Going outdoors is an intense reminder that we're part of something larger. In moderation, drugs can enhance that connection, help you enjoy the sights and sounds and feelings even more, and help you push reset on all the craziness involved in modern life. Want to try them sometime? Here's how to get started.
If you're responsible and don't overdo it, drugs are a great way to relax, let your hair down, fix problems in your life and just have a good time. They're largely illegal because not everyone manages to be responsible with them and they can a) hurt you and b) encourage you to do irresponsible things. Too often, the conversation tends to be oversimplified into "Drugs are bad!" But, they don't have to be. Let's break down some common types that can enhance an outdoor experience and look at what using them involves.
What is it? The most widely used psychoactive drug can be smoked or ingested. As residents of Washington, Colorado or California — places where it's legal — know, it's available in huge varieties. You can buy weed designed to suppress your appetite, dull pain, perk you up or show you pretty colors. Weed is also lightweight and highly packable, making it an ideal companion in the outdoors.
What are its effects? The "lightest" of the drugs we'll talk about here, you can retain control of your senses and body while using it in moderation, making it a good accompaniment for a hike, a paddle or just while setting up camp and making dinner. In general, pot will help you relax and change your perception a bit, but as mentioned above, you can find strains with other, specific attributes. An energetic edible, for instance, can help you along through a long day of backpacking. The effects can last anywhere from one hour if you just smoke a little bit to ten for a more powerful edible.
What precautions do you need to take? People sometimes forget that marijuana is an intoxicant and will impair both your judgement and motor skills. For that reason, it's a bad idea to be on it while operating any sort of vehicle or doing anything dangerous. It also makes you forgetful, which means putting a little extra effort into planning and packing ahead of time can be a good idea.
What's it like? Our resident druggie says: "Comfortable. More 'flow' to exercise, especially with edibles/tinctures. I find my mind and energy becomes less frenetic. Cannabis allows me to slow my mind down and appreciate my surroundings as opposed to dwelling on all sorts of day to day thoughts or concerns. I also find that the creative part of my mind seems to awaken as ideas, songs, concepts drift more into the forefront of my thoughts. Pairs really well with long distance hikes or runs."
What is it? Let's focus on Psilocybin Mushrooms; they're what you get if you ask for 'Shrooms here in the US, but there are other varieties of mushrooms out there, notably the red-and-white Amanitas you'll be familiar with from the Smurfs. Psilocybin is a naturally occurring psychedelic chemical that you ingest by eating the mushrooms, something natives of North and South America have been doing for thousands of years. Despite growing naturally, possessing and consuming these mushrooms is illegal.
What are its effects? Dependent on how much food you have in your stomach, onset takes up to an hour and the effects last four to six hours. They can lead to nausea or vomiting. Depending on how much you consume, the effects can range from a pleasant disconnect from reality and seeing some pretty colors to tripping your balls off and losing all connection with reality while experiencing hallucinations. A "bad trip" is defined by anxiety, something I experienced in Death Valley over the weekend while dealing with a potentially violent confrontation.
What precautions do you need to take? Dosages can be hard to quantify as the amount of Psilocybin varies widely. Start with an gram or two (based on your experience) and take more once you've established their effect. Do mushrooms in a safe environment around people you like. A small dose can be a pleasant accompaniment to a hike, but any more reduces your ability to function normally and should be taken after camp has been made and any chores have been accomplished. You won't want to eat while you're on them and you should take care to remain hydrated. Beware that if you throw up while on mushrooms, your vomit contains them and you should take care to do so somewhere that a dog isn't going to lick up your vomit and accidentally ingest them.
