We went on a backpacking overnighter this last weekend to give our younger scouts the experience. None of them had ever gone backpacking before. This was an easy 8 mile round trip up a canyon to a meadow where we camped for the night. It reminded me of when I went on backpacking trips as a scout, you know, when the pack was much larger than me?
Ahh, the memories. . . Of course when I went I had an old army pack that had a hard belt on it that didn't stay tight so I had to either hold it cinched down tight till my hips felt like they were rubbed so badly they would bleed, or let go of the belt and just hike with all the weight on my shoulders.
Packs are a lot more comfortable now, which makes the hiking more enjoyable. In fact, I decided I would try adding weight to my pack to give myself more exercise! I took a couple backpacking stoves (one MSR Butane/Propane stove, and one Coleman white gas stove), and took a bottle of denatured alcohol because one of the boys wanted to try out their pop can stove. Then I was still glutten for punishment, so I added 1.5 gallons of water. That did it, got me up to an even 50 pounds. That ought to give me some exercise!
Then once I got my pack out of the car at the trailhead, I noticed that my pack was missing the plastic latch that holds the belt together - must have come off sometime! So I ended up doing the 8 miles either without my belt support, or with me trying to hold the belt strap together - just like when I was a kid!
Oh well, it was good that I did bring the extra stoves and water, as the two water filters I brought didn't work - one was clogged, and one was missing parts! So the extra water I brought up was what kept us going! We did get some water from a stream, then filter it through a cloth and boil it for 10 minutes though, so that was a good experience.
Another unfortunate experience was that one of the stoves - the coleman white gas one - didn't work. We were able to pressurize it, but nothing would come out! So the MSR stove did all the water boiling.
Unfortunately, my son and I needed to be back in town around 6:00 AM so we got up at 4:30 AM and packed up and hiked back down to our cars. I hear the rest of the boys and leaders made it out ok.
Here's a shot of the sunrise about 30 minutes into our hike in the morning:
What did I learn? Check and recheck everything before a trip. I had used both the filters and the stoves in the last year or so, but I should have checked both right before going up. Even then the Coleman white gas stove could have clogged while we were up there, so an extra on hand is always a good idea.
The boys did good with the setbacks and I detected a hint of excitement as one thing after another didn't work - this was going to be a trip to remember!