Sometimes I get asked why go backpacking? Why wild camp? People seem perplexed at times as to why I need to go, to spend time in the hills away from the comfort of home, and loved ones. Good questions! Ones worth answering, I felt. It's been a subject of discussion of late. I am also interested in what motivates others to go backpacking.
When I was a child my father took me walking in the Peak District, Lake District and Wales. One trip in the Peak District I recall seeing some people with big packs heading up the hillside on Kinder Scout. I was a child then; I asked, 'Where are they going?' My late father explained to me about the Pennine Way - how it was the longest trail in the Pennines. I decided then that one day I would do that walk.
But was that the beginning of my backpacking hobby? No. That was a seed planted. I got into other things at around eighteen, and it was ten years later that a friend suggested that we go walking in the hills like we did as children.
Being care free and self employed too, we took off to the Lake District. Day walks and fun times. What happened on one walk changed things for me that week. We (me as I was navigating) got lost. We went up onto Bowfell when we had meant to go to the Scaffels. The mist was down and we made a mistake.
But mistakes can have a silver lining. Along came a group of backpackers. Big packs and big boots - standard issue Karrimor Packs and Scarpa Manta boots. We chatted and walked with them. Questions flowed: "So you camped out last night?" "Were you worried camping out"? "Where are we?" "Bowfell," they said. "Are those packs heavy?" - and so on and so on.
What happened was, I worked out something between meeting them and reaching the summit of Bowfell. They were free. They could stay wild camping on the tops, whereas I needed to descend to my accommodation in a bed and breakfast. They were relaxed and skilled at being out there in the hills, embracing the hills' changing scenes, with the ebb and flow of light and shadow as night fell. The hills held no terror of the unknown to them - they were enjoying it. I wanted in to what they had.
I soon got some kit for backpacking once back home. I got out there. Learnt, made mistakes and went again. I went to Scotland and gained more experience.
So to the questions about why? I don't seek any sense of self-improvement. There is no self discovery, or pursuit of some philosophical code or tenets, nor . I don't battle the hills, nor moors either. Some personal victory has no place for me out there - I would enter mountain marathon events if I needed to seek that.
The answer is simple. It's fun. I am like many. I just enjoy being out there. The sunset. The big view and sheer wonder of the outdoors is a joy to see, bringing enjoyment for me. The shifting shadows dancing across the mountains, the silence of the night all add to my enjoyment being outdoors.
So why backpack? It brings a simple joy. Why wild camp? It prolongs the joy of the day, being out there. Watching the sunset, the deer descending to the glen, from my vantage point up high. It's fun being able to navigate and being able to cope with the weather and conditions when out backpacking. To be able to cross wild land. Simple, uncomplicated fun.
So why do you go out there?
So why do you go out there?