Learning the old fashioned way…

*This post will be all text. I plan to upload video and photos on a separate one later!
Here I am one day after the return of our first overnight backpacking trip. Nursing my aching calves and thighs (feet are all good, minus the chiggers on my ankles!) by lying in bed with my feet propped up all morning into the afternoon and catching up on the new season of Orange is the New Black.
I can’t believe it’s over! We had, as B put it “a very memorable first outing.” I asked him if he hated it. He said no! You see, it has taken me damn near 4 1/2 years out of 5 1/2 years to get this man into an outdoor lifestyle.

The first year we were together, about 4 months in, was my friend group’s annual float trip. “No way.” B wouldn’t budge. I was bummed but I stocked my fridge up and he stayed at my place puppy sitting Cash for me while I went without him.

Year two we both skipped the float to go to the Smoky Mountains where he was surprisingly into the idea of white water rafting, so much in fact he drug MY anxious self into it (and I had a blast!).

Year three, on my 30th birthday he came camping with me for the first time because I made him. We floated that weekend and I could tell he was warming up to it. We lucked out hard with 85 degree weather and little humidity that year in late July. (I also think that may have been a factor in his “feeling it.”)

Year four we floated as per usual and started doing more and more camping with M&C – the fact that they had a camper made it much more appealing to B.

This year…year five has been the best yet. He has been insisting on hiking more, camping more. He is actually looking forward to the float trip. If you told me 5 years ago B would willingly go on a backcountry overnight backpacking trip in the middle of June just the two of us, and be EXCITED about it – I’d have bet a thousand dollars against it.

So again here we are. Post trip. I know 24 hours is absolutely nothing compared to people who do this for weeks or months at a time, but it was important for us to get this run through done to see what we need, don’t need, or need to switch out. Because when we eventually get to be those people doing this for weeks at a time, we got our sh*t together and we did it by learning OUR way.
Here’s what we learned.
-“Shorts are so comfy in this heat! Ow, except for getting all cut up by thorns and branches. Wait. Wtf. There are dozens of tiny ticks on my legs, feet and ankles!” 

Permethrin. Permethrin. Permethrin. We have a whole brand new bottle of it. We forgot to treat our clothing and gear before we left. Oops. Let’s talk about cute baby animals. They’re ALL CUTE! Except for…nymph ticks. They’re the size of a pen head, and picking upwards of 30 or more off your body within 32 hours is awful. Lesson learned! Moisture wicking pants in tall grass and for the love of God TREAT YOUR STUFF WITH PERMETHRIN!

– “Sitting on this log hurts my butt.”

Are UL backpacking chairs a necessity? Probably not but…butts. I wanna sit on mine after a long hike. Totally investing. M got one for her Boundary Waters trip and I’m sad I didn’t think of it for this excursion.

– “Wine is necessary.”

Yep. A whole bottle in a collapsible flask. Suck it UL “you don’t need that” snobs.

– “Holy hell my back is killing me.” Aka: tossing and turning all night.

B has a Klymit Static V and that is probably more comfortable than the queen size air mattress that we use car camping. I’m sold.

I have a Thermarest Trail Pro and it was just too thin for my side sleeping ways. I mean, I slept but I could barely stand up in the morning. Not good for a strenuous hike back in 98 degree weather.

– “25L pack should be great if B is carrying a 65L!”

Okay. It worked out just fine honestly. But…I’ve decided to upgrade to a 50L or more just to disperse the weight among us evenly next time. Also we plan on doing more than just one overnight trip this fall. We are looking into 2-4 day trips. So a larger pack is a must. *Suggestions welcome! I do really like the REI brand (pricing and style) but will gladly look into others.

Doing this sport with your spouse can be challenging. But we truly got along great, worked as a team and supported each other when we hit the wall very quickly due to the hot, humid Missouri day. This is NOT for everyone. The trails we did are NOT a casual day hike in your local state park. It was like nothing I’ve done before. Multi-terrain, high (for Missouri) elevation, inclines more than 10% and up…B was swiping the very narrow trail with a large stick as we went in some places to clear overgrowth and cobwebs. Which brings me to another point:

– Trekking poles

These would have been a welcome necessity. I never saw the need for them personally but since we are fully investing in this lifestyle I want to be sure we have everything that can benefit us for the future.

– Know what’s awesome? Water pump filters. 

I purchased the Katadyn Hiker water filter before we left and let me tell you, that was probably the best investment I made. It was comforting to know we had unlimited cool water in a nearby creek and that filtering it is all we had to do to reap the benefits. We used it for making dinner, dessert, washing our hands and faces and more importantly for drinking. I am a person who gets very anxious even on a few hour day hike if I feel like I am going to drink all 3 liters of water I bring with me before we get back to the car. Having the comfort and security of being able to refill as much as we needed on these very hot days we were out exploring gave me relief from that anxiety.

– Mountain House Meals

I know every backpacker has their own way of doing food on the trail. This was our first go and so we brought a few of these dehydrated meals with us. There are definitely pros and cons and I think eventually we will experiment and dehydrate and pack our own food. But for those with little time, I say these are pretty fantastic.

My cons would be that they take up quite a bit of space. After we ate them and packed out the trash the next morning, I had noticeably extra room in my pack to take a little weight off of B for the way back. While the packaging keeps heat in and you can eat right out of the bag, with the smaller camping sporks and deep bags it can get a little messy digging into the corners for the last few bites.

The pros are that for dehydrated food, it’s quite delectable if you allow it to sit and take in the heat and water for the recommended time. It stays plenty hot and doesn’t even really need extra salt or pepper. We will use these again absolutely. A hot meal after a long day is so welcome in my book.

These are just a few thoughts from MY experience. Everyone learns things their own way and I am thrilled to be able to share anything realistic that I am learning along the way to help someone else in the beginning.

People can be condescending and snobby. I had some in a couple forums mocking me for asking questions; basically telling me I was an idiot and that what I’m doing is “more than just a little walk in the woods.” Like, duh. That’s why I’m researching and asking people with experience for advice. It made me feel like I was stupid or not good enough to even try. I’m sorry I’m not buying top of the line, name brand expensive gear for something I don’t even know if I will use more than once . Sorry my Amazon backpacking sleeping bag is 10oz too heavy for your liking. Not every person strives to carry 15lbs, no more or no less. Mine was about 23-24lbs and I survived just fine. I could carry that 23lbs around all day. I just LOST 23lbs. I’m used to it!

Listen. We ALL start somewhere. Everyone’s a beginner at some point. Welcome people that are interested in something you’re passionate about so they can benefit from it also. Don’t be a dick.

I couldn’t ever find anything detailed like this when I was researching. Everything’s all about the perfect Instagram photos and the connection with nature and John Muir quotes. That is wonderful and fine and I have plentyyyy of posts like that…but it’s not all perfectly posed in front of beautiful backgrounds wearing LuluLemon and having mysteriously great hair. It’s not all 70 degree days and swift, effortless 14 mile trips until you’re ready to set up camp.
It’s HARD. I forgot to even take a lot of photos or video because I was overcoming mental hurdles, focusing on my breathing or trying not to roll an ankle. It’s frustrating. It made me want to quit and turn back. But it’s also rewarding. And it gives you confidence and self pride when you complete something like this.

And when you’re done and home and kicking your feet up, you’re so proud of yourself and your husband and you maybe don’t even mind the random tick you find on your ass a day later.

Thanks for following along! Keep a lookout for my next post.
J

One Comment on “Learning the old fashioned way…

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