If you’re anything like me, your wintertime daydreams usually involve a nice sunny day, a good pair of boots, and a mountain trail to hike.
Before living in Colorado my freshman year of college, I had never seen the mountains before and thus didn’t know what I was missing. Now all that has changed! I hear the call of the mountains all too well and even though I am no back-country guru, I love getting in a few hikes per year when I can.
Last February, I visited Patagonia and it, in all seriousness, changed my life. The natural beauty I saw on display literally brought me to tears. When I went down there however, I had no gear, no money to rent any, no knowledge about how to perform a multi-day hike, and no training time under my belt. I arrived with a tattered school backpack, a light jacket, and a pair of leather combat boots I had bought in Lima a few months before. Being abroad, I had to weigh out my options about investing in gear I would use for a week, but then have to haul around for the following six months when I returned to Brazil.
I made due with what I had! My gear may have been a bit worn down, but to be honest it was some of my favorite items of clothing I owned. Those boots carried and supported me for miles on miles around the world (and they still are to this day)! My backpack was a gift from my mom and had put up with my abuse through college carrying my laptop and heavy textbooks. It was with me everyday at school and molded to the curve of my back just perfectly. My jacket was my fall jacket for three seasons before my trip and although it wasn’t waterproof, it sure as hell protected me from the whipping wind and sun that the Patagonian region serves up. When I camped in the Rockies with my friend Megan over the summer, I hiked three days straight in Chakos sandals and ratty tee shirts. We camped in a borrowed tent that had a broken pole and got drenched in the rain halfway through the trip.
My point in all of this is that I didn’t buy hundreds of dollars worth of brand-name equipment so that I could go hiking. I just went. And you know what? It was awesome! My boots and sandals held up perfectly well and supported my feet and ankles every step of the way. My pack had the perfect amount of space and was lightweight enough for me to carry for multiple days. Our tent as only collapsed on one corner, and we were perfectly protected from the elements all four days we were out. It may not have been perfect, but we did it and it was so much fun.
I know too many people who let gear get in the way of them getting out and exploring. While the high-tech brands are awesome for the true back-country gurus, most people will be served perfectly well with an off-brand piece (maybe even better)! Using equipment brings me way more joy than reserving it special for twice a year. I wear my boots happily in the fall, and don my backpack for multiple occasions. The fact that my stuff is multi-purpose means that I can have less stuff, and don’t we all need that in our lives (hello Marie Kondo).
Stop making excuses for yourself to not go out and enjoy national parks. You’ll never be seasoned if you don’t start somewhere! If you aspire to be a pro solo hiker and survival expert, you need to get out there and do it in order to learn. Sure other people may have more gadgets than you do, but so what, there’s no wrong way to enjoy nature. Get out there with your favorite tee shirt, a sturdy pair of shoes, and an open heart and see what happens. Bring what you need and nothing more and I promise it will be an experience to remember!