My First Backpacking Trip Was a Disaster and I Can’t Wait to Do it Again

And the “disaster” was not a too-heavy or ill-fitting pack or some other classic rite of passage. Just wait…

(Gear lists and nerd talk coming soon!)

Day One:

We got a late start due to a group hike I had to lead that morning. I came home and my partner, Brie, and I packed our bags from the organized piles I’d made the day before. Everything gone over twice, three times. There was no doubt in my mind I was ready. There was now just the Doing It. We carefully distributed everything and weighed our packs to make sure we were carrying equal weight. Our pack weight with full water and food came to just under 29 pounds each. According to the internet this was good, but damn, it felt heavy!

It was pouring rain and wasn’t supposed to let up until early morning. I know going backpacking for the first time in the rain is a bad idea. I know. I also know I scheduled this trip over a month prior because it was my only free weekend in sight. Brie was excited about the trip, but having a lot of second thoughts because of weather. Our compromise was that we’d only hike about two miles in and set up camp so we could wake up the next day already out and be able to have a bigger day.

We picked one of our favorite trails, the Salmon River Trail. It’s only an hour from home and from our many day hikes, we knew there were tons of beautiful camping spots and water sources all over. It was comforting, no need for scarcity.

As we approached the trailhead, we ran into a strange couple asking too many questions. I couldn’t tell if they were shaming us for only going in a couple of miles or if they wanted to know where we were going so they could murder us. In that two miles to our first spot, they passed us back and forth multiple times and always kind of looked at each other and laughed every time. What the hell was going on? Why were they going back and forth? It was creepy and weird.


At first, I was surprised at how easy it was. I knew it wasn’t time to congratulate myself on how doable it was and how great my pack felt, but I did feel good. My steps felt heavier, but there was no fear of not being able. This is big for me.

We got to our chosen spot, passing no other campers (another clue backpacking in the rain is dumb), and set up our stuff. Our clothes were drenched despite the thick forest canopy, but the contents of our bags were dry. We were doing it right! It was our first time using our new tent aside from practicing inside. We got a new one because the “two-person” backpacking tent a friend of mine generously handed down to me was perfect for just me, but not for us both. Fun fact: “two-person” ultralight tents are more like a one-person tent if you’re bigger than 200 pounds. Despite all of my research, when we got the new tent, I realized I’d made a mistake not paying attention to the square footage. Turns out, a three-person tent from REI actually does fit three people. Despite its chill five pounds, it was HUGE. I felt embarrassed, like ugh, folks are gonna read the hell out of me for having this big-ass tent. That is, until we set it up after hiking in the pouring rain. The extra space was a welcome respite and Brie and I both need a lot of personal space. I loved it! Everyone has their non-essential comforts for backpacking. A bigger tent is now one of mine.


We set up our stuff quickly and read and played games. In just one evening, I could already see small things I didn’t need that might cut down on pack weight. Everything you bring matters if you look at it all as ounces. Example, I brought the game Dutch Blitz which involves one 40-card deck per player and I brought the whole game containing four decks even though it was just us. I also brought some scarcity things like too much food and a whole roll of toilet paper, even though, um, I couldn’t go through a whole roll of toilet paper at home in two days, why would I here? It’s all learning.

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I was excited to use my little ultralight stove in the vestibule (covered patio-ish part of the tent) for the first time. The little solid alcohol cubes are smokeless, but smell really bad. I think I’m going to figure out how to switch it over to denatured alcohol. We shared a Mountain House dehydrated meal (lasagna), which was adorably fun. The rain continued to loudly fall as we went to bed. I was a little afraid the clear skies forecasted for the next couple of days seemed too good to be true.

I woke up a few times throughout the night. I always find the first night on the ground to be the roughest, but also the inflatable pillow I bought kept deflating. Brie’s wasn’t, though. Not fair! My new sleeping bag was incredible and actually zipped up around my big beautiful bod.

