What is it about backpacking? Why would anyone want to hike for miles lugging around a heavy pack, just to sleep on the ground and wake up and do it all over again? For fun?
It can be hard: wet, cold (or hot), mentally and physically challenging, your muscles may get sore, your feet may get blisters, you get dirty and smelly, and you might get some bug bites. So why do we keep doing this? And why are more people being drawn to this hobby every year?
The reward is much larger than the suck. In fact, sometimes, the suckiness is the reward. You learn to embrace the suck. Here are my top five reasons why I keep backpacking and why I think you should too:
I get to unplug. being disconnected lets me connect with what is really important; myself, nature, my companions (even if my only companion is my dog.) Being unplugged means I can stay genuinely in the moment without work, school, or social media mucking up the good stuff. True connection requires undivided attention to listen, process, and respond.
I get to feel capable. Backpacking is hard. It requires skills, strength, and confidence in one's self. Knowing that I am physically and mentally competent to handle the trail and all its obstacles puts things back in the "real world" in perspective. Yeah, this homework is hard, but it's not ten miles in the rain and mud hard.
I get to practice flexibility. No, not put my foot behind my head yoga stuff, but mental flexibility. Sometimes (most of the time), things don't go as planned, and you have to shift and be ok with that. Freak snowstorm? Guess we're only staying one night. Trails washed out? Guess we're going around. Strict schedules don't work in the wild.
I get to move naturally. Walking long distances on uneven terrain carrying load! Count me in! It is literally what we humans were made to do. And squatting. We were made to squat and poo in the woods. Add in temperature variances, eating outside, and sleeping outdoors, man; it just feels like home. Our bodies haven't evolved since we lived in caves; backpacking feels so good because it's how we were meant to live. I'm not saying I'm moving out of my house to live in a tent (I like nachos and hot showers way too much), but getting back to my roots every now and then is like a reset button for my mind and my body.
I know that as long as I made it to the mountains, I'd survive a zombie apocalypse.