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#172064 - 11/18/12 06:40 PM Am I a "real" backpacker?
Glenn Roberts Offline
Moderator

Registered: 12/23/08
Posts: 1378
Loc: Southwest Ohio
Well, it's Sunday evening and I'm bored - so let's see what kind of trouble I can start!

What philosophy makes one a "real" backpacker? Must you be a tree hugger, or naturalist? An environmentalist? Or does any of that matter?

Let me get a bit more specific. I can identify a few types of trees ("evergreen," "not evergreen," "maple, I think" - you get the idea.) I even know a few types of rocks - quartz, I'm good at; usually, but not always, I can distinguish between granite, sandstone, and limestone. I have a vague idea how wind and water sculpt rock shelters. I'm no good with identifying animal tracks, and plant species leave me dumfounded.

But, here's the thing. Getting closer to nature is not why I backpack. I live a fairly controlled life: structure of family, big-time structure of work (I'm a CPA), demands on my time and attention. When I backpack, I give myself the gift of time. I can simply walk, with a minimal house on my back, and let my mind wander. Do I fail to appreciate nature? No. One morning, I was sitting on a point at the head of a valley, just sitting - and the only way I can describe what came next is "God came close." Just a sense of perfect peace, just existing, just belonging.

I appreciate a beautiful sunset or sunrise, and I'm awestruck by a sky full of stars - but I can barely identify the Big Dipper; the North Star remains a mystery. My breath is taken away by fall color, or by the way spring or summer sunlight plays on different shades of green foliage. I find pleasure in listening to the sound of breeze blowing across thigh-high meadows. But the pleasure is mostly just being out there.

I don't want to become active in environmental causes - though I do make some efforts to recycle; I turn down a bag when I'm only buying one or two already-overpackaged items, and so on. I don't help build trails, though I'm scrupulous about walking through the muddy spots, or not shortcutting switchbacks. Getting involved that way would, I fear, simply turn a pastime I love into one more demand on my time, to be sandwiched into the other committments and schedules.

So, what does it mean to be a backpacker? Do I need to turn in my boots and slink off in shame? smile

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#172067 - 11/18/12 08:37 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: Glenn Roberts]
rockchucker22 Offline
member

Registered: 09/24/12
Posts: 749
Loc: Eastern Sierras
For me I spend as much time as possible outside. Backpack, day hiking, hunting, my whole life revolves around it, but I'm NOT a " backpacker" as some might label.
_________________________
The wind wont howl if the wind don't break.

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#172068 - 11/18/12 08:49 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: Glenn Roberts]
oldranger Offline
member

Registered: 02/23/07
Posts: 1735
Loc: California (southern)
I like your phrase, "I can simply walk, with a minimal house on my back." That is what it is, and nothing more, -backpacking's essential essence. That is not to say that you cannot launch out from that basic position into many different ancillary pursuits,

As an archaeologist, I found backpacking, and a certain amount of outdoor expertise, to be a useful work related skill. I also became an environmentalist of sorts over time, but it is by no means a necessary requirement. I also have had religious, or near religious experiences, while out and about.

I suppose that backpacking led to my involvement in SAR activities. Of all the things I have done in life, the time in SAR is that of which I am most proud.

Do learn to recognize the North Star - it could come in handy some day....

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#172071 - 11/18/12 09:01 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: Glenn Roberts]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By Glenn
So, what does it mean to be a backpacker? Do I need to turn in my boots and slink off in shame?


Naw, I'd backpack with you anytime.

Personally, I think the only real requirement is enjoying being out there. I've put a little bit of effort into learning more about the flora and fauna over the years, but I'm not near proficient enough to speak with authority about any of it, and like you, I've got a lot of claims on my time, so I won't ever become an authority on those subjects.

I hardly ever hike on trails, I try to avoid them, but I don't think that makes me more of a backpacker, it's just the way I enjoy going. I have no desire to thru hike, but certainly those that do are real backpackers.

