“How hard can it be? It’s just walking…”
Try just walking 18 miles carrying a forty pound child on your back. Then try putting the child on a diet, because forty pounds is way too much to carry. Over the weekend I attended a meetup.com event backpacking in North Carolina. I learned several things in addition to “don’t bring the kitchen sink” when you hike. After all, it was the ‘Backpacking 101″ group. We were supposed to learn something. I learned:
You can make a stove out of a cat food can. You can also make one out of the bottoms of two soda cans and a Heineken can, and an ounce of denatured alcohol. Both weigh less than my $50 stove and canister fuel.
Its not easy hiking barefoot, but it can be done. Its exactly the opposite of hiking with shoes. Squishy, goopy mud is your friend. Stream crossings are, too. Rocky and rooty trails, not so much. After a mile both days, I think I’ll be a part-time barefooter, only when the trail is more of a hazard to clean shoes, than it is to my feet. Oh, and mountain streams can be cold enough to hurt, even when it is 75 degrees outside.
Hammock tents, while fun, sleep cold. Really cold. Even when I am in a 20 degree sleeping bag, and it’s 40 degrees out. Insulation fixes that if you are smart enough to use it.
You will always, always throw your bear bag hanging rock sack and rope perfectly over the branch, if no one is around to see the astonishment on your face when it happens right the very first time.
When you carry the trowel, the alcohol hand rub, and a brand new heavy pack of biodegradable wet wipes, you will NOT have to do what bears do in the woods (also known as ‘walking the Brown Blazed Trail). However, it is almost certain that if you carry only four wet wipes, you’ll need five.
Leave the portable phone charging thing at home, or in the car. It may not weigh much, but the four AA batteries inside add up. Just turn the phone off until you need it. Likewise the spare batteries for the headlamp, just put in new ones before you leave. Use the old ones for the TV remote.
Do NOT put your bag of GORP in the top-hat of your pack, IF your GORP (Good Old Raisins and Peanuts) also contains M&Ms. M&Ms may not melt in your hand, but they will melt all over your peanuts and raisins, making a goopy unmanageable mess (that weighs 6 ounces and you can’t eat it, so you still have to lug it around).
When adjusting your shorts, watch the poles. There may be people right behind you. Sorry Paul and Wendy!
Watch out if you are pulling up on a piece of wood and someone jumps on the same piece to try and break it.
Being a gram-wienie is okay if you are first and foremost a pound-wienie. If you’re carrying a half-pound of spare batteries, breaking the back half off your folding toothbrush to save a gram makes no sense.
You can bring too much paracord. You can use too many little stuff sacks. You can carry too much water instead of filtering more when you need it, and not everyone walking off into a stand of trees is looking for firewood and needs your help.
So, other than that stuff, which should help me immensely in the future, I had a great time. I can’t wait to go somewhere else, once I drop my pack weight a bit. Below are mostly my pictures of the event, with a few from the group organizer thrown in. A review and story-telling of what we actually did will come later. I need to sleep.