Everyone is obsessed with the gear we carry on the John Muir Trail. We’re fixated with the weight, the versatility and the expense. We worry about the comfort and durability. First time thru-hikers worry about forgetting something important.
Some of the biggest gear mistakes I’ve witnessed on the trail are of a different kind, entirely. Here are five ideas for things to leave at home:
1. Camp chair. Oh, and based on what I’ve seen on the trail, I should say “beach” chair. Don’t be the guy with one of these strapped to your pack. Even the contraptions out there that are basically a conglomeration of straps that turn your sleeping pad into a camp chair aren’t really necessary. Lean against a log or rock, just check beneath it first. Ssssssssssssss!
2. Multiple changes of clothes. I carry one extra set (socks, underwear, shirt and pants), which is more than many hikers do. I change clothes halfway to the place I plan my next rest day, and then wash everything when I arrive. Carrying more than one is probably not worth the weight. Choose your fabrics well and you can even wash and rinse them in your portable garment-washing-and-agitating-device (also known as a bear canister), and dry them quickly in the sun.
3. Portable radios or audio players. I know I’ll get some pushback on this, and I am an avid listener to audiobooks when I walk (for exercise) around my neighborhood, but I am not a fan of using them in the wild. We have five senses. While hiking you don’t sense much by touch or taste. That leaves just your nose, eyes and ears. Why cut off a third of the sensory input from all that’s around you? (A small weather radio is an exception.)
4. Almost anything cotton. It may be the “Fabric of Our Lives”®, but it’s not the fabric of your hike. It retains moisture, does not provide warmth when wet, and takes forever to dry. If you insist on going with natural fabrics, wool is your friend. Otherwise, take advantage of the newest technological innovations in hiking attire. By the way, cotton pants, shirts, or underwear are bad; cotton socks are even worse.
5. A gun. First, I need to make something clear: what has two thumbs, a crooked smile, eats too much gelato, and loves the Second Amendment? THAT’S ME! Nevertheless, and putting all the legalities aside, neither the statistics nor the experience of thousands of hikers on this trail support packing heat. The bears are less interested in you than in your GORP, and if our cities were full of the kinds of wonderful people you’ll find on the trail, the home security business would collapse in a week.
Special Bonus Item Not to Have on the Trail: a brand new pair of boots!
Good hiking, Ray