Monday, December 12, 2022

A-D-V-E-N-T-U-R-E: the packing (who knew!?)


(This post is the 2nd in a series. If you haven't read the first one, it can be found here).

The morning of our adventure, I was abuzz with nerves and excitement. In the spare moments I had over breakfast, I decided to Google important tidbits like “how to pee outside for women.” Nothing like waiting until the 11th hour to educate oneself on the essentials! Taking care of one's business had always proven rather challenging for me, typically resulting in wet socks and shoes, a less than ideal situation for my overnight adventure. Someone had told me about a technique that involved leaning (or was it sitting?) up against a tree. I was having a hard time visualizing this approach and my last minute search did not result in a whole lot of appropriate videos for viewing. Oh well. Sometimes you just have to live it to learn it I guess! 

Packing for the trip had been a little mini adventure all on its own. The detailed packing list provided to us both whispered my love language and instilled a small amount of confusion and anxiety. I always thought a sleeping bag was just a sleeping bag. I learned that this was not the case when I sent a picture (above) of my sleeping bag to the friend who had invited me on the trip, just to make sure it would “work ok.” She spared me all embarrassment when she responded with a simple “I’ve got one for you” instead of laughing in my face and telling me the truth of the matter which was that mine was 7 times too large and I would look like a fool. How I’ve lived this long is truly a mystery. 

I knew it was important to pack light when backpacking but one of my most pressing questions leading up to the trip was one I'm sure many readers share: Would I be allowed to bring a pillow? The team took my query in kind and suggested that perhaps some of my clothing could double as a pillow? I didn’t bite. You can take away my tent but, as a side sleeper, a pillow is non negotiable. My daughter generously offered to let me take a small one that she had made by hand. (Spoiler alert: it worked perfectly and my neck thanked me).

With my sleeping set up out of the way, I borrowed a backpack from my sister and set to work carefully trying to fill it with all of the recommended clothing items. 

I was instructed to pack things made of materials like “polypropylene, Polartec, Synchilla, Capilene.” Honestly, they lost me at “polypropylene.” These terms sounded more like items to add to my growing allergy list than fabric types with which to clothe my body. I grew dizzy with confusion as I read the tags on my clothing and realized I owned exactly zero articles containing the desired ingredients. It appeared that my 4-H sewing education had left out a couple of important chapters on textiles that would have prepared me for my time in the outdoors. This “cheap trip” was about to become a great deal more expensive if I approached it in traditional “Kelsie style,” which is to follow the packing list exactly and purchase everything on it in the vein of “being prepared.” I knew this idea would be unpopular with both my husband and my wallet, and so I reassured myself that I could make do following the simple summary uttered by our fearless leader: “Avoid packing cotton or denim.” Insert a huge sigh of relief here. My running wardrobe would fit the bill!

I was quick to learn that in backpacking, layers were key. And you didn’t just need one or two of them. What you needed was ALL of them. So I stuffed my pack with a spectrum of polyester and spandex (read: poor woman’s polypropylene) running gear to keep me outfitted for all the weathers ranging from blazing sun to cool mornings in the shade. I almost didn’t pack a puffy coat layer because, after all, it was August! If one was considering putting me in an environment that would call for a winter coat IN THE SUMMER, one would need to think again. I wait a good and long time for the warm months and you wouldn’t find me “wasting” them anywhere that required a layer thicker than a penny. But I threw a coat in when the leaders brought up the point that we would be IN THE MOUNTAINS. Good call. I drew the line at mittens though, which I sneakily left at home because I may look like a rule follower from the outside, but occasionally I know how to live on the edge.

I even splurged on a fancy spray from REI to repel bugs that I spritzed heavily on all of my clothes beforehand. Given my recent development of severe allergies to preservatives that are too long to pronounce, it was perhaps a bit of a gamble to use a new-to-me spray on the fabrics that would be resting against my skin (the body’s largest organ!) But, details! My reactions thusfar had involved my eyes swelling shut, not full anaphylaxis, and who even needs eyesight when they are out in the wild? 

While I was able to scrounge and borrow most everything for the trip, I did make a couple of purchases, which raised by outdoorsy game by a solid 150%. You might be shocked to know that I have never owned hiking boots. Apparently I exude a heavy outdoorsy vibe, because most people are surprised to learn this. I have often been told that I should own hiking boots, but I kind of sing a line of my husband’s tune on this one: Why buy something if what you have already works good enough? My running shoes had successfully carried me on 10 mile hikes. How much did I really need boots? But if ever there was an excuse, it was now. When I went to the used sporting goods store looking for a baseball belt for my son and spotted some gorgeous, barely-used turquoise boots marked down by a couple hundred bucks, it suddenly seemed like a really good idea to own them. And bonus! They were even my size! Well, almost. Technically they were the correct size for one of my feet. My left foot would just have to deal. When one of your feet is significantly bigger than the other (thanks, pregnancy), one can’t be picky.

My boots were nice but probably my proudest backpacking purchase was a set of tiny plastic containers from the dollar store (you're welcome in advance). I don’t know how most people pack their toiletries for the wilderness (do most people pack toiletries?) but I was thrilled by the miniature organization system I came up with for my special nonallergenic sunscreen, deodorant and lotion. Watch out world! The innovation ideas within me abound. 

Now that my toiletries were squared away, there was only one last thing I had to think about: trekking poles. And I only thought about them for a half second. They were under the “optional” section of the packing list, so obviously wouldn't be necessary. I was young! And spry! I couldn’t remember the last time I’d fallen over while out walking. The truth of the matter was that being seen with walking sticks in public felt like the ultimate label of “uncool.” And though I try not to subscribe to the idea of coolness, I'm a recovering homeschooler, and this thread runs deep. So bottomline: I wouldn't be bringing any poles on the trek. I tried to fly under the radar in hopes my secret would go unnoticed, but it was forced out of me at our last meeting, when each participant was asked directly if they had poles. My friend graciously offered to let me borrow one of her sets, and when I learned that even the cool kids on the trip (read: EVERYONE) would be bringing poles, I sheepishly agreed. And it was a really good thing too, as I would soon learn...

1 comment:

  1. This is a great read, can't wait for the next!!! -shauna


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