Just after high school, some friends and I went on a short hiking trip that would inform my opinion on "proper" hiking gear. As with most stories that begin like this, it is not a tale of success and pride. Sadly, it is one of shortsightedness and hard luck. But everyone says you learn from your mistakes and are reassured by your successes.
All 6 of us met up at the campsite and locked up most of our supplies into the guy's car with the least amount of gas in the tank. (I'm starting to think that that was a lifestyle choice instead of merely a convenient way of getting out of things.) From there, we would carpool to the trailhead and walk about 5 miles along the trail back.
A crucial part of this story is a thing I can't really explain the "Why" of, other than to say that you do things when you are 19 that make no sense. Although we dropped off our gear, we decided to take our bags with us. We wanted to feel like "real" hikers or some romantic notion thereof. So, all of my friends were carrying their clothes and water bottles on their backs. I, however, was only toting a regular backpack because I had brought a small rolling suitcase and a small backpack. In order to join in on the trek, I used the bag that had been my school bag just 8 months prior.
Here are the contents of my bag on that hike:
- 1 Glass bottle of some cheap fizzy fruit drink with a metal cap. (This will come into play later)
- 2 rolls of toilet paper
- 6 granola bars
- 3 pillow cases (white-ish)
- Small first-aid kit
- 2 sets of keys
- 1 set of playing cards
- 2 light jackets (carried for a friend)
Hardly a hiking pack, but it can contain a medium sized drink spill.
Seeing as how I didn't have a full load to carry, my friends unburdened themselves into my pack. It should come as no surprise that the aforementioned fruit drink bottle capsized in my bag and drenched most of it's contents. In retrospect, it may have been because we were acting like children, jumping from rock to rock and army crawling under branches.
When we finally made camp, we discarded our packs and set to work arguing about placement of the tent and building a fire. Meanwhile, in the bag, the faulty metal cap had give up the goat and covered everything with a reddish/pinkish corn syrup mess.
In the process, I severely compromised a set of playing cards, dyed every band aid pink, and most egregiously destroyed two-thirds of our toilet paper for the weekend. The car keys were not damaged because as poor college kids in the early 2000s, no one was driving a car with keyless entry. Yet another reason why you shouldn't have nice things at that age.
The toilet paper and the playing cards were a disappointment. The real tragedy was the destruction of the pillow cases because my friend's mom told us to take them on the trip. Some of the guys were using older pillows that smelled like mothballs, so this was a last-minute fix on the way out the door. (Which is why I had them stuffed in my bag). It was a tough choice to make: either smell mothballs all night, or stale fruity drink stink.
Oddly enough, she was the one that insisted that I take the fruit drink. She was likely just trying to get rid of them as they weren't very good.
Don't make the same mistake I did. Get a quality hiking backpack that can be used for a daily bag, too. And, make sure it has an externally mounted bottle carrier pouch. Not only that, get a better bottle.
And, where should you do that? Well, right here, of course: