T Minus Nine Days, and Time to Panic.

Is your packing list a mess? Yeah, so is mine.

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Lots of that, and none of that. (Bonus: Can you spot the deer in the image to the left?)

One of my coworkers asked me the other day what, exactly, is backpacking. The simplest explanation is taking the necessities- food, clothing, and shelter- strapping them on your back, and setting out on foot for parts unknown. There are variations on that theme, of course- backpacking through Europe (generally) is not the same as the backcountry. That type of trip gives a little more leeway in the backpack as the traveler tends to pass through more urban areas, where they can procure food and shelter as needed. In backcountry backpacking, those resources are largely absent, which means eventualities have to be accounted for before the trip begins. There are several different schools of thought in the backcountry over what is actually necessary- ultraminimalist/ultralight hikers may forgo even their tent in an effort to whittle their packs down to as little as a dozen pounds or even less.

In the immortal words of CCR, it ain’t me. I’ll keep my tent, thank you, nor do I intend to live off of roots and berries while I’m out. I’d probably pick the wrong ones anyway and be in for a very unpleasant trip. As I prepare to hit the backcountry of Isle Royale, an approximately 200 square mile island in Lake Superior, I’m reminded of the fact that I haven’t backpacked in over a decade. Twelve years, to be exact, and it definitely hasn’t been twelve years of preparation. The Grand Tetons have forgotten I ever passed through by now, although I haven’t forgotten them, and since I was traveling as part of a larger group, the food and gear was distributed much more than it will be this time. While I would love to strap thirty pounds onto my six year old, that would make the trip just as pleasant as eating poisonous berries.

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Her kid-sized backpack has enough room for her Camelbak, a freeze-dried dinner, some clothes, and the remnants of my sanity.

So as I prepare, I have to remember that I’m carrying for two. While researching, I’ve found several packing lists, none of which include carrying several doses of panic and paranoia, so I’m apparently already off base. Damn. Let’s break down the trip. Arrive next Tuesday afternoon, leave Saturday morning. Five days, four nights. There are night limits at nearly all the campsites, with about three to seven miles between sites, so I hope to stay fairly light, but don’t need to knock out fifteen miles a day. Food I’ve pretty much got handled, same for mess kit, stove, and fuel; the first aid seems sufficient, and clothes will be dealt with soon enough. Plus duct tape. Never forget the duct tape.

Now excuse me while I figure out how to disconnect and pack the kitchen sink.

Check back Wednesday for the full packing list, and meanwhile, what is something you’ve taken on a trip before that you were sure you needed and never used? What item would you not travel without? Comment below!

 

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