There is a fine and delicate line when it comes to backpacking between having what you need to survive and having too much weight on your back to have any fun.
Once a backpack reaches a third of your body weight, or even a quarter, when you get a few miles into the hike, you start to question the wisdom of backpacking vs day hiking. This has been a battle played out over years for me. The first time I went backpacking, I barely made the ascent up a 4 mile trail that climbed almost 1 mile in elevation. I didn’t even know how much weight I was carrying at the time, but I had packed things like an 11-cup percolating coffee pot, so I’m pretty sure it was a lot of weight.
When my husband and I were in official “backpacking training,” we went on a 3-day trip to Otter Creek Wilderness in Monangahela. This was right after I’d read a book called “The Ultra-Light Backpacker.” I took no spare clothes except socks and underwear, no tarp, no extra anything. If I thought I could live without it for 3 days, I left it at home. My pack was a lot lighter, but it rained the entire time, except when it snowed, and we came pretty close to hypothermia by the time we hiked out the 3rd day with no dry clothes to change into.
Ever since then, we’ve erred on the side of too much weight. As we headed down the trail on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, we not only were carrying too much stuff for us, but also too much stuff for our dog: His new special diet frozen and packed so it would stay cool long enough to be fresh for his dinner and breakfast; his bedroll strapped to the outside of Pat’s pack; extra towels packed just for drying the dog; and, of course, Tisen’s special water bowl and his own water bottle. Spoil our dog? What are you talking about?
It’s not surprising that after about 2 miles, we were ready for our first snack break. We stopped right on the trail as there was no where else to go. We opened up our packs, broke out our snacks, and started munching.
As we stood there with our stuff strewn about, we heard a sound. It wasn’t just the sound of the wind whistling through the trees. It was the sound of an enormous sheet of rain blowing through. Pat went for the tarp while I went for the rain cover for my pack. I got my pack closed and covered while Pat built us a little shelter.
We felt a little foolish when three backpackers came through soaking wet and had to duck under our shelter to continue on the trail. We started packing up our stuff and accepting that this rain wasn’t going to just blow over. It was time to get wet.