Those that are not backpackers, in my view anyway, are those that really do not enjoy being out there, and I've been with a few who found that out while they were with me. And those who go only to get blithering drunk, and I've found that out about a few people who I would have never have expected it from.

I'm a little put off by people who are armed with guns when they backpack. They always justify bringing them, but their reasons don't match my experience so I'd really rather they didn't, but I don't think they've disqualified themselves for it. I do think they tend to fantasize though, because I've never known or even heard of anyone ever needing one, but I also realize that they really enjoy carrying them, and most of those I've known that did, did so with great care and caution, so I don't worry about it, unless I see a liquor bottle in their hand.

Quote:
a sense of perfect peace, just existing, just belonging


Yeah, if that's what you find when you're out there, you're a real backpacker. No doubt about it in my book.
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#172072 - 11/18/12 09:07 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: oldranger]
jbylake Offline
member

Registered: 09/15/12
Posts: 202
Loc: Northern KY USA
If I had asked that question, and someone told me I had to be this, do that, adhere to this philosophy, or that, I think I'd just part way's on the trail and go down my own path.

My guess is that all of us love the outdoors, and that's why we do it (backpacking).

The only thing that I think we must have in common, is our responsibility to be faithful and responsible stewards of the land.

What really caught my attention in your post was that you didn't want to become so entrenched in some aspect or another, related to backpacking, that backpacking becomes less of a pleasure and more of another facet of life demanding your time.

I've had that happen with riding my motorcycle. I got so involved in various aspects of riding, that I found myself actually not doing much actual riding, myself.

P.S. Glenn, if you can't find the north star, use your compass.. grin laugh

J.


Edited by jbylake (11/18/12 09:55 PM)

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#172073 - 11/18/12 09:07 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: oldranger]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
I do not think the "house on your back" even has to be minimal. Backpaking is getting from point A to point B, with an overnight stay, as a self-contained unit. If you want to literally haul the kitchen sink on your back, more power to you! I do not think it matters where you go. You can even do urban backpacking. Some places there are few people, some a lot. Again, I do not think it matters. Being a "self contained unit", brings up the qusetion if trekking from hostel to hostel is real backpacking. I think that is a borderline issue- maybe sometimes OK (such as hut-to-hut in Canadian Rockies, but maybe not hostel to hostel in urban Europe). Is road walking backpacking? Depends. Some roads are for all practical purposes just like a trail, others literally a highway. Another question - are you "backpacking" when you are primarily climbing, but need to set up a base camp? Do people who climb El Capitan backpack? They are self contained, carry thier house in a hual bag - not on back, (but believe me, it takes a good deal of effort to lug the "pig" up the cliff) go from point A to B, "camp out", but do not "walk" - they climb!

Studying the natural history, geology and botany of an area enhances the experience, but I do not condsider these the essence of backpacking.

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#172075 - 11/18/12 09:26 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: wandering_daisy]
balzaccom Offline
member

Registered: 04/06/09
Posts: 1731
Loc: Napa, CA
And I would bet that most of us really treasure those moments when we truly are far away from all the cares of daily life, and that lets God come close.

That IS what it is all about, for us.
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balzaccom

check out our website and blog: http://www.backpackthesierra.com/home

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#172140 - 11/19/12 09:05 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: balzaccom]
Samoset Offline
member

Registered: 07/04/08
Posts: 429
Loc: Newnan ,GA
I am a Real fisherman the pack just makes the journey and nights stay a lot more comfortable!
_________________________
Some peopole live life day by day. Try step by step.