Day Two:

We awoke to sunbeams filtering through ancient doug firs and dreamy moss. No rain.

Even though we were having a soft start to this journey, it was already very apparent to me how hard thru-hiking must be. Our fly was covered in rain and we didn’t know what to do about it. Are you supposed to just shake things out and pray you’ll be able to dry it completely later? What do you do when you can’t properly dry your stuff for more than a day? That would get to my head really fast. When you don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re doing it anyway: The Jenny Bruso story. Also, I’m amazed by folks who plan a thru-hike without any backpacking practice. Even just packing my bag, despite how many boring youtube videos I watched and articles I read, feels so hard to figure out, but I know it’s all stuff that will only fall into place the more I do it. There were already moments I was stoked I’ve read so many thru-hiking blogs and moments I wished I hadn’t read so many. Admittedly, every tiny misstep, if you can even call them that, made me think about what people online would say and that is a really weird mindset I wish I wasn’t in touch with. And truly, it’s not simply based on insecurity. Gear posts and outdoor stuff is so heavily scrutinized and criticized on social media. Outdoorspeople are bizarrely competitive about things that don’t matter.

Brie, eager to use the stove (it’s so weird and cute!), made us coffee as I packed and repacked my things and prepared for the day. I made us breakfast (oatmeal, peanut butter powder, dried cherries) and we moved our wet tent and tarp around in the moving patches of sunlight. The sky was bright blue, with few clouds, and everything in the forest was neon, chlorophyll drunk. I was having fun, but it was the first moment I really felt the magic of it all. I’m out here. I’m doing this. And it doesn’t suck and I’m not bad at it. And I know I have everything I need.

Are we doing this right?

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That first cup of coffee!

I’ve wanted to backpack since I started hiking and camping about six years ago. There’s been a lot keeping me from it, but the financial barrier is definitely at the top. This stuff is gallingly expensive. Dropping hundreds of dollars on a TENT is just not something I feel like I can do and that is not to shame someone who can and wants to! We all have different priorities and I’m at a place now where backpacking and having good gear are becoming priorities to me, but I live paycheck to paycheck and I can’t ever rationalize spending that kind of money on anything but necessities. There are many ways to get gear without dropping hundreds, thousands of dollars, but even access to that information is tough. I only found out about gear libraries in the last year! Same with renting gear from shops.

Second to the financial issue, is being plus-size. I generally can’t walk into an outdoor retailer and assume I’ll find the right things for me that fit, so there’s all of these other layers of anxiety on top of it all. Like, maybe I would’ve made getting gear more of a priority if I felt like it was something I had any sort of access to, you know? Straight up, if I hadn’t gotten gear donations from many people and brands who saw some of my posts about it on social media, I still wouldn’t be able to do it. I’m wildly grateful.

With our tent dryish, we packed up our last things and hit the trail again, both of us very in need of water, but we knew we were near our first water source. We got to the creek and set out to use our Sawyer Squeeze for the first time for real as opposed to in our kitchen sink. We also had some back-up Aqua Mira just in case we felt sketchy, but the water was so clear and fast-moving like we were in a bottled water commercial. The Sawyer Squeeze is ridiculously easy to use, it feels almost suspicious. We started filling our bottles and the water tasted AMAZING. Brie, on the other hand, wasn’t so sure and used the Aqua Mira in addition to filtering, which made her water taste like tap water. The taste was strangely comforting.



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Aqua Mira escape hatch

We decided our only goal of the day was to go further than two miles and further on the trail than we’d ever gone for a day hike. Small goals, we’d have to hike out however far we’d hiked in before returning home tomorrow and we weren’t sure how our bodies were going to feel. Best to keep things realistic. I tend to set really large, absurdly unreachable goals and hold myself to them in ways that ruin the fun. It’s a good thing we did, because the next two miles took us more than an hour each. Still, I felt amazed at how able and capable I felt.

