TRAIL MIX

You’ll never feel home­sick if you carry your house ev­ery­where you go.

Backpacker - - Contents - By Heather Balogh Rochfort

Our testers’ lat­est picks

THE STEAMY LOUISIANA AIR felt thick enough to drink. I sat in­side my Moun­tain Hard­wear Light Wedge 2 wear­ing only my sports bra and shorts, watch­ing sweat and dust make dark lit­tle runs down to my belly, ev­i­dence that I hadn’t show­ered in more than a week. My face ached with sun­burn, my legs hurt, and I hadn’t worn any­thing clean for more than a month.

Even in this sorry state of swel­ter in Kisatchie Na­tional For­est, I was pretty cer­tain I was hav­ing the time of my life.

I hadn’t al­ways been so com­fort­able with the un­com­fort­able. Af­ter grad­u­at­ing col­lege, I was aim­less. I’d earned a jour­nal­ism de­gree but wasn’t pre­pared for the up­hill bat­tle of a writ­ing career. I de­cided the best way to find di­rec­tion was to get lost for a while. I sold ev­ery­thing, bought a bike, and moved into my Light Wedge. I wasn’t a cy­clist, but that didn’t mat­ter. I sought some­thing new. I pointed my tires east from Den­ver, fig­ur­ing I would stop when I ran out of road at the At­lantic.

My tent and I were in­sep­a­ra­ble for the next six months. We weath­ered Hur­ri­cane Rita in Mis­sis­sippi, spent an evening camped be­hind an Alabama Wal­mart when I was too broke to pay for a mo­tel, and saw the sun rise atop Vir­ginia’s Peters Moun­tain.

I was wan­der­ing, maybe even drift­ing, but as long as I had my tent, I had a home. It didn’t mat­ter if I was sweaty and ex­hausted and sleep­ing on the ground. Thanks to the Light Wedge, I re­al­ized I only needed some ny­lon walls and a bit of mesh, prefer­ably with a great view, to feel rooted and at peace. It made me feel con­fi­dent in fac­ing an un­cer­tain fu­ture.

In the decade since I rolled to a stop in Mi­ami, I’ve made a habit of sleep­ing in tents around the world. I haven’t al­ways known where my next home will be—a moun­tain pass, a bog, or a road­side shoul­der—but wher­ever I climb in­side, I know it doesn’t mat­ter.

MIKE CA­RINA

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