Thursday, April 05, 2012

5 Days- Packing Your Fears

A common long distance hiker concept is that a hiker packs her fear.  If a hiker is afraid of being cold she’ll bring an extra warm sleeping bag and an extra hat when her jacket has a hood.  A hiker afraid of being hungry will bring a spare lighter and an extra ration of food.  A hiker afraid of getting lost will bring a map, compass, gps, and a Spot device.  A hiker afraid of loosing communication will bring extra batteries and a solar charger.
Since I first heard the expression packing your fear I thought fear was too strong of a word, but it certainly gets the point across.  When trying to be a light or ultra-light backpacker it is often a very fine line between under prepared, over prepared, and practically perfectly prepared.
Looking at my set-up I could come to the conclusion that I fear being cold, I fear the desert sun, and I fear my electronics not working when I want a picture or to write something down, and I fear not knowing what’s up the trail.  I don’t fear being cold as much as my 15 degree down bag suggest.  That’s more of a money issue.  I do fear the desert sun, but rationally so.  My Golite Chrome Dome Umbrella arrived yesterday.  I’ll pair that with my wide brimmed hat, long sleeve shirt, pants, sunscreen, polarized sunglasses, and light silk glove liners.  I’ll also have a bandana if I feel the need to look like a bandit robbing a bank.  And I have a base tan courtesy of the Florida sun.
Hiding from the sun.
Ever since I was a kid I’ve gotten sun poisoning—an itchy, bumpy, and painful rash.  I don’t always get it.  I can get a tan or a burn with no poisoning or poisoning with no tan or burn.  For awhile I thought I had grown out of it, but then I had the worst case I’ve ever had when I was on the A.T. for my ’09 thru-hike.  I was pretty miserable for a couple of days.  That was one of the only times I took pain medicine on my thru-hike.
My other fear of not knowing what is coming up on the trail is reflected in the fact that cannot and will not rip my guide book into small sections.  As of right now the book is whole.  On the A.T. I carried a guide book and a half.  On the A.T. and PCT most people rip the guide book into sections, carry what they need and get the next section in their maildrop.  Very reasonable and very light.  On the A.T. I read about a week ahead in the guide and would reread as I got closer and studying new pages.  As a result I know my A.T. shelters and mountains pretty well.  I can’t decide if I should rip my PCT guide in half, thirds, or leave it whole.  It’s dilemmas like this when I know fear is too strong of a word, but the concept fits.


  1. Hey castle! just got the link here from trailjournals:) rock on, big up's for thru'ing the PCT! My trailname is spydee ill be trailangeling in WA this season and hiking in the next several years. Enjoy it, and let me know if you need new earbuds or mp3 player on the,trail. Ill be replacing them fo thru's this season.
    Hike on!

  2. Fear is a matter of perception. You talk of rain, cold and hunger. I'm thinking of wild animals and predators.