Today’s installment of Outdoors Fallacies is about another overused and newish phrase, one that goes hand in hand with the pompous “there’s no bad weather, just bad gear.” Lately the ultralight ethos has degenerated into “mocking people for carrying intelligent amounts of gear” and “looking down on those who maintain a safety margin,” or so I gather from this oft-repeated phrase in regards to packing for a trip:
“You carry your fears.”
This phrase, or the variation “you pack your fears” is meant to imply that most people bring too much stuff in reflection of the things that they are irrationally afraid of. People who say this phrase may be prone to eyeing your backpack and evaluating its contents for anything they deem to be unnecessary, and conclude that you are a hopeless sad sack afraid of everything, or at least they repeat this phrase at you to shame you for your packing choices, whether or not they’re an expert packer (as if that exists). As in, if you have a particular dislike for cold, you bring too much warm stuff that you should have left at home just because you’re scared of being cold, you big baby.
To that, I say “pshaw!” If you have a particular dislike for cold, bringing more warm clothes is just intelligent. If you don’t want to run out of food, bringing a nice margin of chow is plain smart. If you’re afraid of the dark, bring extra lighting. Dislike wet feet? Bring more socks; it’s OK. This doesn’t mean you are “carrying fears,” it just means you are prepared for the things you might encounter. I’d love to see any of the people who use this phrase tell a firefighter that they could leave the air bottle behind, as they’re just “carrying their fears.”
Personally, I enjoy being comfortable on trips. One of the “extras” I bring along is a pillow, or the makings of a pillow. If I don’t have enough down jackets in my pack to stuff into my pillowcase to give me a comfy place to rest my head, I bring more. Does someone want to tell me I’m afraid of not having a pillow? No, I just LIKE to have a nice comfortable bed even in the backcountry and a pillow is what does it for me. I also bring extra gloves because my hands are very susceptible to cold. I’m not AFRAID of my hands being cold, I just know they likely will get cold and I’d much rather slide on my second pair of gloves than watch my digits go white and stiff just to align myself with some self-important, condescending idea of “you carry your fears.” Which you don’t. You carry the stuff you need or want and that is totally acceptable.
I’ve even seen some “carry your fears” fans going rafting without a real PFD because they don’t want to carry it. I guess they aren’t afraid of drowning in whitewater, so they don’t need to carry it. Well, I am. I am afraid of drowning in whitewater, and any water, really. I bring a PFD. I think it’s very silly to believe I am merely “carrying fear;” I’m actually carrying very necessary and important equipment for the activity I’m doing. I also think that if you aren’t afraid of drowning in whitewater, you are a very foolish person and should get over yourself already.
So, pack what you want to pack and enjoy every last bit of everything you bring. You definitely do not have to share your extra chocolate with any of those “you carry your fears” people.