posted Dec 16, 2010, 2:00 PM by Paul Wagner   [ updated Dec 16, 2010, 2:32 PM ]
In this world of mass materialism, there is something very calming about the process of backpacking.  After all, if you are going to have to carry it all on your's a good idea to pare down the material goods to a bare minimum.  Weight is, after all, your enemy.  And while we do take along a  few minor luxuries, in general we like to think that we keep things pretty simple. 
So what are the basics for food, water, shelter and clothing for a week in the Sierra in the summer?  A tent and sleeping bag for shelter.  A change of underwear and socks.  A water pump and a few plastic soda bottles for water.  And tiny gas stove, aluminum pot, and plastic cups and bowls are the kitchen.  Add the food to eat, and you are good to go.  Everything you need will fit in a medium sized suitcase--maybe even a small one.
That's the STUFF.  But that's only half the story.  The other half of the story is what you do with it. 
There is a kind of rhythm to backpacking.  Each of us hikes to our own cadence, and at our own pace.  Doing that for a few hours is certainly a good way to get rid of any urban anxiety you may bring to the trail.  And we've camped together now for 35 years.  That means that when we stop, we have a very clear idea of what needs to get done.  The tent gets set up, and the bags and pads installed inside.  Somebody usually needs to pump some water.  So those items are always the first to come out of the pack. 
M usually likes a quick rinse in the local body of water--to freshen up.  P usually waits for that, and fishes instead.  After that, we have time to set up the kitchen and decide what we're going to eat that night.  But there is relatively little that really needs doing, and what does need doing is relatively simple and easy to do. 
Which means that there's not a lot of wasted motion, or unnecessary fretting.  Colin Fletcher compares it to a kind of feeling of peace with the world, each action following the previous one simply and directly.  The first day on the trail it all comes back.  And by the second day, you really wonder why the rest of your life is so complicated. By day three, you can't remember the rest of your life.
Which is, after all, why we backpack at all!