Thinkin' Out Loud

What’s In Your Pack?

One night last week, one of my dear friends from the olden days, Steve Cooper, stopped by for an impromptu visit as he was passing through my neck of the woods.  I love it when that happens — an old friend rings you up and drops in for a visit.  I think we need more impromptu visiting in our society and less scheduling.   So what if I have a giant tent made out of sheets and dining room chairs in my den?  Real friends don’t care.

I haven’t seen Steve for a couple of years and it’s always a treat when our paths cross.  Steve does all kinds of interesting and unusual things and it’s always fascinating to catch up with him and listen to his stories.  For example, last year he walked from the heel in the boot of Italy all the way to Santiago, Spain over a period of six months.  Walked!  He didn’t have hotel reservations, he just let each day unfold, walking from town to town and stopping when he was tired.  Sometimes he stayed in hotels, sometimes he stayed in hostels and sometimes he camped out.   

This trek was something that he had wanted to do for a number of years and last year, he decided that the time was right. He took a sabbatical from his college teaching position, sold his house and put anything he cared about in storage and put the rest in a backpack and got on a plane for Europe.  And oh the stories he has collected along the way and the people he met and the serendipity and the living in the moment!  It seems so much easier to live that kind of life when you are weighed down only by what you can carry.  You can read all about his adventures in his book Six Months Walking the Wilds.

For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of his adventure is this idea of putting everything you own in a backpack.  I try to imagine sorting through my stuff and deciding what to take and what to leave beind.  This week, it’s a thought that I can’t seem to put away.  What would I put in my pack to sustain me for six months? What? A Bible? An itty bitty slim Apple laptop? Immodium? Paper and pencil? A change of undies? Chapstick? Photos? Nail file? iPod?  What?

I’m curious, if you had to carry with you everything you needed, and carry it in a pack and carry it for six months, what would you take?  What?

Clarification: Imagine that it’s just you, not your kid and all their crud, because that makes the game too complicated. I know that’s kind of hard to imagine, but just try.

* * * * *

Speaking of backpacks! The Lands End people have offered me one of their fabulous backpacks to give away, so stop by tomorrow for the details.

43 thoughts on “What’s In Your Pack?

  1. You do realize you’re asking this question to a bunch of moms, right? I think they’re gonna be some mule trains involved not just measly old backpacks.

    I’m trying to imagine stuffin’ my 3 yo in a pack. And then I’ll have to have at least 1 change of clothes b/c he can’t seem to get through a day w/o pooping on SOMEthing!

    OK…I’ll play…suspending disbelief) Bible. Water bottle. Devotional. Journal. Definitely undies. Camera. Cell phone. I feel that I NEED an extra pair of shoes almost as much as undies. Deoderant. Snacks, definitely snacks. DEFinitely lip balm. ?? That’s all I got at the moment.

  2. Camera (with lots and lots of memory), toothbrush, cell phone with at least limited internet connection, MY pillow, chapstick, yeah, and probably my baby! 🙂

  3. Sunscreen; camera with extra memory stick, extra set of batteries and charger; cell phone and charger; simple language dictionary; extra pair of glasses; sewing kit and small project; water bottle; some sort of waterproof poncho that could double as a shelter or sleeping surface; toothbrush, toothepaste, comb, deodorant and mascara; matches; packets of Splenda and Crystal Light; binoculars; map; 2 extra changes of underwear and small bottle of concentrated liquid all-purpose soap for washing me, my hair, and my clothes.

    Since I couldn’t tote along the C-PAP too, it would probably be a short trip, as I would most likely die in my sleep.

  4. How big can this back pack be? Cause I can carry a HUGE amount of weight! Sheesh – where will I start & end?! Well, here goes…

    Bible, Liv’s books, tons of clothes, flip flops, socks (I suppose I’d be wearing my tennis shoes…) bras, underwear – TONS of undies, my camera, it’s charger, my dozen memory cards, a pen & journal, paper, envelopes, & stamps, toiletries, tooth brush & tooth paste, shampoo & conditioner, extra contacts, solution, & glasses, sunglasses, water bottle, snackies for my kiddo, Liv’s doll, clothes for her, diapers & wipes, survival kits, chap stick, lots of pony tail holders, sunscreen, bug spray, and a cell phone & charger…

    OK, I think that’s about EVERYTHING! (Except for the kitchen sink…!) I can’t shake this napping feeling that I’ve forgotten something, though…

    I’ll remember it tomorrow :o)

    OH NO! My brush! Either that or my loooong hair is gonna meet its untimely end! Haha – thanks for the thought-provoking backpack post! Much love to you & yours, take care & God Bless


  5. Utterly fascinating question….thank you for starting my morning right! *grin*

    I’ll have to think about this and get back to you, though…

    another “antique”

  6. As I am packing up my house to put it on the market/move, I’m a little too overwhelmed to figure out what I WOULD take, but I definitely know what I WOULDN’T take. 🙂 I bet the stories you heard during your friend’s visit were wonderful.

