Since this is my first time out of the country (Canada doesn’t count), and my first time doing any sort of backpacking sort of adventure thing like this, Andy asked me to write a “very short” piece on the process of getting my shit together for the trip.
Leaving aside my 6 vaccinations, and my horrible, horrible passport photos, most of this process came down to packing.
On my very best of days, I am a miserable over-packer. It’s not that I’m high-maintenance necessarily (although I totally am – who the hell uses two different mouthwashes?) – I actually gave most of that stuff up pretty easily for this trip, in the name of Adventure! and Roughin’ It! and Self-Sacrifice – it’s more that I tend to over-consider potential scenarios, and pack accordingly. “Oh, but you never know, I might get a cold on the flight over, so I better bring along all these cough drops just in case.”
Turns out this tendency ramps-up like a thousand-fold when you’re going to be out in the freaking JUNGLE, and the stuff you pick out in the pharmacy aisle could be the difference between life and death. (I mean, realistically, between me and the 7 other people coming along on this thing, we’re going to have so much stuff that we’re gonna be prepared to face pretty much every scenario, but try telling that to My Cool Brain.)
If me in the pharmacy aisle was bad – scooping up bandages and sprays and unguents by the armful (“Jungle rot could be a real concern out there!”) – then me at the camping store was even worse. The wonderful people who work at the REI are very knowledgable, it must be said, but they have a definite tendency to do product comparisons in such a way that you envision yourself as a corpse if you pick the wrong (“cheaper”) selection.
“I dunno, man,” says a dude whose clothing was at least 75% hemp. “That backpack cover is pretty good, but it can still lead to the occasional leakage.” And so I picture every object I own waterlogged in a monsoon, and me down on my knees, crying to the heavens, “WHY DIDN’T I LISTEN TO YOU, TREE (OR WHATEVER YOU INTENSELY SILLY NAME WAS)??”
That, by the way, is how one talks one’s self into buying Survival Underwear:
A steal at $19/pair!
In addition to basic survival terror, there is also the fact that, in my brain at least, not only must every situation be carefully considered and covered by proper equipment, this equipment must also be The Cutest Version Possible Of That Thing. So, like, in getting a headlamp, I could have just gotten a basic, kind of gross clear plastic one. But no. Better spend an extra $20 on this adorable teal one!
Its inherent cuteness will be sure to protect me when I am pounced on by a panther or whatever.
Andy asked me to bring down a few things with me, which I was happy to do, despite the fact that they ranged from mildly embarrassing…
Why yes, Mr. Customs Agent, I *do* need 24 of the hugest condoms available to humanity… for Science, though, I swear!
…to comically illegal-looking…
No, they’re “electronics,” swear to God!
…to the potentially explosive:
I am writing this from the plane, and it has yet to explode, so I guess we’re doing OK so far!
Once survival basics and Andy’s stuff were covered, then it was time to move onto the realm of the ridiculous. I am not sure how much of this stuff is actually going to make it out into the jungle with me, but I wanted to at least have the option, you know?
Andy explained that my role on the trip is as sort of a chronicler / outsider commenter / potential art creator. The sad truth is that my art skills really never progressed beyond the level of marginally talented second grader, however, so I stuck with what I knew:
This sweet set of goods includes such necessities as:
– Teeny tiny little colored pencils!
– 200 peel-and-stick goggly eyes!
– Mac and cheese duct tape!
– Badass butane-powered hot glue gun! (Sadly I didn’t have room for the cool 80’s-cop-movie-style holster…)
I also got this dumb little camera, which – like all Polaroid products – has an appealing gimmick kind of shoddily executed. It’s a digital camera, see, but it can also instantly print out photos! Awesome, right? I fully expect it to melt into a puddle of goo about 45 seconds after landing.
But look how cute it is, pre-puddle!
Moving down the sliding scale of Packed Item Viability (PIV), we also have…
BADASS CAMP FLASK – There is no universe where I am not getting drunk in a jungle at least one time. Also, this damn thing looks like it’s practically bulletproof, so I might just wear it over my heart at all times for protection.
ASSORTED GLOW STICKS – I don’t know what a Jungle Rave is, exactly, but I want to have one.
PATRIOTIC TEMPORARY TATTOOS – This is the first time I won’t be home for American Independence Day, so it seemed important to bring along some way of honoring the occasion all the same (i.e., plastering these all over my face).
TEAM RINGS – (You’ll notice I have a thing for googly eyes.) I am weirdly focused on encouraging team spirit, so I am going to guilt everyone on our expedition into wearing these the whole time and doing complicated secret handshakes.
HELLO KITTY PLAYING CARDS – Conceivably to help us while away the long jungle nights together, I mostly got these because they look borderline unusable. I’m looking forward to watching anyone try and shuffle these things.
INFLATABLE PARROT – I have no earthly idea why I brought this. As a mascot perhaps?
COCKTAIL UMBRELLAS – I only drink fancy drinks. Period.
BUBBLE PIPES – What better way to unwind after a long day of backpacking? Besides, too late to kick the habit now!
POOP JUJU – Most importantly of all, however, is this handmade bracelet from Elli. My digestive stability is pretty touch-and-go, even on American soil, and people keep telling me about “travelers’ diarrhea,” so I figured I needed all the good juju I could get.
And that’s it! What an easily manageable, not hugely stupid pile of goods to bring with me!
But then, Andy always did appreciate a good pile.
Anyway, I am sure I still managed to forgot to bring something hugely critical, so expect to hear about it in my next post, which will probably be just as long as long and pointless.
Until then, I remain your intrepid chronicler, Nate Walsh.