Monday, August 14, 2006

A Goofy Walk in the Woods

Only a Goofy Girl can take a nice, relaxing backpacking trip and find a way to apply an Excel spreadsheet and anal-retentiveness to it. Let me explain…

Mr. Goofy and I are going to Grand Teton National Park to do (among other things) a 3-day backpack. Backpacking is where you head into the woods with just the stuff you need on your back, and don't emerge for several days later, hopefully still civil with each other. (stay tuned)

I'm recently been reading about ultra-light and lightweight backpacking. Ultra-light backpacking is basically yourself, the clothes on your back, and a tarp. And I'm not really exaggerating much, folks.

On the other hand, lightweight backpacking is more about being aware of what you are carrying and what each item weighs. You examine (and weigh!) all the items you would normally take and make some tough decisions about what to leave at home. Also, it emphasizes taking items with dual purposes. For example, socks could also be used as "gloves" if it got unexpectedly cold. Hopefully CLEAN socks...

It also emphasizes taking only what you need. I would normally haul around a full bottle of sunscreen and a full spray bottle of bug spray for this 3-day backpack. Am I really going to use that much sunscreen? No way. So instead, you find a small container and put about 3 days' worth of sunscreen in it, and find a much smaller bug spray (or maybe go with towelettes - anyone ever use those?)

Some benefits of lightweight backpacking are:
(1) you can go farther, since you are not weighed down with all the pleasures of home like fluffy pillows, lanterns, 3-course meals, teddy bear; and
(2) as we get older (who me!?) it's much easier on your back and knees to carry less weight. I like both of these benefits. I also like a good challenge. Game on!

After buying a kitchen scale to weigh my gear, I created an Excel spreadsheet on which to track the items I intended to carry on my back across Wyoming. My goal was to carry 30 pounds or less.

I weighed socks. I weighed food. I cut tags off of clothing to eliminate weight (and weighed saved = 1 ounce). I decided to recycle socks while on the trip (I know....EW!). I decided to forgo toothpaste for 3 days (double-EW). I bought a Titanium spork.

My total looked really good at first. Then I realized I had forgotten to account for water (8 pounds) and my backpack (5.3 pounds). Whoops.

I removed more clothes from my list. Our planned lunch menu got smaller. I decided I needed to bring a shorter paperback book than I had planned. Basically, it's gotten obsessive. Sigh.

As of yesterday, my estimated total weight was 31.04 pounds. 1.04 over! So close. But, I scored big this evening at Price Chopper - I found a 1-ounce bottle of bug spray. This replaces my current "heavyweight" 4 ounce one.

Yippee! Now I've got an extra almost-pound free. Looks like a chocolate bar (or two) may make the trip afterall.

Life is good.

UPDATE: I should know not to attempt math after 10:00pm. I am not UNDER by an almost-pound..I'm still OVER by an almost-pound. ARG!


Cagey said...

I had no idea that you had it in you to be Type A! I am so excited to see this new side to you!

lorib said...

I applaud your light-weight efforts, but must admit that I'd rather carry the extra weight than go without a sweet treat in the back country!

Anonymous said...

hey- I live in Kc and have a wonderful boy from Russia too! he is 4 and from krasnoyarsk. We are thinking about starting the process again.could you email me sometime?