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#172144 - 11/19/12 11:29 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: Glenn Roberts]
lori Offline
member

Registered: 01/22/08
Posts: 2801
I think of backpackers as folks who are backpacking for its own sake. There are a lot of people who will go to see a particular place, climb a particular mountain, etc. who don't enjoy the backpacking part. Then there are the rest of us who go backpacking and do other stuff sometimes while we're out there. We care about the gear we take enough to comparison shop and select it for rational reasons that make sense, and we don't always wait for a string of sunny days to go - some of us go every available opportunity, rain or shine, and enjoy the challenge of managing to be comfortable regardless of the weather.
_________________________
"In the beginner's mind there are many possibilities. In the expert's mind there are few." Shunryu Suzuki

http://hikeandbackpack.com

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#172156 - 11/20/12 06:05 AM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: lori]
GrumpyGord Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 862
Loc: Michigan
I think that Lori has it right. I think that even some of the AT thru hikers are not really backpackers. Some of them are out there for the social aspect and they have to carry a backpack to be with the group.

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#172185 - 11/20/12 03:15 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: GrumpyGord]
OregonMouse Offline
member

Registered: 02/03/06
Posts: 6400
Loc: Gateway to Columbia Gorge
I'm still trying to figure out what a "real" backpacker is!
_________________________
May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, leading to the most amazing view--E. Abbey

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#181713 - 01/05/14 10:35 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: OregonMouse]
Talthing Offline
newbie

Registered: 12/29/13
Posts: 14
Poster: OregonMouse
Subject: Re: Am I a "real" backpacker?

I'm still trying to figure out what a "real" backpacker is!


As opposed to a fake backpacker? wink

ahem...if you do it regularly (even if that's once a year) you just might be a backpacker

If you can outfit two or more individuals for a weekend, you just might be a backpacker.

IF you own most of your backpacking equipment...you just might be a backpacker.

If you sleep in the outdoors during your hike...you just might be a backpacker

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#181748 - 01/07/14 09:13 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: Talthing]
intrek38 Offline
member

Registered: 11/29/03
Posts: 430
Loc: Hesperia, Calif
Throw what you think you need in a bag and walk to a place of your choice and spend the night. Whether or not you think your a "Real" backpacker or not is up to you. It really doesn't matter what others think, or how light or heavy your pack is, how much or how little you spend on your belongings. To me, the only thing that matters is the adventure I'm on and if I make it back alive..

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#181752 - 01/07/14 10:43 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: intrek38]
jimmyb Offline
member

Registered: 09/16/13
Posts: 276
Right on! cool

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#181788 - 01/09/14 09:12 AM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: jimmyb]
bluefish Offline
member

Registered: 06/05/13
Posts: 677
I have to agree with GG about the AT thru-hikers not necessarily being backpackers. I've met a few and have one friend preparing now, that did the hike for the sense of accomplishment and goal completion. Our friend has never backpacked, and rarely even car camps. Given her past history though, she will walk the entire length. She looks forward to the completion of the task, not to what she'll be walking through. I've never stayed out more than 7 consecutive days on trails or in the backcountry, but in any given year, spend many nights outside. My wife and I have the gear, physical ability, skills and desire, but not a resume'.
It's not to say that someday when we have more time we won't attempt longer jaunts, just not a requisite for having fun, including participating here. thanks
_________________________
Charlie

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#182782 - 02/11/14 08:40 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: Glenn Roberts]
mrnic3guy Offline
member

Registered: 02/10/14
Posts: 22
Loc: SW Pennsylvania
I'm really glad to see the replies to this question. It's good to see people basically saying that you don't need a label just do what you love.
_________________________
what may in many circumstances be only clarity; seeing clearly what there is to be done and doing it directly, quickly, aware looking at it.

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#182809 - 02/12/14 01:20 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: mrnic3guy]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Nobody is a real backpacker until they have shit in the woods.
_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

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#182818 - 02/12/14 02:16 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: Gershon]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
I like that Gershon!

Nobody is a real backpacker until they have jumped into an icy lake for a bath.


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#182820 - 02/12/14 02:40 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: wandering_daisy]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
In Colorado, nobody is a real backpacker until they have gotten high above 14,000 feet.
_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

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#182821 - 02/12/14 02:40 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: wandering_daisy]
Gershon Offline
member

Registered: 07/08/11
Posts: 1109
Loc: Colorado
Originally Posted By wandering_daisy
I like that Gershon!

