One of the things that the author seeks to discover through writing this book is why Chris, who was a very intelligent individual, should head off into the Alaskan wilderness without even taking the most basic and sensible precautions that any wanderer would take, such as carrying with him a map and going better prepared. The comparison is made obvious when the author heads into Alaska to find the bus where Chris died. However, unlike Chris, he goes with a detailed topographic map, which if Chris had taken with him, would have revealed how he could have crossed the river and reached safety. Also, Krakauer goes with other people to support him, whereas Chris travelled alone. Andy Horowitz, who was a former friend of Chris's, speculates that what caused Chris to abandon common sense with such catastrophic consequences, was a desire for adventure and to find a blank spot where nobody else had gone before on a map to explore. Of course, in 1992, such a place was impossible to find. This did not stop Chris, however:
But Chris, with his idiosyncratic logic, came up with an elegant solution to this dilemma: He simply got rid of the map. In his own mind, if nowhere else, the terra would thereby remain incognita.
It is suggested therefore that what led Chris to apparently abandon common sense so easily was a desire for adventure and for exploration that would give him the appropriate sense of danger and risk that he was looking for. He wanted an adventure in the same way that Jack London's protagonists experienced adventure in the wilderness. This is what led him to abandon all of the normal trappings of a backpacker, and what ultimately led to his death.