Imagine a photo assignment with a twist: You have to shoot an outdoor adventure ... but you can only use one lens.
What do you bring?
Forget about the heavy, expensive telephoto, or even the standard "multi-purpose" lens. For the one-glass-fits-all wilderness shoot, a wide-angle lens is the way to go.
Instead of zooming in to a narrow field of view like telephotos, wide-angle lenses take it all in, sometimes capturing as much as 140 degrees. Perhaps most commonly thought to be useful for large group portraits, these lenses are even better suited for precipitous summit ridges, where they provide the depth and setting necessary to convey the voids to viewers back home.
They're an absolute must if you're photographing a rope swing or half-pipe huckster—no other lens gives adventurers the necessary context.
Hunters and anglers will find that wide-angles effectively record monster bucks and cutthroat trout, letting them appear as big (and sometimes bigger) than you remember.
That's not to say this get-it-all glass doesn't have its drawbacks. First off, you have to get close. Half-assed shooters unwilling to physically approach their subjects will wind up with endless frames of "Well, you can't really see it, but that dark stump-looking thing is actually a bear."
Nope, wide lenses are not good for wildlife. Only a few species will tolerate the neighborly distances necessary to make the wide-angle sing. But when it's possible, and the country is towering, consider backing off the zoom and hunkering down next to your foreground element, be it a freshly bagged mule deer, a lichen-covered rock or even that gregarious mountain goat. The resulting photographs will be widely regarded.