Preparation enables Surrender

Ethan Steininger
2 min readFeb 21, 2021


Wilderness backpacking is all about survival. You bring all the resources you need for a multi-day adventure on your back. From food and water to shelter and comfort, it all comes down to what you’ve packed. Excess sounds great, but it could mean exerting more energy, and not enough, well that could have dire consequences.

As one dives deeper into the world of backpacking they refine their “packing list”. This list, like any hobby or skill, is constantly improved upon. It’s what enables them to be prepared and react to situations outside of their control.

One extreme (depending on where your adventure) could be the real threat of a bear attack, someone who prepared could have brought bear spray. A less extreme, but more plausible threat is dehydration, in which someone who prepared would have brought electrolytes and a water filter.

Bear attacks and dehydration have something in common: there’s a before and an after. Before, let’s hope you had the resource or knowledge to mitigate a disaster, and after, well that’s outside of your control. You’ve done everything you can to prepare and react, it’s time to surrender to the outcome. Surrender isn’t permanent, however, or terrible. Surrender until you have the opportunity to iterate and improve for the next battle, then add it to the following round of preparation.

For backpacking, preparation comes down to a packing list but it could be anything. For organizations it could be a framework, for individuals, it’s someone to look up to, for others maybe religion’s code of ethics. Frameworks, role models, and religion share a key principle: it arms you with a structure that you can always look upon when feeling lost. This prepares you to confidently react to adversity and surrender to the outcome, knowing that you’ve done everything you can.

This challenge however is two-fold:

  1. How to know when to surrender
  2. How do determine what gets added to the next iteration

I’m still struggling to objectively determine the solution for these two challenges, but as I continue these adventures I hope to figure it out.