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When Fun Isn’t: A Guide to Type II Fun

When a sketchy Austrian guy with a grizzled beard offers you a tent/sleeping bag/sleeping pad combo for 30 Euros, you don’t waste time wondering if it’s a good purchase; you get three, pass them out to your friends, and head out for some seat-of-the-pants backpacking.

The first three nights are crystal clear, accented by the distant knocking of cowbells and an impossibly thick sprinkle of stars. The fourth night it rains all night, and you learn that, while the “waterproof” canopies of bargain Euro-tents are unbelievably permeable, the floors seem to be made of the world’s heaviest-duty tarpaulin, meaning that once the water gets in, it damn sure stays there. You might as well sleep in a lake.

This, of course, is a miserable way to spend a night, but when you get back to town and have had some time to dry out, you won’t be telling stories about the pleasant nights you spent under the stars. You’ll reminisce instead about the time you almost drowned inside your tent because, of course, it’s that sort of experience that sticks with you: miserable and hateful while it’s happening, legendary when it’s over. Getting lost, getting cold, getting hungry, getting wet, getting scared, and coming out on top; that’s the stuff you remember. That’s Type II fun.

Even if you’ve never heard about the fun scale, you will probably understand it pretty intuitively. On this highly scientific spectrum, Type I is the easy, fun-while-it’s-happening stuff—mellow powder skiing, lazy cragging, afternoon hiking. You’re bummed when it’s over, but you’d be hard-pressed to remember more than a few specific examples. Type III fun resides at the other end of the scale—miserable while it’s happening, still miserable when it’s over and just as miserable to think about later. Anything that ends with you eating your own shoes, being evacuated by helicopter, or featuring prominently in a non-fiction bestseller likely classifies as Type III.

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Somewhere in the middle of this mess lies Type II fun, which is God-awful while you’re doing it, but totally worth it once you’re done. You get lost and a pleasant hike becomes soul-killing bushwhacking; halfway up your dream line, easy skinning turns into a marathon postholing session; you go camping and spend a sleepless night lying in a freezing puddle. None of these things are life-threatening, but they’re nothing that you’d go out of your way to repeat, either. Indeed, on the surface they seem like things that you’d try pretty hard to avoid. So what’s the big deal?

Maybe we’re all in it for the barstool cred (a story were everything goes to plan isn’t a story at all), or maybe we’re more into “character building” than we realize and understand that heinous mosquitoes, extreme hunger, and getting lost somehow make us better people. Maybe we love testing ourselves, but often aren’t brave enough to do so on purpose, and Type II adventures let us push our limits without psyching ourselves out and backing down before we get started. No matter how you slice it, enjoying Type II fun requires a pretty damn selective memory, one in which significant unpleasantness is relegated to the margins and every bad experience comes with a qualifier: “I mean, it wasn’t that bad, and besides…”

Often, too, Type II fun rewards you in more concrete ways. The postholing nightmare ends with a perfect ski down a 4,000-foot couloir, or the accidental bushwhack spits you out at an overlook you didn’t know existed and never would’ve found had you been less incompetent. Perhaps, then, Type II’s secret is that it turns misery into happiness and failure into success. Or maybe we’re just overthinking the whole thing and Type II isn’t anything unusual; maybe it’s just the ups and downs of life, distilled into a single afternoon, and maybe that’s the whole point. After all, if your food’s spent the night soaking in a puddle, the oatmeal’s ready to eat as soon as you get up.

What’s your best Type II story? Share it in the comments section below.

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21Comments

Here's what the community has to say.

Adam Monten

Adam Monten

Me and my friend were on a trip crossing the djungle covered Santa Fe mountains of Panama, we had no maps, no information about the area and used GPS and compass to aid in choosing the right trails. It was late afternoon of the fifth day, during the previous days we had crossed an entire mountain range, crawled over and under fallen tree trunks and that same morning the GPS ran out of battery. We didn't really know where we were and had no food left. It was good then that we were certain that we must be somewhere close to the end of our litte expedition, near the caribbean see. Ahead a large hill loomed high, treeless on top. After spending days in the thickness of the forest, obstructing all view of our surroundings we experienced a surge of energy. Finally we would see the ocean, open beaches and maybe even a settlement close by. Do you think they have Champagne, Patrick asked as we raced upp the hill. I got on top first, Patrick a little after. We stood in silence a good while, unable to speak. We were quite high above the surrounding forest. In every direction, as far as the eyes could reach, an immense barrier of steep hills covered in dense djungle was all we could see. We both smiled at each other, spontaneosly. Up until now everything went according to plan, it had been almost type I fun. Now it looked at least as type II. When later that evening, Patrick removed his boots to clean up next to a river, I noticed that he left red patches of blood walking over the river bed. The soles of he's feet were a bloody mess. Didn't prevent him from smiling. I guess the perception of type II fun is relative. That moment for me was definetly the rare kind of type I, that you enjoy in the moment and never forget

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Luke B.

