How in the world do you people find the time?

Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Home Forums General Forums General Lightweight Backpacking Discussion How in the world do you people find the time?

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 69 total)
  • Author
  • #3505041
    Dave Heiss
    BPL Member


    Locale: Pacific Northwest

    I’ve been a member here for a long time, and I still marvel at the sheer number of days some of you are able to devote to backpacking and generally being in the great outdoors. If I get out for one week a year I’m feeling like I won the lottery. How do you do it?

    I can only assume that we as backpackers must fall into 4 categories (and unfortunately I’m in the last one). Based on nothing more than my observations, I would venture we can correlate backpacking time to our membership in the following categories:

    • Single, and your time is your own. Go big, go long, it doesn’t matter. From ordinary to epic, you get to do whatever you want to do.
    • Married or otherwise committed, but your spouse/partner likes to backpack too. My feeling is this is a rare situation based on the limited number of couples I see on the trail, but if it applies to you then consider yourself blessed.
    • Married or otherwise committed, but your spouse/partner doesn’t mind you being away. Lucky you! Sure you might have to carry a Spot or InReach to minimize worry and help maintain the peace, but that’s a small price to pay.
    • Married or otherwise committed, but your spouse/partner is not thrilled with being left home alone. Here’s where I find myself, and it can be challenging. A bit of creativity helps, and when opportunity arises the pack goes on!

    Where do you fit?

    Michael Gillenwater
    BPL Member


    Locale: Seattle area

    These categories are good, but they probably lack a socio-economic element.  Some people don’t make enough to take much of any time off.  Others may have 6+ weeks of highly paid leave a year or set their own schedule.

    MJ H
    BPL Member


    Married or otherwise committed, but your spouse/partner doesn’t mind you being away. Lucky you!

    What’s luck got to do with it? With a little practice anybody can make it so that people are glad when they leave.

    Matthew / BPL


    Married or otherwise committed, but your spouse/partner doesn’t mind you being away. Lucky you! Sure you might have to carry a Spot or InReach to minimize worry and help maintain the peace, but that’s a small price to pay.

    /me raises hand

    David Thomas
    BPL Member


    Locale: North Woods. Far North.

    Or “Married with family, but both of us consider backpacking a great family activity.” (meeting your spouse on a gourmet backpacking trip may increase the odds of this outcome).  When the kids were in grade school, we kept the trips short and tried hard to make them fun. Now they enjoy pretty vigorous trips and that’s often a component of our trips around Alaska, to Canada or New Zealand.  Mostly in the 48-states, we’ve done epic day hikes (Half Dome, Grand Canyon, etc).

    And also: “Adults have adult friends who like to like backpack or hunt and the kids have friends who are also in active families.”  Probably more common in Alaska than in Miami, but we do a few multi-family trips a year, and the father-son and father-daughter trips with 4-6 families involved are now in their 4th year now and everyone is motivated to continue the tradition.

    Another situation that applies to us, “You both like to backpack but also do other things and solo trips are okay.”  I love a good road trip, my wife doesn’t.  She rows competitively and goes to a winter training camp where the water is still liquid, I don’t.

    And for us, “Being professionals in a rural area (with low property costs)” gives huge flexibility for saving money, travel, backpacking, volunteering in the schools, etc.

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there
    Alex H
    BPL Member


    Locale: southern appalachians or desert SW

    Over nearly 50 years backpacking I have been through all 4 of your scenarios and appreciate/agree with most of what Nick has to say too.  Same great woman for 36 years and we work 24/7 together so me going away is just fine with her and we also take great long front country trips together.  Her only rule is I can’t go solo and even that one I have convinced her occasionally that it would be OK depending on the trip and the stipulations, all well worth it to me. As a farmer I can’t go in the growing season but I can do a lot in the cooler months which I prefer anyway, less sweat and bugs.

    Iago Vazquez
    BPL Member


    Locale: Boston & Galicia, Spain

    Both my wife and I are high school teachers. Wife likes backpacking in warm weather, so it’s a family activity. Winter she stays home. I go alone or with friend. Son is nine and loves backpacking, but has not winter camped yet. That being said, the bug is starting to bite him. I just asked him if he wants to join me next weekend on an overnighter, and his answer was “In the snow? Uuuumm. Maybe”. Same one I got yesterday… I’m hopeful that when he starts joining me, we can get mom to come along… :) One can only hope, right?