What's it like? "Kicks in quick and can occasionally be a bit jarring as the trip sets in. Sometimes some initial anxiety as well as stomach grumbling gives way to intense color tinting and textural flow to otherwise solid objects/surfaces. Important to maintain grounding in reality, keep checking back in with yourself because it can get easy to lose yourself in fantasies of all sorts. Because of difficulty in assessing dosage, it's especially important with mushrooms to start with a little and then ease into your experience. Also—depending on the species of psychedelic mushroom you're ingesting, experiences can be vastly different from one another. Some tend to provide a very intense philosophical, soul searching quality (Philosopher Stones) while others can make you giddy with laughter and provide a lighter experience with colorful visuals (Liberty Caps)."
What is it? d-lysergic acid diethyl-amide is a synthetic chemical derived from a fungus and a powerful hallucinogen. It's illegal pretty much everywhere. You commonly find it soaked into squares of paper called "blotters" or sugar cubes, which you eat.
What are its effects? Again, the time it takes to kick in and its power are dependent on how recently and how much you've eaten. Expect to wait 20 minutes or more to feel it and for it to last six to eight hours. It starts with a little extra "twinkle" in your vision and can then alter your perception of reality and give you hallucinations.
What precautions do you need to take? Like mushrooms, you need to do LSD in a safe environment around people you like and trust and you cannot expect to retain control of your senses or body while on it. A sober responsibilabuddy is a great idea, particularly in the outdoors where your surroundings may not be totally safe.
What's it like? "Dosage is everything. Micro dose to give yourself a 10 hour energy kick and a slight illumination to the day, both spiritually and visually. Feels like everything just brightens up a touch. Much less intense than mushrooms and not near as much upset stomach. Great for trekking and endurance events at these low doses. Even at elevation over 18,000 feet—which I've explored. Not quite as much of a deep spiritual connection to the earth and to animals/plant life as with mushrooms, DMT, or mescaline, but really fun and a bit less confusing as long as you keep the dosage minimal. A sense of mental sharpness sets in and awareness of the body/mind connection becomes really vivid. I often become very conscious of excess body fat, tight muscles will occasionally twitch, and there's a sensation of wanting to stretch and nourish myself with exercise and the food I put in my body. While LSD doesn't make my stomach upset, I find myself strangely drawn to eating fruits and vegetables as opposed to meats, dairy, and snack foods."
What is it? The spirit molecule. DMT is naturally produced in the human body, where it may be responsible for dreaming, and is found in plants. You can order DMT-containing plants online then render the ingredient from them in your kitchen. Any reasonably skilled cook should be capable of doing so. Legality is a complicated matter because of that and due to its connection with native american religions, but it's safe to say possessing or using its refined form can get you in trouble. You take DMT by sprinkling its crystals on top of weed and smoking it.
What are its effects? DMT is an incredibly intense, but short experience in which you'll lose total control of your body and experience powerful, completely alien hallucinations. The nature of those varies between individuals, but with it, I get some of the "message" of ayahuasca complete with alien dreamscapes.
What precautions do you need to take? It's best to do DMT in a group, where one person takes it at a time and the others help administer it and watch the person under its influence. Find some place outdoors and with an epic view, then sit down and smoke it. Your friend should be prepared to catch your smoking implement, it kicks in that fast. You'll need to lay down for the 15 or so minutes of its effect, then you'll wake up completely sober, having had a profound experience.
What's it like? "Very intense, highly symbolic, short duration but deeply spiritually moving. Immediately upon inhalation, everything that is alive in the vicinity takes on a very obvious presence…as though you feel part of everything that is alive around you. Trees in particular seem to respirate, insects and animals all provide a deep sense of interconnectedness. Death becomes absolutely repugnant—one time I inhaled DMT near a compost area, and the sight of just a few broken eggshells and some rotten banana peels sent me reeling. I couldn't even look at it. This is level 1. I like to stay here. Level 2 takes you out of body and feels a bit like a near death experience. I've been out of body, looking down at myself, receiving instruction (basically to calm down and that everything was going to be okay) from a godlike voice within myself. Approach with the utmost respect and never try this drug for the first time in any location other than somewhere really natural, spacious, comfortable, and with the company of someone stable who can be there for you if things get heavy."
