Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Definitions: Dirtbagging

By one definition, this is super ultralight backpacking, or ultralight backpacking, or possibly, backpacking. Period.

What is this backpacking anyway?

Nobody cares. I mean why?

It sounds like the kind of thing the lower classes might take to, doesn't it? Either for work, or for entertainment while inebriated, but really — is that something people like us really need to know about? Would we want to? Which leaves out dirtbagging entirely.

This cannot be good, this dirt-bagging. Dirt. Dirty. Bagging. Bags. It must be. Something the homeless do. It must be.

The definition here, give me a moment to find it...oh wait. This is distressing. We have several. Several definitions. Imagine.

Well, there is that super duper ultra light backpacking definition. Whatever backpacking is, let alone that flock of mindlessly flapping adjectives: the duper, the super, the light, the ultra. Which leaves backpacking itself at the core. That could be it. Do you want to hear more?


You are persistent, aren't you?

All right — thorough. Inquisitive. A bit kinky perhaps? No, not kinky then, simply interested in learning. No matter where that leads you.

Well, dirtbagging is that residual hard crusty presence left when everything inessential is removed from backpacking, whether by being rubbed off, torn away, stolen, through decay, through forgetfulness, or because it all was simply discarded by some smartass who wanted to make a point.

Despite the obvious connotations of the term dirtbagging, you are allowed to wash if you think that's fun. Not everyone does. But it is allowed.

What isn't allowed is up to you, but mostly dirtbagging is a frame of mind. It is thinking about doing without. First think about going without a roof and doors and windows and the invigorating sound of neighborly lawnmowers at 7 a.m. each Sunday, and then you do go without, exiting the house into the out-of-doors, and then once there you do without the rest. Without the expected things. Like a tent, a stove, underwear, more than a nibble in the way of food.


Maybe you decide to do without a sleeping bag (or that bar of soap, or even a lightweight picture of a bar of soap with the margins neatly trimmed back). And without (much) food. Did we say that already? Can't hurt to repeat it for effect.

And when it gets dark, and you're all alone out there (Because who — really — would go with you?) you sleep in a pile of leaves next to a fire, for example. This is one option. Not one that is often tried more than once by any single person because fire. Because leaves. Because dumb, eh?

OK, really, this is getting scary, people.

Let's go to an alternate definition of dirtbagging, which is stripping backpacking down to a reasonable list of only essential essentials to freshen up the experience by approaching it from another angle which requires the using your wits more than your wallet kind of thing. Kind of.

Kind of cool, but only if you're smart about it. And remember — if you've left the sleeping bag at home and you are out there in a pile of leaves, there is no way to get away from the mice. Mice may not know how to work tent zippers but they sure do know everything there is about how to swarm through a pile of leaves, homing in on that distinctive aroma of noodles and peanut butter left on your lips after supper, no matter how meager that supper actually was.

Too bad you left the soap at home then, innit, Mr. Live-By-Your-Wits-But-Dumber-Than-A-Mouse? (They're all guys you know, the ones who try this.)

— specimen —

False Dirtbagger. (Not dirty enough. Too wimpy.)

So let's call it a Dirtbagger Wannabee and explore some of its characteristics then, 'K? Just for the hell of it.

  • Hat found on trail one day.
  • Facial fungus. Seems to be permanent now.
  • Homemade 10-ounce pack.
  • Duct tape holding pack together.
  • Doofus-level shoulder strap pocket (also homemade).
  • Homemade shirt.
  • No pants. Wears cheap bicycling shorts.
  • Underwear (not shown because of that restraining order).
  • Amateur-level (under $200) trekking poles.
  • Leg scabs from lost mouse fights.
  • Limited ability to fake looking happy about it all.
  • Dirt (displayed in background for dramatic effect).

Photo from 2004. Reality may have gotten even uglier since. If encountered, approach cautiously if at all. Try to remain upwind. You have been warned.

Source: How to talk in the woods.