chapter  6
13 Pages

What is a ‘dirtbag’? Reconsidering tourist typologies and leisure mobilities through rock climbing subcultures


The rock climbing community comprises numerous, overlapping subcultures that define themselves by a number of parameters, including dedication to the sport, style of climbing, and regional preferences, just to name a few. Of interest in this chapter is a type of lifestyle mobility that has come to be known as ‘lifestyle rock climbing’. While this term is used to capture the diversity of full-time, nonprofessional, travelling, rock climbing livelihoods, the individuals who pursue this lifestyle, however, use several self-identifiers. ‘Dirtbags’ is the most common, with a historical lineage and ideology in the rock climbing community dating to the 1950s. The first full-time climbers camped in the Yosemite Valley for most of the year, then travelled along the West Coast in the off-season (Taylor 2010). Today, the dirtbag identity is alive and well in the climbing community, but the modes of travel and travel circuits have expanded and its everyday practices have changed with a greater integration of global communications technologies. In response to some of the negative connotations that the ‘dirtbag’ identity carries, some prefer to be identified as ‘lifers’ or ‘full-timers’, as a way to express their dedication to the sport, while others use ‘vanner’ in order to convey their minimalism and most common mobile abode. As such, dirtbags share commonalities with a number of travel and leisure typologies, including drifters, tramps, backpackers, pilgrims, adventure tourists, lifestyle sport subcultures, and lifestyle travel.