November 3, 2010

Simple Living Lessons Out Of The Backpack

Red Eagle Lake: 13 km multi-day hike into the mountains of
Glacier National Park, Montana
A large part of my youth was spent exploring the wilderness while carrying a backpack. Most trips were conducted on weekends, and a few were a week long, or longer. When you have to carry everything you need to survive in the back country for days on end, you learn how to cut out the unnecessary and superfluous.

Just about everything I know about low impact, simple living I learned while backpacking:
  • if it is not useful, don't pack it along with you
  • you can live indefinitely with a minimum of possessions
  • nothing makes food taste better than being hungry
  • Nature is free, and there is nothing better or more important
  • friends can help you out of a jam, or save your life, but they will not carry your pack very far - you are ultimately responsible for your own load
  • things that you want, but don't need weigh you down, slow you down, and are rarely worth carrying great distances
  • the best load is a light load
  • bears DO shit in the woods, and have a great view while doing so
  • a thin tent feels like a palace in the middle of a raging storm
  • if you have to carry your garbage on your back you reduce the amount of garbage you produce
  • clean, safe water is priceless
  • it takes very little to create wonderful lifelong memories
  • bears can run faster than race horses, and cougars are even faster - you can't run, or hide, so practice prevention by making  noise, and be creative (climb a tree, get tall, confront your problems face on and hit the predator with a stick...)
  • do no harm, leave no trace of your passing through
  • at the end of a long hike, driving in a motor vehicle feels like the experience it actually is: a completely dreamy global privilege, regardless of the distance traveled
  • once home after days in the wilderness everything feels luxurious - your bed feels bigger and softer, food is prepared easier, and hot water is simply magic

Feeling deprived? Thinking of acquiring more STUFF? Go backpack camping in the wilderness for a few days. When you get home your hovel will feel like a castle, and you will wonder what all that stuff not in your backpack is for.

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