An Outdoor Academy Trek: The Before and After
Step 1: The Gathering
1 a. Clothes
- Hiking clothes (most often shorts and an active T, but sometimes hiking pants and a long-sleeve active T)
- Long underwear top and bottom- wool is my favorite for anything longer than a day or two (synthetic gets a little smellier)
- Fleece pants and top
- Another insulating layer (or 2, I get cold really easily so I don’t skimp here)
- Rain gear (not just for staying dry- also great for sitting on wet ground at camp, keeping bugs off, and that incredible feeling and sound of walking with swishy pants)
- Hat, gloves, buff, undergarments
- Camp shoes and hiking boots
- SOCKS (I maybe go overboard here, but I like socks for hiking, socks for camp, and a pair of socks that lives in my sleeping bag for guaranteed dry feet while I sleep)
- Sleeping pad
- Sleeping bag (having more than one, the biggest thing I think about is temperature, but because one is down I also consider sleeping situation and weather)
1c. All the other stuff
- Toiletries (toothbrush and paste, glasses/contact care, some extra Dr. Bronners)
- Water bottles
- Headlamp & whistle
- Journal and pens
- Compass & map
- Dice for FARKLE (the best dice game EVER)
- Mug, bowl, spoon (my personal success rate of remembering this is about 50%)
1d. At this point I usually do a lap around my room and rummage through my outdoor gear and usually find one or two things I forgot or think might be fun.
Step 2: The Separating
The challenge: to bring exactly the right amount of stuff so you are prepared but not carrying everything you own. This is also a good time to separate out into a separate pile the things you will be putting on your body the morning of the Trek.
Step 3: The Waiting
At this point I usually pack the first layer of my pack (sleeping bag and some clothes) and then just throw everything else on top of it. On the morning of the trek I know I will get together with my expedition mates and divide up food and group gear, so it’s not worth packing well before I have all of that.
Step 4: The Shoving
Anyone who has been on a Trek with me has heard me say “if you are not working up a sweat while you’re packing your pack, you’re probably not doing it right.” There are acronyms to help you remember good rules of thumb, but good pack packing is all about filling all of the space your pack has to offer by getting things in EVERY nook and cranny. Keep all of your stuff inside the pack, and it probably shouldn’t be super unevenly weighted.
Remember- the first rule of any outdoor pursuit is “look good feel good,” and there is no better way to feel good than to have a good looking pack.
Some questions I like to ask myself before heading out include:
- Am I ready for my classes when I return?
- Is my living space something I will be happy to return to?
- Have I talked to my family to let them know I’ll be gone for a few days/weeks/months/forever? (I really like being in the woods)
- How am I feeling about this trek?
- What is making me nervous?
- What am I excited about?
- What’s my plan for the morning? Is there anything else I can’t pack until then?
3/5/7/400 days pass full of laughter, tears, mountains, rivers, stars, rain, and mac & cheese
Before a trek can really wrap up there are a few things that need to be taken care of.
This is the most exciting part of clean up when you get to pull out the bag of leftover rice and beans from dinner on your first night and the avocado that you found at the bottom of your pack when you were emptying it out. It’s when you get to really get in there and scrape out the peanut butter that got into every nook and cranny of the Nalgene container lid. The best part about kitchen duty is that you get first dibs on a shower because Mark keeps his kitchen too clean for your stanky, grimy, trek bodies to be in there.
A key component of taking care of our gear is hanging all gear made of cloth up to dry all the way before we pack it up again and shove it in the gear room. Luckily we have a very complex system in the New Lodge: a bunch of ropes as drying lines. All the ground cloths get sprayed down and hung up with the tarps and rain flies, while tents get set up so air can flow through them and really dry every bit.
Since we leave our packs and sleeping bags in the New Lodge to save dorm space, every makes the final trek from the New Lodge back to their living spaces with their “happy sack” (aka trash bag) full of personal stuff back to their living spaces so it can be put IMMEDIATELY in laundry bags to be washed ASAP.
The moment everyone has been waiting for: the warm shower, the apple and tea, the unique comfort of clean dry clothes. There’s an excitement of being reunited with your friends from other groups to hear their stories and share your own (knowing that even though it’s not a competition and everyone’s experience is awesome, yours was obviously the best). Returning from a journey that was challenging provides an opportunity to really appreciate the simple pleasures of a front country life.
– Marisa Melnick, Math teacher, Medical Coordinator & Wilderness Instructor