And now for something a little different…

Between an out-of-town trip that did not (gasp) include a hike day, and the world’s most annoying, lingering cold, I don’t have a hike to blog about this week. I could go back and pull “from the archives” as I’ve done before in a pinch, but … eh. Not in the mood. Now, our eldest daughter is quite the blogger and through her I’ve started  learning about common blog themes. The one I’m going to copy for today is the “What’s in my purse” variety, but since this is a hiking blog, it’s going to be “what’s in my backpack” with a bit about what’s on my backpack thrown in for good measure.

IMG_2733So let’s get started with what’s inside. This is a day pack, not really a backpack. It has one large compartment on the side where the straps are, and another smaller compartment on the “outside” with a set of pockets, one of them zippered, plus a built in key clip. It’s not meant to carry lots of stuff, just what you’d need for the day assuming you will be home for dinner and a nice comfy bed as usual. However, you always read about people going off for a short hike, getting lost, and spending days in the wilderness, so it’s a good idea to pack some emergency supplies anyway. We have a first aid kit that has a couple of space blankets, a bunch of Bandaids of various sizes, some alcohol wipes, a safety pin, Neosporin, Advil, gauze, tape, sterile pads, and a pair of tweezers. It’s not a bad little kit, and we’ve honestly rarely needed it, but still, it’s good to have. For our last hike, we apparently thought it would be buggy and just threw the bug spray in the pack. I wouldn’t recommend doing this normally – just spray yourself before you hit the trail and save the weight and space in your pack for something else.

IMG_2734The first aid kit goes in that large compartment along with as much water as we feel like carrying. The rule of thumb seems to be a liter for every 2 hours you’ll be out hiking, but this “rule” seems to vary widely. Chet and I are not honestly that great about hydrating enough when we hike, but we’ll take about 3 water bottles for the two of us to share, unless it’s a super hot day or we plan on hiking a very very long way. Our water bottles are a hodge-podge of bottles we’ve collected over the years from kids camps, employer gifts, and hiking supply stores. We do also both have platypus hydration packs but usually only use those on actual overnight kinds of trips where we each have our own pack.  We also have a water filter that we used to pack but have gotten out of the habit of taking. I’m the impatient sort and if I’m on a day hike, I don’t always want to take the time to filter water. It’s a bit of a waste though, isn’t it, since we tend to hike places where there is lots and lots of water all around us. I may have to rethink the water filter thing now.

IMG_2735The essentials taken care of, we’ll move to the outer compartment. Here we have any paper maps or trail books for the trail we’ll be on. We also carry extra batteries for Chet’s camera and for the GPS, a tiny flashlight we got as a guest gift at a glamping weekend retreat this past spring, lens cleaners that Chet uses for his camera filters, a remote clicker for the camera, a monopod for the camera, a black cord that I don’t remember what it goes to, and a nifty blue knife we found on a trail in the middle of the Sipsey wilderness one day. Usually, we’d also have Chet’s set of lens filters in this section too. He has neutral density and polarizing filters.

IMG_2736The last thing we have on the inside is the food. We don’t actually get that hungry when we hike, but if it’s a long hike and we’ll be out for lunch, we’ll often pack a peanut butter sandwich and maybe an apple for each of us if I have any good ones. Honeycrisp are my favorites.  Sometimes, we’ll just pack a couple of packs of peanut butter crackers. On longer hikes, we’ll sometimes throw in some M&Ms or a homemade mix of chocolate chips and whatever nuts we have laying around. No matter what else we pack though, we always pack mini-heath bars. That’s my celebratory treat at the end of every hike. I have no idea why we have that “spry” mint thing. The plastic baggie, though, is left over from the last time we took our dog Casey-the-hound with us. We pack a bowl for the water he generally ignores and at least a couple of dog treats.

IMG_2737Now let’s move on to the outside. We always have a few things sort of dangling from the zippers. One is a Purell hand sanitizer bottle, the other I just realized I have no idea what it is and I think I just broke it trying to figure it out. The last thing is our Garmin GPS. This is a GPSmap 60CSx that we have had for ages. We’ve loaded southeast topo maps on it that sometimes actually show us where we are. We also use it to download geocaches for those times when we go geocaching. But for hiking what we use it for is to record our tracks and set waypoints. We turn it on, let it acquire satellites and get a reasonable fix on where we are, then reset the trip odometer (just so we can tell how far we’ve gone) and click to start recording our track. As we hike, if we want to make sure we remember where something is, we can set a waypoint for it. We use this to mark trail junctions or especially pretty overlooks or waterfalls. When the hike is over, we turn off tracking and shut down the GPS. Then when we get home, we can download the track from the GPS into a piece of software on my Mac so I have a record of where we’ve gone. This is how I generate those Garmin tracks we often link to our hikes here.

IMG_2738One of the more interesting aspects of our backpack, though, isn’t so much what’s in it, but what’s on it. Chet and I both grew up just outside the Great Smoky Mountains National Park and a life goal of ours is to qualify for the 900 miler club. That is a club for people who have hiked every trail in the park, estimated to be 900 miles worth of trails. For this reason, we started collecting patches for the Smoky Mountain trails we’d hiked. So we have one big “Great Smoky Mountains National Park” patch at the top center of the outside of the pack, flanked by trail patches for Mt LeConte, Grotto Falls, Andrews Bald, Porters Creek, Gatlinburg Trail, Rainbow Falls, Boulevard, Abrams falls, Alum Cave Bluff, Clingmans Dome, Laurel Falls, and Trillum Gap. We’ve hiked more GSMNP trails, but haven’t been successful in finding patches for many of them.

IMG_2739The back of the pack is usually hidden since it’s against my back, but we’ve patched that side up as well. Here we have a Florida State Parks patch with tags for Rainbow Springs and Caladesi Island State Park below it, then Fall Creek Falls Tennessee State Park, Whistler Mountain (Canada), Joe Wheeler State Park, Lake Guntersville State Park, Rickwood Caverns State Park, Cathedral Caverns State Park, Hike Inn at Amicalola State Park, Little River Canyon, and Kephart Prong Trail patches.

Ruth_Chet_Montserrat_fogYou may have noticed a couple of other patches on the back that I haven’t talked about yet. Those are country patches. This pack also ended up being the pack we took with us on most of our overseas trips. After walking all day sightseeing we decided that counted as “hiking” too, and added patches for some of our foreign destinations. The back has Norway and Costa Rica, down one side we have Roma Vaticano, Firenze, and Venezia from our trip to Italy. Along the bottom of the front, we have London, the Union Jack, a patch for Wales, and the English St. George’s cross from several trips to the British Isles, and the red/white/red one is from Peru. Finally, on another side, there is a patch for Catalunya. This is one that is a bit more honest than the others, because we did, in fact, hike in Catalunya. We hiked up a part of Montserrat. It was a great trip, but a little bit foggy….

So, what’s in (or on) your backpack?

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