Listen to Your Senses: 4 Signs That It’s Time to Go Backpacking

If the buzz in your head from fluorescent lighting, too much asphalt and a chronic case of the Mondays isn’t fixed by your usual car-camping weekend excursion, then consider taking your hiking game to the next level and plan your first backpacking adventure.

Not convinced carrying 40-pounds on your back is for you? These four scenarios might be screaming clues that it’s time to bust out of your comfort zone, pack up, and head for the woods:

1. You’re dreaming of wolves eating your spreadsheets.

When your precious sleep is interrupted by visions of wild animals destroying horribly mundane things, your brain is telling you it needs stimulation. Why not open yourself up to learning something primal, like how to navigate undulating topography, build a fire, filter water, poop in the woods or fend off bears? Nothing awakens the beast in you like scaring a tubby varmint away from your half-eaten, hard-earned sandwich. So silence those wolves by answering the call of the wild and getting out there ASAP.

2. You have tendinitis in your hand from too much smartphone action.

Give your strained eyeballs a break from Instagram and put yourself in your own big picture for a change. Whether you lace up your boots for a romp in the Rockies, Sierra, Sonoran Desert or Grand Canyon, backpacking takes you to the edge of breathtaking vistas animated by pine-studded slopes, byzantine rock layers and ribbons of river splitting the high places. While your camera works mightily to capture wildflowers, wildlife and an ever-changing sky, you’ll be reminded one glimpse at a time that these are not just flat images on your computer screen of places you wish you could be. Carpe diem, amigo!

3. You’re fed up with making reservations for alfresco dining.

Carrying everything and the kitchen sink on your back over hills and dales all day rouses quite the appetite, and the inimitable spice of exercise-induced hunger makes any morsel in the backcountry taste gourmet. So skip the frustration of waiting for a table on the patio and opt instead for a six-mile trek to your next meal. You’re guaranteed a seat with a view! And after all of your hard work, don’t sacrifice taste. Rather, forego the ramen noodles and satiate your rumbling stomach with blueberry pancakes for breakfast and beef stroganoff by firelight. Note to self: chocolate bars are the perfect backpacking desert. Bon appétit!

4. Your senses are dull.

If you’re aching to hear the languid song of a canyon wren or smell the sweet scent found in the grooves of ponderosa pine bark (is it butterscotch or ice cream?), then this is your chance to tune your ears and tame your nose to pick out some of nature’s finer points. Leave malodorous manmade scents like gasoline behind and put the relentless taunts of your cellphone on mute so you can fully engage in the prickling sensation of rain on the air, the lull of water rushing over slick stones or the stimulating aroma of sage rubbed between your fingers.

Still not awake?

Leave your burdens behind as you fully submerge your world-weary body into an icy alpine lake or waterfall oasis. Arise from the murky depths to the warm sun and bask in the revivification of all five senses. You won’t soon forget this moment.

And when Monday morning rolls back around, may your morning coffee remind you of that sunrise you watched while sipping some instant joe on that boulder in a meadow last weekend. And may your imagination happily wander to your next backpacking adventure.

So long, desktop blues. Hello, endless possibilities.

Not comfortable heading into the wild solo? Sign up for one of our REI Adventures weekend backpacking trips. Short and sweet, you’ll walk away with not only some amazing memories but also the skills and know-how to confidently execute a trek on your own. Or you might have so much fun meeting fellow backpackers on our stellar itineraries that you’ll sign up for another guided adventure. See you on the trail!

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