Photo: Jairo Galvis Henao
What is it? A tea in which the active ingredient is DMT, but the effect of that drug is made more powerful and elongated by monoamine oxidase containing ingredients. Ayahuasca is what shamans in various South American cultures took to go on spirit quests and it is the most spiritually profound drug you can take.
What are its effects? Ayahuasca is consumed as part of a purging ceremony; aptly named because you'll definitely vomit and will likely poop your pants too. You lose total control of you body and go fly through space for eight hours or so talking to god.
What precautions do you need to take? Never "do" ayahuasca at a party or as a recreational activity, it should only be administered as part of a religious ceremony which provides a safe environment that also gives you guidance and protection for your journey. It's a really good idea to bring a spare pair of pants and underwear and to devote adequate time to the experience, you'll typically need to fast for seven days beforehand and prepare for life to simply not be the same afterwards.
What's it like? I'll handle this one. Ayahuasca is responsible for me finally getting the balls to walk away from my previous business and gave me the inspiration and courage to create IndefinitelyWild. The girlfriend and I stumbled across a native american worship group out in the desert by accident, were invited to join their ceremony and just had the most powerful religious experience of our lives as a result. I won't and can't describe it all, but you go on a vision quest in which god turns a mirror on everything that's wrong in your life for the first four hours or so, which is incredibly difficult, then shows you have to make things right over the second half, which is much better. You'll cry, you'll hate yourself, but it will change your life for the better. It is not an experience to be taken lightly.
Photo: Torsten Klimer
What is it? Lophophora williamsii is a small cactus containing mescaline, a powerful hallucinogen. It can be consumed in its natural state, but you'll more commonly find it refined into pure mescaline. Both forms are illegal.
What are its effects? Perhaps the definitive psychedelic experience complete with hallucinations and out-of-body experiences. Intensity and duration will be highly dependent on dosage.
What precautions do you need to take? Like other hallucinogens, you need to be a safe space and you won't be functional while you're on it.
What's it like? "I've only taken mescaline once and it was in the evening, so I can't really comment on it as an outdoor drug/connection to nature. I found that it's got a really deep spiritual side to it. There was a strong sense that I was as clear about my identity and who I was more than ever before. Incredibly cleansing and life affirming, though along with that confidence of spirit came a sort of purging where I felt strongly compelled to express every truth I'd ever been ashamed of. Gave me one of those next morning, 'Oh shit did I really tell that story?' kind of moments. Ultimately I'm really glad I had the experience though. It dug real deep. Great visuals too. There was a color tinting and a cubic sort of pattern that formed over whatever I looked at. More than any other drug though, I would have preferred to have taken this one by myself. Very internal."
What is it? The active ingredient in ecstasy is better taken in its pure form. MDMA is a psychedelic amphetamine that comes in crystal or pill form, which you ingest. It's a synthetic chemical that powerfully effects your mood with some light visual distortions.
What are its effects? Shortly after consuming a pill, you'll be overwhelmed by a feeling of contentment and euphoria. You really love everyone and everything. MDMA is excellent for working through interpersonal issues and heightens the enjoyment of sex immensely. Expect a three to four hour duration.
What precautions do you need to take? You'll be in control on this one, but you shouldn't operate a vehicle or try to do anything dangerous. Be prepared though, you'll use up a bunch of your serotonin by taking the drug, which often leads to a little bit of depression for a few days afterwards. It's important to realize that ahead of time and be prepared for it.
What's it like? You just feel happy and sexy and everything feels really nice — especially touching other people and having sex with them. You tend to forget about your problems and just have a really intense, really good time.
Want to learn more? Erowid.org is an excellent resource for unbiased information on pretty much any drug you can think of.
Top photo: Lara Pasternak
IndefinitelyWild is a new publication about adventure travel in the outdoors, the vehicles and gear that get us there and the people we meet along the way. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.