A friend of mine shared this link. I commented on one thing that caught my attention right away. Later, I thought of another. Later still, I was annoyed by another. Finally, I decided that I needed to "rebut" the article point by point. Well, not really--I agree with about half of what he says. The other half is baloney, though. Or at least, it's propaganda rather than fact, even when he has a point.
1) Wearing denim. Denim is a soft, yet durable fabric. It's considered bad news for hiking because it absorbs water and doesn't dry quickly. You can get some serious chafing if you hike in wet jeans. It can even freeze solid.
However, most people don't go hiking in conditions where any of that (other than maybe getting wet) is very likely. I'd prefer not to hike in denim. But I hiked for years in blue jeans as a teenager, and the notion that you can't do it without dying is patently absurd. In summer hikes, or desert hikes--where I do a lot of my winter, spring and fall hiking when I can, there's no problem at all in hiking in denim. For day hikes, where you know that you're unlikely to get caught in an unexpected rainstorm, there's no problem at all hiking in denim. Denim's dangers are highly over-rated.
I still wouldn't take them on a backpacking trip, though. Especially not one in the Rockies or the Cascades, where getting rained on at least a little bit, is almost a certainty.
2) Why are specialty outdoor stores more trustworthy? They're certainly more expensive. There's a few things that I really wouldn't want to buy at Wal-Mart (my boots, for example) but otherwise, I've found that plenty of what they sell is perfectly fine. In fact, plenty of what they sell is the exact same stuff that you can get at department stores. Sure, it's not necessarily the same as what you can get at REI, but let's face it--a lot of that stuff is over-priced. You're paying more for the brand name than anything else. Does it surprise you that this is an article written for Backpacker magazine, a publication who's major revenue source is advertising from specialty gear manufacturers and retailers? Keep that in mind as you read this point.
3) Another often overpriced element of hiking. I've done lots of hikes in Nat Parks with the Nat Park official map, for instance. The Trails Illustrated or the USGS topos are plenty nice, but you need to know your area and what you're doing. If you're going deep in the backcountry, by all means, have them. If you're sticking to well-established paths, they're expensive overkill.
4) I agree with this one, only based on the notion that even back in the 80s, before this was trendy, I was taking stuff out of my pack that I wasn't using and couldn't really see myself as very likely to use. A bandage for wrapping up a twisted ankle or binding a major cut is good. Some smaller bandages. Some pepto in case you eat something that doesn't agree with you. Some ibuprofen and acetaminophen for the inevitable headaches when you don't sleep well enough or don't get enough to drink. Or just for muscle soreness. That's mostly all you'll ever need.
5) I agree with this one. Don't mess around with lightning.
6) I sorta agree with this one: before you start thrifting your back of stuff, you need to have enough experience to know what you can comfortably live without and what not. But everyone should give some serious thought to weight reduction. It just makes hiking so much more enjoyable. Ultralight itself is almost the fetishization of lightweight hiking, but a lot of its principles should be researched and used by even a first-time hiker.
7) If you get boots with a relatively soft (i.e., common) nylon and leather combination upper, and that fit you properly, and you have the proper hiking socks (a liner and merino wool is best) then you can absolutely do this. This bit of wisdom is based on the old days with stiff, full-grain leather uppers for high-top combat boots style hiking boots were common. Yeah, bad idea to go on a long trip with those straight out of the box. But most boots will do you just fine, as long as you--again--make sure that they fit properly.
8) Newbie mistake, or just common sense? I can see the same problem being applied to other endeavors. Newbies probably are poorer at estimating how far they can walk in an hour, though--I'm sure.
9) I agree with this one. Check the forecast before you go; if you see something really ominous, rethink your plan. Otherwise, make sure at least that you're prepared for it. Deep backcountry forecasts, especially if you're checking before a several days-long trip, are always going to be iffy at best anyway.
10) Leave No Trace is nice. It's important. Everyone should learn and use its principles. It's also gotten a bit out of hand. There's no way in the world I'm packing out toilet paper. This isn't a newbie mistake, it's a change in paradigm as Left Coast hippies have taken over the hobby. Calling this a newbie mistake was a political statement, not actually a useful warning.