In the past two weeks, I have been on two backpacking trips. One was a solo trip to the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. The other was with the Chicago Backpackers to the Charles C. Deam Wilderness in the Hoosier National Forest in Indiana.
The backpacking experience is quite enjoyable whether it is solo or with other hikers in my opinion, but the experience is completely different. With such a fresh perspective on the two types of backpacking, here is a list of ten reasons why it is beneficial to join the Chicago Backpackers or any adventure travel club.
10. Someone else to take your picture –
When solo hiking, there are three options for taking your own picture. Those choices are harassing a stranger, hold the camera out in front of you, or do the self-timer. The stranger option is undependable in the backcountry, the self shot only gets part of your body, and sometimes there is not a convenient flat surface for the self-timer.
With a club there is always someone to shoot your picture, and there is also always someone to take a picture with. Sometimes it is also nice to show the rest of the world you have friends.
9. Someone to drink with –
I am not big into food sharing, but I always bring a little bit of whiskey on any camping trip. I enjoy taking a few sips of whiskey around the fire when I am solo backpacking, but it is just not the same. Sharing shots of Wild Turkey is much more fun in a group environment. The Chicago Backpackers are not a group of drunks, but with over 1350 members there is bound to be someone who will magnanimously volunteer to help lighten your whiskey load on any trip.
When solo backpacking there are often times I reflect on past experiences. Some of these past events are humorous, and the remembrance makes me grin. I also invariably crack myself up from time to time thinking of new funny things. Humor only goes so far when you are alone. With a group of backpackers sharing the same experience there is bound to be shared humor. Many times around the campfire storytellers will try to outdo each other on the funny front. Laughter is much easier to find when shared with others.
7. Cheaper –
When hiking with others there are many opportunities to cut costs by sharing the money burden. Gas is the most obvious, but also campsites and if traveling far hotel costs.
6. Learn about gear-
The best way to learn about gear is by using it and seeing if you like it and if it works. If you solo hike you only know about the gear you use. If you hike with a club you can learn about the gear that everyone uses and your knowledge can grow exponentially.
5. Learn new places to hike-
The same theory in 5 applies to places to hike. You only know the places where you have been, but if you join a club there is bound to be someone in the club who has gone just about everywhere. Around the campfire, and along the trail, hikers share stories of where they have been and their favorites spots, which sparks future trips. I heard many stories about Forest Glen: a place I have never hiked.
4. Make lifelong friends-
When you meet people with a shared interest, a social barrier is immediately removed before even actually meeting someone. I have rarely met someone I did not like in an adventure travel club, and I have not met anyone I have not liked in Chicago Backpackers.
3. Inspires travel-
I was sitting around my room last weekend doing nothing when an email notified me of a hiking trip to the Hoosier National Forest. A week later I was in the Hoosier National Forest hiking. Had this alert not come through I most likely would have been experiencing déjà vu sitting around my place doing nothing.
2. Safety –
I feel pretty safe solo hiking. I am experienced, have good enough gear, and I usually only solo hike to places I know I can handle. Even if you are hiking in your backyard, it is safer with a group. If you get hurt in the wilderness you have to rely on luck or the benevolence of strangers. I might count on a stranger to take my picture, but I would rather not tempt fate and hope a good Samaritan might save my life if I get hurt in the wilderness.
1. Great Leadership-
Most trips I have gone on with the Chicago Backpackers have cost $5.00. That is one crazy incredible deal to pay for a guide. It is actually less than what you would pay in a developing country. I spent $8.00 for a guide in Thailand for that price. The leaders in the Chicago Backpackers are experienced, helpful, patient, and know the trail and how to camp. You can learn a lot on a weekend with a Chicago Backpacker leader.
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