When we reached that first viewpoint, which is my usual turnaround point on a day hike, I felt this ecstatic happiness and gratitude to experience a place I know so well in a totally different way. And we’d be continuing on, seeing things I haven’t seen before! It’s the joy of it. I often say, “I want to see something new.”




Oh hey, remember how I said there was a disaster element? We’re getting there.

We took a long break. Brie even snoozed a bit. Her pack wasn’t feeling as great as mine, so things were a little bit more of a struggle for her. The day had gotten hot and we were already on our second bottle of water. We also really needed to eat. We were about a mile and a half from our next water source and planned to try to find a place to camp near there, so we could drop off our stuff first. We soon found a spot near a gorgeous meadow. Too hungry to get water immediately, I started making us lunch while Brie set up the tent. We were talking about how happy we were, how well we were doing. Making jokes about being real backpackers now. It felt so good. I was already hooked.

So, like, am I a real backpacker now?
Tuna pouch + goldfish crackers. Definitely a backpacker now.

I called to Brie about lunch being ready. She came over and we started eating.

That’s when it happened.

A gust of wind.

Everything changed in a second.

Our tent blew over a cliff.

Yes, our tent blew over a cliff.

You read that correctly.

Brie got distracted by lunch and didn’t stake it or put anything inside. It was up for only minutes and then it was gone. We slept in it one time and it was gone.

I know it probably sounds funny at first, but please, imagine yourself in this situation. Hungry, tired, almost out of water, ridiculously happy about this new, amazing experience and how well it’s going. How many real successes we were having. Feeling like we get it! We understand backpacking! We’re backpackers!

And our tent just blew over a fucking cliff.

We could see it lodged between some trees, but it was a straight drop. In shock, we both tried thinking of ways to get it, but honestly it was crazy talk. There was no way.

An honest mistake, yes. Hell, I didn’t even make the mistake, but it didn’t matter. It felt like failure and my ego could not handle it. I was so sad, so angry, so fearful of how this would look. I am constantly fighting shame in my day-to-day life and I recognize that pattern isn’t my fault. It’s dominant culture, it’s my upbringing. So much guilt and shame about things that aren’t my fault and the things that have been my fault have nearly destroyed me. And when your brain thinks like this, it’s really easy to make almost anything your fault. I was thinking about how many people pay attention to what I say, about how they cheer me on. I was thinking about how the tent was a gift that meant so much to me and I’d have to reveal it blew over a fucking cliff on our second night. I was thinking about the irony of being a Groundskeeper for Granite Gear, picking up trash as I hike, and I just basically littered my tent. How the fuck am I going out like this on my first backpacking trip?!

And we’re more than five miles in from the trailhead, it’s about 5pm and some of our miles have taken more than an hour. Oh god.

It all felt like too much. Stunned disbelief, crying, repeat. Yes, I was mad at Brie, but I didn’t know what to feel. I could see what a simple, honest mistake it was. Possibly one I could make, too. I knew how horrified she was feeling and that in telling this story I’d have to say what she’d done. I didn’t want this to hurt her. In my still-racing mind, I definitely had some thoughts about not telling the truth. Not my style.

We packed up and got back on trail, not talking the first couple of miles. I was too beside myself to say anything that mattered. Still so mentally wounded by it all. At some point, Brie said it was her Cheryl Strayed boot moment and I still couldn’t laugh. We filtered only a liter of water knowing it would be all we’d need to get us back to our car. We hiked fast, almost as fast as if we had our daypacks, but also, we were a bit lighter now. The reality of it all sinking in with every footfall.

I knew I’d tell the truth, but I’d give myself time to process it all first. It was just a mistake, one that will never happen again. A: because we’ll never wait to stake a tent again and we’ll probably micromanage each other about it, and B: because well, we don’t have a tent anymore. Damn, this is about as Unlikely Hiker as it gets. Maybe I’m just being really loyal to the brand? Ugh, I still can’t even joke about it and yet I’m fully aware of how funny it is. I also knew it would be make a good story, which I find very annoying because obviously I’d rather succeed and not lose my beautiful, perfect tent, but here the hell I am and what can I do about it except be honest and possibly help even one person from this happening to them?

