When All Goes Wrong: How Flexibility Can Save Your Trip

If biking across the country and hiking a cross-country trail have anything in common, it’s that your mindset will be tested, thoroughly.

Semper Gumbi: Be Flexible To Be Better Outdoors: REI Packing It Out Seth
The author, Seth “Cap” Orme.

Growing up I often saw US Marine Corps stickers on people’s car bumpers that said “Semper Fi,” which translates to “Always Faithful.” I later learned this phrase was more than just a motto for the Marines, it was a way of life.

A few years ago I heard someone use the phrase “Semper Gumby.” It translates to “always flexible” as relating to the animated character. I thought it was a funny play on words, but after spending the last few years outside, Semper Gumby is now one of my favorite mottos.

Whether I’m planning a weekend foray or a five-month thru-hike, a couple things remain certain. I often spend just as much time thinking and planning as I do executing the trip, and many times the trip won’t go exactly as planned.

With a Semper Gumby mindset, the odds of having a positive experience drastically increase.

Below, I’ve laid out three characteristics of the Semper Gumbi mindset that I like to implement.

1. Learn To Press Pause

Semper Gumbi: Be Flexible To Be Better Outdoors: REI Packing It Out Seth
Seth pressing pause in Colorado.

This is easy for some and tough for others. I used to just make all my decisions on the fly, in a go, go, go! manner. I think there’s a time and place for on-the-fly decision making, but I think there is something to be said for pressing pause.

Learning to press pause allows me to gather more information before making decisions, helps de-escalate situations that may be taking a turn for the worse, and most importantly, it gives me a moment to check the E.G.G.S.

Essentials — Make sure your primary needs are covered. Drink some water, put on a jacket if its cooling down, or re-up on sunscreen.

Group — Help with group tasks and make sure the team is on top of self-care. Like airing out feet, staying hydrated, or getting calories.

Group — Double check the material above. If you’re solo, think about what you would check on if you had a crew, then ask yourself those same questions. 

Self — You’ve already taken care of your primary needs, now you can focus on secondary needs and wants. Putting on clean socks, walking off to check your phone, organizing your gear, or going to bed.

2. Don’t Take It Personally 

Once we dream up a trip, plan all the logistics, and finally put the plan into action, we become attached to the trip and how we foresee it playing out. This attachment can lead to a less than stellar trip report.

It’s easy for me to tell you not to take it personally, but sometimes it feels impossible not to take it personally. My protocol is to try two things. 

  1. Swallow my ego.  At the end of the day, nobody is more attached to your project than you. The mountain stands with an indifference toward your wants and needs. In fact, 99.9% of the world doesn’t care about our endeavors. 
  2. Remember that ‘uncertain outcomes’ are a key ingredient in quality adventure experiences. Some of the best memories I’ve ever had on trips come from the part that wasn’t planned. Funny how that works.

3. Be Flexible, Literally

Semper Gumbi: Be Flexible To Be Better Outdoors: REI Packing It Out Abby
Abby doing her morning stretching.

From a physical standpoint, I can’t advocate for flexible and mobility exercises enough. I dedicate time each morning and evening to mobility/ flexibility exercises.

For serious athletes, pre and post workout routines are religion. The beauty of flexibility and mobility work is that you can address the entire body with little to no extra equipment, think yoga. 

If you’re new to pre and post activity routines, I recommend googling some basic yoga routines and running stretches. Why yoga and running? Well, you can do them anywhere with very little equipment.

My favorite on-trail and off-trail moves are currently:

  1. Lunge Matrix—warmup routine by Coach Jay Johnson 
  2. Jefferson Curl—prescribed by former U.S. national team gymnastics coach, Christopher Sommer

Quality And Quantity

When I first started trying to implement the Semper Gumby mindset, I thought it was a kind of a silly motto. After 5,000 miles of backpacking and 3,000 miles of cycle touring, I’m serious about being flexible.

At the end of the day, we all want our journeys to be fun, safe, and memorable. As I sit here stretching my feet, I want to pause and thank you for reading. I hope my take on the Semper Gumby motto adds more quality and quantity to all your future endeavors.

See you up the trail…


– Our 2017 ‘Packing It Out’ coverage is sponsored by REI.

– Check out the crew’s 2015 and 2016 efforts on our ‘Packing It Out’ page. Connect with Abby and Seth on InstagramTwitter, and their blog.

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