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Backpacking Quotes

Inspirational and/or informative quotes and passages about backpacking. Add your own!

My preferred yell of choice is "Care Bear!" instead of the obligatory "Hey Bear!" cause that comforts me into thinking Grizzlies are periwinkle and have rainbow hearts on their stomachs.
- Shinobu "Buddha" Price, CDT 2005

He who needs only coarse food, water for drink, and as pillow his folded arms will find happiness without further search.
-- Confucius, Chinese philosopher, 551-479 BC

Retaining a feeling of significance is becoming ever more difficult in our society of giant enterprises, directed by bureaucracy in which man becomes a smaller cog in a bigger machine. In too many cases they live and die without having confronted the fundamental realities of human existence. Their fragmented and piecemeal lives do not teach them the wholeness, unity and purpose that they need in order to be satisfied and secure. Outdoor recreation experiences can help mold into people the wholeness concept and the balance that is essential to a satisfying life. The outdoors embodies something that cannot be found anywhere else. It is not merely the scenery, or the mountain breeze, or the open spaces that delight us. The outdoors embody history, primitive experiences, and elements capable of lifting the spirit.
-- Clayne Jensen, Outdoor Recreation in America, 1985

The thrill of tramping alone and unafraid through a wilderness of lakes, creeks, alpine meadows, and glaciers is not known to many. A civilization can be built around the machine but it is doubtful that a meaningful life can be produced by it. When man worships at the feet of avalanche lilies or discovers the delicacies of the pasque flower or finds the faint perfume of the phlox on rocky ridges, he will come to know that the real glories are God's creations. When he feels the wind blowing through him on a high peak or sleeps under a closely matted white bark pine in an exposed basin, he is apt to find his relationship to the universe.
-- William O. Douglas, Supreme Court Justice and avid hiker, 1898-1980

Then came the gadgeteer, otherwise known as the sporting-goods dealer. He has draped the American outdoorsman with an infinity of contraptions, all offered as aids to self-reliance, hardihood, woodcraft, or marksmanship, but too often functioning as substitutes for them. Gadgets fill the pockets, they dangle from neck and belt. The overflow fills the auto-trunk and also the trailer. Each item of outdoor equipment grows lighter and often better, but the aggregate poundage becomes tonnage.
Man always kills the thing he loves, and so we the pioneers have killed our wilderness. Some say we had to. Be that as it may, I am glad I shall never be young without wild country to be young in. Of what avail are forty freedoms without a blank spot on the map?

-- Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac, 1949

Important tips that I've found useful, don't venture into the wild without them ....

1. When smoking a fish, one should never inhale.
2. Lint from your navel makes a handy firestarter.
3. Becoming disorientated or lost during a hike, can cause natural feelings of panic. Sit down, quietly assess your situation, then try running around in circles, screaming.
4. In an emergency, the drawstring from a parka hood can be used to strangle a snoring tent mate.
5. To start a fire without matches, try eating jalapinos, then breathing on a pile of dry sticks.
6. If you are bald, and lost in the mountains, try using your head as a heliograph to signal S.O.S. and attract the attention of searchers.
7. Bear bells will provide hikers with some degree of safety against grizzly bears. The tricky part is getting them on the bears.
8. If lost, a compass needle can be created, by stroking the fur of a nearby marmot in one direction, and then laying him on an ice-covered lake, or floating him on a small raft. The marmot will spin to a north/south direction.
9. Remember, no matter where you go, there you are.
10. Whilst the Swiss Army Knife has been popular for years, the Swiss Navy Knife, with it's single blade that can function as a tiny raft paddle, has remained largely unheralded.
11. Fabrics that can breathe, will enable hikers to stay dry in a downpour. Avoid fabrics that snore, cough, and belch.
12. A warm pair of campsite slippers can be made, by inserting each foot into a marmot.
13. If your campfire inadvertantly starts a forest fire, immediately evacuate the area, and then blame it on static electricity from marmots.
14. In emergency situations, you can easily survive in the wilderness by shooting small game with a slingshot made from the elastic waistband of your underwear.
15. The best backpacks are named after national parks or mountain ranges. Steer clear of packs named after city dumps or maritime disasters.
16. If lost in sub zero temperatures, create a down-filled sleeping bag, by climbing into a plastic garbage bag with several geese.
17. If water quality is suspect, and you don't have the means to boil it, try filtering it through a used hiking sock. It won't filter out the Giardia Lamblia, but it will make them feel ill.
18. When hiking on popular trails, never ever eat the yellow snow.
19. Forked lightning can be made much more exciting, by viewing it from the top of a nearby pine.

