Seagull Outfitters Paddler’s Tales
By: Rick Sides
There’s an interesting phenomenon I experience each trip into the boundary waters, and it goes something like this: no matter how carefully I organize my food, clothing and gear for the days of living out of a Duluth pack, I still spend considerable time rummaging through packs for things I need or can’t find. This is particularly true in food packs, regardless of how much sub-packing is done in zip-lock bags or handy color-coded containers. Maybe there is something about gravity that gets accentuated in Duluth packs, for no matter what is packed on top, it works its way to the bottom almost instantly. Breakfast items get mixed in with dinner items. The loaves of bread co-mingle with every heavy item in the pack and look like globs of fish dough in only a few days time. The little container of waterproof matches to light the propane stove somehow ends up disappearing underneath the shortening and fish breading. Even the small box of prunes I always bring along ends up lower and lower in the pack, or maybe that’s what prunes are supposed to do.
“Bring along less stuff,” I tell myself each trip. “Simplify your camping life,” a little voice says in my ear. But the older and more experienced voice of “remember what you wished you had last time” speaks up. And that is followed by the voices of “wonderful new camping gadgets” and “essential lightweight gear” and “space-age outdoor wear,” and on and on. I follow my equipment list like a mechanical engineer on a binge and still it translates into just stuff, stuff, and more stuff.
I guess I could never be an outfitter. They fill up Duluth packs for a living. They actually have to buy all of those little plastic bags and twist ties and handy containers, then they have to fill them up, label them, and put them into packs a certain way. I guess it takes a certain kind of person. Probably I’m just deficient one packing chromosome or something.
Or, maybe rummaging is a necessary part of being self-contained. Maybe there is no perfect way to organize everything. Maybe sorting through things leads me to appreciate what I have even more. Maybe the act of discovery, even at the bottom of a pack, has a reward all of its own. Putting too much energy into organizing probably creates false expectations and leads to failure (at least that’s my take on it).
So maybe rummaging is actually therapeutic, camping’s little way of reminding us what is necessary. It’s a way to slow us down, ground us for a moment, and help us not to take things for granted. It makes us aware of what we really have along and perhaps could do without. It certainly teaches us the value of little things, like twist ties and plastic bags, and a good box of prunes.