I was not aware of the term ‘dirtbag' until relatively recently. Certainly, even some 20 years ago when I spent more time in a tent, either it was not used at all in the UK or I was so uncool I didn’t know it. Both are equally plausible. By the way I don’t mean dirtbag in a Wheatus-I’m-not-really-a-dirtbag-we’re-all-dirtbags-aren’t-we? kind of way.
I mean it in the climbing sense.
Regardless of this it is something I have been exposed to in recent times, probably thanks to the world being small and all that, and American culture being so diffuse, oh, and also thanks to the Dirtbag Diaries [more here].
Google tells me that it was born around the same time as me which suggests that firstly my own renown is on a very different trajectory and secondly I was indeed, as I suspected, so uncool I didn’t know it.
Mind you Google also describes it as:
“a very unkempt or unpleasant person"
and Merriam-Webster describes it as:
"a dirty, unkempt, or contemptible person"
Neither of these fit the bill, at least not in the way an outdoorsman or woman might imagine. Ok, perhaps in part they do.
But we must turn to the Urban Dictionary to shed light on true modern parlance:
"A person who is committed to a given (usually extreme) lifestyle to the point of abandoning employment and other societal norms in order to pursue said lifestyle. Dirtbags can be distinguished from hippies by the fact that dirtbags have a specific reason for their living communaly and generally non-hygenically; dirtbags are seeking to spend all of their moments pursuing their lifestyle.
The best examles of dirtbags and dirtbagging are the communities of climbers that can be found in any of the major climbing areas of North America--Squamish, BC; Yosemite, CA; Joshua Tree, CA; etc."
And there we have it. I was never and will never be a dirtbag. I lack the courage. But, when it comes out next year, I will be watching this movie about the “original dirtbag mountaineer” Fred Beckey. Again not someone I knew about - thanks to my fallow years outside the world of mountains and climbing but someone who predates the term "dirtbag" by some considerable margin and yet seems to fit the bill more than most.
For more info on Dirtbag: The Legend of Fred Beckey go to http://dirtbagmovie.com