JK Rowling’s creation of the world of Harry Potter was wildly imaginative and fantastically captivating, but fundamentally incredible – meaning, unbelievable without extreme credulity. The economics don’t work, the labour market is ridiculous – why on earth would so many wizards end up working 9 to 5 desk jobs at a bureaucratic, soul-destroying Ministerial department? Now that displays a distinct lack of imagination.
But a tramping perspective on the world of Harry Potter really blows it apart. Citing only two items with magical properties is enough to expose the world as unbelievable.
The first is mentioned in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, when Harry and the Weasleys attend the World Quidditch Cup and stay in a remarkable accommodation, which looks like a two person pup tent but inside is revealed to be a multi-room fully furnished dwelling that might even be bigger than the Weasleys actual house. Another such tent pops up again in the final book, where Harry and his friends are hiding from their enemies and move around with the tent constantly to avoid detection. Which begs the question why more wizards and witches are not living in movable tents rather than decrepit houses.
The application to tramping is obvious. If such a tent were on the market, it would not only revolutionise the campervan industry, it would utterly transform the experience of back country hiking. No longer obliged to make your destination a DOC hut with mouldy mattresses and crowded with smelly, noisy hikers, you could throw this luxury tent up on the smallest of surfaces and walk into a palace with beds, pillows, couches, even a kitchen. But the real market would have to be for housing intensification projects. In this era of extreme housing affordability and substandard housing quality, it beggars belief that the magical community could hold secret such an obvious solution to the housing crisis. Not only unbelievable but actually immoral. And although Harry Potter’s world has rules supposed to separate the magical from the Muggles, these rules are so frequently transgressed in the books that they would serve no real impediment to an entrepreneurial witch/wizard wanting to make a few billion dollars on the Muggle market.
The second transformative magical implement is the bag that Hermione totes in the final book, which can hold a seemingly endless array of items and weighs only as much as a handbag. I want this. Everyone would want this. We could go tramping without dehydrated food. It’s not clear whether Hermione’s bag has a freezer compartment, but it might even mean that ice creams on top of the Tararuas would be a possibility.
Witches and wizards may be atypical people but it’s hard to believe that none of them ever want to go tramping, in which case the magical bag and magical tent would be necessities. And once these items are glimpsed by the hiking community, demand would be vociferous. Hence, Harry Potter’s world is implausible. The drive towards light weight hiking is intense, competitive and irreversible. These are the holy grails of light weight gear – it would be inevitable that someone from the Muggle world would discover them and put Z pack and Macpac out of business.
Although so much of Potterworld is ridiculous, there’s no doubt that the ideas of science fiction and fantasy writers can sometimes become reality. Space travel and video conferencing were wild propositions only a hundred years ago. So I’m hoping that there is someone out there experimenting with anti-gravity and space-compression technology that one day may bring me the ultimate no-weight tramping pack and home-in-a-tent that could keep me hiking in my 80s.