When There's No Such Thing As Too Much Paracord, You Can't Go Counting Ounces
Deaken Boggs, aka Dooter Man, is the winning guest contributor for April and proud new owner of an Airlite 16. Boggs is a college student at University of Wisconsin Stevens Point, studying natural resource planning and sustainable energies. An avid outdoorsman and hiker, he also loves to mountain bike, downhill ski, fish and canoe.
A couple of years ago I went to a semester school in northern Wisconsin called Conserve School. With a program focus in environmental conservation and stewardship, we took many hiking, biking, canoeing and camping trips, but the best and biggest trip was a 51-mile North Country Trail hike. We did it in six days, averaging eight-and-a-half miles a day.
If I had listened to some people when it came to pack choice, I wouldn't have my trail name or the great lessons it has taught me. Everyone warned me against a heavier pack, insisting that the weight was the biggest factor in the trip prep and as long as everything weighed less I would be a happy camper.
Now this trip was the first "real trip" I had ever done. I had camped outside a few times and went on hikes, but I had never taken on such a distance without the added comfort of a bed to come home to. Now considering all of this, I was nervous and wasn't sure what to expect.
Several of my trip mates were very experienced in doing big trips like this, so I took a lot of advice from them. Things like pack only the bare essentials and pack as light as possible were some of the obvious things that I already knew, but they taught me little tricks like you can cut a toothbrush to be smaller while still being able to use it, or if you are considering bringing spices because you don't want your food to taste bland, maybe ultra light backpacking isn't really your style.
This was all solid advice, and I listened to most of it except for two pieces of advice. These were the two best things I could have not listened to. They both taught me very important lessons about backpacking and life in general.
These two pieces of advice were seemingly unrelated but end up going hand in hand. The first was to go for a lighter-weight, less durable backpack than the Deuter Aircontact 65+10 that I ended up choosing. The other was don't bring so much paracord.
Now a good question would be, "how much paracord did you bring," assuming I brought a little extra for hanging bear bags or tying up a hammock, so maybe around 30 or 40 feet of paracord. And yes, 30 or 40 feet of paracord actually does sound reasonable, however, when I tell you I brought 400 feet of paracord along with me your jaw may drop as it has with others I've told. Yes, I brought 400 feet of paracord with me on a 51 mile, 6-day trip where no climbing was done at all.
It's one of the dumber things I've done, but it taught me a lot. First, don't bring 400 feet of paracord unless you are going to need it. Second, sometimes you will make a mistake that will affect you the entire trip, and that's alright -- learn from it, like I did, and remember how to prevent it from happening in the future. That obnoxious amount of paracord taught me that not every idea is a good idea, so consider the risks and rewards beforehand.
Looking back on the trip I don't have a big regret about bringing the paracord. It made a good story and it really goes on to highlight how choosing the Deuter backpack for the trip was best decision I made. It may weigh a few ounces more than other packs, but when you're carrying an extra 400 feet of paracord, the extra gear-hauling support goes a long, long way.
While pack shopping I looked at cheap flimsy packs that would give me more money to spend on a good sleeping bag and other gear as well as the super-expensive, ultralight, tricked-out packs that basically hiked the trail for you. Like everyone else, I wanted every pack I saw. They all looked flashy and had all of these awesome features that were hard to say no to.
But there was one big thing that stuck out to me, and that was durability. There wasn't a single pack that looked like it could take a tumble with me down a hill and survive unscathed. That was until I went to a shop in Rhinelander that sold Deuter packs. I went and tried them on, and they did feel heavier than the other packs I was used to, but I liked that the extra weight was from sturdy materials and construction. Thats what really caught me about Deuter packs in the first place. They have this initial feeling of strength and durability that I don't feel in other packs. They are packs that if a bear decided to get curious and explore them, I feel confident that they would hold up well, whereas other packs would get torn to shreds. But this isn't just about the pack, its about the journey it took along with me on my way to becoming Dooter man.
While on trail, several of my trip mates started to refer to me as Deuter because my name is close to Deuter, and they thought it was funny. I really started to like the nickname and decided I wanted to be called Deuter man. However, one of my trip mates decided that Dooter man was a better fit and the name really stuck. From then on my trail name has been Dooter man and it has taken on an almost super hero quality in my eyes where Dooter man embodies everything about a Deuter backpack, hardiness, durability, and strength even at the expense of a little extra weight.
I love to hear other people's suggestions when it comes to planning trips, but I never pack or buy exactly what they recommend. I will take what I believe is necessary but if I find something that I don't believe I need or something that I think they left out I'm going to bring it. What works for one person might not work for another, so learn to make your own decisions. The trip taught me a lot about camping and hiking, and it was a fantastic experience to make mistakes and learn from them rather than just getting burdened down from them!