Fifteen years ago, while studying creative writing in community college, I got my dream job at a sports store. Copeland’s. They’re out of business now. My dream job wasn’t working at Copeland’s; it was working at a sports store. I had wanted to work at REI, which was across the parking lot, but at Copeland’s I still got great deals on a lot of the same brands and that was the whole reason I wanted to work at REI anyway. After acquiring my dream job, it was time to start acquiring stuff.
I knew I wanted to keep my camping equipment minimal (that word has a different meaning to me now) because weight is an issue when you’re carrying everything on your back, hiking through the woods. But the desire toward minimalism extended only to the size and weight of the products I bought, not the cost. And I spent all my paychecks on equipment.
I had heard that climbers use scales to measure the weight of their packs. They cut the handles off their toothbrushes to save weight, because they actually have to pull their equipment straight up, not just over hills. So I bought a scale. Looking back, if I had tried to keep my spending minimal, not buying a scale would have been a great way to save money. Yep, I wanted to buy the best of everything because it would be durable, lightweight and invaluable on the trail.
Now I look at things differently. I have a lot of camping gear that I don’t use, and I have to decide how much of it is worth storing. Do I really need a sleeping bag that’s rated down to twenty below? I’ve come to the realization that I don’t like winter camping, so… Here’s my new inspiration.
Exhibit A: David Danzeiser travels with a backpack that you’d see a student wearing to school. Everything he needs fits inside, and it would appear that half of what he packs is electronics.
Exhibit B: Colin Wright travels just as light. It’s also everything he owns.
Here’s one piece of advice I heard when I was working at Copeland’s: Before you go camping, polish all your gear. Anything that’s still shiny when you return should have been left at home. Of course it’s not quite that simple. Just because it didn’t rain and you didn’t need to unpack your rain jacket and tarp doesn’t mean you should leave those things at home next time. However, if you prepare for every single possible catastrophe, you’ll have to bring a lot of stuff.
I still have the scale. For now.