Monday, March 2, 2009

In a pack and on the back

As we roll into the month of March I am getting more and more excited about the journey that lies ahead. I am reading about individuals who have already begun their trek on the Appalachian Trail, about those who have successfully finished, and about those who are trying to put it all together so that they can make the great journey. I look forward to the day when I move beyond the "putting it all together" stage.

This weekend we received a well-timed message at church, "Packing and Unpacking." We explored what is really needed when you are out in the wilderness, and thankfully we have a little more time to put together the elements that we "need" to survive. It was this message that gave me the motivational shove to see what it is that we have been talking about taking on our backs and to see if indeed, everything would fit in our packs (without making us bend over in pain!)

I feel like the list of things to take is long, but at the same time I realize that in order to be comfortable (to a modest backpackers extent) at the end of (and during) the day I will need to take some gear. Chris and I have our tent, sleeping bags, sleeping bag liners (to try and minimize the damage to our actual bags), sleeping pads, backpacks, food storage system, cooking system, water purification system, LNT garbage system, first aid / personal hygiene system, trekking poles, clothes, shoes, gaiters, camp shoes, camera and tripod, an iPod (for desperate moments,) a compass (for more desperate moments!,) a leatherman, SPOT, and headlamps - and of course clothes (layering systems and raingear) - and it all needs to go on our backs. For more detailed information about what these items are, check out our AT Gear List. The short of the long of it though, is that it looks a little haphazard (and maybe a little scary) when it first comes together. Now it is just a matter of actually getting it to be transportable in a way that won't require pack mules.

As I was pulling stuff out of our gear room (formerly an extra bedroom until we realized we had that much gear) I was really wondering if I could make it all work. Sleeping bags seem to grow as they hang and air out and even after the list is surveyed and cut back upon, you just can't keep clothes from taking up space. Then I realize that yes, I have a compression sack for my sleeping back, that I will be wearing some of these clothes all of the time and some of them most of the time, and some of them some of the time, and occasionally I may be wearing all of them at the same time. I realize that all of the little things can fit into little spaces such as the hood on my pack or the stretchy stow pockets or the nifty zippered section on the stow pocket. I realized that between Chris and I, I only need to carry half of our tent. I know that I can shove my "camp clothes" and bag liner into my sleeping bag's compression sack. After a little time, and not too much effort I made it work - even better, I have room to spare!

To prepare for our hike we have been "climbing" the stair stepper at the YMCA with weighted packs. At last weigh in I was training with a 30 pound bag, and my loaded pack weighs less than that (based on the oh so scientific method of picking up a "weighted" pack (Chris's which weighs in at 33 pounds for training) and then my "loaded" pack). Granted, I do not have the weight of 4 - 5 days of food or a full water bladder, but I think I will still weigh in under 30 pounds. To the left you can see Chris's compact "weighted" pack from training and my "loaded" pack for this summer.

In then end (or you may still call it the beginning), I have realized that yes, I can comfortably (I say from the comfort of my home) put it all on my back and that I have everything that I need. So now I can sit back (when I am not on the dreaded stair stepper) and wait for May 1 to arrive.

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