When a Through Hiker Repacks Your Backpack

There is a big difference between the backpacker that is interested in getting out into nature for the weekend and a Pacific Crest Trail Through Hiker. (See my Backpack List.) A PCT Through Hiker, such as my friend Ahmad, has a goal in mind- trekking more than 2,635 miles from the Mexican Boarder to the Canadian Boarder.

That type of person will spend approximately 5 months, maybe more, in a tent. So there should be a difference and for that rare breed every ounce counts. They analyze every item and cut weight to the bone certainly sacrificing comfort, but even going as far as pushing the limits of safety, carrying only the amount of food and water to get them through to the next re-supply, which many times can be a hardship. Top Ramen dinner which are cheap and light food source, (lol, if you can call that food), just add water, adds carbs, but certainly not a lot of nutrition and then when they arrive at a re-supply they gorge themselves with high fat burgers and greasy fries because they are starving. Their packs and tents are different. Their equipment is ultra-lite and in backpacking most of the time that means mo-money, mo-money. Through Hikers cut corners everywhere even cutting the handle off of their toothbrush, getting rid of any cases, containers or bags in lieu of baggies. What I am trying to get across is this is a whole other ball of wax.

So when I met up with my PCT Through Hiker friend Ahmad in Southern Oregon for a very challenging adventure to the summit of Mt McLoughlin, North of Medford, Oregon I had only a inkling of an idea of what I was getting into.

As soon as he saw my pack he practically died, ”OMG what do you have in there, this is like 50 pounds!” A bit of an exaggeration I thought. “I know 50 pounds, and this is 50 pounds”, Ahmed demanded. This is double what I am carrying, he went on. He immediately started tossing things out of my pack and into the air. Extra shirt for the next day- don’t need that… underwear for tomorrow throw that out! First aid kit, I have one- dump yours. “Yeah, yours is a bandaid in a baggie!”, I good-naturedly complained. You must checkout the video clip of this episode- it is fun, a little tongue in check, but certainly Ahmad was trying to get a point across, even through the hilarity of it all.

Pursuing Balance Through Adventure YouTube Channel

Once you have checked out the video then I will go on record here and now to say there are definitely pluses and minus in ultra-lite backpacking. The pluses are you can hike faster, further and more comfortably with less weight on your back. The minus that I found were, in my mind, quite detrimental.

You have to see the post at ‘Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ – Oregon Hiking to discover that when Mt McLoughlin was rated VERY HARD that was no joke and when compared with hikes I am familiar with rated at HARD… this hike wasn’t just harder, but doubly hard. What I am trying to convey is that this was much more of an endeavor then either of us were counting on. So as you viewed items getting tossed out of my pack there were, sure as shooting, things that I needed that I did not have, putting us in a tough situation at best. Luckily it was no more than that.

Lessons Learned

So unpronounced to my friend, I snuck a few things back into my pack. The reason I did that is I know that the last thing you want to have is clothing that is damp with perspiration as the temperatures plummet below freezing. I had a change of clothing, which was highly beneficial, because hypothermia is serious. Perhaps a Through Hike can train themselves to opperate on less water, but dehydration is not something to fool around with, so I brought the water I thought that I needed. (Which as it turned out, still was not enough). I then dried out clothes in my tent, as when we unexpectedly had to spend another night out in the wilderness, I needed dry clothes.

That is right… another night out in the woods. As I said, this adventure was more of an adventure than we had planned for… Because of the extra night we had to ration food and water, and actually ran out.

My friend had ditched his pack before we made the final push scrambling over rock and skree to the summit. On my way down my finger tips were numb from the cold rock. The wind and weather added to the chill and at one point a cloud appeared like it could bring precipitation, but we were lucky that it did not wrap around to our position. I was glad that I had brought my backpack with warmer clothing, water and a snack. Because I had suffered on the way up due to the tough trek and the altitude, things were not progressing as quickly as my friend would have liked. Then with the footing being treacherous, the descent was also slow going as I was not about to take a chance of a fall or sprained ankle. All of this led to hiking more than an hour in the pitch black, deep forest with one head lamp because it was thought that it wasn’t needed. Tired, hungry, and thirsty we made the decision to campout another night and hike out at first light.

So my point is when you skimp on things due to weight there could be a cost to pay… Luckily we paid it with just a little discomfort. These are all things that you should weigh out for yourself when you are ’Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’.

When this is your goal packing light does seem to be advantageous.
Weekend Warrior Backpacker
A Through Hiker’s Set Up
You can see the difference in the tents. In the foreground a standard backpacking tent. In the background a Through Hiker’s Tent
The forest did not tolerate frailty of body or mind. Show your weakness, and it would consume you without hesitation.” – Tahir Shah

Thanks for joining my friend Ahmad and myself as we were ’Pursuing Balance Through Adventure’ in the wilds of Oregon. Hopefully we gave you somethings to ponder regarding the fine line between the balance of Ultra-Lite Backpacking and Safety. Of course it makes sense to carry less weight on your back for a multitude of reasons, but you have to counter balance that with being smart and should keep in mind that things might not go exactly as planned. We invite you to checkout the menu above to gain ideas on places you might want to discover during your quest to balance out the everyday hectic lifestyle we all encounter and the peace and serenity provided through profound experiences in nature and how those outings can quiet the mind and nourish the soul. Go to SHOP APPAREL for your adventure wear needs. Don’t forget to LIKE. COMMENT, FOLLOW and SHARE.

Happy Trails-

Roger Jenkins

Purusing Balance Through Adventure

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