So I attended the fall “Backpacking 101” class last weekend. It was quite informative as always. It was interesting looking at the crowd of people gathered around the room. As an alumnus, I had some personal experiences to relate. I was told to keep the “horror stories” at a minimum, however, before the trip.
Every BP101 graduate has their Panthertown horror story. Some more than others. My only one was that I half froze to death. Another alumnus related her tale of being scared by a fox “or something” while trying to take her first poop in the woods. I say that works fine…If I’m squatting over a hole in the ground, scaring the crap out of me at that point should only help speed things along.
The crowd consisted of a wide variety of people, evidently the norm for this sort of thing:
The Car-Camping Convert. No longer content to stay within eyesight of the car, the car camper must learn to leave behind all that car camping entails, especially the tendency to take as much of the house as you can into the woods with you, including the Coleman folding kitchen, the cast iron pots, the generator, and the blender for making margaritas while watching the game on TV.
The Former Hiker. Their REI membership long expired, the last piece of equipment they bought is older than some college seniors. For whatever reason they left hiking and are returning to it.
The Semi-Clueless Noobs. This was my category last April. Semi-Clueless Noobs often have spent a bit on stuff that will work, but may be too big, too complex, and usually too heavy. They may have hiker friends or have ingested many books and megabytes of internet data. Often they think they know enough to go on a solo backpacking trip, but figured the class would be a good start. Semi-Clueless Noobs are often shocked at revelations of what backpacking really consists of.
Hiker-Virgins. These people have nothing. They thought hiking sounded fun for whatever reason, and signed up for the class. Not a bad way to go, but often leads to a last minute gear-scramble and a serious hit on the credit cards after purchases at outfitters. Their next Visa statement may read something like “Return everything you just bought, except for the hooker shoes, you’re going to need those”. The deleterious effect of a sudden hiking urge may be lessened by borrowing gear.
*Borrowing most of your gear puts Hiker Virgins and Semi-Clueless Noobs into the right frame of mind to become an “ultralight hiker” (An ultralight hiker is sometimes defined as someone who brags about carrying next to nothing, and consequently has to borrow from everyone else in the group).
The Alumni. The Alumni laugh at their stories, generally leaving the rest of the crowd to wonder what they’ve gotten themselves into. They try to give hints without scaring off the Hiker Virgins and Semi-Clueless Noobs. Thankfully the Returning Hiker and Car Camper Convert are often immune to Alumni stories, as they may have quite a few of their own stories even more wild and frightening than those of The Alumni.
So, I’m counting down the days until I can trudge around in the woods. I spent my lunch hour today picking out my food from my hiking storage drawer. I have been experimenting with food, and have discovered a few things:
“Fruit Buddies” from Wal-mart are pretty good. They satisfy fruit cravings without the hassles of peeling and such. They are little fruit chewy things, made from fruit, not some fake fruit-flavored stuff.
You CAN make microwavable Spongebob macaroni and cheese in the woods with some boiling water and a freezer bag. It tastes as good as it does when you microwave it. That’s not saying much… but at the end of a day when it is cold and you’re hungry, it will be pretty good.
Freeze dried corn “snacks” from target will rehydrate pretty well in the same freezer bag system.
Tea does NOT have to be iced. Prepared well, HOT tea is really good, and when you have been drinking stream water all day, a bit of hot tea with your corn, Spongebob macaroni, and fruit makes dinner that much better. I may get my Southerner Card pulled for saying hot tea is good, I really apologize. But I still make it sweet, even hot. Tea is supposed to be sweet.
You CAN brown a roll in the forest, given the proper use of your stove and a bit of wire. Couple the roll with a bit of “vegetable spread” from a restaurant mining trip, and you have a treat that will make the other hikers seriously consider using your bear bag rope in a manner you did not intend. The same roll-warming technique could technically work on pre-cooked cinnamon rolls, but one must not tempt fate that far back in the woods.