Which is to say, we have our gear (see gear list below); we have practiced putting up our tent and lighting our miniscule stove; I have made a list of food to bring, though I haven't bought it yet; and we have packed a good bit of our gear into our new packs (not the food, but most of the rest) and hiked a couple of miles with them, just to see how it felt.
It felt good.
Without the food and last-minute items, the packs weigh only about 15 lbs. I am estimating they will end up being about 25 lbs, give or take. That is an ideal weight; conventional backpacking wisdom says we could carry up to 40, but I really wanted to keep it under 30 lbs. I am mainly concerned about volume now. Are the packs I bought (35 L) too small to fit everything? We will see.
I learned, from my two-miles-hike, that I need to be careful to wear a shirt with sleeves that come well down my arms, so the backpack straps do not chafe my shoulders and armpits. Similarly, my socks need to come up past the tops of my new, unbroken-in sneakers. Basic lessons, but important. More important was the lesson in which we both realized that hiking with our backpacks was not so terribly hard. The scene from Cheryl Strayed's Wild in which she, an inexperienced backpacker, packs all of her REI purchases into her new pack (or hangs them off the outside of her pack, because she has bought too much to fit)... right there in her motel room, on the very morning when she plans to leave on her thru-hike of the Pacific Crest Trail... and then goes to pick up the pack and finds she literally cannot lift it... this is the story which is stuck in my head forever. I expect to be unable to carry my pack, to be stunned by its weight. But no, having taken Strayed's book to heart, I have considered weight with every single one of my packing decisions, quite ruthlessly. And the pack is beautifully manageable.
Between writing the above, and what is below, I finished the food shopping and we packed our packs.
Here's what, between us, we will be carrying:
- about 4 liters of water, divided into 5 bottles
- trail food: instant coffee, tea bags, instant cocoa packets, nuts, dried fruit, and trail mix, baby carrots (for the first 24 hours), 2 Cup-O'-Noodles, jerky, graham crackers, chocolate spread, and marshmallows, Ritz crackers, wasabi peas, Snapeas, and some chocolate snacks.
- a camp stove that is basically a metal box the size of a deck of cards, and fuel tablets for it.
- 2 tin cups
- 2 garbage bags to keep our clothing, etc. dry
- 1 extra pair shoes, 2 extra tshirts, extra socks and underwear, extra shorts, a sweater-- for each of us.
- rain jackets
- sheets and sleeping pads
- 2-person backpacking tent
- books and a deck of cards
- maps and notes
- sunscreen and bug spray, hats
- flashlight for each and extra batteries, plus a battery-operated mini-lantern that looks like a fat candle
- first aid supplies, tiny scissors, blister kit, prescription medication, allergy pills and ibuprofen
- camera and notebook, 2 pens
- hand sanitizer, little bottle of camp soap, toothbrushes and toothpaste, hairbrush
- 2 hand towels
- lip balm, bank card, mints, phone (the essentials from my purse)
- tampons and pantiliners (unfortunate timing there)
That sounds like a lot, right? But we fit everything in, just barely. And the packs weigh precisely 25 lbs-- well, my kid's is 25.2. Here they are, standing at the ready.