The Highs and Lows of Mixing Marijuana and Adventure  //

Read time: 10-15min

Leaving the phone at home to go hiking might be some of the best therapy you can give yourself. Leaving the marijuana at home on the other hand, for some adventurers, could be like leaving without tying your boots.

Marijuana and exploration have a long history of hangouts. Rumor has it Columbus brought some over in 1492 on his voyage to find the new world. Before that it was delivered from Asia to Europe via Germany by a group called the Scythians, a nomadic tribe who used marijuana and hemp to produce steam baths that were coveted by the Greeks.

(They also terrorized the Eurasian continent, beheading bodies and drinking their enemies’ blood, but that’s a story for another day.)

Nowadays you can find it on many a hiker’s pack list, right under water bottle, camera, and protein filled trail snacks. The benefits of toking in the outdoors, of getting stoned on your nature walks, are different depending on who you ask, but generally, they involve:

  1. A deeper connection with nature
  2. Improved relaxation
  3. Even better enjoyment of beautiful scenery

Those are probably a result of the way THC tends to heighten some senses, like taste and sight. After smoking, many people notice the world around them in more detail and depth. They find new levels to songs they’ve heard multiple times, undiscovered meaning behind favorite movies, or hidden wonders inside familiar paintings.

Some even describe feeling a deeper understanding of animal and plant life when they’re high, as though getting stoned whilst on nature walks allows them to imagine in-depth the life of a critter, or the struggles an oak tree might go through over 200 plus summers and winters. In general, our ability to connect and understand things outside ourselves gets a huge boost.

What Scientist & Author Carl Sagan Has to Say

Scientist, astronomer, and author Carl Sagan probably put it best when he noted that smoking marijuana helped him relate better to art.

“The cannabis experience has greatly improved my appreciation for art, a subject which I had never much appreciated before. …The enjoyment of food is amplified; tastes and aromas emerge that for some reason we ordinarily seem to be too busy to notice. I am able to give my full attention to the sensation.”


It seems to be this part about giving our full attention that makes the combination of marijuana and wilderness so attractive. And if marijuana is so good at helping us appreciate art on a deeper level, why couldn’t it do this for nature as well? After all, a mountain scene or a view of lush forest can be as beautiful as any painting. Before cameras were widely used, nature painting was the foundation of many artist’s work.

Naysayers will be quick to remind us here that marijuana is a drug, with serious side effects to consider. And they’re right that it isn’t always sunshine and rainbows for every marijuana user. As one adventurer noted, an experience of marijuana in the wilderness can go both ways:

“[It can] make you feel even more connected with nature, or make sleeping in a tent the most terrifying experience (if you're the paranoid type).”

Personality certainly plays a role, and those with a psychological condition or prone to anxiety should probably tread cautiously no matter how serene their surroundings.

Another adventurer noted that he worries about how overusing marijuana could ruin your ability to appreciate nature when sober, as though you'll struggle to find that same sense of beauty without getting stoned.

Be Safe Out There, Folks

Beyond that, there are some definite safety concerns when getting high in the woods. While marijuana might be great at making you notice things more in-depth, it’s known to be terrible for your short-term memory. There are plenty of jokes about stoners wandering into the kitchen only to forget what they went in there for, and it turns out those stories are based on good science. Marijuana does affect short-term memory in a negative way, making it a lot easier to get lost in the woods if you’re getting stoned on your hike.

One hiker posted about such a story on the forum, titled “Hiking while baked: Not a good idea.”

He details how after hiking into the woods, getting happily stoned, and singing the “Off to Work We Go,” song from Snow White (really, who hasn’t done this once or twice?), he missed a turn, and found himself on a piece of trail he didn’t recognize.  

While he ended up finding his way home safely, he admitted to being “freaked out.” This doesn’t mean you should avoid getting stoned in the woods, but it does mean there are some things to consider before heading out.

1. Map or GPS - If you’re planning to get stoned in the woods, it’s a good idea to bring a map or GPS device, especially if you don’t know the area. Any time you’re trekking into new territory, be extra sure that you can find your way back before lighting up.

2. Choose Your Route Wisely - Although some experienced tokers can maneuver through just about any terrain while stoned, remember that marijuana does impact your ability to make safe decisions. It might not be a good idea to follow Alex Honnold up El Capitan after toking up. Pushing your limits is probably best saved for sober hikes.

3. Bring a Buddy – While solo nature walks do have their appeal, consider taking a buddy if you’re combining marijuana and adventure. This is crucial if you’re planning to go deep into the wilderness or anywhere unfamiliar. At the very least, tell someone where you’re heading, and send them a message to let them know when you’re back.

4. Don’t Start a Fire - Throwing joints on the ground, even if they’re little dried up roaches, is a no-no. You don’t want to be the guy that started the fire. Bring a baggy and take everything home with you, especially if it was on fire at one point.

Etiquette: Marijuana and Adventure the Right Way

If safety is meant to increase your enjoyment, etiquette is meant to increase everyone else’s. Here are some things to remember before getting stoned on your next wilderness trek.  

1.  Leave No Trace – An oldie but a goodie, and something we already touched on under Fire Safety. While you might think of roaches and hemp papers as organic, the fact is no one wants to see your marijuana debris on the trail – not even other smokers. Take everything you went in with, no matter how small or plant-like.

