Not much time left. It is creeping up on us. Not Christmas, the thru-hike. We are less than 90 days out from footstep one on the Appalachian Trail.
What are we still fretting about? It turns out a great deal.
Both of us: Top quilt, under quilt, base layers, stuff sacks or garbage bags/trash compactor bags.
Bailey: Will the tarp he has currently be sufficient?
Me: I need a tarp! I need water filtration! Shoes? Damn. Just damn.
See what I mean? It snuck up on us. I was busy buying big money crap, and held off on a few essentials. I’m still trying to figure out how to get away with not having an under quilt on a thru-hike with a hammock. If I hold out a little longer I will find out Al Gore is right and it is global warming, which means a nice March start, and no need to worry about ice and snow, temperatures in the low 30s (or God forbid 20s). I read some scientist is postulating we are entering a “mini-ice age” and global warming is a pile of B.S.
It’s funny. I’m riding my comfort and thru-hike plans on a series of conspiracy theories (a’ la Art Bell Coast to Coast AM). I look up in the sky for chem-trails from commercial aircraft.
I’m still watching a SOBO hiker, Jonathan Bent, as he meanders south towards Springer Mt. He’ll be fine, he’s a yankee, so he is impervious to the cold (he emailed me and told me just such a thing). I look at Mr. Bent’s videos and I see snow. Bailey looks at them and sees snow. He turns to me and says “I hope it snows the first few weeks we are out there. Especially in the Smokies.”
STFU! Are you kidding me? You want to have over a month of cold, sleeping in shelters with mice, and wet feet? I hope global warming is a reality. I want sunny and 70 on day one. What is it with this kid? Wanting to pretend to be some sort of Jim Bridger or Kit Carson. We are carrying state of the art on our backs, not a leather sack and leading a mule. Right?
Then the bending of time is noticed. We should be in full-on panic mode, according to whiteblaze.net, and a few other individuals. But we are not. Christmas is coming. I just bought some trekking poles the other day, and a nice, warm, technical fleece jacket. Bailey decided he might want a synthetic quilt, and so he waits to purchase. I’m sure it will be a last minute thing with both of us. Not because we have paralysis via analysis, but because it is just one more thing to check off. In the scheme of things it might matter, but not that much.
So I look at J. Bent, trudging along (he’s at the tail end of Virginia, I think), and patches of snow. He’s happy with his shoes, which are his second pair after Pennsylvania rocks devoured the last. Then it hits me. We will, at some point, have a total refit. New shoes, new sleeping bags, new clothes. Nothing will last the entire trail. It’s only money. The guy is using a sleeping bag you can buy from Dick’s Sporting Goods, not one of those top of the line down filled mountains of money bags. A synthetic bag, on the cheap. He’s gone from Katahdin to almost here with a mashed up collection of “ooooh, I need that,” and “hmm, that’s cheap.” By the half way point SOBO hikers are pretty much laughing at the NOBO ones. What works and what doesn’t is determined early when you start on the big hills. Apparently the less expensive stuff is just as good as the gear you can only find at the finest outfitters.
I was talking with somebody who wanted to do a thru-hike, until they found out what it entailed. They went to the fall back position of just backpacking here and there. They wanted their son to have the “outdoor experience”. I’m not sure what that is. Number one and number two in the woods? He only wanted to use the best gear, and he was going to buy it all from REI. Piece by piece. Because, you know, that will take tens of thousands of dollars. Why put together gear that works for a fraction of the cost, when you can delay the pursuit and spend, like a good consumer? In the end his kid will probably graduate from college before they ever set foot in the woods.
Backpacking, and outdoor pursuits, have been infiltrated by the consumerist mentality. The free market economy does not mesh with the outdoors. I don’t care what label is on your fleece pullover, Patagonia or Sam’s Club, it’s still made of polyester in the same factory by the same underpaid worker. Even hunting is suffering under this stupidity. Did you know deer see colors in different wave lengths than humans? That Realtree camouflage does not work, but the old red and black wool coats do. Go figure. I have a Winchester Model 70 made back in the late 1970’s that I hunt with. Note, I have not bought a new rifle for any season. The last time I purchased a firearm was 1996.
I understand gear falls apart. New purchases must be made. However, there is no reason for that much to be spent. Go cheap. Go far. Do more, with less. In the endeavor to simplify our lives this thru-hike will prove a few things.
1. We can walk over 2,000 miles
2. You only need two pairs of underwear
3. Shampoo is overrated
(In case you are missing the point of the title I’ll spell it out. It’s about amounts. Time, money, and now… weight).
My goal is to shave an entire pound from my base weight. A whole pound! I will do this by jettisoning gear. That’s right. I’ll do more with less. Soap becomes laundry detergent and shampoo. Clothing becomes part of a sleep insulation system. Pack covers will be trash bags. Simplification, the opposite of multiplication. The antithesis of consumerist. Now it becomes paralysis through analysis. I wonder if vegans use down filled sleeping bags?
Now, about those videos. Ours, anyway. We’ll make them this week. At least one, for all the family and friends who are paranoid because we are not. Maybe that will put them at ease.
Here is one of the better AT Thru-Hike “experience” videos out there, courtesy of “Hump” (Dave):