Luke B.

We were on our 4th day in the week long backpacking trip out in Shenandoah Valley, VA. Our novice hiker couldn't keep up which delayed our hike by hours. To add on to the delay there was an amazing downpour that lasted a good hour or so (put our Columbia raincoats to the test..they passed). We found ourselves hiking up a trail in the dark right next to a rain filled river that none of us could see but close enough to slip right into. It was grudging getting up that trail and by the time we got to our campsite trail we couldn't find a flat enough area to set up camp. We ended up just camping right next to the trail. The night finally ended but I'll never forget the darkness we hiked through.

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Devin Z.

Devin Z.

Decided to do a winter summit of Mt. Adams- starting on a day that we found out later had record snow-fall. We had to snow shoe in and made it 4 (4!) miles in 10 hours on what should have been the "easy" approach, the snow was the perfect combo of heavy and unsupportive that made each step a battle. Camped instead of continuing to our planned first bivvy spot in the dark. We pulled the plug when it got even worse the next day and had to slog our way back out with our tails between our legs. Then I discovered I'd left my chains at home and couldn't get the truck out. Learned a lot of lessons that trip.

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Terry M.

Terry M.

Up in roscoe, NY, fly fishing. Had waded a solid mile downstream to get to calmer water, knee high, when rain started coming down hard and lightning began to strike really close. Water levels rose quickly, river moved too fast to go baxk upstream safely, so had to swim across a river in waders to find shelter under a run down bridge in a lightning storm. Sat there for about 3 hours sopping wet... despite the potential hypothermia, it was the most fun iv ever had .

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Jen

Jen

Type II fun is the experience of hating life as you're beating up your body in a chosen activity and afterwards, you're grateful for the gift of such an experience. Not heading down that road again...

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Alexander C.

Alexander C.

Bear hunting in the Maroon Bells Wilderness near Aspen, CO my buddy and I get caught by an unexpected thunder/snow storm. Undeterred at first, we keep hiking in. We soon (not quite soon enough) realize that this storm isn't going to blow over, and it is getting significantly colder. Everything becomes hilarious when you get hypothermic... Needless to say we didn't bag a bear that day, but it was some good Type II fun.

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Ryan Conklin

Ryan Conklin

One day in NC I was hiking a 20-miler in 40-degree blizzard-like conditions. I was soaked to the bone and climbing hill after hill while high winds slapped me in the face with rain so cold and penetrating that I occasionally touched my cheeks to check for blood. I was so miserable that I hiked with my hands clamped onto my thighs, squeezing over and over to try to keep them from losing feeling. My feet, like a drowning victim's, showed cut marks where the pressure points from the shoes had actually cut into my water-softened feet. I don't think I've ever been so cold or miserable. A truly great time.

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yourDisplayName

yourDisplayName

Well, I guess number one would be 2 years in the Peace Corps in West Africa, living in a mud hut with a grass roof. No running water or electricity, the only white person for 20 miles in any direction. Another that comes right to the forefront of my mind is a day riding in the Trek Across Maine that it rained 5 inches during the 60 mile ride.

I'd call my life a success simply because of the countless numbers of these Type II stories I can tell :) Thanks for the article, it makes all kinds of sense. The unpleasant event always makes better story than the pleasant.

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jkd

jkd

Had some great type II fun in MT when I did backcountry trail crew work a couple times. Some type III stuff too - some of it still pisses me off to think about... Also makes me want to go back :)

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Brian Davis

Brian Davis

Doing a multi-day underground exploration trip, that turned into an epic when the way out flooded shut. So what could have been a fun multi-day survey turned into a desperate run around the accessible portions of the system recovering stashed items, setting up an emergency camp, rationing food, and eventually digging a 40' long, 3' deep trench to drain the water... Which drained it just enough that to escape you still had to navigate a zero-visibility 8' long sumped section of passage, in order to reach the rest of the 1000' Crawl that was part of the exit route.