-- George ("Geo") from

I also realized that I'd grown soft, Things had been going to well lately. Too easily. I needed something to pare the fat off my soul, to scare the shit out of me, to make me grateful, again, for being alive. All I knew, deep and safe, beyond mere intellect, that there is nothing like a wilderness journey for re-kindling the fires of life. Simplicity is part of it. Cutting the cackle. Transportation reduced to leg- or arm-power, eating irons to one spoon. Such simplicity, together with sweat and silence, amplify the rhythms of any long journey, especially through unknown, untattered territory. And in the end such a journey can restore an understanding of how insignificant you are - thereby set you free.

-- Colin Fletcher, River

Sunshine is delicious, rain is refreshing, wind braces us up, snow is exhilarating; there is really no such thing as bad weather,
only different kinds of good weather.
-- John Ruskin

Think what a great world revolution will take place when [there are] millions of guys all over the world with rucksacks on their backs tramping around the back country....
-- Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums, 1958

Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.
-- Thomas Jefferson

We should eat all our food so we shan't have to carry it.
-- Winnie the Pooh

What we get from this adventure is just sheer joy. And joy is, after all, the end of life. We do not live to eat and make money. We eat and make money to be able to enjoy life. That is what life means and what life is for.
-- George Mallory, on climbing Mount Everest

Theres is no real hope of traveling perfectly light in the mountains. It is good to try,as long as you realize that, like proving a unified field theory, mastering Kanji,or routinely brewing the perfect cup of coffee, the game can never be won.
-- Smoke Blanchard

Wander a whole summer if you can. The time will not be taken from the sum of life.
Instead of shortening, it will indefinitely lengthen it and make you truly immortal.
-- John Muir

"The world looks brand-new," said Hobbes.
"A New Year ... a fresh clean start," said Calvin.
"It's like having a big white sheet of paper to draw on," said Hobbes.
"A day full of possibilities," said Calvin.
"It's a magical world, Hobbes old buddy ... let's go exploring."
--last words of the Calvin and Hobbes comic strip

There are three great times of thinking: On the john, in the shower, and while walking. And the greatest of these is walking...
(Walking) can in the end become an addiction, and that it is then as deadly in its fashion as heroin or television or the stock exchange. But even in this final stage it remains a delectable madness, very good for sanity, and I recommend it with passion.
Even in these mercifully emancipated decades, many people still seem quite seriously alarmed at the prospect of sleeping away from officially consecrated campsites, with no more equipment than they can carry on their backs. When pressed, they babble about snakes or bears or even, by God, bandits. But the real barrier, I'm sure, is the unknown.

-- Colin Fletcher, The Complete Walker, 1968

On the trail marked with pollen, may I walk.
With grasshoppers about my feet, may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty, may I walk.
-- Navajo prayer

Climate is what we expect, weather is what we get.
-- Robert A. Heinlein as "Lazarus Long"

We celebrate not the trail, but the wild places it passes through.
-- Ray Jardine

We wanted to make good time, with the emphasis on good and not time.
-- Robert M. Pirsig from Zen And The Art Of Motorcycle Maintenance

Pain is mandatory. Misery is optional.

Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.

You say the hill's too steep to climb, Climb it!
You say you'd like to see me try, Climb it!
You pick the place and I'll choose the time
And I'll climb The hill in my own way
-- Pink Floyd, Fearless

It is one of the blessings of wilderness life that it shows us how few things we need in order to be perfectly happy.

-- Horace Kephart

I want to see what's on the other side of the hill, then what's beyond that.

Emma Grandma Gatewood, at age 67 first woman to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail (1955)

The love of wilderness is more than a hunger for what is always beyond reach; it is also an expression of loyalty to the
earth, the earth which bore us and sustains us, the only paradise we shall ever know, the only paradise we ever need, if
only we had the eyes to see. . . . No, wilderness is not a luxury but a necessity of the human spirit, as vital to our lives as
water and good bread.

