On the Trail: Threadbare but still useful
August 9, 2005
Don’t roll your eyes, just hear me out for a minute: I know what you wear isn’t important when you’re rambling along a trail in the woods, but it still gives me pause.There are all sorts of people out there who are into the latest adventure gear – electronic water purifiers, titanium hiking poles and high-tech altimeters. You can spend a small fortune on just one of those items. I’m not one of those people, but sometimes I wish I were. I got my pack for backpacking trips – I kid you not – 20 years ago when I was 9 as a Christmas gift. It’s an adjustable external frame backpack with plenty of room for whatever I need on the trail, holds my sleeping bag at the bottom and my mattress pad (also ancient) on top.It’s such an antique my husband named it “Pack to the future.” Every time I flip it over my head and onto my back he likes to call me Marty and fit the term “flux capacitor” into a sentence. It makes me laugh, but I know I’m not cool and they’ll never know me on a first-name basis at the Ute Mountaineer.My pack had traveled the country before I was even 16, on trips in the Dolly Sods Wilderness in West Virginia, to Bryce Canyon and Rocky Mountain National Parks, and I don’t see the point in trading up. Lots of my “gear” is like this, and I’ve gotten used to it.Last fall we finally replaced my husband’s old sleeping bag, the one in which the white, puffy innards were falling out from big rips in the sides. I’ll never know how he stayed warm while it disintegrated. Improvising with duct tape or regular household items is commonplace for us – this summer we used a metal shelf out of our oven as a grill over a campfire ring. It worked like a charm and cleaned up surprisingly well.I’ve been on camping trips with people who have better gear than I do, and I’m not sure their quality of life is any better. Sitting on a rock or a log isn’t more comfortable than one of those fold-up canvas chairs everyone has but me, but at least it’s one less thing to remember when I’m grabbing stuff for a last-minute camp-out.