One of the central questions that comes up in the planning process of a thru hike is what do I need and how do I relate or not relate to my “stuff?” What can I live without and what do I feel is a necessity versus a luxury? Who am I once I am stripped naked of all the clutter and material goods?
It has been interesting planning this thru hike with a partner because this questioning process can be more obvious when you see it in someone else. Something Jamie might feel is necessary I might think it is excessive or not totally necessary, and vice versa. Perhaps some of it is related to an underlying fear? What we fear the most drives the decision to bring an antidote to that fear, a comfort item perhaps?
Regarding the selection of my first aid kit items, I have noticed that I am not entirely objective in my selection process and tend to cling onto certain items. These items fall into one of two camps. There are the personal care items that I have grown so accustomed to having easy access to during my regular life to keep my body feeling optimal, which are mostly unnecessary (arnica, essential oils, moisturizers, supplements etc). The other camp being items that stem from past experiences or traumas for which I can easily justify a need.
I can talk myself into the many reasons why I might need arnica daily. The aches and pains will be real out there! And I’m pretty sure I would get a ton of use from bringing Helichrysum oil along (it helps with fast wound healing and scarring - it truly is magical and I use it constantly with any skin abrasion or bug bite). But ultimately these items are really not necessary and I can live without them.
I am probably more concerned with insect bites than most, and have perhaps spent too much time researching various repellents and after-bite solutions. I truly have a variety of options in the anti-itch department. I am quite allergic to mosquito bites and due to my autoimmune disease, my body tends to overreact with histamine to the tiniest irritant. So I have a legitimate concern regarding itch that might be greater than most other people. But perhaps my past is clouding my judgment on what is truly necessary to bring in the pharmacy department (I seriously had my half of the ping pong table filled with all possible pharmacy items from antibiotics to tea tree oil to steroid cream to homeopathic arnica).
It cannot all come with me, and I certainly don’t need it all. It hasn’t even been a year since antibiotics saved my life from a trail running fall in Spain. With Lyme disease so prevalent, and falling being a reality, it is easy to talk myself into why bringing some antibiotics along is a good idea (even though I’m the most anti antibiotic person!) I had a systemic infection in my leg last summer and needed two rounds of antibiotics to treat the massive infection from a deep wound from a simple fall. Naturally, the leftover Amoxicillin from that trip might come in handy should someone take a nasty tumble and can’t get into town soon enough - right? Wrong.
I have ultimately decided against taking many of these items (even the all-purpose tea tree oil - which I’m still having trouble saying no to and is lingering near the rest of my gear in case I figure out a lightweight way to sneak it in!).
So who am I in the absence of all the “stuff”? And what do I as a person really need to survive? Not much. I am probably taking too much in the pharmacy department - because “what if?” and “just in case” can creep in to the decision-making process so easily! Even though I have spent a month dwindling down the contents of my pack and asking the opinions of other unbiased people, each week there is more “shake down” and tweaking to think about each and every item to determine their worth to me.
As I continue to shake down and purge the excess from my pack (which, hey, I’m actually doing pretty well with because my pack is still coming in at under 25 lbs with 6 days worth of food), I will continue to ask myself do I really need this item? Am I ok without it? What type of security is it offering me and is that something I can be without? I imagine the shake down process will continue even into the first few weeks while we are on the trail, but it is interesting to ponder who you are without materialistic comforts clouding your life. So far, it has been quite a process of stripping down naked and staring at myself objectively asking myself “do I really need this?” and ultimately deciding I’m ok without it (for the most part!).