A mistake. A huge mistake, but also a lot of little successes. Brie pointed out how we’d actually done everything we came to do aside from sleeping a second night. We even covered all of our miles, albeit not how we planned, but how often do things really go as planned? No one was hurt. No one lost their life for a really stupid reason like trying to retrieve a tent from the side of a cliff.

There was another thought I kept having as I processed all of this and I knew this thought mattered most in the grand scheme of it all:

When can I do this again?


If you enjoyed this post, my work and the resources I provide, please consider making a donation xo

I want to thank so many people and brands for contributing gear and other forms of help finally culminating in this trip and so many more upcoming: Gossamer GearChristine BedenisGranite GearREIMerrellNext Adventure, Mountain House and Swell Coffee. THANK YOU!

Gear lists and nerd talk coming soon!



  1. Jenny,

    I just want you to know how much you inspire me & how much I admire you. I have been following you for awhile but I heard you interviewed on Nicole Antoinette’s podcast. I am a bigger human who is queer & struggles with mental illness & your honesty & beautiful conversation inspired me. One of the biggest things I took from it was this idea that going out into nature doesn’t have to be a big deal. I get overwhelmed sometimes on “nature Instagram” when I see people thru-hiking & doing all this insane shit when right now, I feel like a few miles on the trail near my house that runs along the river is good enough for me.

    I am going to be in Portland for the Queer Comedy Festival (I’m a comedian) & am hoping you’ll have a an easy group hike when I am there so I can hug you & of course HIKE!

    So much love & gratitude,



    Liked by 2 people

    1. Hi Amy, this means a lot to me, thank you! I have a really tough time with how outdoor social media is mostly just a highlight real. People rarely talk about how hard things can be, especially when it comes to things that are considered simple or easy.

      I so hope you can join one of our hikes! That would be so awesome. Best of luck at the queer comedy fest! I bet a ton of my friends will be performing there.


  2. Jenny – I love this post for so many reasons! Your honesty, your kindness to your partner, your sense of humor, and your sense of adventure. Every time you go out you’ll learn a little something new. Onward!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh my dog! I wish I could have recorded my face as I read this, from excitement and pride, to knowing accomplishment to a literal jaw drop. The very first time I went backpacking, I didn’t break in my boots ahead of time, and I ended up with some enormous blisters, so I think it’s a rite of backpacking passage to have a bit of a disaster on the first go-round.

    I’m sorry the tent(s 😉 ) didn’t work out! I’m not sure if it’s too outside of your comfort zone, but look up the fire lookout on Devil’s Peak, in the same area you were at. Free to stay in, so next time you won’t need a tent. There’s another free fire lookout that you can stay in a bit further south, but I’m not remembering the name at the moment.

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    1. Christine! I LOVE the tent you sent me, it’s just my special solo tent is all, which feels pretty cool.

      I am so afraid of blisters! How can something so small and surface level make it nearly impossible to walk?! HORRIBLE!

      I havent ever stayed in a fire lookout even though there’s a bunch of them here and the photos always look magical. I’m really lazy about making reservations far in advance. Gotta work on that!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. you are both such badasses. i am inspired by your attention to the work of changing the narratives. failure feels terrible but it’s actually a success, because you get a lot of information and feedback. always.

    also, i realize this may be dumb to say or hear, but this could have easily happened to anyone. i often take too long to stake my tent (or have sometimes not done it at all) and i have been backpacking since i was a little kid with my family. a very likely hiker. and now i will probably always overly stake my tent down. your honesty and willingness to share are helpful to everyone.

    thank you so so much for doing this work.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Michelle, thank you so much for the thoughtful response and kindness. I REALLY want you to stake your tent, lolz, but it’s true, it did feel like something that could happen to anyone even if it also felt SO DUMB.


