While I only get to take one or two backpacking trips per year, I look forward to each trip as though it will right all the wrongs of the world. When it comes time to head back to civilization, I reluctantly stumble out of the wilderness.

I know there are plenty of backpackers out there and we all do things differently, but here are my 5 backpacking confessions:

I never want to leave…

1. I pack out my toilet paper. 

Our first backpacking trip was in the desert, and burying toilet paper out there just isn’t an option.  Who knows when it will rain and that toilet paper will start to break down?  It’s just not worth it. Honestly, burying toilet paper isn’t worth it anywhere, especially to fellow hikers who might happen upon a not-very-well-buried toilet paper blossom later on.

A few years ago we camped at an obviously popular spot along the Middle Fork of the Cimarron trail and discovered a deep depression with quite a bit of slowly decomposing toilet paper.  Clearly it was some sort of “community” bathroom pit… gross gross gross.  Just use a zip-top plastic bag and pack it out.  Really.  It’s not that bad.

2. The last time we went backpacking I didn’t brush my hair. 

This may have been more of an oversight: I forgot to pack a comb.  Still, I didn’t really think about it too much.  My hair looks horrible every day that it isn’t washed, so each morning I’d get up, put on a hat and go about my day.  If I washed my hair in the evening (with biodegradable soap), I’d just let it dry and sort of drag it up into a ponytail or rake a hand through it.  Really, I was wearing a hat almost the entire time… no one would have noticed one way or another.  Although when I got home and then washed and tried to brush it, it was not pretty.  This is probably something I won’t repeat.

You have no idea I didn’t brush my hair.

3. I find bathing in a creek to be quite liberating.

The chances of someone happening upon you 8 miles or more from any road are pretty slim. Because of that, you might as well enjoy a chance to stand by a stream (or in it if you’re just rinsing off… don’t put soap in the creek!) and bathe.

4. I love those packages of processed snack crackers.

…cream cheese and chive, peanut butter, those weird cheese crackers with peanut butter in them…they’re all good, and if I have a choice between those and any sort of Clif, Pro, or Honey Stinger, I’ll choose the cheap crackers every time.

A backpacker’s best friend.  Photo from Lance.com

5. I’ve never built a fire on a backpacking trip. 

I know people do; there are fire rings at almost every camp we find.  For us, though, the reasons not to build a fire far outweigh the reasons to make one.  If we’d all fallen in an icy creek or gotten soaking wet in a rainstorm, sure, we probably would attempt to make a fire then for safety / health reasons.  Otherwise it just doesn’t seem worth it.  Fires make you smell like a campfire for the entire length of your trip.  They “leave a trace” and they create potential for forest fires.  That’s probably my biggest concern.  Wildfires are nothing to mess around with, and starting a fire in the middle of the wilderness just seems like too big a risk to take.

Your Turn: Come on…I know you’ve got backpacking secrets!  What are they?

# Comments

  • carsuek

    Love this! I admit I’ve definitely gone four days without washing or brushing my hair, but when you’re out enjoying the wilderness, it is not a big deal. I actually think my hair looks best in its four-day nest.

    • mtbikerchick

      Love the 4 day nest 😉

  • Greg Heil

    Confession: I have never bathed on a backpacking trip, much less even thought about washing my hair.

    Think I gotcha beat on numbers 2 and 3… 😉

    • mtbikerchick

      I’m glad I’ve never had to share a tent with you 😉

      • Greg Heil


    • JohnH

      I agree. There is nothing more liberating than going a week of only taking “birdbaths”

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