup you don’t have a film”. Even going so far as to say 3-is-1, so as to ensure you can hand a drive off to an editor, or other team member, keep one for yourself, and still have the ‘backup’ offsite in case of catastrophe. Having already learned the ‘2-is-1-and-1-is-0’ through sports and mountain training, this made sense to me, but for many of my fellow students – especially when on a starving artist budget – the idea of buying a second or third hard drive was just not possible. Regardless, they weighed their options, and made plans – just in case.


While most people think of backups as things, the same goes for you, your body, and your energy. Often heard during my time in the Military was something along the lines of, “You must be selfish to be selfless”. The thought being, if you’re hungry, tired, sick, or injured – how are you going to take care of anybody else – you can’t! This resonated with me due to my first aid and rescue training as, in that discipline, the message is, “Check the scene before going in. If it’s not safe – do not enter. Do not add to the victim count by becoming a victim yourself.”

Some are religious when it comes to the care and maintenance of their others, whether it’s their kids, partners, students, or team-members. Just as prevalent is how we treasure our stuff. How many of us dote on our cars, bikes, skis, motorcycles, or similar, even having racks and drawers full of products, just to take care of them? How many of us have spent time and money learning how to tweak and improve them? How many then spend our free time ‘working on them’ to tune and dial them in? Yeah – but how often have you done that for yourself?

While it may be part of your routine to take the car in to get serviced, regardless of whether that’s an annual checkup, quarterly, or even monthly, when was the last time you got serviced? If you haven’t had any bodywork (massage, acupuncture, chiropractic, etc) this year – you’re probably due. And not just because it feels good and helps you recover, no, we’re talking about safety. You need to know sooner, rather than later, if something’s amiss – and regular check ins will help you do that.

My Lesson Learned

It’s great you have a water bottle, a purifier, and tablets when you’re trekking through the backcountry. Two or three systems ensure you can get water no matter what situation you find yourself in. But if you haven’t healed your old injuries, ensured your body moves as well as possible, trained so you’re fit enough to do the trek in your sleep, and ensured you can carry not only yourself and your gear, but your buddies gear (and possibly your buddy too) then do you have anything in reserve? Do you really have any backups in place?

Going for a hike on the spur of the moment is one thing and, worst case scenario, you can limp home on a twisted ankle in the rain while hungry and be fine. But, if you’re in the remote backcountry on a 30 day trek and things go sideways – you’d best ensure you have backups and reserves in gear and systems, as well as your mental and physical capacities.

Room for error: Plan for it. Prepare for it. Ensure you have some.

 My new course “Build The Skill” (TM) teaches a functional, minimalistic, real-world approach to fitness, including mobility, strength, and flexibility. If you would like to learn more, please click here to receive the course at no cost – my priceless gift to you.