July 3, 2022
“Go on your way;
behold, I am sending you like lambs among wolves.
Carry no money bag, no sack, no sandals;
and greet no one along the way…
Do not move about from one house to another.
Whatever town you enter and they welcome you,
eat what is set before you,
cure the sick in it and say to them,
‘The kingdom of God is at hand for you.’”
One step of planning for a multiple-day backpacking trip in the wilderness is the gear list. In addition to route planning, logistics, and meal planning, the gear list balances survival and comfort with consideration for the weight that will need to be carried on one’s back. Starting with the backpack itself (I have had four in my life with the current one being by far the lightest, most comfortable, and versatile I’ve owned), each item serves a purpose and there are alternatives with more or less functionality and more or less weight. For example, a sleeping pad may not be a necessity, but it adds a great deal of comfort and helps insulate against the ground temperature on cold nights. There are a great variety of sleeping pads from foam pads that tend to be bulky and heavier to small and lightweight inflatable pads with baffles for stability and internal thermal films to help with insulation (in addition to weight, they also vary quite a bit in price). Each item provides security or comfort and individual preference, knowledge, and experience play a role in determining a gear list.
Although there are some backpackers who go ultralight and are minimalists who sacrifice comfort, I am not one of those. My basic list includes my backpack, tent, sleeping bag and pad, hiking clothes, boots, lightweight sandals, first aid kit, water bottles and a water bladder, water purification filter, a butane stove and cooking container, a rain jacket, emergency survival items, a head-mounted flashlight, compass (it’s old school, but I like the backup), maps (also, old school), a knife, toilet paper, a small plastic shovel, hand sanitizer, and for personal comfort, a 1.6-pound camp chair. On my last trip, I took my cell phone for the first time, mainly for location service with offline maps and as a camera since there was no cell service. There are also backcountry satellite communication devices that I have explored. Because of advances in technology and lightweight materials, my full pack comes in at just over 20 pounds without food or water. I am confident that my gear list includes the things I need to survive and meets my desire for comfort. I trust my things.
On the trail or in life, it’s good to be prepared. Our confidence in our things, experience, knowledge, or, even, preferences can be a stumbling block in the spiritual life as a disciple or follower of Jesus. Those whom Jesus sent out were stripped by his directives of their security and comfort. Above all else, they had to trust God. In the life of our parish community, we can’t just be competent at carrying out programs. We must trust that God is alive and at work by the Spirit. In our personal lives, we have to foster our relationship of trust in God. Sometimes circumstances pull the rug out from under us or we may be called to do something that doesn’t seem to make sense, that takes us out or away from the things we have confidence in. As followers of Jesus, whether in big or small ways, we should be intentional to live lives that don’t make sense if God doesn’t exist. Generosity, forgiveness, sacrifice, service, humility, dying to self, caring our crosses, lifting up the other, and surrender usually don’t make sense. They are our yes to grace, our yes to the kingdom, our yes to Jesus.