Nobody is a real backpacker until they have jumped into an icy lake for a bath.



I've never done that. I'm paranoid about fishhooks.
_________________________
http://48statehike.blogspot.com/

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#182822 - 02/12/14 02:42 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: wandering_daisy]
GrumpyGord Offline
member

Registered: 01/05/02
Posts: 862
Loc: Michigan
I am not sure if I qualify. Quite a few years ago I was backpacking on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. The lake never gets above about 50. I had been out for several days and was getting pretty ripe so I thought that I would just go into the lake, clothes and all and get myself and my clothes clean at the same time. I made it about up to the top of my thighs and decided that I just was not that dirty. There was a ranger watching and he got a real kick out of that. The point is that I may not be a real backpacker because I never went in all the way.


Originally Posted By wandering_daisy
I like that Gershon!

Nobody is a real backpacker until they have jumped into an icy lake for a bath.


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#182830 - 02/12/14 04:54 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: GrumpyGord]
BZH Offline
member

Registered: 01/26/11
Posts: 848
Loc: Torrance, CA
Originally Posted By GrumpyGord
I am not sure if I qualify. Quite a few years ago I was backpacking on Isle Royale in Lake Superior. The lake never gets above about 50. I had been out for several days and was getting pretty ripe so I thought that I would just go into the lake, clothes and all and get myself and my clothes clean at the same time. I made it about up to the top of my thighs and decided that I just was not that dirty. There was a ranger watching and he got a real kick out of that. The point is that I may not be a real backpacker because I never went in all the way.


I grew up in the UP and you learn to embrace summer no matter how little of it you get. We used to swim in Lake Superior all the time. After 20 minutes its fine, but thats because your whole body has gone numb! Once a lady in a parka asked my Dad if we were ok when she saw us out in the lake in the summer. My dad responded that we there was obviously something wrong with us if we were willing to swim in water that cold.

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#182833 - 02/12/14 05:23 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: Gershon]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Quote:
Nobody is a real backpacker until they have shit in the woods.


I like that too WD.

I have to agree that qualifies you.
_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#182841 - 02/12/14 06:20 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: wandering_daisy]
billstephenson Offline
Moderator

Registered: 02/07/07
Posts: 3889
Loc: Ozark Mountains in SW Missouri
Originally Posted By wandering_daisy


Nobody is a real backpacker until they have jumped into an icy lake for a bath.



Yeah, that for sure qualifies you too. I'm not near as brave as you when it comes to that. I've done it, but only after getting pretty crusty and hearing of plans being made against me. Some people just won't listen to the protective crust theory and it's better to jump in than get tossed by an angry mob, so I've done it.

I really do try to take a swim in a creek here before Spring each year too. It's said this will protect you from getting sick all year. I've done it the past few years and have not got sick so I'm going to stick with it.

I think sleeping outside on the ground qualifies you too. I forgot how nice that is during the years I was always wanting a better backpacking tent. When I made my Baker's tent I realize how nice it is to have it wide open, and remembered when I just used a sleeping bag on the ground. I think I may leave the tent at home a few times this season.

None of this is to say you don't qualify if you've never done those things. (Well, Gershon's might blush ) .

For me, personally, it's being off trail, hiking away from where others tend to go, and camping out wherever I want. That's when I feel like a real backpacker.

_________________________
--

"You want to go where?"



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#182842 - 02/12/14 06:21 PM Re: Am I a "real" backpacker? [Re: GrumpyGord]
wandering_daisy Offline
member

Registered: 01/11/06
Posts: 2752
Loc: California
Wrong method! You cannot just slowly go in cold water. You need to go in all at once! Less agonizing. It is also all relative. Go in cold water, all at once. Get out. Wind on wet naked body makes you REALLY cold. Jump back in water - it actually feels warm. Another trick - take your bath mid-day at a rest break. Usually warmer and you quickly warm up again. You have not lived until you have taken a snow bath. That is what high altitude climbers do.


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