Our local library sponsored a program featuring one young local woman who has experience long-distance backpacking wherein she featured her own equipment and advice (from her personal experience, of course) about going light (or is it, “lite”?). The program was schedule for one hour but she went two and had to wind it up due to library closing time. It was a small room but a good turn-out.
What I appreciate about the ‘in-person’ experience is obviously you can SEE what is being discussed and there’s opportunity for questions/discussions. Even if you are reading a blog/book/article about items (which, btw, is helpful because the brand is SPELLED out whereas listening to someone mention a brand, usually a clarification/spelling is required) and there are photos, it is sometimes difficult to see it clearly or get a ‘real’ idea of how big, heavy, etc. the item is.
I found this program very helpful, a boost really. I can’t say that I will follow her lead about weight, brands, etc. I mean, thru-hiking the AT was not on her list of accomplishments so…
But the biggest take-away were the ‘big-3’: sleeping bag, shelter, & backpack. So far I am sticking to my one-person tent with ‘poles’ because anything else I’ve seen is just inviting frustration and disaster (a ‘tent’ that uses your hiking pole and spikes would most likely end up collapsing on me – and probably in the worse weather – because that’s the kind of shit that happens to me) so I am going to have to suck-up the ‘extra weight’.
The sleeping bag: seems ‘everyone’ goes with down but, for ALL the reading I’ve done with all the complaining about the non-stop rain, wet conditions, etc., NO ONE has explained how in the hell they dry out their bag! There is no way, if you slog all day in the rain (even pretending that everything in your pack stays dry), set up your tent, pull out your bag from your pack, and place it in the tent (now wet from set-up) – and even if you strip down naked before you get into the tent – that your down sleeping bag DOES NOT GET WET. NO WAY. So…how does it dry between one use, packing it up the next day – still raining – and the next night? **I will say right here: I really do believe, in all the blogs, etc. that I’ve read, that there is a heavy dose of fabricated, rainbow-pissing unicorn ‘writer’s liberty’ taking place because with all the “trail magic”, “wonderful people” experiences, “getting away from it all”, “bonding”, “freedom”, and “best experience of my life” talking, no one really delivers the low-down, the crap that really happens. It’s like a collective denial of the really shitty experiences to validate having been so dumb as to have taken up the pointless burden of the hike in the first place. It’s as if admitting that being beat to tears and pondering quitting is admitting to – wait for it – WEAKNESS. There. I said it.**
I think I’ve stated that I bought a Deuter pack with which I’m already dissatisfied. I liked the presenter’s “gossamer” (cottage-industry) bag; it weighed practically nothing and it was huge, so back to hunting for a pack.
Otherwise, it was all the ‘small stuff’: first aid kit, ‘stove’, types of water bottles, filtration systems, etc.
I will mention again as I’ve mentioned before: it’s all a little intimidating thinking about and preparing for this hike. I’ve convinced myself that I am doing it so it is not a question. It’s the fear. The fear of what might happen (just how miserable am I really going to be, since no one talks honestly and unequivocally about that), can I do it, am I doing the right thing? And I will tell myself right here, again, what I always tell myself – everyday – in my head: you don’t have a choice. Your life is a redundancy of nothingness, an empty void that is not going to change. You can keep slogging along as a marginalized middle-aged, single woman with a job that is abusive and under appreciated for the meager wages that barely keep you out of poverty (but that’s only a matter of time) for another almost two decades, creeping toward creptitude with no savings and a retirement plan that, by then, will place you in the poverty echelon, alone and wishing that you had done something in your life that you wanted to do. The choice is really pretty simple: be generous to yourself for a change, quit your unsatisfying, miserable job and run away before you are too crippled with bad knees, hips, and back pain. Deal with the consequences as they come up. Death awaits us all. No one escapes. Why be miserble right to the end…or, why be miserably not doing what you want right to the end? (I haven’t ruled out the possibility that I might not live through this experience. Some don’t)