Primitive and modern outdoor skills

Impromptu Fall Backpacking



Jess and I have been in Pittsburgh, PA, as mentioned in some previous posts. The last few days we've been hanging out with our friend Greg. This weekend we decided to go backpacking. The obvious first question was "what do we need?". We're in a season in PA now where it drops below freezing every so often. Jess and I have seen snow since getting here. So, our answer was a tarp, twine, sleepingbags, and pads. Later on headlamps and an extra fleece were added as nice-to-haves as well. Minimalism has more uses than just reducing the weight of your pack. There are tons of uses to knowing what you can get away with carrying. Understanding what you actually need can let you go on trips when it's not possible to scrap together a more standard kit.


Greg borrowed 2 sleepingbags and 2 pads from a friend. He had some MREs someone had given him in his basement we used for food. He also had a 11x13 tarp, a smaller tarp useful for a groundcloth, a couple of lengths of twine, a lighter, a sparker, and headlamps for all of us, and an extra fleece for Jess. Greg had basic gear for himself of course. Jess and I had our daypacks, which we'd flown with carryon as our only luggage with no intention of backpacking. We also each had a wool sweater, rain coat, long pants, wool t-shirt, good hiking socks, a hat, and warmish shoes all of which we'd brought as basic clothing just because we knew it'd be cold'ish here. Jess also had tights, and I had a down vest. We packed our clothing and sleepingbags in trash-bags, I tied a closed-cell-foam pad to the outside of my daypack... and we were good to go.


We got a late start so it soon got dark on us, maybe 3 miles in. Everyone in our group enjoyed night hiking though so we continued to over 6 miles before camping at a nice Shelter. The trail was surprisngly difficult to follow at night actually. Not that hard, but there were a lot of crossing roads that would've made for a long of wrong-terms and backtracking with no light. I used a red light a lot time to check blazes, just to be really sure that I didn't lose the trail. Eventually we did use white headlamps though as the light was really failing and there was no moon yet. This trip wasn't about proving anything anyway.

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(Photo of Greg hiking behind me)


At the shelter we started up a fire and heated up our self-heating MREs. The MREs these days are surprisingly good actually and we had a lot of fun figuring them out. I made a little hot lemonade using my steel water bottle and the lemonade packets from the MREs... no-one else wanted it for some reason, and we talked late into the night.

The next day we had more MREs for breakfast and a beautiful hike out. Given that Jess and I had come to Pittsburgh with just our daypacks with the purpose of going to a wedding it was great to be able to get out with our friend with just a few bits of borrowed gear.