What Is A Dirtbag?

“The hardest thing in the world is to simplify your life. It’s so easy to make it complex. What’s important is leading an examined life.” -Yvon Chouinard.

Outside of seasonal life, the term dirtbag is a clear insult. Generally, nobody wants to be called a dirtbag. However, in the outdoor world, it’s an endearing term. Living as a dirtbag means living life fully dedicated to the outdoors, in a pursuit to hone in on passions relentlessly. 

Dirtbag is a definition that originated mostly from rock climbing. The term as we know it today came from the early days of climbing in Yosemite National Park. The Stone Masters of the ’60s made climbing their lives in a radical way. Characters, including the founder of Patagonia, Yvon Chouinard, Chuck Pratt, and many others, subsisted on whatever they could to stay in Yosemite.

Such measures included swiping leftovers off tourists’ plates, rummaging through dumpsters, and even eating cat food. Whatever it took to keep climbing in the valley. They lived on society’s fringes while making history in their sport and the outdoor industry at large. Companies such as Patagonia and The North Face emerged from that same dirtbag climbing culture in Yosemite.

Modern-day dirtbags share the same spirit as the early valley climbers. They’re also still out there making history in the sport. Outdoor Icons such as Jimmy Chinn, Renan Ozturk, and Alex Honnold all lived the dirtbag dream for a decade.

There are other dirtbag success stories besides pro athletes as well. Travel bloggers such as Editor Jason, Scientists such as Brooke and Claire, and even our own CEO of Vagajobs Dylan, are full-time travelers. They all started as dirtbags living out of vehicles. Check out our list of dirtbag success stories on our Personal Stories page for inspiration.

While the term originated in climbing, there are Dirtbags of every outdoor sport. They often live in vans, sometimes in a Ford Ranger, Jeep Wrangler, or even a Schoolbus to prioritize their outdoor passions. Dirtbags are on a roadtrip that seemingly never ends, chasing ideal weather and sometimes eating out of Wal-Mart dumpsters.

Dirtbags try not to work, so they have more time to spend mastering their craft. Money only goes to essential things, like new cams, mountain bike repairs, gas, and beer. They have an array of free places to sleep all over the country, so they never pay rent. Showers are scarce and usually improvised in lakes, creeks, or rivers. Campgrounds and gyms are lavish expenditures for the real Dirtbag. They lay under stars every day of the week and love every second. Your average Dirtbag can easily make 1000$ last a month or more.

Many folks that are passionate about the outdoors will take time off to “Dirtbag.” Or take an extended trip to live in the outdoors. Some do it for a couple of months, others for years. Living the “Dirtbag dream” doesn’t have to be full time. It’s often in-between seasonal jobs, making the money they made last as long as possible. 

Dirtbag is an identity, a way of life that gives the finger to society. The culture has collectively figured out a way to skirt the American dream and truly live life in the outdoors fully. Dirtbags are very endearing, funny, quirky, and fun to be around. They’re thrilled because they live life the way they dream of, on their terms.

While we don’t encourage you to quit your job and become a dirtbag, we encourage you to quit your job and join the seasonal life. Staring at the clock and wishing you were somewhere you love doesn’t have to be your life. Living the alternative life of passion you dream of is one step away. Vagajobs is here to help you make that step. Play with us!