We got lost on winding gravel roads, cars ran out of oil, everyone ran out of water, we endured 9+ hours of intense heat, got sunburnt, swam in a lake fed by irrigation water, and got bitten up by mosquitos.

We got frustrated, we laughed, we explored, we were sweaty, we were dirty, we were happy, we were wild.

And we wouldn’t have it any other way.


If you go backpacking for the first time and nothing goes wrong, you just had a pretty rare experience. Backpacking is hard. Hiking is hard. Little things go wrong all the time. Sometimes, big things go wrong. Many are out of your control and all you can do is be as prepared as possible.


A badass Mountain Dude hauling in just a few Gregory Packs for everyone to try out! Photo by Dani Rodriguez

So let’s talk about the realities of backpacking and hiking. These activities on Instagram or Facebook usually look perfect right? Well most people, myself included, post about their favorite parts of a trip and usually leave out all that went wrong or the times where they were perhaps a little miserable. Why? Because at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter what went wrong. If you love the outdoors like so many of us do, the mishaps will never be enough to deter us from enjoying this beautiful, great, wild nature.

Our backpacking trip to Ancient Lakes is a perfect example of this.


Just another Mtn Chick in a meadow of wildflowers! Photo By Dani Rodriguez

One of our PNW Mtn Chicks ambassadors, Jennifer, had one thing after another go wrong. On the way to the trailhead, not only did google maps misguide her like the rest of us, but her car also ran out of oil. Completely.


Backpacking in – Photo by Dani Rodriguez

By the time they started out, it was much, much later, and hotter, than originally planned. Her mountain pup, Ellie, a dark brown lab, really struggled with the heat of midday and a very hot dirt path. When they arrived at camp, Ellie was borderline heat exhausted and our mountain chick was mentally exhausted and close to tears. Nothing a jump in the lake couldn’t fix! Unfortunately, that wasn’t the end of her challenges.


Ellie and Jennifer, a PNW ambassador, escaping from the heat – Photo by Dani Rodriguez


Ellie enjoying the water. Photo by Jennifer Mabus


Sean and Ellie swimming off the heat. Photo by Dani Rodriguez

Later that night, while we were all getting ready for bed, Ellie decided to try and get out of the tent through the closed mesh door, leaving a gash 1 x 2 feet big. As bugs flooded in, Jen worked by the light of her headlamp, with help from a badass mtn dude, to repair the hole. She ended up sleeping in a mostly sealed tent and probably tens to hundreds of bugs. Yeah, I know what you’re thinking, “holy shit” is right. And I thought my ten mosquito bites were a lot…


Ellie at sunset. Photo by Dani Rodriguez

The point is, shit happens. You can either laugh about it and let it go, or let it ruin your experience. Like the saying goes, “if you can laugh about it a year from now, you can laugh about it now.” This experience will just be another crazy outdoor adventure story for Jen. I do know for a fact that it won’t stop her from backpacking and exploring. Few things could.


One of our PNW Ambassadors, Jennifer Mabus – Photo by Dani Rodriguez

Anyone who spends time in the outdoors knows that even the mishaps are part of the experience, what makes it an adventure. Just make sure you have good gear (like a Gregory pack!) and are as prepared as can be. As in life, if everything went perfect, what would be the point?


Photo by Dani Rodriguez

For Jennifer’s full Ancient Lakes story and point of view on this trip, check out her post and awesome blog here!

Side Note: If I am going to talk about backpacking, it is important to include some checklists of what to bring. Luckily, many websites and groups have checklists for backpacking essentials – REI has an extensive checklist here and a pdf version you can download here. This REI blog post goes into depth on the ten essentials, which should always be taken hiking and backpacking. All of these sources, and others, should be looked at before hitting the trail!