I waited for months to take my Backpacking Class. It finally got here, and I’ve spent several weeks now in class on Wednesdays listening to Katherine, a.k.a. The Hapless Hiker, enlighten us on the world of backpacking. I had no idea there was so much to learn.
Today, we were supposed to go on a day hike to experience Clark Creek Natural Area and try out our Ten Essentials that we’ve been learning about. I’ve been hiking since I was in my 20s, and I’ve never carried the Ten Essentials. I’ve certainly never used a compass. This week I was reading through the list, and I looked up all of the items I should be carrying on a day hike. One of them was an emergency shelter – sort of like those mylar blankets that I wrap myself in after a marathon. “That’s overkill,” I thought. Then, I started reading the reviews and how people have used those emergency shelters to keep from succumbing to the elements in a variety of different scenarios. By the time I finished reading, I had changed my mind. I could use that in my car to keep me from freezing at a football game! There are all kinds of uses for that, and it’s not overkill at all. At $16, it’s a bargain, and I immediately ordered one. I was definitely sold on a compass and map last week. So, I’m beginning to see the wisdom in the Ten Essentials.
Another monsoon kept us from hiking today, but Katherine decided to give us a cooking demo at a local wildlife refuge. She started taught us about the different kinds of water filtration equipment. All of these years, I’ve avoided drinking water from streams because I thought it was dangerous. I never knew that it is real easy to make it safe to drink with a water filter. That will be extremely helpful and convenient. I just have to decide which kind I like.
Katherine is really pretty amazing. First of all, she is funny. She loves laughing, and she’s totally at ease laughing at herself and sharing her personal “hapless hiker” stories. Those are such important qualities for a teacher. Most importantly, she is passionate about hiking and being safe in the wilderness. Even though she candidly talks about some of the scary stuff that’s happened to her and others AND the cost of all of this equipment keeps escalating out of reach of my budget, she has me dying to go backpacking. I can’t wait for November 14 when we take the show on the road and carry everything we need to sleep in the forest on our backs and actually do this thing.
She spent the next few hours showing us the different types of backpacking stoves, cooking some pretty tasty dishes and making us laugh. In the meantime, the rain was surging and subsiding until around 2 PM when all hell broke loose, and rain was coming in on us from both sides of the shelter. We got to sample one of those pre-packaged backpacking meals, blueberry muffins baked on an open flame, freeze-dried ice cream and re-hydrated powdered chocolate peanut butter. I can’t wait until we cook our own stuff Wednesday.
My list continues to grow with the equipment I need. Now, I want a dehydrator so I can do my own fresh veggies, fruit and jerky. And I’d love to have one of those “seal-a-meal” things to pack it in. I like the little Esbit pocket stove and the JetBoil that we used today. Oh, and, of course, I’ll need to get a water filtration system – two (in case one fails). But only the stove and the water filter are necessities. Oh, well… it can all be borrowed for the time being.
The most exciting thing for me is I’m learning about all of these survival tools. Katherine told us about a time when she lived in North Carolina with 7 kids, and the power went out for 2 weeks. They used her Esbit stove and her backpacking stuff, and they were fine. A friend offered to take them in after a week, but they were so comfortable and having so much fun that they didn’t take them up on the offer. I’m realizing that backpacking equipment will be great to have on hand if I ever get caught in an emergency situation of any kind. After all, it’s designed to keep me fed, watered, warm and sheltered.
So, what I love about Baton Rouge today is The Hapless Hiker. This class has been the best $190 I’ve ever spent – although that will be a drop in the bucket by the time I get done. I’m getting so much more out of it than I imagined, and it’s because Katherine is such a great and willing teacher.