    Bruce Tolley
    BPL Member


    Locale: San Francisco Bay Area

    @ OP

    I am in your 3rd category and mostly plan quick weekend trips.

    See this article:

    Ryan Jordan also wrote an article about planning for the 24 hour trip but the search engine cannot seem to find it.

    For me the main challenge is not the planning or the time for the trip itself, but the first 50 miles on the road, getting out of the SF Bay Area urban freeway traffic

    Ryan Jordan


    Locale: Central Rockies

    This is a topic that doesn’t get treated well enough, great to see the discussion here.

    Our approach to recreation is most certainly based on the following socio-economic framework:

    We spend as little money as possible by:

    • living in a low cost of living area (and are totally fine with relocating every now and then)
    • eating simply, and mostly at home
    • focusing our travel and exploration on local travel – our own state and those surrounding us
    • not paying for services that don’t reinforce or otherwise add to our core values / passions, like cable TV, smartphone data plans, music services, etc.
    • minimizing our housing footprint (and thus, furnishing and maintenance needs)
    • minimizing our needs for driving (we have 1 car and no car payments for 3 adults in our family, but 4 bikes!) – less gas, less insurance, less maintenance, better exercise
    • minimizing the need to have the latest and greatest gadgets, technology, etc.

    This is a short list, but these are some of the high points.

    That means we don’t need to make a lot of money in order to meet our living expenses – we make far less than what Senators Scott and Sullivan portrayed as the “average American family” this morning on the live stream of the Senate tax reform debates. And it didn’t bother us one bit that we discovered the we’re now below average. We watched the debate and just kind of shook our heads, grateful for what we do have, because it’s still a lot.

    Anyway … So if we don’t need to make a lot of money, then our needs for a particular “career” or “job” (e.g., 40 or 50 or 60 hr/wk in a corporate job for 49 wks/yr) decrease – and this gives us the flexibility to work in areas that we’re passionate about.

    This gives us the flexibility to put in long hours when we’re not recreating, and short hours when we are. That opens up a lot of flexibility for travel and recreation, along with immersive time spent cultivating our close relationships and otherwise pursuing the things we’re passionate about.

    We realized a long time ago that:

    • You can’t have it all.
    • You have to figure out what you really want, and then give up a lot of the rest.

    For us, “a lot of the rest” includes living a consumer-centric lifestyle, living in an “average” (or better) American Home (I’m not even sure what that means anymore?), meeting the expectations of a lifestyle placed on us by first world norms, etc.

    “Trying to figure out how to go backpacking more”, however, is something you might consider relating to your core values. For example, if your core values include living a certain lifestyle standard (I’m speaking mainly to a lifestyle that requires a certain level of consumer spending), a certain level of financial security, and other things that require the income and time commitment of a particular career choice, then what’s leftover (less time), is up for grabs, and it’s difficult to make decisions about what to do with time when time is scarce, especially when you have a family, or health issues, or are particularly introverted (and have alone time needs), or are particularly extroverted (and have social time needs), etc., etc.

    It’s all very challenging to sort out, sometimes.

    Lester Moore
    BPL Member


    Locale: Olympic Peninsula, WA

    Married or otherwise committed, but your spouse/partner doesn’t mind you being away.

    True for the most part here. If you’re in Category 4, have you considered doing shorter trips as opposed to longer trips, closer to home? Short trips are much easier on whoever is holding down the fort at home. Living in the NW, you have lots of short trip options too.

    To get more support from your wife, be as supportive of her needs and wants as possible when at home. She deserves your flexibility and support of her hobbies just as much as you do. Definitely read Men Are from Mars, Women are From Venus. If your wife is reasonable, you can leverage all the support you’ve given her to get more support for backpacking on occasion. And when negotiating for time away from home, it helps to come to the table with bigger plans than you think possible. That way, she feels like you gave something up when you compromise someplace in the middle.

    If possible, take steps to add legitimacy to your proposed backpack strips, especially the bigger trips. For example, get your friend to go along who just had a nasty breakup and say “my friend Pete wants to do this trip so he can open up to me about his breakup”. Or how about “my doctor recommended backpacking for health reasons”. Get friends from other states to come and say “I have not seen George for years, and this may be his last chance for a big trip”. Any reasonable thing that makes backpacking seem less selfish and useless is helpful.

    But in the end, if you’re wife just won’t support you to be away from home for personal time, then it may be time for some counseling.

