Take a Hike by Cold Splinters: Smoothing It

April 21, 2010



To add a little more adventure to our week, we’ve invited Jeff Thrope of Cold Splinters to treat us to a taste of the great outdoors every Wednesday. Check out his new column, and then do yourself and your computer a favor, and go sit under a tree.


A few days ago, after hearing a friend respond to my tentative summer camping plans with a "Ah man, that sounds great. I would love to be able to rough it like that for a few days," I was quickly reminded of Nessmuk's "smoothing it."

"We do not go to the green woods and crystal waters to rough it, we go to smooth it. We get it rough enough at home."

So many people (aka backpackers) are obsessed with the weight, size and quality of their camping equipment that they forget to carry along the things that matter most. Myself included. I'm reminded of another friend, Jay, who will not go camping without his ratty old beige Carhart overalls. And if you know Jay, which I'm sure you don't, it's all about comfort. He's the last person on Earth to bring something along for the sake of style. (I know this because as soon as the overalls are on, he's already looking for his Crocs.) The hand-me-downs from his brother couldn't be bulkier and heavier in his pack, but nothing makes ol' Jay happier than sitting around a fire after a long hike, eating some beef jerky and relaxing in his overalls while leaning back in the same Crazy Creek he's had since he was 15. Smoothing it.

The small things, or big things, that make camping that much more enjoyable are always worth the extra weight. If you're going for weeks at a time with heavy mileage, you and I both might disagree with that. Sure. But for the overnighters, the weekenders, the dayhikers, bring along whatever the hell you want. A six pack of black cherry soda? If you want to carry it, sure. Just make sure that after you've set it in an ice cold stream for an hour, you offer me one and remember to pack out the cans. (I prefer Sierra Nevada, FYI.) Steak and potatoes for dinner? Pushing it, but smoothing it nonetheless. Because there's nothing worse than a freeze dried meal.

And of course, that's not what Nessmuk was really talking about. He wasn't suggesting that you bring your portable iPod speakers on the Appalachian Trail and blast The Tallest Man On Earth until 1am. (Smoothing it, maybe, but not cool camping doctors from Colombia.) He wasn't referring to the luxurious food you should bring along. He was talking about getting outside and relaxing in nature. Our lives in the city are rough enough. Simple.

So bring along whatever the hell you want when you get on the trail this weekend. Or don't bring it along. I'm part of the latter group, the group that finds comfort in bringing along the bare essentials. There are few things that make me happier. But that's not roughing it. Not by a long shot. And that's a sad, sad thing for a guy who lives in Brooklyn.

Happy trails and run for the wilderness criminals.

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Take a Hike by Cold Splinters: Smoothing It