Gathering Gear

Picturing the destination, half remembered images seen or interpolated from descriptions in books read while comfortable on a couch long before ever imagining I’d visit there. Reading a few other people’s packing lists and past ones of my own the way that some might compare recipes in cookbooks. Turning first to things that I always need or, anyway (but which is different), that I always bring. Absentmindedly pulling these off the shelves, the shape and textures trigger stories, so already this enterprise is not as inert as it might seem. Headlamp, camp towel, fleece bag liner. Nor any shortage of comedic hyperbole, a titanium cup when a plastic one would do, a cut down toothbrush so I can hold it up triumphantly to baffled acquaintances, “no, of course I’m not kidding,” I laugh at myself. Coffee strainer, now that’s important, I wonder if I’ll need the head net, spork — seriously, a spork? it’s titanium, too! — space pen, gather all those up. Clothes are in another place, but that’s going to take a bit of reflection and imagination, I expect to go through several iterations over different moods, drinking Ardbeg or Elijah Craig, changing my mind about whether every single thing matches with every other, envisioning as vividly as I can riding in sweating, humid midday sun heat, up at altitude in a snowstorm, for the ninth straight day of pouring misty rain. The nano puff pullover, obviously, the Ibex merino polo has been as far away from home as I have so it, too, I’m going where I’ll be culturally comfortable wearing shorts, so I will, but not cycling ones since they’re only useful while cycling, and one occasion of use isn’t nearly enough; old reliable gore-tex booties. Gadgets are the least interesting part, I like the camera but that’s not one of the pathological things, I’d no sooner forget the iPhone than I’d leave behind footwear, maybe the Kindle will go but maybe it won’t. Most of the tools and spares are kept in a bin separate from the stuff used daily at home, even where identical. Ditto toiletries, drugs, first aid, that’s just a matter of grabbing the right mesh bags and confirming that I’ve replaced what got consumed.

So then a pile of stuff to go through: did I use this last time?, how many times?, can I get one of these if I don’t bring it and need it?

Detachedly, I strongly sense that the incommensurate care with which I scrutinize gear is displaced anxiety about the trip itself, not fear of going but more like girding oneself for difference and alertness. The stuff is not the part of the trip that matters, but acting as if it does gives conscious attention something harmless ritually fretfully to do.

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