Recently, on a particularly long and difficult backpacking trip, I found myself listing (in my mind) some of the things I’ve learned as a relatively new backpacker…specifically as a women. Anyway, here’s that thought in blog form: 6 things you have to be chill with before diving into your first backpacking trip. Enjoy!
1. Heights: Be ready to be looking a thousand feet down on your right and your left as you hike ledges along deep canyons (especially if you are in the Cascades!). Not all backpacking trips will be like this, but, many, especially in the Pacific Northwest, will have you walking along cliff-sides and high up on a hill, mountain, or out-cropping. You HAVE to be able to keep going.
2. Bees: If a bee landing on you or buzzing near you turns you into a flailing ninja… please re-assess if you are ready to be backpacking at all. Bees will be interested in you along the trip. They will want to smell you and see if you are, indeed, the beautiful flower they perceive you to be (what with your bright colored headband and tank top, how could they resist?). In most cases, when they realize that you aren’t a source of necter, they will buzz off. The last thing you need to be doing is swatting at them and freaking out EVERY SINGLE TIME an insect comes close to you. Just stop. Practice patience with pests.
3. Nudity: At some level you should expect at least part of you to be naked and within eye-shot of either someone in your group or another person hiking. There are no changing rooms in the wild and, sometimes, the tent isn’t up yet or you need to make a quick change. Get over it, turn around, and just make it quick. No big deal. If you don’t blush, we won’t.
4. Pooping in the woods: Well, peeing, pooping, and that other “p” word that happens to us women monthly. All of this can, at first, seem uncomfortable to do in a wilderness setting without a porcelain throne. Don’t worry, though. We will bring lots of biodegradable toilet paper with us and it really isn’t as bad as it seems. Ask any woman of the woods.. .they will teach you the tricks. I’ll write more about the 3 P’s for women in the woods later smile emoticon
5. Dirt: Don’t expect a shower on your backpacking trip. If you are lucky you might get a lake or pond to swim in and wash your hair. It won’t be uncommon for you to rinse off your face, neck, arms, and legs, with water from a stream that we take a break at. Don’t worry about going to bed “Dirty” or getting started “dirty”… That’s kind of the name of the game and, really, a small price to pay to be able to spend intimate time in the wilderness where many people never venture and get the pleasure to experience.
6. No Makeup: This might sound elementary to some women, but, I know PLENTY of women who haven’t gone a day without makeup in years. Just the idea of going out of the house without makeup gives them anxiety. When backpacking, though, most women quickly find out how totally useless and, sometimes, detrimental, make up is to the trip. You will be carrying enough already without adding the extra weight of foundation, mascara, brushes, etc. Out in the wild we have an opportunity to become a PART of our wild surroundings. This opportunity allows us to celebrate our natural selves, not hid it. After a day or two without make up, I hope that you are able to embrace the low maintenance experience of not needing it. It can feel truely freeing and be an awesome body-positive experience. The birds and deer and plants don’t give a hoot if your eyelashes are curled or not. It feels great to know that you are wild and perfect just the way you are. No help needed!
Lastly: Don’t let any of these 6 things deter you from trying a backpacking trip! Practice makes perfect on everything! You will learn and mature as you go! Nobody ever does anything perfectly the first time. The most important thing to remember is to be aware and prepared. After that, just put one foot infront of the other! Take a hike!