It’s 1:55am, and I’m supposed to be at work in five hours. Via a friend, who can provide a ride, I landed a $15/hr part-time gig. It’s a super-laid back assembly job, and I only need to leave my chair a half-dozen times the whole day. It’s exactly what I need to heal my leg, maintain my mental sanity, and bolster my hiking budget. The Trail provides.
A little over two weeks from my Harper’s Ferry leave date, I can’t help but feel that they’re paying me in Tarptent Aeons…
Because I’ve been bored out of my damned mind, I’ve been binge watching Vikings on Amazon Prime. I like the series so far, and all of the rampant axe use has stirred up a latent interest of mine in Bushcraft and wilderness living skills. Ultralight backpackers and Bushcrafters are often thought to be at opposite ends of the back country spectrum (or so r/ultralight tells me) but I have found value in both.
The primitive skills coveted in Bushcraft and minimalist efficiency of ultralight backpacking are far from oppositional. In reality, they push each other back towards each other’s core ethos. What I’ve observed is Bushcrafters carrying way too much shit and ultra-lighters lacking basic survival knowledge.
We’ve all seen that overweight camo-pack guy trudging up the hill, loaded out for the weekend… Or the Yukon… Similarly I’ve seen the Zpacks kids shivering in the wind, with blown hipbelt seams, who tell me they cannot sew. Wisdom lies somewhere in the middle. I have been both of these to some degree, but I certainly tend towards UL these days.
I’ve been brushing up on my Bushcraft skills over at BushCraftUSA.com, via their Bush Class sub-forum. These lessons start with the basics like how to sharpen a knife, and how to make a basic camp fire. They elevate to bowdrill and hand drill fire making, primitive shelters, etc.
I’ve taken several classes with Mark Warren, a naturalist and wilderness living teacher based out of Dahlonega, GA. After spending four hours constructing a lean-to (with four people) in one of his classes, and spending an entire day trying to make fire from sourced natural materials, I had a perspective shift. It made me value my light weight backpacking gear in a way I never had before. I carry a small tarp on EVERY outing as a result of that class. Where I used to see extra ounces, I now see four hours of freed up time I might need if a real situation should arise.
Additionally, as a result of his Plants of Autumn class, I truly do feel more at home in the woods. In learning the plants I now have friends who live in the forest. They are able to feed me, warm me, and keep the bugs off of me. They can shelter me, break my fever, or even soothe my stomach. They’re great friends to have!
On the ultralight end, I do not fear pack any more. I do not take backups and multiples, because I do not need them. I ruthlessly trim excess and push my limits by going without. This allows me to travel light and fast.