  5. Oh Jenny,
    What a story! I’m sorry I laughed, but I did! The things that happen in the woods are too outrageous for most people to believe 🙂 . We just ran our first instructor training and the thing I keep coming back to is, our job as outdoor adventurers and backpackers to be able to adapt to the (inevitable) unexpected happening. You and Brie did that! And I love that you can’t wait to go back!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I’m so aware of how funny it is and I’m like, a funny person (or maybe I’m not bc I felt the need to state that I *am* a funny person), but I still haven’t laughed yet. I know it’s coming and I know it’s the kind of thing I’ll never forget so hopefully soon!

      Thanks for the wisdom and I agree! And yeah, I’m already hooked!


  6. Omg I’m so sorry for the tent tragedy! Besides that shitty circumstance you did a fantastic job and I’m so glad you got out there! Backpacking is fucking hard and some shit always tends to happen or go wrong (some things larger than others, haha) but you still did it! Also loved your videos. I believe if you’re out there backpacking, no matter the miles, time, or distance, and no one got hurt, then you’re doing it right. ❤️

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    1. Thank you, Ben! I am so grateful this is the worst of it and that neither of us got hurt… especially while doing something stupid like trying to get the tent back! I miss you and your fam xoxox

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  7. I’m brand new to your site, and I loved your story so much that I just signed up as a Patreon supporter. 🙂

    When I was little, you couldn’t get me out of the woods. I was a fearless explorer. I loved to get dirty. Somewhere along the way I lost that fearlessness, and now everything scares me—even being in nature. I still enjoy it, but there’s a constant fear hovering over my head. Reading your post scared the shit out of me, but it also showed me that that’s ok. It’s ok to be scared and for your worst fears to happen, but to try anyway.

    You’ve inspired me to look up hiking groups in my area (Milwaukee, WI), and even though I know they won’t be like Unlikely Hikers (god that would be SO COOL!), coming back to your blog will give me inspiration.

    Thank you for sharing your stories. The world is better because of you. And I’ll be in Portland September 13-20—if Unlikely Hikers has any trips planned, I’m there!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Niki, it means a lot to me that you’ve shared your story with me. I often reflect on some of the fearlessness I had as a child that I no longer possess. I actually know a lot of people who love nature but also have fears of the outdoors.

      Thank you so much for the support and kindness. I can’t even tell you how happy I get when someone signs up for my Patreon. It’s so validating! Thank you!

      I truly hope we can cross paths. Either in Milwaukee or here!


    2. There is a stretch of the ice age trail in the north kettle moraine state forest near you that has shelters you can use for a fee. It’s easy hiking and a beautiful area.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. “I tend to set really large, absurdly unreachable goals and hold myself to them in ways that ruin the fun“
    This is my life.

    What a monumental experience. Im glad the culmination of your adventure is still the desire to go again!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I love your posts and your honesty. I’ve done a few overnight hikes and I’ve been camping all my life (though i don’t look like it). Your stories seem a lot more realistic than the perfectly poised Instagram posts that are so common these days. It’s awesome that you managed to deal with those little surprises you get on the trail. Thank you.

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  10. Omg omg omg! I’m so glad to have read this story! I have been backpacking for a few years, but something goes wrong every time. I’ve never lost a tent, but I did forget the poles once. I forgot gas for the stove once, when my hiking partner had only packed mountain house meals and a little bit of beef jerky. (I now can’t stand beef jerky…) The mistakes are becoming more insignificant as my prep lists and practice is improving. However, I still struggle with being too critical of myself and too critical of my hiking partners – so this kind of thing takes months to go from embarrassment and anger to that funny story I tell sometimes. I can’t imagine having people expecting me to blog about it as soon as I get home. But I hope you can continue to do so, because reading this makes me realize how many times I have likely ruined a 90% successful trip over the 10% oops. I love your storytelling and your honesty, and appreciate the lesson!