2.  Respect Other Hikers – Not all of whom combine marijuana with their adventures. They might not enjoy stumbling upon you blazing up on the trailside, even if you’re keeping to yourself. This can be even worse if they’ve brought kids, who get curious and start asking, “What’s that smell, mom?” They might not have come into the woods prepared to have “that talk,” so don’t leave them scrambling to explain your mysterious smoke signals just yet. Find a quiet place to puff off the path.

3. Give People the Heads Up - Not everyone wants to make Mary Jane a part of their hiking crew. If you’ve got some new joiners, it might help to let them know you’ll be smoking at some point, or ask if they mind. Not that you should edit your game plan for them, but it might help to stand downwind. At least give them a heads up, so it’s not awkward when you start blazing up.

Best Marijuana Pieces for the Wilderness

Your next choice will be one every stoner eventually faces: how best to consume your cannabis.

This is a bit more complicated when you’re in the wilderness. You’ve got things to consider, like the wind factor, and the lack of a table. You’ve also got portability to think about, which may or may not rule out your four-foot glass bong. After talking it over with a few marijuana and adventure enthusiasts, here are some pros and cons to different toking methods on the trail.

1. Joint

The original travel piece, discreet and easy to carry. The joint is perfect for trips into the wild because it keeps your entire session in one place. No need to worry about packing bowls or carrying multiple pieces, just pre-roll a couple joints and light as needed. Joints are also a one-time-light, so you won’t have to fight the wind all day.

Cons: Joints can be frustrating to roll if you’re a beginner, and won’t always burn properly. You’ve also got that roach to deal with, so it’s good to bring a baggy along for the trip, which will get pretty stinky by the end.

2. Pipe

Being small and lightweight makes the pipe an ideal friend of any toking adventurer. Smoke as much as you want each time, and put them out easily when you need to.

Cons: You’ll have to light it every time you take a hit, which can be downright torturous on a windy day. You also can’t exactly smoke them while you walk, unless you want to trip over a root and spill your stash.

3. Vaporizer

The smokeless route is gaining traction. Safely portable, easy on your lungs, and coming in a variety of styles. These 4 vaporizers reviewed by Outside Online all work great, don’t cost a fortune, and will make excellent companions for your adventures.

Cons: They certainly cost more than a pack of papers or a wooden pipe. They also need batteries, which could be a problem if you run out of juice out there in the woods.

4. Foldable, Roll-able, Latex Bong

Since a glass bong just doesn’t feel practical, we’re gonna leave them off the list. A latex, scrunchable bong though… that we can use. We’ve only found one, this latex bong from Roll-Uh-Bowl. You can literally roll it into a ball, then unroll it for smoking time. It’s easy to carry and would be nearly impossible to break, letting you enjoy that cooling water-pipe sensation even when you’re out on the trail.

Cons: You’ll need to bring water and refill it each time you smoke. You’ll also need to light it for each hit, like a pipe, meaning it’s not wind-friendly. It’s also not terribly discreet to be making bubbles out in the woods, but we’ll leave that up to you.

5. Edibles

You could just skip the smoking process all together, and go with edibles. Bake your weed into some cookies, or chew on some marijuana infused gummies while you hike. They’re discreet, smokeless, and will keep you high a lot longer than smoking or vaping.

Cons: One of those cases where the pro is also the con, because the effects of edibles really do last longer. If you’re not trying to be high all day, this isn’t your best option. Also, for those who enjoy the process of smoking their cannabis, the ‘ritual’ of getting stoned, edibles can take some of the fun away.

The Right Side of the Law

Marijuana is fast becoming recognized in Canada and the US as a non-issue, well on it’s way to widespread legalization. In the US, the count is up to 8 states where you’re free to toke, and Canada is set to be the second nation after Uruguay to fully legalize marijuana by summer 2018.

This might feel like a sign that marijuana users no longer have to worry, and in some ways it is. But it’s still important to check local bylaws because rules for where you can smoke will still be a factor. Some national parks may not allow public consumption, whereas others may not even have a rule yet. Also, if you’re not in one of those 8 great states, you still have to keep your smoking under wrap.

Canadians should also avoid jumping the gun. Despite a somewhat relaxed approach from law enforcement, the laws are still in place, and it’s possible to be charged with possession unless you can provide a medical card.

Your best bet is to do your research ahead of time, find out local laws and bylaws, and like always, keep it discreet. Even if you view marijuana as a harmless plant and think it’s your right to smoke it, your best protection against unnecessary problems, at least for now, is to not get caught doing it.

Enjoy Yourself

The wilderness, vast and beautiful, offers endless insights and lessons whether you smoke or don’t. But as one adventurer asked, “Why not combine two things you enjoy, like going to a soccer game and having a beer?”

And if it really does enhance our focus as Carl Sagan observed, or help us connect with nature on a deeper level, then combining marijuana with adventure from time to time could be a way to broaden your perspective, to find even more depth in your adventures, to open up another level of curiosity and wonder for the great wide wilderness.

Just be considerate in the process, and keep it real with the fire safety.

Newest stories

Recent Interviews