How I Ended up with a Jacket that Makes Me Look Like a Breath Mint
In my former, non-hiking, life, I selected my wardrobe based on style, color, fit, price, quality, and whether an item flattered me or not. Not that I was ever really into fashion, but when necessity drove me to the mall, one of my top considerations was always how a piece of clothing looked.
Once I started seriously considering an AT thru-hike, though, I realized that approach wouldn’t work. Hiking the steep, rocky Appalachian Trail is tough enough without a pack. There was no way I was going to lug forty or fifty pounds up and down those mountains for ten to twelve hours a day and do it for months on end. To have even the remotest chance of making it from end to end I needed to pack light. Really, insanely light.
That meant I had to scrutinize every potential piece of gear and clothing with new criteria — its utility and weight. If I didn’t need it, I wouldn’t get it. If it wasn’t light enough, I’d cross it off my list — because every single ounce I carried would put additional stress on my knees and feet. It takes roughly five million steps to complete a thru-hike. I couldn’t afford to cart a bunch of heavy clothes around, no matter how cute they looked.
Which is how I ended up with jacket that makes me look like a breath mint. Sure, it’s ugly. But it’s down, which should keep me warm in camp at night. It fits inside its own pocket, a pretty nifty feature, I think. And I’m absolutely thrilled by the weight – a mere 6.4 ounces! Never mind that my husband’s first question when he saw it was whether or not it could be dyed. By buying it in an offbeat color, I got it for less than half of list price.
So I’m slowly and ruthlessly acquiring my hiking wardrobe. Nothing matches. It’s an odd accumulation of clashing “performance” clothes I’d never wear in my normal life. But I’m weirdly proud of every item, actually feeling gleeful when each piece arrives in the mail because damn, these puppies are light. And considering some of the bizarre get-ups I’ve spotted on the trail — including slippers and flannel pajamas — I figure the stranger I look, the more I’ll feel right at home. All I have to do now is roll in the muck and dirt to get that real thru-hiker look — assuming the dirt doesn’t weigh too much!
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