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  11. I literally gasped out loud here at work reading this when the tent moment came! Thankfully it was at lunch break, everyone is gone. LOL. The scene is funny now but I bet it was horrifying at that very moment! Also, I am so familiar with your struggles prior to to this trip. My first ever backpacking trip, I did not even prepare for it so much and plunged deep into a 10 mile hike. But the insecurities did not come till after, when I fell madly in love with it and I started researching to learn more about backpacking since I really didn’t have friends here who have been doing it. Funny how the internet works, it educates you and yet leaves you feeling incompetent at the same time LOL. Cheers, Jenny! Mishap and all, your first ever backpacking trip was very well prepared for therefore I think this needs to be called a success!


  12. Sucks about your tent for real! If you want a pack shakedown (to go over your gear if you want to go lighter or just feel confident about what you’re carrying) let me know I’d be happy to do it. If that’s an annoying suggestion please ignore it. I used to work in a gear store and also I am super cheap so I can give you the cheap version of ultralight if you want 🙂 I met you on a group hike last month at Lacamas Park – I was the super pregnant semi-butch woman with Monty the red dog.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Nancy! Have you had your baby yet? Eeek!

      I’m feeling pretty good about my packing, but I really appreciate that! I’ll prob keep bringing too much food while I get a feel for it all. Hope you bring your baby on a hike with me some day!


  13. Classic!!! Do yourself a huge favor when you get used to sleeping out and about; try sleeping outside. Nothing better than laying under the universe dark and gazing at the wonders above. Ive been packing for over forty years, i still only sleep in a tent when its absolutely necessary. Everything is better al fresco. Hope to see you out there again soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Daniel, you know, I thought about it that day and I totally want to, but I knew my headspace wasn’t going to recover at that time. However, I think I may introduce it into my routine, regardless!


  14. Jenny! LMAO! Omg, I was laughing sooooo hard envisioning the largest Christmas ornament ever hanging precariously from a large stand of trees. We all have funny stories from our first trip, you have put your arms around yours and shared it with the world. I headed out on a 270 mile journey for my first trip, on day 1 after summiting Mt. Whitney, my pants were down around my ankles as I rubbed my IT Band crying in my undies, fearing failure, and a backpacker handed me diabetic nerve cream and told me to meet him at the bottom for lunch. Put my pants back on and never looked back. People laugh at the stories, but it gives them courage to try. I loved your story, happy trails!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Welcome to the trail backpackers club!!

    I literally gasped when I got to the disaster. I’m so glad for you that you started with a low mileage day so that getting back out was doable!

    [By the way, I don’t know any two adults who can share a “two man” tent. They’re more like “one person with elbows” tents.]

    You’re so right about hiking stories so often being a highlights reel. It makes me want to start blogging about my trail misadventures, but I don’t have writing confidence. 😶

    Liked by 1 person

  16. hey good job and congrats on you two for chasing a challenge or dream! accidents happen backpacking but they are always a learning experience. and when it can possibly be life or death situations, you will learn to never do it again. backpacking I have found is a constant learning experience and it changes with every environment that you come in contact with no matter how much you plan! don’t give up backpacking because it is rewarding and life changing!

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  17. OMG! Some day this will be nothing but funny!! I once hitch hiked around the San Juan Islands with a friend with my enormous 70’s sleeping bag rolled up and attached to my decidedly not backpackery backpack with twine. We we sitting on a cliff enjoying the view when my sleeping bag rolled off the cliff and into the trees!!! I’m pretty sure we got it back but I don’t even remember really. I haven’t been back since but I’m going there tomorrow with my 75 yr old Mom and we are taking our bikes so I’m sure I’m going to come back with more crazy stories!! Keep on keeping on! 😀⛺️🌈

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  18. That is an AWESOME story! Hey, things happen and a big part of backpacking is adapting to changing circumstances. Congratulations on your first backpacking trip – a definitive and memorable success to be sure!

