My husband loves backpacking gear. I mean LOVES it. He could (and does) talk, theorize and dream about…then critique, analyze and research all the latest and greatest gigots and gadgets meant to improve your experience, and lighten your load on the trail. He could tell you all the pros and cons to packing the lightest gear, and of course has a growing list of favourites and next “must haves.” He really is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to backpacking gear (let’s be honest…backpacking in general) and truth be told, he’s a great trail partner!
Here’s the thing…there’s ALWAYS something new and improved, to replace the gear you’ve already got – smaller, lighter, more multi-functional, more durable…stuff like that. But! When it comes down to it…you’ve got to figure out what works best for YOU…for your style of backpacking, for your budget and for your body shape, size, ability etc.
We recently hiked the West Highland Way (WHW) in Scotland. Contrary to the majority of people who hike the trail, we chose to hike it from Fort William to Milngavie…North to South, which meant we passed a LOT of hikers going in the opposite direction. It was an incredible cross-section of people from literally all corners of the world! We saw people old and young, hiking alone or in large groups, hiking with their dog (or dogs), hiking in kilts (true story!) and hiking with their kids. It was great to see such a variety of people getting out and enjoying the trail.
Of course, my hubby was in gear heaven! He saw such an assortment of packs, poles, tents, shoes, boots, shorts, sleeping pads, stoves…oh glory be!! His mind raced with all this new information and his head spun with so many new possibilities. Often, after a group passed us, he would get my attention and “whisper-shout” (you know, excitedly speaking as exaggerated but as quietly as possible…adorable) something like, “Oh my goodness! That was the NEWEST 60L GOSSIMER GEAR Mariposa pack with large mesh outer pocket and added front strap pockets!” (you just pictured him whisper-shouting didn’t you LOL) I would kindly nod and say…with all the enthusiasm I could muster, “Oh wow Hon! So great!” He’s so cute…
Here’s the thing about the West Highland Way, and the variety gear and the diversity of hikers we saw on the trail that left the biggest impression on me…
There are SO many ways to hike the WHW. You can do what we did and backpack the whole thing – only stopping in town to resupply food, collecting water from rivers, streams and lakes and sleeping alongside sheep and cows in fields wherever a flat spot could be found. You can hike it in sections – go from town to town as a series of day or multi-day hikes. You can stay at Inns or in cabins at campgrounds, eat the majority of your food at pubs and taverns and you can bike it (seriously cool option)! You can hike the whole thing in one go but sleep each night in a comfy bed at an inn and eat at local restaurants and pubs (you could always tell who these people were not only by the size of their pack…but because they actually smelled nice when you passed them on the trail! LOL). You can even pay companies to deliver ALL your gear to your next stop (tent or inn) and all you carry every day is a small day pack with a light lunch and water. So many options!!! Having all these options meant we truly saw people of all ages, of all shapes and sizes, and all hiking abilities making their way, at their pace, on their terms along the WHW.
Are there things you really want to do, but feel like there’s only one way to do it? Or do you feel like your knowledge, ability, strength or even health is holding you back from trying something new? My guess is with a “gear-head” friend who knows and understands your needs, and wants to see you succeed, you can accomplish your goal! EVERY person who hiked the WHW got to see ALL the same ridges and streams, saw (and heard!) the same sheep and cute little lambs, and had to avoid all the same highland cow poop (it’s a thing!). Our gear, shoes, poles, packs and clothing were so different…not to mention our ages, heights, weights, strides, paces, plans, goals and destinations so unique… you couldn’t…or maybe shouldn’t…compare them…and yet we all got out and did the thing our hearts wanted to do. And what’s more, we matched our goal to what our bodies could (or couldn’t) do.
Maybe your dream isn’t to hike (my father thinks I’m crazy for loving it as much as I do so you can think I’m crazy too…it’s ok…I’m over it!). Maybe your dream is to start a hobby or a book club or plant a garden or learn to play piano…I don’t know. But don’t let conformity or a belief that something can only be done one way for it to count, stop you from coming up with creative ways to follow your dreams…big and small. There’s so much life out there to live and experience! Find people who know you well and want to walk alongside you as you take your first steps toward living out your dreams. Love yourself enough to be brave and put your best foot forward on the trail of new adventures. There’s a mountain of possibilities out there! (Ok…enough trail analogies LOL…can you tell I’m ready for another hike!?!!?)
Make your way…at your pace…on your terms…
Believe that you and your dreams are worth the effort.
person with rheumatoid arthritis