  7. A brush, chapstick, my mp3 player, a change or two of undies and socks, toothbrush, camera, Journal and although she wouldn’t go in my backpack, my dog Molly. She would love to walk until her legs fell off. I would ahve to leave Sam at homewith Grandpa.

  8. I would have to take a Carmex brand chapstick because I can’t even go to the mailbox without that and I’d have to get one of those super thin Apple laptops because if I couldn’t write about the experience, there’d be no point in going. And I’d take a supersmall digital camera. After that, it would just be the basics of undies and a hat.

  9. Well, if I can imagine that I’m not having to pack for my son, I can also imagine that no female unpleasantness is going to occur. So in my pack, I would have an extra change of clothes, bandaids (probably for blisters from walking), extra undies (in addition to my extra clothes), sunblock (VERY fair skin, here!), a hat, a foldable parka, a water bottle, my iPod, a mp3 Bible (they have a name, but I’ve forgotten it), hairbrush, chapstick, bug repellant, toothbrush, toothpaste, my camera, battery charger and extra batteries, cell phone with internet, and a brand-new credit card with a high limit (for meals, rooms, etc.). Can I also pack someone to carry my pack for me?

  10. I would leave all technical devices at home. No cell phone, no computer, no ipod. All eyes and ears to God’s amazing creation. I would take my bible, journal, shampoo, a change of clothes and a couple pairs of undies and socks, o.k. one technical device – my camera, so I could remember where I had visited ; )
    My question is how does one become so brave that they pack up their house and walk around Europe, I want to be just like him when I grow up.

  11. Comfortable shoes & lots & lots of clean socks, my Bible, a photograph of my family, personal hygiene products, camera, supply of pens and paper, unlimited calling card, Ipod and my allergy spray!

  12. Ahhhh. What a great idea to imagine six months to reflect and catch up! Glasses (because I wouldn’t mess with contacts), notebooks and pens to record all is revealing in the quiet, camera with big memory card, hat and sunglasses, comfortable shoes, Bible…I feel giddy thinking about all I could do without like makeup, hair product, electric curlers…you get the picture. I remember a missionary friend telling me the hardest part of returning to “civilization” after 2 years in the wilds of Africa was going down the chip aisle in the grocery store. Working with starving children vs. 300 different kinds of chips to choose from. You’ve sealed the deal on what my quiet time will be about today…

  13. If I have internet connection: A computer. I do almost everything online now-a-days. But if I had to be out with a backpack my life would probably be in a different place, so… I guess I’d have to adjust for how I’d be spending those six months.

    …I know that’s not an answer, but each situation is so different [smile].


  14. When we celebrate Passover (we’re Jewish), the festival of freedom, I think about what it would have been like to leave Egypt on a moments notice. Sometimes I ask my kids if they had to pack only a backpack, very quickly, what would they take? It makes me think about what we really need.

    My favorite part of the story is that Miriam (and the women) took their timbrels. Leave it to the women to know that there would be something to celebrate and to sing praises.

    As for me, I would take my medicine (especially my clarinex), and bunch of wipes and antibacterial stuff, my sneakers and extra socks and underwear, a large spiral notebook and pens. It would be great to have a book and music–but I often have enough goind on in my head to keep me entertained. And I hope I would remember my timbrel.

  15. Fern, what a wonderful exercise to mentally put yourself in the middle of God’s stories and imagine what it would be like and what you would do. The story of Passover is one of my favorites.

  16. Well, y’all hit most of what was in my pack…uh…except for the feminine products, I guess, and definitely no cell phone.

    You called it right, Antique Mommy–lots of “stuff” gets dumped from packs along the way. There’s a “leave one/take one” shelf in a Spanish hostel where pilgrims leave things that they decided they don’t need or are too heavy to carry. A few of the things that came OUT of the packs after one day of the pilgrims’ walk into Spain:
    1 camp skillet
    2 rolled, foam-rubber sleeping mats
    1 army surplus pup tent
    1 pair of boots
    7 assorted socks
    4 shirts
    12 books–trail guides, novels, 2 Spanish
    dictionaries, inspirational mediations
    2 Bibles
    2 towels–large, terry-cloth ones
    3 family sized bottles of shampoo
    1 blanket

    Our daily walk can be hard enough without hauling around extra baggage…of any kind. Life is good. Eat, breathe, walk. Happy trails. SC

    (What an interesting collection of writers you have on this site!)

  17. I’m going to take a stab at this. I’d probably bring a water bottle, chapstick, my small Bible, a journal and pen, a small camera, a small scissors, and a change of clothes.

    I’m sure there’d be more, but that’s my initial list. 🙂

  18. I loved Fern’s comments.

    With envy I always gaze at those that can carry everything on their back. Those who can go where the wind takes them, relish the adventure, and live on faith. My current high maintenence routine of lotions and potions alone would require a pack mule.

    If I was given the gift of 6 months, I think it would be amazingly liberating to see how little one really needs. The must haves for me would be my contacts to see the world, comfortable shoes, and a spirit of adventure and calm to go with the flow.