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  19. First, congratulations! Second, I understand the frustration. Often, my head tries to tell me i’m not a real hiker. That’s BS! Also, a fun variation on backpacking is cowboy camping 🙂 No tent, just a sleeping bag, pad, and the stars. It scared me at first, but is awesome so long as rain isn’t forecasted. Hike on!

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  20. Hello, my name is David. I am retired from the Marine Corp, specifically the infantry. I have been in professional athlete condition most of my life.
    On my final deployment in Iraq/Fallujah, I was injured badly in an explosion.
    To the point, I have been layed up for a few years gained weight (a bunch) and hiking, backpacking and camping have been off the radar since. After many back surgeries I am out of shape and starting all over again. It has been hard to find things to fit or the right gear. But with the idea of Adapt, Improvise and Overcome we both can continue to get out there and overcome.
    Tip: carry a lightweight tarp/even a poncho and you can have emergency shelter. Even a sheet of plastic can be very useful in a pinch. Ultralight and very inexpensive.
    Keep going and great job!!
    Don’t worry about what other people think in tearms of negative attitudes. Life/people need life rings not anchors.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I really love that last sentence. Such a good way of looking at things. In the future, should I ever have a tent snafu again, I think I’ll be more ready to try an alternative sleeping situation. This time, I was just so not in the right headspace to stay!


  21. I really appreciated everything in this post! It was honest and yes, unfortunately things happen that are totally unexpected. Hope you both enjoy your next camp and hike experience soon, I look forward to reading about it!

    Liked by 1 person

  22. Oh my… I wouldn’t know to laugh or cry at that moment I think… Happy you still feel like going back for more 😀 About the tent size: while bikepacking we used a 3pers tent for the two of us. We were going for the long haul and wanted the room to sit ‘inside’ on rainy days and cold nights 🙂

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  23. Oh man! Losing your tent would be pretty disheartening. But accidents do happen and I’m glad it does not deter you from trying again.

    I consider myself a moderately experienced backpacker now, but once upon a time I went camping without a sleeping mat. A long, cold, sleepless night quickly taught me a lesson. We become better hikers by making lots of mistakes.

    Can’t wait to see where your next backpacking trip will be!

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  24. Sorry to hear about the lost of your tent!!! Greatly appreciate your honesty in sharing the story in the world of doing it for the gram. I’m still hung up on the strange couple tho… why the back and forth and giggles?!

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  25. That is an awesome first backpacking trip story! Seriously! It sucks to lose a tent, and the associated littering emotions, but damn that is a story that beats most “first time backpacking stories” – WINNING! Most of my favorite trips involve some odd mid-adventure or mistake that could or should have ended in disaster. Not to say I seek it, but stuff happens. We have an array of tents in different conditions and ages and my belief is to always bring the biggest tent you can – period. My 3person tent is always my favorite. My 1 person is always my least favorite.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Agreed, we always bring a 3 person tent, despite the additional weight. My only thought once I’m in it is how anyone can be comfortable in a 1-person tent! Being cramped is the last thing we want after hiking all day.

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  26. Hey Jenny,

    None of your mistakes are uncommon! Like you said, some people even set out on a thruhike without any prior knowledge of backpacking whatsoever.

    Don’t let anyone stop you from doing your thing. We’ve shared many of your own struggles and experiences. I personally have a bad habit of falling, no matter which backpacking trip we’re on, but I’ve learned that there are always backpacker ailments for each individual hiker.