Does the presence of the media on the surface mean that this bleeds over from Type II towards Type III? I mean it was only five days of being trapped underground...

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Tera Adams

Tera Adams

Dude, I think I live in this zone!

Best Type II experience: Taking a wilderness skills class by an instructor, who's last name was Hazard (should have told me something). It was supposed to be an easy overnight trek up to Onion Valley just to the north of Mt. Whitney in the Eastern Sierra Nevada. We knew we were in for it, when there was 4 inches of unexpected snow at the trailhead parking lot, darkness and more snow falling. Most of us had on sneakers or summer hikers. On the way up we criss crossed with bear prints. By the time we reached the ridge the wind was howling and the snow was almost waist deep, and it was 1am. Being eaten by a bear sounded merciful. No one could get their tent up (except Hazard, who had the super-expedition-ready-for-anything model), so we stamped down snow behind a big boulder and dog piled on each other to keep warm. How we all made it to see the sunrise across the Mojave Desert still amazes me. Some how we made it back to the car that afternoon. Yap... don't take a wilderness course from a guy named Hazard. It's just a bad idea.

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Taylor

Taylor

Me and one of my good friends went on a hike in the desert. It was only supposed to be a few hours of easy hiking so we didn't bring so much water. Then we got lost and ran out of water and we were stuck out there for half a day. I don't really like to think about it but when I do I try to think of it as a bonding experience.

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Izzy

Izzy

Trying to find a cabin in the Norwegian wilderness... hiking for 5 instead of 1h and still no cabin. It's cold and 1meter of snow... no skis, no snowshoes, and by now it's pitch black!

So back to the starting point, get some better directions somewhere and try again... one headlamp should be enough XD

In the end a local farmer picked us up on his snow mobile driving us all the way to the cabin, only for us to realize that we stood just 100feet away from it a few hours ago! -.-

Everybody loves those cabin stories though ^^

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Chrooth

Chrooth

Had a week long job interview for a wilderness program in the Utah High Desert Mid march. My shelter tarp was half the size it should have been, my sleeping bag was definitely not rated for the weather and I decided to use a $15 yoga mat for my sleeping pad. Every night was freezing cold, but the night that it snowed I learned a lot about how often the wind can change direction, blowing snow straight into a shelter that was already WAY too small. Thinkin you're a badass is the easiest thing in the world until you spend an entire week, unprepared, freezing your ass off, can't sleep, soaking wet, busting your knuckles on a bow drill, and I'm pretty sure at one point I encountered some manner of demon. It was a type 2 week!!! But that week, I met some of the most incredible people I've ever known, and the stars out there were unforgettable!

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Cody Curran

Cody Curran

Outward Bound, it was a phenomenal experience I wouldn?t soon forget or want to. But, for sure the definition of type 2 fun

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Yingerman

Yingerman

I had hitchhiked to the small town of Hope, Washington to visit a friend, but I get the feeling that the Sheriff didn't like me because he kept throwing insults at me and eventually arrested me for vagrancy! I escaped jail and took to the woods, which brought back old memories from 'Nam. After the chase began, I was able to use my survival and combat skills to hold back the local police, and eventually the National Guard, for quite some time. I returned the city, but realizing there was no escape I turned myself.



I really hope that one day police will be more understanding to the hitchhiker's way of life, but until then it makes for a fun story ;)

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yourDisplayName

yourDisplayName

After mountain biking down Haleakala in Maui, hitch-hiking back up with a drunk, schizophrenic, turrets sufferer that wouldn't stop screaming, and I do mean screaming, at the road, radio, and me about the secret government tests that took place on the volcano. He did offer me half of a beer though. I thought i was going to die or we were going to drive over the edge. But I lived to tell the tale.

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Rich F

Rich F

Deciding to start a hike on Superior's south ridge at 6 p.m. and getting caught in total darkness, on a knife-edge ridge, with no headlamps. Then someone had the brilliant idea to just walk down the face to get back to the car. You know, "the same way you'd ski down". 3 hour hike turns into 8 hour suffer-fest. Type II at its finest!

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Lexi Dowdall

Lexi Dowdall

Getting held at machete point by a 12 year old on a Nicaraguan beach!

Wait...that wasn't' very fun, but it's a damn fine yarn.

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Joshua Barnes

Joshua Barnes

Type II fun is my favorite kind of fun.

I'm just glad you've given me a vocabulary to describe it.

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