In backpacking, when you go through your gear and decide what you no longer need to carry it is considered a pack “shakedown.”

Mountain Crossings outfitter at Neels Gap, GA is famous for providing pack shakedowns for beginning backpackers on the Appalachian Trail. Each year hundreds of wanna-be thru-hikers will enter the outfitter with aching shoulders, sore hip bones and heavy packs that make hiking uncomfortable - if not unbearable. When they leave they have everything they need, but they are carrying a lighter load.

I know what you're thinking. Can’t hikers just go through their own pack and take out the stuff they don’t need? It doesn’t seem that complicated.


Sometimes it is hard to access your own gear especially if you are unsure of the journey ahead. That is why it is invaluable to have someone with more experience help you go through your pack. At Blue Ridge Hiking Company, we start every overnight trip with a pack shakedown. It lets the guide know that each participant has what she needs and it assures the hiker that she is NOT carrying unnecessary weight.

This week, I learned that sometimes we need a life shakedown, too.

Recently, I have felt completely overwhelmed with work... and motherhood... and relationships... and house chores... and taxes... and LIFE. Thankfully, a good friend who is a little farther down the trail was able to point out the obvious. I am carrying too much weight!

In the past few years I have taken on a lot of new and added responsibilities but I have been reluctant to let go of my old tasks and hobbies as I take on new interests and commitments. I guess I was too attached to my load to understand how burdensome it had become. And I was too busy looking down at my feet to look up and think about the trail ahead of me.

My wonderful but blunt friend helped me realize that I needed to let go of some commitments, make other tasks more efficient, and share the load when possible. And already I feel lighter. I feel like I just might make it to Maine ; )

When I teach the Appalachian Trail Institute in May we will be discussing efficient and affordable options to help folks get out on the trail without feeling encumbered by the cost or weight of over-packing. But we can all ask ourselves:

What extra weight am I carrying in my life?

How can I make my load more efficient?

And, who can help me carry it?