For me, the purchase of the backpack would be like water baptism, getting a tattoo, taking initiation into the Hare Krishnas. A point of no turning back has been crossed and you have passed the event horizon of the black hole of your own choosing. On the map of your life, this area is marked with large, dark, fancy script that states: HERE THERE BE DRAGONS!
Ok, maybe that sounds a little extreme but it is close to my thinking and mindset about the whole AT thing. I am now identifying myself as a hiker, not a casual woods person or a day hiker. I am becoming a thru-hiker now.
So my wife and I went to REI in Jacksonville, Florida. It was the first time there for both of us. I knew of REI by a purchase of river boat pants at a Marden’s Store in Maine years ago. I loved those pants but I never knew that they were from a Chain Store until I started looking into hiking the AT.
We arrived the same day that the yard sale was going on. The line to get into the yard sale was very, very long! Since I’m a backpacking virgin and I’m at the hikers prom I was in a hurry to get fitted properly and bond with my soul pack as soon as possible.
We met Lara at the backpack area. One customer said that she was the person to talk to about backpacks so we started talking with Lara. I was amazed at how much actually goes into getting fitted for a backpack. We were at the store for close to 2 hours. Not a bad 2 hours but a very fun and enjoyable 2 hours that I would gladly do again.
Normally people bring all the stuff that they want to pack into the store and get fitted with a backpack that way. You stuff your stuff into the backpack and meander around the store to check fit, feel, etc. We used weighted pillows. I would recommend the former knowing what I know now.
We explained our plans and what our best guess for weight would be and she sized us up. Lara showed me which packs to try. I also did try the ones I thought I wanted online and found out that they wouldn’t work for reasons that only the handling of the merchandise can provide. If you know NOTHING about backpacks and hiking……… DO NOT BUY A BACKPACK ONLINE WITHOUT FIRST TOUCHING AND TRYING IT ON IN PERSON! IF YOU ARE A NEWBIE, ADMIT IT ANDGET SOME HELP BEFORE YOU “SAVE MONEY ON EBAY” ANDGET A BAD, ILL FITTING BACKPACK THAT YOU CAN’T WEAR OR WON’T DO WHAT YOU NEED IT TO DO!
I would have spent the same money I spent on 2 or 3 backpacks easily before I would have found the right one. These backpacks can get expensive! The big three (pack, tent and sleeping bag) are all in the 200-400 range each for a AT thru-hike.
Since I’m on a very, very tight budget I need to get the right stuff the first time. So get fitted for a backpack by an outfitter that knows what to do and has multiple options to show you.
By reading the posts on Whiteblaze.net you find that you can spend a ton of money for stuff.
Or you can just walk into a REI and see it all for yourself.
Those double walled titanium hiking mugs are so light and smooth and nice and indestructible and, after spending 2 hours browsing with a 20 pound weight in a backpack on, you can find that at $45 dollars each you would never have to buy another coffee mug in your life again, ever and convince yourself that it is an unbelievable deal!
Can you see my point now?
Next year for my birthday if any one wants too…Hint Hint!
Follow my journey at http://trailotter.tumblr.com/