Pack-weight is an important consideration when hiking long-distances. Typically, aspiring thru-hikers start with heavy packs, and gradually we find ways to reduce our weight along the trail. When I set out on the Appalachian Trail my pack weighed 54 pounds! Little things make a collective difference. Pack weight determines how nimble and how lite we are on our feet, and eventually the most stubborn hikers begin to relinquish unnecessarily heavy things. By the time I summited Mount Katahdin my pack was 20 pounds lighter. This ultra-lite philosophy is applicable for both wilderness backpacking and arguably for life in general.
Our packs are weighted differently, and we all hit limits to our capacity to burden a heavy load. We often resist advice about ways to reduce pack weight, and to our detriment we often choose to carry a heavy load way farther than necessary—wearing ourselves down along the way. Some people are born with a heavy pack, others get weighted down along the way. Part of the benefit of wilderness travel and distance hiking is that we place ourselves in situations in which we more directly confront and learn to manage our pack-weight, and we explore ways to literally and metaphorically lighten up!
Wilderness expeditions and wilderness therapy teach us to better manage pack-weight and cope with the stresses of life. Often people turn and face heavy burdens such as grief, parental divorce, negative self-perceptions, perfectionism, a heavy conscience and shame. Unexpressed intense emotions and unprocessed adverse experiences frequently interfere with familial connections. Wilderness therapy often involves processing difficult experiences that can weigh a person and a family down and adversely impact healthy relationships. Opening up a heartfelt channel of communication between parents and children often has a profound positive effect of mending emotional wounds and strengthening relationships. Life does become heavy, and we are at times reliant upon a therapeutic process to assist us in working through the burdens that life places on our shoulders. What’s in your pack?