    Great read! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  27. Oh mama, this post made me laugh/cry. There’s nothing like doing something for the first time and then doing it “publicly” just to make it extra special. But don’t you know that your mistakes and vulnerability make it possible for the rest of us to be ok trying new things? I am having the same issues with my Kilimanjaro training, I keep doing too much and getting injured (eyeroll). And I get to do this on Instagram, oh joy. I know so many of the feelings that you described, especially feeling like it’s always my fault, no matter what is going on. I pretty much sucked the joy out of a vacation recently with my attitude. And then should I keep beating myself, nope, the only way through is to be kind. Which is soooooooooooooooo hard.

    So thank you for your vulnerability, for your sense of adventure and self exploration, for pushing for inclusion and supporting all the brilliant people that you do. At almost 50 I am finding the adventurer inside me and it’s thrilling and terrifying all at the same time and because of your work, I know I’m not alone. That’s golden. Keep it up! ❤ ❤ ❤


  28. Sounds like a pretty epic way to enter the world of backpacking! When I was hiking up Kilimanjaro I got pissed at my sleeping bag because it always hated going back into its bag. So once I finally stuffed it in there I chucked it out of my tent only to watch it start rolling down the mountain. I hauled ass after it but wasn’t fast enough to catch up to it. Luckily another tent prevented it from rolling right off the mountain. It would have sucked to spend 4 very cold nights with no sleeping bag!


  29. Even though I knew something was coming I was not ready for that to happen. I’m thinking the creepy people new something and you were not suppose to stop there. But not the tent.

    I probably would have cried.

    It is great story and maybe one day you’ll life. Glad you two won’t let it stop any future trips.



  30. This was doubly entertaining and informative. I am at the jump off point myself, about to go backpacking for the first time. Hiking and camping i love, but this is a bit daunting. I could absolutely see myself having this happen to me, and knowing that my dog wasn’t the one who was supposed to stake the tent.
    Also, shout out to a fellow Oregonian. I have totally started planning a hike on that trail.
    I am really glad that your outlook is positive. And it’s an awesome story to be able to tell. Reminds me of something about tragedy plus time equals comedy…
    Hope to see you on the trail!


  31. I found you via the She Explores podcast, and absolutely LOVED this first blog post that I’ve read. I laughed, I felt your pain, I’m inspired by your go-getter attitude. I’m at the “gathering equipment” stage of backpacking and kind of terrified of actually DOING it (buying stuff is easier and more fun…) — but your story makes me want to get out there.

    Thanks for sharing and I’ll be back. 🙂


  32. Hey Jenny,
    1. Couldn’t stop laughing about that one: “When you don’t know what you’re doing, but you’re doing it anyway”
    2. The toaks alcohol stove is great
    3. You’re a backpacker. A real one. Maybe even the realest one ever :-).


  33. I put off reading this because I was already stressed and couldn’t handle anymore and because I thought it was gonna be about bears and I’m scared of bears.

    But this was somehow way better (no bears!) and way worse (omfg your tent fell off into the abyss?!) than I imagined. AND can still be written about it in an honest, vulnerable, hilarious, and beautiful way. I’m legit wistful over “chlorophyll drunk” because…New Jersey :/

    I know shame and blame are very real things to feel but jeez you’re so effing good at recovery. And foresight. You legit saved yourself by not having hiked a million miles in that day. And then you were able to hustle out of there. You have great instincts.

    Damnit Jenny you’re the hero we need. :ugly cries and wall slides:


  34. Wow what a story! I know it was incredibly awful at the time but it is also quite comical. Just to make you feel a bit better, one time we were camping on an uninhabited island and my friend’s tent blew away into the ocean. It WAS staked down and her stuff was in it – but the top part suddenly ripped completely off and blew away in some insane winds. Another day, foxes stole all my socks that I had hung on my tent to dry. Haha. So, yeah, this crap happens and it is part of the fun and challenge. 😁


  35. Thank you for the great read! Such an awesome post! On one of my first solo hikes, soon after marveling at how well the hike went, I left my shiny new trekking poles on top of my car when I drove away from the trailhead. I didn’t realize the $100+ mistake until I got home. Still trying not to kick myself three years later!


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