The other day I was talking about hiking a 50 mile stretch of trail with no water, and someone asked me how many steps that was.

I had no idea, and, quite frankly, I’ve no desire to know.

Even if I get one of those fitness tracking devices for everyday wear, there’s no way I’d take that on a backpacking trip. For one thing, I really dislike having something on my wrist while backpacking. Dirt gathers against it, sweat gathers under it and it catches on my pack when I heave it onto my back or drop it to the ground. I’m pretty sure those things need regular charging that I wouldn’t care to provide in the wilderness. But mostly, I really don’t care how many steps I take while backpacking.

Sure, I check my mileage, to an extent. I like to know approximately how far I’ve gone and how far I plan to go. And, sometimes, when I’m feeling near the end of my rope, I’ll count my steps in my head, giving myself a break at the end of some number. But I don’t record those steps.

Backpacking isn’t about fitness for me. Fitness is about backpacking. I do CrossFit for fitness, but I stay fit to do backpacking. I stay fit so I can go out into the wilderness and walk for days carrying a loaded pack. Backpacking isn’t the means, it’s the goal, the reward for all the time I spend in the off-season dong other things.

To reduce backpacking to a metric of steps would be to change the entire purpose of why I backpack in the first place. It’s all about the journey, the experience of the trail. It is an escape from the idea that I have to quantify and commodify everything in my life. While I do write books about some of my backpacking journeys for sale, I don’t do it to make money – which is good, because they don’t make me much. I do that to share the experience with my family and any other people who might want to know what it’s like to get out of the modern world and into a place where you just do what you need to to make it through the day.

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