4 forum posts
Well, I read here a ton, but I don't often post, so I have a question for all of you. What does backpacking mean to you? Why do you do it?
I work for a major outdoor retailer and in the last two years or so that I've been there, I've had a surprising number of people coming in to look at our selection of backpacks, water filters, sleeping bags, etc. You know, basic backpacking gear, which surprises me still because this is in rural Iowa.
I come in contact with a lot of people who are first-timers or newbies looking to get a start, and I absolutely love to help them because they're willing to listen and they ask a lot of questions on a subject which I'm very passionate about. I love these people.
I also encounter a lot of people who are self described as "experts" or as "trail veterans" and I'll be honest in saying, I don't like to work with them as much? Why, you might ask? Well it's not because they don't have questions or need help, but because they've lost touch with the real reason that they go out.
Obviously the amount of weight you carry (or rather don't) is important to your experience and will greatly affect everything, like say, how far you travel, where you go, what you'll be doing, etc. I place a tremendous value in items that are small or that are lightweight, but those two things seem to have captured a hold on a lot of people. The smallest and the most lightweight items are obviously desirable, but they're not necessary to anyone's experience. You don't need a $350 Marmot sleeping bag or a $500 Gregory backpack to go on a trip.
I stopped a "helpful" customer who was talking about backpacking with me and a person who came in to buy a backpack and a sleeping bag because he said this: "Backpacking is all about seeing how far you can go and how little you can carry to get there." Some of you may agree, but I'm hoping the majority of you will not. He kept trying to jump back in about how "fantastic" and "the best" his gear was. Whenever the customer and I would start to look at a backpack, he would jump in and tell us how much heavier it is than his backpack, or how with "The North Face you are just paying for the name." and I think it very well may have set the customer off with the wrong idea. I know that many of you are probably thinking that it was just one person, but I see and hear that all the time, both at work, and in leisure. It's an attitude like that that discourages new people from trying to experience the outdoors for themselves. The only things I really see that level of elitism in are backpacking, fly-fishing and golf.
It's not about going 50 miles, it's about seeing 50 miles. Is it about who has the best equipment? No, it's about bonding with nature and being close to the Earth. It's much more learning about yourself than "just walking 50 miles."
I don't think words can adequately describe the stars at night in the desert. I don't think that anything can compare to the feelings of absolute freedom and independence that I get from taking a trip. The sunrise is something that a lot of people take for granted in the morning, but I watch the sunrise with awe. That's why I backpack. To experience the world that other people pass by, and I love it.
Maybe you go to escape the boredom of your day-to-day 9-5 job; maybe you go to spend time with your family or your friends, or maybe you just go out to see new places, push yourself, and feel close to the Earth. Whatever your reasons, just make sure that your focus in backpacking is enjoying your time in nature, and being away from it all. Don't forget to stop and smell the wildflowers, and remember, it's not as much getting point A to point B as it is going A to B.
So then, that aside, why do you backpack?