Feeling Overwhelmed: My Search for Gear

That overwhelming feeling

Saying you’re going to do something is easy, actually doing it is as difficult as you are willing to make it. The easiest thing to do, however, is to give up. There is a word I have found myself using over and over again when I had to describe how I was feeling: overwhelmed. I was constantly feeling overwhelmed, but I never stopped and asked myself why I felt overwhelmed.

In December 2017, I was just planning a trip to the Smoky Mountains, thru-hiking wasn’t even part of my vocabulary yet. My purpose for this trip was to hike and try to find inner peace in the beauty of the mountains. Simple enough. I was set on backpacking, I didn’t want to just base myself at one campsite and do a bunch of day hikes; I wanted to travel around the park seeing the sites and sleeping in the woods (actually back country campsites). All I needed to do was order a few items from REI: a tent, a backpack, a stove, and a sleeping bag.

Before I made any purchases, I decided to look for gear reviews and suggestions online. That is when the world of thru-hiking opened up to me. The reality that I knew nothing quickly set is as I learned that cotton kills, shoes should have ventilation, clothing should be moisture wicking, and above all else, every ounce mattered. Lightweight was the overall suggestion; not just for the big items, but for everything. An unfortunate reality sunk into my brain: lightweight equals high cost.

Overwhelming waterfall

Feeling like these waters.

I’m not good with options

“Save money” was my philosophy at the time; dropping tons of money on lightweight or ultra-lightweight gear seemed very counterproductive to my philosophy. At this point it should be no surprise that I began to feel overwhelmed. Those little voices started speaking to me, “you can’t afford this,” “you’re wasting your time,” “you’ll just quit anyway so why waste the money,” “you’ve too out of shape for this,” “you just can’t do it.”

The problem, however, had nothing to do with money or even the cost of the gear. The problem was me. I had become so used to feeling overwhelmed about everything that I would make myself feel overwhelmed about everything. This was my way of justifying my actions, or lack thereof. If I was overwhelmed, then I couldn’t do it, so I shouldn’t try. I had to face reality, I was afraid of failure. You see, things in my life were not going to way I wanted so I felt like a failure, and this was just going to be one more thing I would fail at and let everyone down. In reality, the only reason I was a failure was because I called myself a failure. I had been doing that a lot, a constant self-deprecation, calling myself overwhelmed, out of shape, tired, fat, ugly, and probably a lot of other bad things. The irony of this is that I am pretty sure no one who knows me thinks of me as any of those things.

Not feeling overwhelmed

This is how I want to feel.

Making changes

Self-realization is a powerful tool and something we often ignore. I was not taking responsibility for any of my emotions. I was depressed and the whole smile and look on the bright side thing wasn’t working for me, so I gave myself plenty of reasons to be depressed. The fact of the matter was that I had no reason to feel overwhelmed, I had months to plan and months to buy gear. Instead of quitting I decided to be active, and I was active in the simplest way possible. I googled “inexpensive backpacking gear.” It was then that I found some YouTube videos about cost effective gear options from a hiker named Darwin. Darwin on the Trail is a popular hiking vlog and just listening to him made me realize that I didn’t have to drop a ton of money, and especially, I didn’t have to feel overwhelmed.

I committed to hiking by purchasing my first piece of gear. Darwin had recommended the Flagship X Cree LED Camping Headlamp, which was purchased on Amazon for about $8. It’s weird to say it; but purchasing that eight dollar headlamp was the start of me taking responsibility for how I felt. I was defining myself and I would not define myself as a failure anymore. When it arrived, I felt an odd sense of excitement, especially because the headlamp was very, very, light.

Lightweight headlamp

I didn’t take a picture of mine, so here’s a stock photo.

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Comments 3

  • Greg Gibson : Feb 17th

    Greetings from Utah! THIS IS A TERRIFIC POST. I wrote down some quotes in my journal. Thank you ?

  • Deb Voorhorst : Mar 30th

    Wow, my favorite writer on all the Trek blogs! So honest and introspective, you have my support and i am eager to follow your journey!

    • Matt : Apr 3rd

      Thanks for your support! I appreciate it so much.


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