There’s a saying among backpackers. “You pack your fears.”
If we fear the night, we pack a tent as if that thin nylon material will somehow make us safer. If we fear animals, we pack bear spray, knives, or even guns. If we fear we won’t have enough food or water, we bring extra. If we fear we’ll get hurt, we bring an oversized first aid kit and a satellite communicator.
We carry these things for miles and days. Most of us rarely ever use them. We carry our fears until something convinces us it’s not worth it.
Granted, one could make the case that carrying our fears isn’t a bad thing at all. When we were injured, that satellite communicator saved our life or that bear spray gave us the courage to fend off that griz or that extra liter of water helped a hiker who was dehydrating. All things worth taking along in those cases.
But when we decide to set aside our fears, we resolve the burden of the carry. When we shed our fears, we open the possibility of going greater distances and higher climbs. When we no longer carry our fears, we give ourselves permission to explore beyond what we thought we were capable; we feel deeper; we enjoy freedoms we’ve never experienced before. Unpacking our fears is liberating; it’s living fuller.
There are many life lessons in backpacking. Carrying our fears in our backpacks, as in our lives, creates unhealthy and unreasonable limitations, weakens our spirit, and numbs our willingness to go beyond our capabilities, to test fate, or to live by faith.
Unpacking our fears and leaving them behind has an opposite effect. It can put us in a whole new and different life experience. Walking without fear opens us up to take in all the fullness life has to offer, helps us embrace our true capabilities, and breaks down the walls that keep us from our full potential.
Don’t misunderstand. I’m not advising that we should be foolish out in the wild. We should be safe and aware, but not in an overboard way that steals away our best experiences. Bringing the 10 essentials is reasonable: navigation, headlamp, sun protection, first aid, knife, fire, shelter, food, water, and clothing. Anything beyond that is probably catering to some element of unreasonable fear.
So, before your next backpacking trip, decide to unpack one of your fears by either eliminating or reducing items we carry. Then unpack another the next time. Soon you will feel the weight lift and you’ll begin to take in a greater appreciation of yourself and the richness of nature around you.