Why wilderness? Because we like the taste of freedom; because we like the smell of danger.

May your trails be crooked, winding, lonesome, dangerous, and leading to the most amazing view.

Be a half-assed crusader, a part-time fanatic. Don't worry too much about the fate of the world. Saving the world is only a hobby. Get out there and enjoy the world, your girlfriend, your boyfriend, husbands, wives; climb mountains, run rivers, get drunk, do whatever you want to do while you can, before it's too late.

Our suicidal poets (Plath, Berryman, Lowell, Jarrell, et al.) spent too much of their lives inside rooms and classrooms when they should have been trudging up mountains, slogging through swamps, rowing down rivers. The indoor life is the next best thing to premature burial.

A venturesome minority will always be eager to set off on their own, and no obstacles should be placed in their path; let them take risks, for godsake, let them get lost, sunburnt, stranded, drowned, eaten by bears, buried alive under avalanches - that is the right and privilege of any free American.

I wait. Now the night flows back, the mighty stillness embraces and includes me; I can see the stars again and the world of starlight. I am twenty miles or more from the nearest fellow human, but instead of loneliness I feel loveliness. Loveliness and a quiet exultation.

Various by Edward Abbey

There's something wrong with a society that drives a car to work out in a gym.

-- Bill Nye, The Science Guy

The facilities we provide for ourselves also affect our responses. To drive through the desert in an air-conditioned car is an insulating experience. The increasingly popular recreation of backpacking offers a revealing counterexample. Hiking with a pack on one's back appears superficially to be a strangely unappealing activity. The hiker, venerable to insects and bad weather, carries a heavy load over rough terrain, only to end up in the most primitive sort of shelter, where he or she eats basic foods prepared in the simplest fashion, Certainly, there are often attractive rewards, such as a beautiful alpine lake with especially good fishing. But these are not sufficient explanation for such extraordinary exertions, for there are few places indeed that could not be easily made more accessible, and by much more comfortable means.

To the uninitiated backpacker a day in the woods can be, and often is, an experience of unrelieved misery. The pack is overloaded; tender feet stumble and are blistered. It is alternately too hot or too cold. The backpacker has the wrong gear for the weather or has packed it in the wrong place; the tent attracts every gust of wind and rivulet of water. The fire won't start, or the stove fails just when it's needed. And the turns that seemed so clear on the map have now become utterly confusing.

Such experiences, familiar in one form or another to all beginners, are truly unforgiving; and when things go wrong, they do so in a cascading fashion. Yet others camping nearby suffer no such miseries. Though their packs are lighter, they have an endless supply of exactly the things that are needed. Their tents go up quickly, they have solved the mystery of wet wood, and they sit under a deceptively simple rain shelter, eating their dinner in serene comfort. What is more, they are having a good time. The woods, for the beginner an endless succession of indistinguishable trees apparently designed to bewilder the hapless walker, conceal a patch of berries or an edible mushroom. Nearby, but unseen, are beautiful grazing deer or, overhead, a soaring eagle.

With time, patience, and effort one recognizes that these things are available to everyone; it is possible to get in control of the experience, to make it your own. The pack lightens as tricks are learned; how to substitute and how to improvise quickly, out of available materials, the things previously lugged. The more known, the less needed. Everything put in the head lessens what has to be carried on the shoulders. The sense of frustration falls away and with it the fear that things will break down. One knows how to adapt. The pleasure of adaptation is considerable in itself because it is liberating.

Nor is it merely a lifting of burdens. The backpacker, like the fisherman, discovers that the positive quality of the voyage is directly related to his or her own knowledge and resources. There is often a dramatic revelation that the woods are full of things to see - for those who know how to see them.

-- Joseph L Sax "Mountains Without Handrails: Reflections on the National Parks"

A tree is a tree. How many more do you have to look at?
-- Ronald Reagan, 1966

If I had some duct tape, I could fix that.
-- MacGyver

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Backpacking Quotes August 26, 2008 11:33 AM Ken
Links December 21, 2011 8:46 AM Ken
About Fox Cities Backpackers April 5, 2016 7:23 PM Shannon B.

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