The idea of backpacking has always intrigued me. To carry around on ones backs all the things they need to survive for a number of days in the wilderness seems incredulous or at least really hard. I decided to give it a try. I sent emails to a couple of friends asking for advice and they both warned against packing too much stuff, I took that under consideration.
I originally planned a more ambitious hiking trip of a at least 3 or 4 days but Shauna, always the voice of wisdom, urged me to try something shorter and close to home. I decided to do a very popular section of the Illinois River to River trail, from Garden of the Gods to Lusk Creek. I found some gpx files that reported it to be a 26 mile trip. I would divide that into two days and have Shauna come and get me the second day. I would only be camping out one night, but that would at least give me a feel for the activity.
I borrowed Luke’s big pack and filled it up with my stuff, tent, sleeping bag, cooking stuff, food, water, and lots of other stuff. When I left the house it was weighing in at 30 pounds. We stopped off at Wal-Mart and I added more food and a few other odds and ends. My packed weighed 35 pounds when I got home.
When I first strapped the pack on I was sort of stunned, it wasn’t just uncomfortable, it kind of hurt. When I started walking I was beginning to have second thoughts. I suppose that I adapted to the pain, or maybe it wasn’t so bad, but I just kept going. I developed a 2 mile marching plan, walk two miles then remove the pack and have a small snack and and a drink. 2 miles was an hour of walking so it seemed to be a good plan.
I arrived at One Horse Gap Lake around 5:30, dead tired and stumbling. 16 miles of hiking in for the day had reduced me to a zombie like stride. The first tent sized clearing I found became my campsite and I threw down my pack. Walking without the pack was the strangest sensation. I felt like an Apollo astronaut, I was nearly leaving the ground with every step. It took over an hour to get my camp set up, I could barely lift my arms and after spending some time resting it was a strain just to get up.
It began raining at 8 PM but I really didn’t care, my tent didn’t leak and I was having a hard time staying awake. I was so tired I didn’t even bother getting my sleeping bag out of the tent. Crazy bird and animal noises woke me up throughout the night. A young man had died by driving a car into the lake a few months ago and I had briefly considered that maybe his spirit would haunt the area, but I was too tired to really care.
It wasn’t raining in the morning and I was able to get started. I was surprised by how alive and awake I felt, and how much the pain had subsided, thought it could have been the 800 mg of Ibuprofen. 4 miles later I was moving like a zombie again, then the rain began. I called Shauna and asked for a ride home, which she gladly gave.
I did some research after my overnight adventure. The pack weighs 7 pounds and is expedition sized, my tent weighs 6 pounds, my sleeping bag 5 pounds, I carried twice the water and food I needed, an entire bottle of poison ivy wash when a few ounces would do, and several items that never even came out of the pack, like a spare flashlight or my 5 POUND SLEEPING BAG! Most backpacking resources I read recommend a 3 pound pack, 3 pound tent, and 2 pound sleeping bag. I could have saved ten pounds alone if I had gear of that weight.
I’m definitely going to try backpacking again, but I hopefully not alone. I began to talk to myself after only a few hours, In a few days I’m certain I’d be looking for a soccer ball to be my new best friend. I’m also going to shot for a 25 pound load next time I try. In the past I have scoffed at lightweight titanium camping gear, but after lugging nearly 40 pounds on my back for 16 miles I can totally see the point of a 60 dollar titanium cookware set. Every gram counts!