When I committed to hiking the 2,000-plus miles of the Appalachian Trail in 2015, my mind flew apart like a scattering of birds. Suddenly I was overwhelmed with things to do. Never mind that I had spent a year collecting and reading books about the AT, buying gear, and signing up for “practice experiences” in the woods. I felt the weight of the preparation that was still to come.
Planning the hike would be logistically complicated until I hit the trail and began to live simply, because I also had to manage what I was leaving behind. The first order of business was to organize my growing collection of backpacking gear, books, and clothing. The items were stashed in different locations around the house, making me nuts when the time came to go hiking. I would forget something every time. Once it was my water supply—not a good thing to leave at home.
I needed a nerve center!
As opposed to a place to work up my nerve, this nerve center would be a location in my home for all of my hiking paraphernalia, where I could see what I had in order to fill my packs intelligently as I prepared for every practice hike and then the Big Hike. (I know, don’t capitalize for emphasis.)
I chose my linen closet, a double-wide with sliding doors. Several years earlier I’d had it customized to hold not just my sheets, towels, and table linens, but also a variety of suitcases. It has one narrow section for hanging clothes and the rest is divided by shelves. The space would be perfect for my two packs, their contents, my hiking clothes, and my books.
I wanted to see all of my gear and my full range of clean outfits at once. The goal was efficiency. I could dress quickly and learn to load my backpack consistently so that my movements would become automatic on the trail. A pack is a complex piece of equipment when you consider its inner cavities, pockets, loops, and network of straps. It has to hold everything you need for a hike, yet be light enough to carry mile after mile. Loading one is both science and art.
So, out came my bedding, towels, place mats, and luggage, to find another home; into the closet went my hiking gear, books, and outdoor clothing. I have a shelf for my tent, one for my sleep system, another for footwear. There are spaces for stuff sacks, trekking poles, laundry, and smaller items--socks, whistle, bug net, emergency blanket, matches, and so on. My hiking books are in one place.
I’d recommend this system to anyone. There is one little hitch. I haven’t yet found a new home for my extra curtains, comforters, scatter rugs, shower curtain rings…