How Minimalism Prepared Me for Thru-Hiking

What Is Minimalism?

Perhaps you’ve heard of some of the more famous minimalists. Marie Kondo and The Minimalists have convinced people around the world to abandon clutter and shed personal possessions. They promise physical, financial, and emotional freedom. The Minimalists define minimalism as “… a lifestyle that helps people question what things add value to their lives. By clearing the clutter from life’s path, we can all make room for the most important aspects of life: health, relationships, passion, growth, and contribution.”

As a travel nurse I quickly realized I would need to liquidate up to 80% of what I owned in order to streamline the process of packing up and moving every three to six months. I watched the popular film, “Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things.” I sat on my living room floor carefully examining each and every one of my belongings. Does this item serve a purpose in my life? When is the last time I used this thing? Do I love this enough to move it over 3,000 miles across the country with me? Does this spark joy?

After a few successful Craigslist deals and too many trips to  Goodwill, I whittled my belongings down to what I considered the essentials. Now, I travel light with enough clothing and outdoor gear to get through each season. I am proud of the fact that my partner and I can fit everything we own (including a very cute cat) into my Jeep.

Packed and ready to road trip 11 hours from Arizona to California!

Cool, I Thought This Was About Backpacking

I shared with my friend Amanda Monthei that I would be comparing our DIY Argentina fly fishing trip backpacks to my bare-bones thru-hiking pack. She responded appropriately, “I’m embarrassed for us… we looked like idiots hiking 10 miles (to a place with no fish) with 55 pounds of fishing gear.”

70L gypsy pack bursting at the seams

Waders, wading boots, fly rods, spools of tippet, and streamers have no place in my PCT pack, but what are my other options for slimming down this ridiculous pack?

Minimalism taught me how to calculate the value an object brings to my life. Necessity, quality, and durability command my purchases. This new perspective prepared me for thru-hiker packing lists. The type that sometimes refers to your second pair of underwear as a luxury item.

How It Translates

When I’m considering what will go into my pack I answer a few questions:

  1. Do I NEED this?
  2. Will I be significantly more uncomfortable without it?
  3. Is this item multipurpose?
  4. Do I have another item that could serve this purpose?
  5. Could my hiking partner and I share this (carry only one)?
  6. Could I easily get this item shipped to me if I decide I need it on trail?
  7. How much does it weigh?
  8. How much would it cost to buy something more efficient/lighter?
  9. What did previous thru-hikers decide about this item?
  10. Does this make me look like a cotton-headed ninnymuggins?

Dramatically downsized pack.

What could you do to simplify your life? What could you do to shrink your pack?

Check out my always-evolving gear list! Keep an eye out for coming posts about my favorite pieces of gear. Feel free to ask questions about my gear choices.

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