3 Types of Fun

“Aw man, this is totally a Type 2 fun kinda day”

I can’t remember who said it, or what I was doing when I heard it, but I remember I was suffering. My body was aching, I was a little scared and I just wanted to be back at home, safe, curled up in bed trying to forget about this day.

After that experience was over I remember a while later reading something, in a blog post or article online, where somebody categorized their adventure as definitely “Type 3 fun”. It was said in passing, almost with the expectation that if I was reading this article I should already know about the types of fun.

At the time I had no clue. I thought fun was binary, you were either having it, or not. To hear people talking about scales of fun seemed odd, so I did some research. I couldn’t find a lot of information at the time although more people seem to be writing about it now. Most of the actual information I got about it came from talking to people on the trails.

What I found out is that there are a total of 3 types of fun. Most people only recognize Type 1 fun, but if you push yourself to go on adventures, and try to find the edges of your comfort zones you will likely experience the other two kinds of fun also.

Here’s how they are defined.

Type 1. Fun to Do. Fun to Remember.

When most people think of fun, they think of this. Some examples would be:

  • Eating out at a good restaurant with friends.
  • Spending a day at a water park riding the slides.
  • Beach holidays in the Sun.

Personally, I’d add mountain biking and trail running near town, bouldering near the parking lot and skiing at the resort. These are Type 1 fun for me because the commitment is pretty low. While they might all be scary depending on the difficulty, the physical investment of time and effort is pretty low. I find it can’t become Type 2 fun for me until I’ve completely left civilization behind and entered the wild.

Type 1 Fun: Pizza and Sunset after a hike up the Chief

Type 1 Fun: Pizza and Sunset after a hike up the Chief

Type 2. Not Fun to Do. Fun to Remember.

Most people likely have experiences that fall within this bracket, but they likely don’t actively put themselves in positions frequently were they will experience them again, some examples would be:

  • Anything that pushes you out of your comfort zone.
  • Learning a new activity that makes you feel clumsy and awkward in comparison to others who are adept at it.
  • Planning something that you imagined would be within your abilities and comfort zone and finding yourself outside of both. Underestimating the challenge.

I’ve been on plenty of Type 2 adventures in the mountains. This quote is a good reason why:

“Mountains have a way of dealing with overconfidence.” – Nemann Buhl

Numerous trips looked like a Type 1 trip during the planning phases but slight changes in weather, conditions, route decisions, group dynamics suddenly have a way of tipping everyone outside of their comfort zone.

I’ve done death marches by headlamp into the night to reach my car and swore to myself that I’d never do anything like that again, but, without fail, I do.

The human mind is extremely resilient and has an amazing capacity to simply forget pain and suffering. This is how these trips become “Fun to remember” in the days and weeks after they’ve happened. Once the aching in my body disappears I am left only with the memories of laughs shared, adventures survived and the amazing mountain vistas, to name a few.

Type 2 Fun: 15+ hour day hiking to the summit of Wedge Mountain, followed by changing a flat tire at the trail head in the dark.

Type 2 Fun: 15+ hour day hiking to the summit of Wedge Mountain, followed by changing a flat tire at the trail head in the dark.

Type 3. Not Fun to Do. Not Fun to Remember.

These are pretty much Type 2 trips that take a serious nose dive off the deep end. For some people a single Type 3 trip might be enough for them to never engage in that activity again.

It’s when injuries happen, people get seriously lost or you end up having to sleep out in the wild without a shelter. All joy is essentially removed and tensions are high. You question whether you are going to survive this.

The reasons that a trip can turn a corner and become Type 3 are varied. Generally though poor planning and judgement are to blame combined with changing conditions in the terrain that you are exploring.

Here’s the rub though, these kinds of trips make the best stories around campfires or with friends in a remote cabin. The fun might not be in remembering the trip or in experiencing it, but in sharing it with others. There is also a relief in the knowledge that you survived that ordeal and have grown enough from it that you will likely never repeat it again.


Type 3 fun: Injuring my ankle on the summit of a mountain and needing to call for a rescue helicopter. Total bummer of a day.

Type 3 fun: Injuring my ankle on the summit of a mountain and needing to call for a rescue helicopter. Total bummer of a day.

You may ask, “Why wouldn’t you just stick to Type 1 fun?”, well, the answer is simple. Type 1 fun is like sugar, it tastes awesome but does very little for you. Try it yourself, try engaging in Type 1 fun for an extended amount of time and the feeling of enjoyment will diminish with time.

Don’t get me wrong, I love days at the Ski Resort doing the runs that I know that are well within my abilities, but I couldn’t do that every day.

You need to risk Type 2 fun to grow outside of your comfort zone and as a person. We feel fulfilled not only when we are having fun, but when we are excited and becoming better versions of ourselves. If you aren’t a little apprehensive before engaging in something you think will be fun then you are likely doing something you find to be Type 1 fun. Feeling nervous is a great indicator that we are doing something where there is an unknown, where we will be testing ourselves, risking failure and changing our perceptions.

Anyway, I felt the urge to write this as I’ve been engaging in more Type 1 fun recently with my skiing and running and felt the need to write down why I’ve found Type 2 fun to be ultimately better. It’s also worthwhile to accept that Type 3 fun will happen and to share those stories often with friends in the hopes that through your failings you can bring a tear of laughter to their eyes and maybe imbue them with some wisdom about how to avoid experiencing the dreaded “Type 3” themselves.

Share your Type 3 stories in the comments below, or if you have a particularly epic one, send us it using the “Contact” page. We might feature it as a story on our site.

Author: Leigh McClurg

I grew up in County Dublin, Ireland and moved to British Columbia, Canada with my wife in 2010. I fell in love with being in the Backcountry and Mountains that are all around me here and try to spend all of my free time exploring those wild places. My main goals are to chase happiness, see as much of this planet and its cultures as possible and grow every day through knowledge and experiences.

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    • Hi, we definitely have our sights on the Bugaboos. After another season of rock climbing we hope to go there and climb those pillars of rock ourselves. A lot of what we are doing now is preparation for our more difficult goals in the mountains in the near future.

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