By: Emma Clement
I like the outdoors, and I think that you probably do too. Why else would you be on this website? I have always loved to hike, be outside, go car camping, explore, and take nature photography. However, until this year, I had never been backpacking.
Backpacking is a kind of overwhelming prospect—you have to own (or borrow or rent) weather-appropriate clothing, a sleeping bag, a sleeping pad, a tent, maybe a hammock, good shoes, food for multiple days, a map, a compass, first aid supplies, and more. You have to carry all of that on your back while walking for miles. You have to be able to not get lost in the woods (this is really hard for me, as I have almost zero navigation skills). Finally, you have to be able to live without cell service! These are all fairly challenging, even for an outdoors lover.
This February, I made the plunge and decided to go backpacking for the first time. I went with a group of fellow students at Penn State to Rothock State Forest, some of which had been backpacking before, some of which were as inexperienced as me. Since it was freezing and snowed a lot (I don’t know why I was surprised at this, it was a February weekend in Central Pennsylvania), we had to learn how to layer up and stay warm, along with how to properly pack your backpack, what to bring, and other tips. I brought my camera and recorded the weekend adventure.
Going into this trip, I was worried it would be too physically challenging for me, even though I am in decent shape. Our group leader decided to start off the trip by ascending a three mile stretch of uphill insanity. I’m not going to lie, this was sort of miserable. However, the feeling of relief and accomplishment I felt at the top was the most gratifying thing I’d felt in a long time. The rest of the trip—flat and downhill terrain, seeing wild animals (and a black bear print!), making ramen noodles on a tiny camp stove, s’mores, a campfire, stuffing four people in a three-person tent (for warmth and bonding purposes!)—was great. Even though I am always cold and hate being cold, I found that I was actually able to adequately layer up and stay warm—I am super glad I was prepared with lots of warm layers. And despite the hard parts, it was worth it, and something I want to do again, and again, and again.
In summary, why you should go backpacking:
Nature is beautiful
Wild animals (I promise you will at least see a squirrel or something)
Bonding through the shared misery challenge of intense physical activity
S’mores, trail mix, other great camp food
An amazing feeling of accomplishment
A nice break from your cell phone and the internet
Just try it! I promise you won’t regret it.