In Into the Wild, how is Chris McCandless prepared for living in nature?

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Many have criticized Chris McCandless for being foolhardy and unprepared for his sojourn in the Alaskan wilderness. The subject would not have been so hotly debated where there was not truth in that claim.

However, as Krakauer states openly in his book, he identifies with and is sympathetic to Chris. He builds a strong case that while Chris did make some risky moves, it was bad luck more than his own foolishness that did him in.

One point Krakauer makes is that Chris deliberately refused to take too many precautions. Yes, he could have gone out in a Winnebago armed with every safety device and precaution known to humankind and stacks upon stacks of food, but that would have defeated Chris's purpose. Chris wanted to test himself and face nature as simply as possible to see how well he would do surviving with the bare minimum. For example, while he was much criticized for not taking him the map that could have led him to safety, his desire wasn't to know where everything was: at that point, it would become a camping trip and not a genuine attempt to face living alone in the wilds. This was a courageous venture because it carried with the possibility of dying.

Chris researched what he was doing and came with what he thought he needed to survive, if no more. He took a gun and he took some food. He did make mistakes, such as with the antelope he killed, but he was not simply rushing like a greenhorn into the middle of the Alaskan wilderness with no knowledge or interest in survival techniques.

It is easy, as Krakauer points out when he describes his own youthful death-defying adventure climbing a mountain, to point the finger of blame at people who die in the wilderness, but often there is a thin line between success and failure; if you are going to take a genuine risk, as Chris did, it's impossible to be prepared for every possibility.

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It's often been said that there's a fine line between bravery and stupidity. And it's fair to say that Chris McCandless crossed that line when he embarked upon his death trip to Alaska. Yes, he undoubtedly displayed courage in wanting to leave his old life behind and try something new. Far too many people complain about how boring, empty, and unfulfilling their lives are without actually doing anything about it. So Chris deserves credit for taking such a bold step.

Having said that, if you're planning to head on out into the wilderness, you still need to make adequate preparations. Tragically, Chris didn't do that. He went off to Alaska without any experience of living in the wild; he didn't bring enough food with him; and what's more, he left behind his map on the dashboard of the truck driver who dropped him off.

When they found out what had happened to Chris, natives were shocked that someone could go off into the wilds of Alaska so singularly ill-prepared. None of this detracts from Chris's courage in taking steps to change his whole way of life, but it does mean that we have to conclude that he wasn't at all prepared for his fateful journey into the Alaskan wilderness.

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