Location: Valley of the Tuolumne, Yosemite National Park, California
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When you're carrying everything on your back, you need to pack light. A 48-litre backpack would seem plenty for four days backcountry camping (and 9 days total living) but I forgot three things:
As a result, with four days' food, it wasn't all fitting.
Over the course of the trip I had been shedding items. A guidebook left in my Oakland rental. A package posted back to London from Los Angeles. A tshirt too sweat-soaked to quite recover (not if unwashed for another 10 days), binned. Camp stove, even, left at the Mammoth hostel for someone else to benefit from. Interrogating everything I carried. Literally couldn't take it all with me.
As I hiked, I recalled a profile by Robert Moor of Nimblewill Nomad, aka MJ Eberhardt, a 79-year-old thruhiker who crisscrosses the American continent carrying hardly anything. "Shaving down one’s pack weight, he said, was a process of sloughing off one’s fears. Each object a person carries represents a particular fear: of injury, of discomfort, of boredom, of attack. The 'last vestige' of fear that even the most minimalist hikers have trouble shedding, he said, was starvation. As a result, most people ended up carrying 'way the hell too much food'. He did not even carry so much as an emergency candy bar." Or enough water for a day in the desert.
I did indeed turn out to be overpacked on food, or rather had less appetite than expected. I had been afraid of the cold, and not being able to sleep - but it was warmer than the forecast 4C. I carried a book & journal to write. I was afraid of not being able to fix logistics the other end, so had a phone charger - but I didn't use it (just stayed on airplane mode). I didn't use my medical kit, or water filter cleaning syringe, or spare batteries, or air mattress repair kit. I had a pair of jeans for the city, to fit in.
Little luxuries - little fears.