The Dirtbag—coming to a neighborhood near you. Ryan Dee illustration.
As fall fades and snow paints the landscape, countless mountain folk begin to feel the existential tug of winter. But there’s one type of outdoor enthusiast who’s commitment trumps all the rest. Masters of the art of discomfort, these individuals are known by many names: vagrant, gypsy, transient, bohemian, but most of the time, these restless wanderers prefer their given moniker: The Dirtbag.
Styling out destitution like a badge of honor, poverty hasn’t looked this good since the Buddha hunkered down under his Bodhi tree.
Adaptable in the extreme, the Dirtbag reacts to seasonal changes, dressing and recreating accordingly. Yesterday, it might have been a peak-bagging mission, but today, conditions on the ground dictate other priorities—the only constant is the unwavering dedication to the pursuit of fun.
Homeless, tireless, and never willing to pay for a hotel room, these scrappy life-hackers create a whole lifestyle out of improvisation and not playing by the rules. Experts in life’s little shortcuts, these innovators are at once everywhere and nowhere, established and unsettled. After all, when
After an intense biological study, we’ve put together a list of tell-tale signs that will help you—the TGR readership—identify the Dirtbag during the coming onset of winter.
A) Semi-Tasteful Public Nudity
The Dirtbag getting borderline-creepy while brushing his teeth and drinking beer on your front lawn. Ryan Dee illustration.
Dependent on atmospheric conditions, the Dirtbag is famous for a willingness to deck change just about anywhere. One of the byproducts of living out of an automobile is that the Dirtbag has very little privacy getting into and out of wetsuits, ski gear, Snuggies, costumes, etc....Whether it’s at the trailhead or in front of your suburban residence, the Dirtbag isn’t afraid of baring it all.
Look for: Nipples, tan lines marked by gear outlines, moldy towels.
B) Back Seat Mattress
A Dirtbag classic in every regard, the practice of converting one’s back seat into a bedroom/storage unit is often the first domino to fall on the path to Dirtbaggery. An assortment of Paco Pads, crash pads, soiled mattresses from the thrift store, and god knows what else comprise the Dirtbag’s cozy nest. Some of these migrants go to great lengths customizing shelves to cull the chaos, but don’t be fooled! There is no such thing as an ‘orderly’ camper, only one that is on
C) Eating PBR for breakfast
Commonly referred to as the liquid pork chop, a morning
As if that wasn’t enough, many Dirtbags turn to the breakfast beer as a pseudo-mouthwash, cleansing the remnant of cheap pizza and
shitting on lawn
Everybody loves little buddy—until he/she’s shitting on your lawn! Typically without companionship for long periods of time (except for last fall’s trim camp in Humbolt County), the Dirtbag regularly turns to four-legged friends for love, affection and even intellectual stimulation. Plucky pooches are a mainstay of the Dirtbag lifestyle for very simple reasons: dogs are more loyal than humans (mostly), they never complain about the smell of dirty laundry, and in some parts of the country, they merit a higher payout in social
Look for: Complete lack of doggie
E) Milk Crate Furniture
F) Mysterious Pungent Aromas
The Dirtbag praises Jah — just out your front door. Ryan Dee illustration.
Some Dirtbags don’t smoke herb because it may negatively impact their summit attempt’s 3 a.m. start time, but many others
Look for: A very agreeable disposition, perma-smile, mysterious clouds of smoke.
G) Wardrobe stuffed in XL dry bag
There’s something about spending years of your life on the road that is conducive to never folding your clothes or putting them away neatly. The answer for many Dirtbags is simply not doing those things, instead stuffing every clean load of laundry into an oversized stuff sack or dry bag. After all, who cares about wrinkles when the alternative means you can compress your wardrobe into the size of a basketball and lash it to the roof of your truck in a snowstorm. Dirtbag fresh!
Look for: Wrinkles,
H) Guerrilla Sleeping Tactics
Dirtbags are nocturnal ninjas! If the chosen campsite is a residential neighborhood, they’re unlikely to vacate in a hurry. But, if there’s one thing that all Dirtbags hate, it’s paying for a campsite. If it’s a pay-for site, chances are you’ll never know anyone had been there. There’s no better way to rouse a Dirtbag from slumber than to mention an ensuing fee.
Look for: Vans with blacked-out windows parked overnight at the library, out of state plates that disappear from in front of your home before dawn.
The classic! Dirtbags, exhibiting behaviors akin to their long-lost evolutionary cousins, the River Rats, have an affinity for customizing, repairing and even decorating their vehicles with duct tape. In the mind of a Dirtbag, the $3.99 roll is a much better investment than going to the mechanic to spend several hundred for a proper fix; that money could go toward a new
J) Gear spillage
Dirtbags, having encamped in their rigs for weeks, months, maybe even
Look for: A ridiculous amount of toys, out-of-season holdouts, hyper hoarding of gear that will only be useful once the seasons change months from now.
K) Parking tickets/boot on car
One byproduct of public vehicular living can take the form of unwanted attention from law enforcement. Unfortunately, old expired parking tickets do in fact make great fire kindling, yielding a large disconnect between what the state thinks is owed and what the Dirtbag can distantly recollect. However, the use of a boot to keep a Dirtbag accountable often backfires, as it further locks down the vehicle in question, in the process creating the ever-elusive Booted ’Bag. Municipal parking enforcers beware: your attempts at punishment may further enable this rogue behavior.
L) The Yardsale Setup
The Dirtbag's been up since 3 am preparing to rent you skis. Ryan Dee Illustration.
Well-versed in preparing for big outdoor missions, sometimes the Dirtbag has a hard time separating their missions from the mundane requirements of everyday life. Wanting to be organized and efficient lest something
Look for: Intense preparation, counting of clean-ish socks and boxers, day's outfit laid out on tarp or car hood.