How to decide if the items you can’t live without should come along your next adventure
Humans naturally seem to flee from the discomforts of life, mountain guides gravitate towards that light. It is as if there is some sort of element in a mountain guide that finds something bizarrely satiating in taking part in a sufferfest or slogging through knee deep snow in an ice parade of a blizzard. As a career it has its fair share of ups and down, moments of uncertainty and doubt but with that grit brings about the finer moments and instances. But how far would you go to include those finer moments on your next backcountry excursion? Let’s be honest heavy backpacks aren’t that enjoyable, but what if adding an extra item could make an expedition that much better, would you go for it? I decided to reach out to new and old AAI guides to get an idea for what extra backcountry items they can’t live without when heading out on trips…the answer spanned a wide variety of categories.
On average guides carry a lot of heavy things up hills, it is hard to get an exact number, but it probably fluctuates anywhere from 40 lbs. to 100 lbs. (*fact check) depending on days in the field. It would then seem understandable to see why some guides are so militant about carrying every single ultralight item that humanly possible and toeing the line of what it means to be a minimalist. On the other hand, I beg to differ, hauling up the extra weight of a book, a journal, a pack of cards, real coffee, a portable bidet (popularity soared in 2020), down booties are worth the pain for those little ounces of luxury wherever we may land.
But what else could guides possibly want or need to bring up with them? Well, a fair bit seemed to lean towards…coffee. Veteran guide, Pete Athans says for over 15 years he’s hauled 4 Starbucks Doubleshots up with him for early summit starts to keep a steady caffeine infusion rate, “it’s good for what ails ya.” While a fair bit of the guides chose hygienic goods such as facewipes, mirrors, etc. there were a couple guides that brought pillowcases on to the scene as their must have item. For the past decade, Seth Timpano has hauled ‘an Egyptian Cotton 500 Thread Count Min. Pillowcase’ high up into the mountains saying that he only allows Egyptian cotton to touch his face and claiming it helps him to sleep and climb better. The most fun response came from Guide Manager, Mary Brown, and her dedication to fueling the Happy Hour scene by packing a can of wine and a fancy snack to enjoy while relaxing before dinner. If her dog Momo is present, she will pack her a pig ear for happy hour. Don’t forgot there are also guides that cart up Coca Cola as well.
The only advisory to enjoying the lavishness of backcountry luxuries is if the plan is to go for it, do it with conviction. The last thing you want is to carry up too many unnecessary items and be the one who is responsible for starting an extreme ironing competition at the summit of Mt. Rainier. Explore the wild side and know there is pleasure in pain…it is just one packable item away.