    Nick Gatel
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southern California
    Terry Sparks


    Locale: Santa Barbara County Coast

    Being retired is a good thing.

    tom lakner
    BPL Member


    Locale: midwest
    • Married or otherwise committed, but your spouse/partner doesn’t mind you being away. Lucky you! Sure you might have to carry a Spot or InReach to minimize worry and help maintain the peace, but that’s a small price to pay.

    I work at a high school and get summers off . Two months is too long away , one month is doable but I usually stretch it. My wife does her thing and we also take a week or two off together.

    Cameron M
    BPL Member


    Locale: Los Angeles

    Perhaps some new categories: Empty nesters who are retired or are in a comfortable place financially, and are directing their later-in-life efforts towards what they care about. That would be me.

    On thru-hikes there are a few other categories:

    -People of all ages who have undergone a huge life change, chucking a career or a mate. Classic American Road Trip to find yourself.

    -Young people doing their last-gasp adventure before committing…to something, anything.

    -There is an interesting sub-category of women who live as “free-spirits”, embracing the nomadic or even “hiker-trash” identity, who hike and live in vans. Yes, I know of several in this category. There are probably also similar guys, I just don’t know of them.

    -Bucket-listers with knee-braces, NSAIDs, UL kit with trekking poles.

    Erica R
    BPL Member


    In the retired category we do it while we still can!

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    what Terry and Erica said – working gets in the way of recreation

    BPL Member


    Wise words from Ryan. Can’t have it all; watch your expenses and sort out your priorities. I have not gotten out much lately but if I made it a higher priority even I would have found the time.

    Great thread.

    Jerry Adams
    BPL Member


    Locale: Oregon and Washington

    Dave Ramsey on the radio talks at great length about what Ryan said

    “beans and rice, rice and beans”

    BPL Member


    Single, but still have a career and family I like to visit. I do lots of short weekend trips, but longer trips are done with my limited vacation time. Most of my co-workers don’t understand why I’d want more vacation time, saying “I don’t know what I’d do with more time off.”

    Ken Thompson
    BPL Member


    Locale: Right there

    “ I don’t know what I’d do with more time off.”

    Saddest statement. Like people not taking paid time off because they are irreplaceable. Graveyards are full of irreplaceable people.

    Take the time. The one thing you can’t get back.

    Brad Rogers
    BPL Member


    Locale: Southeast Tennessee

    I used to get out a lot more, but now have a more demanding job, and a family with kids in all sorts of activities.  Free weekends are now hard to to come by, but I do make more money than I used to and am able to more “big” trips.  I used to backpack about 40 days per year mostly on weekends, but do about half that, mostly in two week long trips per year (or one big two week trip like this year and 2015).

    Katherine .
    BPL Member


    Locale: pdx

    #3…with quid pro quo

    Husband is mildly interested in backpacking, but would rather spend his “solo” time doing something w/music. So we have a nice equilibrium there w/time and money.

    and when I take a kid with me it doesn’t count. It just means I need five days instead of two for that trip to the Enchanted Valley!

    Oh, yeah and I work freelance and my husband is self employed. Full-time wasn’t too much to swing with parenting. We’re trying to find some sweet spot of each working about 2/3, 3/4 time or so. Freedom to backpack was in the mix, but secondary.

    I’d love to do all the big thru hikes when I retire. But 1.) i don’t know if i’ll ever be at that point financially 2.) if/when I am there’s no guarantee my body will be capable 3.) it all might burn down by then.


    Paul Wagner
    BPL Member


    Locale: Wine Country

    My wife also loves backpacking, so we do it together. And now that we are retired, we’ll do it more.

    That said, when you are working, you have to schedule your trips just the way you schedule the rest of your life, or you’ll find yourself at the end of each summer wondering that the hell happened to those trips you were going to take.

    Eric Blumensaadt
    BPL Member


    Locale: Mojave Desert

    Been retired since 2002. Been skiing, backpacking, hiking, hunting, sea kayaking, trips to Europe, etc.

    “I’d rather wear out than rust out.” (My life motto)

    Retirement is tough. First you do 6 months of vacation then you turn right around and do another 6 months!

Viewing 25 posts - 1 through 25 (of 69 total)
  • You must be logged in to reply to this topic.
Forum Posting

A Membership is required to post in the forums. Login or become a member to post in the member forums!

Get the Newsletter

Get our free Handbook and Receive our weekly newsletter to see what's new at Backpacking Light!

Gear Research & Discovery Tools