  19. Ever since boarding school, I have had practice packing lightly. If you ride the bus, you learn quickly. But I’ve never had to pack THIS lightly. Here’s my stab at it:

    Book of John Donne’s poetry
    lots of extra apirs of undies
    light sandals (I’d wear my boots)
    light skirt or dress
    water bottle
    extra pair or spectacles
    first aid kit
    cell phone

  20. Oh boy…

    This is a tough one.

    I would pack my slim line Bible, my cell phone, my camera, some kind of mini computer, a wireless card, some products girls must have, a sweatshirt and a wad of cash. Oh and because no southern girl can live without it… a hairdryer and some hair spray. I do have priorities you know.

    Can I also pack someone who is in the mood to follow me around for 6 months carrying all this mess? Yes, that would be a must!

  21. Oh No! The first thing I thought of was a pair of clippers and a charger to keep my head shaved. My hair wouldn’t make it a day much less 6-months. And…hair will always grow back. Right? 😀

    Just how big is this backpak? I sure hope they make them in U-Haul size cause if not, i’d never make it. 😉

  22. chocolate. End of story. (Can you tell what time of the month it is?)

    Of couse, after I ate all the chocolate, I’d probably need bigger pants, so throw a set of those in too.

  23. Wow…how awesome would that be! Let’s see what would I take?!

    I would definitely need some comfy flip flops to let my toes breathe. At least one lightweight sundress and a couple other light pieces of clothing, a change of undies, lipbalm, hair ties, a smart phone (so I can blog and have access to an online Bible), a small journal/sketchbook and writing/drawing utensils, a small camera and the necessities to keep it going, my Ipod, a small makeup bag with the bare necessities (mascara, coverup, blush, moisturizer), first aid type stuff and a pillow.

    That’s what came immediately to mind but I have a feeling I will be considering this for the rest of the day!

  24. I would have to think about this – but I can tell you with certainty that it would be much less than I THINK I need. In my youth I backpacked across Europe for a couple of weeks and after the first couple of days I was jettisoning things. You find you need a LOT less when you have to haul it around on your back 18 hours a day.

  25. lip balm, Vick’s inhaler, handkerchief, hat, small Bible, a change of underwear,water bottle, toothbrush, spare eyeglasses, LUSH solid shampoo bar,and an ID (so they would know who I am when they find me passed out somewhere along the way)

  26. On a related note, I’ve read some of what “guynameddave” ( has to say about a challenge to live with only 100 personal items for a year. I think he may stretch the definitions a bit by including a few groupings of items counted as one, but he has far surpassed what I would be able to do! This idea has started many interesting conversations in our household lately!

  27. Diva Cup
    Small plastic container of baking soda (for brushing teeth, washing hair, and dabbing on pits)
    Wallet (with ID, debit/credit cards, etc.)
    Bible and Book of Common Prayer
    Spare undies
    Spare socks (to wear under my walking boots)
    Lightweight sarong (can function as scarf, belt, skirt, etc.)
    And, although I loved Veronica Mitchell’s idea about Donne, I’d have to bring a volume of Wordsworth
    And The Brothers Karamazov
    And I’d either bring a journal & pen, or a camera, but not both.

  28. TWEEZERS!!! Seriously I would go crazy if I couldn’t pluck my random chin hairs. I’m so sure some of you ladies understand this need!

  29. I would stuff it full of cash to rent cars with and stay in nice hotels with. Cause who am I kidding, I am the least “backpack across anywhere” type of person I know.

  30. Oh Christin, take it form someone who has spent their entire life being afraid…the first step is the hardest but you gotta take chances…

  31. OOOOHHHHH. My Bible. A slim tough built laptop. L’oreal Volumizing Black mascara ( sorry it’s a habit ). Burt’s Bees colored lip gloss in a 50 pack! Sun screen lotion. A razor. ( I can’t sleep if my legs are stubbly.) A book I like to read over and over. Containers of wet towelettes. Toothbrush/paste. Lots of black knit easy to wad up comfy tops/pants. Flashlight. GPS tracker. I am not geographically literate. Nor do I get the N/S/E/W concept. Maybe I better stay home and read Steve’s book.

  32. Oh yeah, my tweezers too. Obviously, I would never make it and my intentions would not be for the same reasons as I’m sure his were. Mine would be to survive and get home.

  33. “Loaded” credit card
    MRE’s (meals ready to eat)
    Telephone book
    Leatherman (utility knife)

  34. I could totally do this . . . lemme put my kids out of my mind first . . . one moment please . . . OK, that’s not gonna happen. So I’ll “virtual” pack and then take out there crap 😉

    credit card
    tiny laptop to download camera photos
    2 extra pair of my favorite Merrel hiking shoes
    5 pair of comfy socks
    5 pair of undies
    5 t-shirts
    3 pair of shorts
    packable sleeping bag
    Water bottle
    utility knife

    The rest you can get along the way 🙂

  35. I’m currently trying to fit my life and the life of my family into 10 suitcases, so this hits a little close to home. I do know that I wouldn’t take as many books if I was backpacking.
    I’m so glad I’m not backpacking to Morocco. Of course, he backpacked for only 6 months and then came back to all his stuff.
    And it sounds fascinating! I wish I could spend an evening listening to his stories as well!

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