As a youth I enjoyed camping with family. You park at a camp site, unload all your things, then you can hike around, sleep under the stars, and enjoy nature. At some point I decided that I dislike people and when I camp I want to get away from people as much as possible. This happened right before grad school started. I did this solo and with friends and it’s a great way to connect with nature, get some silent tech-free time, and breathe some fresh air. Basically it’s a way to get away from all the noise or pollution in life.
Now, I’m a casual backpacker. I don’t go cutting my toothbrush in half, packing the absolute minimum and cover 20 miles a day. At best I cover five chill miles each day; taking in the sights, smells, and sounds (the three S’s) all around me. Thoughts about grants, teaching, my students, and other things in life just melt away. I bring a combination of freeze dried food (the Mountain House biscuits and gravy were not as bad as I thought it was going to be), homemade things (think lentils, oats, home-dehydrated fruit), snacks (nuts, dehydrated fruits, Snickers bars), protein pancake mix, freeze-dried coffee, MRE components, and vodka (I’m not the biggest vodka fan, but tilting a few in front of the fire is a solid time). The MRE components and Mountain House are my comfort foods I save for when I exerted a lot of energy and just want something comfort-ey. So I only bring a few of these and pack the healthier stuff for the rest. If I’m in areas with lakes I’ll fish to supplement, but 1. I suck at fishing, 2. I suck at fishing, and 3. I don’t like the clean-up when the pathetic little fish that gets snagged by me has to be disassembled (is that the right word?).
For fire I carry this awesome Tesla torch, a butane lighter, some magnesium, and waterproof matches. For light I have a really nicely bright flashlight, a headlamp/beanie, and an LED lantern. I carry paper maps and a compass, but honestly, I just download detailed maps to my phone, throw it in airplane mode to conserve power, and carry an extra battery. GPS with terrain data at my fingertips. Side bar: seriously, smart phones are fucking awesome. I am still amazed by technology. End bar/note. Obviously I have my mat, a cover, and this wicked warm blanket. Then I have my bottles, knife, filters, cookware, and some other smaller things that are necessities like tent, stake, bear mace, gun, toilet paper, etc.
My last trip I headed out to some amazing high elevation and among the trees I found a clearing. At night I sat with SO and stared up at the stars. I could see satellites passing overhead and the occasional shooting star, and the wonderful milky way. I sipped some tea and could hear and feel the fire embers nearby. Down the way I could hear running water and some wolves (I think) howling with lightning dancing on the mountains to the north of us. Times like that my mind clears up. I can feel stress just falling off of me. Though I think the stress just Peter-Pan’s me and just hangs out with my shadow, because it’s all back when I step back on campus.
That being said (typed?) I couldn’t live out there full time, and I bought an entire Chipotle burrito when back to civilization and ate that thing with a fucking vengeance. It was the best burrito I’ve ever had.