If I have learned one thing after 20 years of backpacking. It’s that everyone has their own gear preference. Every backpacker that I have ever met on the trail has their own system and has their favorites when it comes to gear. I mean, we can never get enough of gear talk right? But I would argue this: That most important piece of gear that you will ever carry isn’t in your pack.
For us that love backpacking, we hit the trail in some of the most remote places on earth, we are custom to the up’s and down’s of Mother Nature. We got the whole “plan and prepare” down at this point. For us, it makes no difference if it’s raining, snowing, sleeting, or whatever, we just go. Are we a bit crazy, of course we are. But for new people just getting started, or for people prepping for their first long distance hike, I say this.
The most important piece of gear a backpacker will ever need is a POSITIVE ATTITUDE. No piece of gear will ever help you embrace the trail and Mother Nature than a positive mental attitude will.
Let’s face it, sometimes there is a suck value to hiking in a cold rain storm that seems to last forever. But the one thing that you have going for yourself is your ability to be grateful for that suck value. I mean really, you are out there! You are doing what you wanted to do! Of course it’s going to have suck value. All things worth while do. But it’s going to be your positive mental attitude that will make or break how you experience your hike.
In 2003 when I thru-hiked the Appalachian Trail, it was one of the wettest Springs on record for the AT. It rained, and rained, and then rained some more. In fact, it was almost an entire month before I realized it WASN’T raining. I never did see the Great Smokey Mountains. Fog, yes, lot’s of fog, but rarely did I see sun for the first month. Sometimes I had a hard time getting up and finding a reason to keep going. But the choice was simple, get going or get off the trail and quit. It really was my attitude that I needed to check, not the weather. The weather is going to the weather, and there is nothing anyone can do about it. It was then I started being exceedingly grateful for the rain. It changed hike going forward.
A positive mental attitude is going to get you where you want to be. Whether it’s in your personal life, or on the trail. Life happens, and sometimes it rains on your parade. Your attitude is what is going to get you through the rough times. Let’s face it, backpacking is hard. If it was easy, everyone would be out on the trail. Hiking up a mountain, hiking down a mountain, hiking in the rain, the snow, the sleet, (we would make great mailperson’s by the way) hiking in the cold, and in the heat. Mother Nature doesn’t care about your thru-hike attempt. She certainly doesn’t care about your backpacking weekend. It’s going to be your positive mental attitude that will make your adventure on the trail amazing.
So next time the rain starts falling, or the cold wind blows, or the hot sun starts shining, just smile and whisper, “bring it on, I love this shit”. You are doing it.