Preparing Through the Camping Store Scare

Walk Into A Camping Store Like “What up! I am not prepared!

You’re preparing to do a massive hike so, naturally, you go to a camping store. As the Store Associate is asking if she can help you find anything, you stand frozen and tell yourself to take a chill pill. Except that doesn’t work, because you’re floundering and thinking and start asking questions because everyone in the stores and on the Internet is giving you different answers and you have no idea if you’re doing anything right. Actually at this point, it seems completely reasonable to assume you know nothing. This is the end. Unpack your bags. Maybe start crying. The Store Associate will not know what to do.

Courtsey of Gerald_G at OpenClipart

This is you DOING YOUR HIKE. The only thing you have too much of is SHEER CONFIDENCE!

Hold up, friend!

Chill pills might not work, but that doesn’t mean you need to panic or quit. We can get through this. Repeat after me:

I am a boss and I am going to do this hike. 

I am a novice backpacker. If you are, too, know that you are not alone. If you aren’t, share the love, share the knowledge, we novices are ready for your infinite wisdom.

How Do I Find My Confidence While I’m Preparing?

So I did a thing last week, which was getting shepherded around L.L. Bean and REI. Wow. Let me tell you. Wow. I’ve never been in a hiking store before, and certainly never with such purpose. “Overwhelmed” doesn’t even really begin to describe the feelings inside me.

This experience was excruciating but necessary in preparing for a hike as massive as the AT. The only way to learn is to dive right in. If you’re as inexperienced as me, things will get worse before they get better but THAT’S OK! 

Most importantly? Write. Everything. Down. I have been saved a million times by lists and mental ramblings.

Lists are fairly obvious in the ways they help.

  1. They separate everything for you
  2. So that it all looks nice
  3. And organized.
  4. Look at this beauty! Your thoughts! They’re so organized!
  5. You’re set with this list as your net.
  6. Go get ’em champ.

They’re really good to scramble together as your Store Associate is babbling on about all the stuff she does and uses. There’s no way you’ll remember it all (and actually, you probably won’t have to. A lot of the things that he/she’s doing won’t work best for you).

Now, the ramblings? Those are just as important. How are you feeling right now? Have a conversation with yourself, work it out. You’d be surprised how much better you can make yourself feel once you’re honest with yourself. It will help you track your changes; it will make your growth tangible!

The Second Most Important Thing?

People who work at camping stores are not God. 

They are SUPER HELPFUL, super beautiful people who have a wealth of knowledge. They’re also probably more experienced. But they are not superior to you. Do not take their word as the end-all-be-all. I began my journey doing that, and I became a weak sheep. There’s no way the hike can truly become yours if you’re being commanded by anyone.

Courtesy of frankes on OpenClipart


Listen to what they have to say because you’re going to need that knowledge. Nod and agree, ask questions, and if they shove things into your hands? Don’t be afraid to say “I think I’ll check back on this later” (or do what I did, and just discreetly put it back after he walks away…). There’s tons of different ways to do things! So hear them out, and then go home with your lists and find the one that works best for you. 



After all is said and done, I hope you saunter confidently back into REI and say, “Hey lady, I know what I need. Give it to me, baby.” 




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Comments 2

  • Ruby Throat : Mar 14th

    Hey, and if it turns out you don’t need that chair or that collapsible sink on your thru-hike, the beautiful people at REI will take it back, no questions asked. Hope to see you out there, Spooner! H ike happy! RubyThroat

  • Therese Masotta : Mar 14th

    So true, I appreciate those humans so hard for their return policy. Right back atchya RubyThroat! Go GET ’em!


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