The Backpacker’s Mentality


There seem to be some common threads in the mindsets of those who must carry everything on their back:

  • That flexibility, ingenuity, and humor more important than technology;
  • That comfort is often more of an inconvenience than a necessity;
  • That gratitude for little things is the best entertainment (think Survivorman eating a toasted Witchetty grub);
  • To tread lightly – not only is it less work, it preserves treasures for later;
  • And finally, to travel light – size and weight dominate thinking.

Seriously, I’m debating not bringing a comb to save weight and space. But I woke up in the tent on our shakeout ride and my hair was all wild. This was bad, but not real bad. My hair is short, and I can brush it into shape with my hand (sort of). It’s going under my helmet, anyway. And my appearance is not crucial operationally. There are some women I know whose hair is an asset – to the extent they probably get freebies and better treatment because of it. That doesn’t apply to me. Merrianne wants me to take a comb. What do you think?

It’s less than 3 days until we fly to Fargo. Most of our stuff is staged, but not packed. Before disassembling the bikes, I weighed everything. I weigh 149 pounds. With the fully loaded bike in my hands, the bathroom scale reads 204. I took off all the packs, sleeping bag, tent, and water bottles, and weighed again. 173.5 . That means my bike is 24.5 pounds, including everything that is bolted to it. The rest of the gear – handlebar bag, rear panniers, sleeping pad, sleeping bag, tent, cooking gear, 3 pints of water in the bottles, and all the rest of my stuff – is 30.5 pounds. I was 15 pounds lighter on the previous tour 20 years ago. That’s like a pound a year!

Elliot has less weight, both on himself, and his bike.

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