The Essentials... Out and Away
Out and About...
My Top 5 Backpacking Tips Are:
1. Know Yourself: Skills and Limitations. It is nice to rely on gear, guides and guesses, but in the end, it comes down to what you carry in your head and heart. Some years ago, during a horrendous blizzard storm in the north, numerous hunters and backpackers caught out perished over the course of the three days of storm. They were all well provisioned with the most up to date gear, transported by autos or snowmobiles.
During that same storm, a native of those lands, a young woman walking cross country to visit relatives, was trapped by the same weather. She carried little, but she she had one very important advantage, self assurance. She sat down, pulled her seal skin coat around her... and waited out the storm. While the others did their variety of wrong acts, down spiraling into ever more serious problems, she did nothing but sit.
Not doing the wrong thing is the accumulation of experience, study, thought and considered self control. Vest the time to reach that place gradually. Do not undertake too much too soon. Enjoy and celebrate the process of growth. Know your limits.
2. Be prepared. The Boy Scouts got that one more than right. For each person and each situation, this will mean something different, but the primary element is forethought.
Take the time to consider worst case scenarios and how to address those potential problems. In the desert, it might center around water. In the mountains, problems with elevation. In the winter, cold; the summer, heat. Whatever the potentials for problems, give them prior considerations.
3. Less is More. The concept is not a new one, but it so applies to the enjoyment of most outdoor experiences. The less you take, the less weight you have to carry. The less shoe you wear, the greater your chances for fewer foot injuries. The less you are distracted by toys and gear, the greater your chances are for enjoying the experience of being out and about.
This does not mean to do without, simply to consider carrying along the minimum. This also opens up the possibility that you might be better able to help out a hiking companion if they were to get into trouble... shifting their load over to your own.
4. Celebrate the Process.
Backpacking is a physical investment. Just the act of strapping on a 25 to 75 pound pack is stepping out of the norm. You are committing to put hours into a process that will be harder than your normal day. The way to make that fun is to practice before hand.
Look at what your backpacking trip will entail and make the commitment to train properly before hand. Your day hikes leading up to the backpack should include single days longer than your backpacking days, and you should carry a heavier pack during those training days.
Last year a friend and I hiked Mt. Whitney, with both of us vesting months of hard training prior to the trip. Once over on the mountain we had a great time, soaking up that great climb with its fantastic scenery. We both noted the too many dour faces on the other hikers that day. They were all suffering and not any in a very joyous mood. Such a waste! A little bit of training would have liberated them to truly enjoy that once in a lifetime hike.
5. It's the Journey, not the Destination. As is so true with all aspects of life, the way to really enjoy any moment is to simply be in that moment. Do not allow expectations to rob you of the day. Stay open to serendipity. The best things most often come along as a surprise.
Hardships, difficulties... problems of the moment are the potentials of great experiences and memories. Pause to savor and reflect. Take a picture. Sit on a rock and write a poem. Sit on a rock. Do not judge the quality of the moment by any thought oriented from expectation. If the miles are not flying by... if you got off track and are behind schedule... if you started the day later than you wanted... well, you are still out and about. How could you want it any better than that!